The transcription below is of Cuca. You can clearly see/hear his style on this tune just as you can in the transcription of “Recado” that I did way back when. I love the interplay between the rim click and hi-hat. I’ve got a post in the works for further developing that sound, so hopefully I’ll get that up soon. In the meantime….
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Friday, December 16, 2022
This track comes from Rita's 2007 album Samba Meu, which is basically how I learned to play pandeiro. The album came out right at the same time I bought my first pandeiro. I listened to it over and over and over again, and tried (and initially failed) to play along to the record. At first I couldn't even make it through a single tune, but with practice I could get through the slower songs, then the faster ones, and eventually I could play the whole album top to bottom with no break, which was incredibly satisfying. So as this record was so influential in my pandeiro development I thought I'd revisit it to try to find some repique material.
As mentioned earlier, Nene demonstrates some more modern language that we don't hear in the earliest Dotô recordings. There are some different rhythmic ideas, and he also presses the head for higher pitched sounds, which I notated that with dots above the notes.
Tuesday, November 08, 2022
The four-stroke ruff is more a sound than a sticking, because just about any sticking you can come up with is valid. The most common sticking, and easiest place to start is with single strokes. It's also common to see this labelled as the "Single Stroke Four".
Tuesday, November 01, 2022
If you dig in to Philly Joe, you'll hear this signature phrase come up a lot. It's simply three triplets, often played more than once so it rolls over the bar, with an accent on the first note of the first triplet each time.
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
The first album I picked up was Feed Me Weird Things, the opening track "Squarepusher Theme" being a personal favorite of mine then and now.
But recently I was checking out a later Squarepusher release called Ultravisitor and decided to write out some of the playing from the tune "Iambic 9 Poetry". Squarepusher, real name Tom Jenkinson, is not only a DJ/producer but also an excellent bassist, with most of his bass lines being played live.
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Tuesday, October 11, 2022
Friday, September 30, 2022
Monday, August 29, 2022
Apologies for the light posting lately. Since Covid "ended" this year has been delightfully busy, culminating in a 17 day trip to Brazil these last couple week for gigs, lessons, and general hanging out.
In those 17 days I managed to study with three of my favorite drummers....
|Celso de Almeida|
....and meet quite a few more at the 21 gigs we went to. I heard and was able to chat to a number of other musicians whose work I've listened to for many years but have never had the chance to meet or see live, and discovered some serious young musicians who should definitely be known outside of Brazil. I also had a chance to sit in on some choro, samba, jazz, and even at Vila Isabel escola de samba with Andre Siqueira whose playing I've transcribed for the blog before.
There is, of course, always more to learn, but the trip also confirmed and reinforced much of my understanding of certain Brazil styles, especially samba and forró. I've had a few pieces in the works the last couple months that I'll soon be publishing with renewed confidence.
I don't want to gush too much here on the blog as this is meant to be an educational resource, so if you'd like to see more pictures and videos from the trip head over to my Instagram page and see "Brazil trip '22" in my stories.
Monday, July 25, 2022
The full video is below, which starts with some of the science behind how and why these tips work, but here is a break down of the main points and how it applies to us as drummers.
This one is tough for me sometimes. My place in London isn’t huge, so most of my physical materials are back in the States and I use a lot of PDFs. Also, I like playing along to records and loops, all of which requires the computer and or phone. But it really is important to try to steer clear of our devices. It takes awhile to get into “the zone”, and each text, call, or post pulls you out of said zone, and it takes awhile to get back in.
Start out slowly
For me, this is the most important one, and the hardest to get some of my students to do. Most of them just love to go “yeah, I got it, see?” and proceed to just blast through it. It makes me feel like the boring old teacher to bug them about it, but it really is the best way forward. Pushing tempos is great, but once something is under your hands, to me that is just the beginning. It’s at that point where you slow it way down, break down every aspect of the motion, and THEN….
Gradually increase the speed of the quality repetitions
Even when I can get students to slow down they’ll often make huge jumps in tempo. In most cases tempo bumps should be no more than 10 bpm at a time, ideally less. There is somewhat of a historical precedent for speeding up while playing, namely the “rundown”, wherein you start a rudiment as slow as possible, gradually speed up until you reach your maximum speed, and then work your way down. But in general, especially when working on timekeeping or grooves it’s best to play for awhile at one tempo, stop, change the metronome, and start again at the new tempo.
Frequent repetitions with breaks
Little and often is always preferable to cramming. I tell students that practicing even just 10 minutes a day for a total of 70 minutes is better than practicing for two hours the day before a lesson. If you can do 10/15 in the morning and 10/15 in the afternoon, then even better. Ideally, of course, we’d all spend a lot more time practicing that that, but you’d be surprised how much you’ll improve with two 15-minute practice sessions every day.
Divide your time used for effective practice into multiple daily practice sessions of limited duration
This is a new one for me that I’m going to try out. I tend to do fairly long practice sessions. A good hour or so on the pad, and then another few hours on the set. But perhaps I’ll try picking three or four areas of concentration and breaking things up a bit.
Practice in your brain in vivid detail
I’m a firm believer in this one. They used to have us do this in my drum corps days. Every night before bed they’d ask us to lay still for 11 minutes, close our eyes and go through the show in our heads, taking every step, playing every note, etc. And I now use this quite often when work on new ideas, particularly on the set. I picture the sticking, the motion, and the sound slowed down in my minds eye/ear.
Sunday, June 12, 2022
Here’s a fantastic piece of history that I wish more drummers or any musician from bygone eras would have thought to do. In 1973, Papa Jo Jones released a record simply titled “The Drums” in which he talks about the history of the instrument with demonstrations and solo pieces.
After an intro discussing the elements of the drum kit and the basic rudiments he gets to the material that I found the most fascinating in which he discusses various drummers and their contribution to the music, and demonstrates their playing style of the kit. Some of these you’ve probably heard of like Baby Dodds, Gene Krupa, and Chick Webb; others potentially not, as he mentions some obscure names, like Manzie Campbell who, according to Jones “was without a doubt THE world’s greatest drummer”.
What really stood out to me was that he referred to certain drummers by the way in which they preferred to play time. Apparently “Josh”, to whom Jones never gives a last name “never played nothing but just a snare drum”. Jones thought Alvin Burroughs was a “tom tom man” like Gene Krupa, but it turned out he was a “cymbal man”. Walter Johnson, on the other hand, played with one stick and one brush. Jones refers to the hihat or “sock cymbal” as his signature sound. Interestingly, as ubiquitous as it is nowadays Jones says that at one point he “was the only bum out here with a sock cymbal”. From today’s perspective where, despite the fact that different drummers have their own style of swing, the time comes primarily from the ride cymbal, it is fascinating to hear how different drums played time in so many different ways.
Coming as he did from an era where he would’ve spent a great deal of time performing with and for dancers, Jones proceeds to talk about some of the great dancers of the era and their style, and goes on to demonstrate their sound on the kit. This section reminded me of this performance from right around the same time of Jones with George Benson, and tap dancer Jimmy Slyde:
Throughout “The Drums”, Jones drops nuggets of simple, but incredibly true wisdom such as:
“The most difficult thing after you learn how to play is not to play for people, [but] to play with people”
“Always start basic and you’ll never go wrong”
The record is chock full of great information and enjoyable performances and is definitely worth repeated listens.
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
If you remember from the Keith Carlock shuffle videos, he explains that the most important notes to make a shuffle feel right are the & of 1, 2, and the & of 2. Here Otis plays those three notes on the hi-hat, snare, and bass drum respectively and moves the constant swinging 8th notes that are often on the snare up to the ride cymbal.
It's a very cool groove, and makes a great shuffle play-along track even if you don't feel like playing Otis' exact orchestration.
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
This got me to thinking about how I could apply this to samba and Bossa Nova drumming. If you remember from some of the posts on samba rhythms, particularly Partido Alto or Telecoteco, the underlying rhythms in samba generally have an "up" side and a "down" side. The phrase then goes UP, DOWN, DOWN, UP or DOWN, UP, UP, DOWN. It suddenly struck me that if we take each bar in Syncopation and play beats 1, 2, 3, 4 and then follow it with beats 3, 4, 1, 2 we end up with a similar "up" and "down" pattern. For example, in "Syncopation Set 2" number one looks like this:
Thursday, February 17, 2022
Unfortunately, it appears that another one of the greats has left us. Oscar Bolão, was a fantastic drummer and percussionist who stood out even more so as an educator and historian in Brazilian music. His book, Batuque é Um Privilégio, is an incredibly rich resource in Brazilian rhythms and music.
I never had the privilege of meeting Oscar, but he always came across as a kind and generous person, and he was always one that I had hoped to have a lesson with one day.
Do check out the book if you have even a passing interest in Brazilian music and I'll work on getting a transcription going soon.