Friday, May 24, 2024

Slide Technique

For years I’ve wanted to by able to play 16th notes in my right hand with the speed and sensitivity of my favorite Brazilian drummers like Edu Ribeiro and Celso de Almeida.  But despite huge amounts of effort, I always seemed to top out around 115 bpm, at least with any kind of touch.  I could go a little faster, but then it started getting clunky.

I tried playing around with the push/pull technique, but it just never clicked with me.  It felt very unnatural and I found it difficult to make it sit.  I could go a little bit faster with it, but the couple extra clicks I gained were at the expensive of good swing and finesse.  Besides, I’d always been a bit of a traditionalist and wary of such extended techniques.  I remember being in a master class with Kenny Washington where he said something to the effect of, “I don’t mess with all this push/pull or any of that bullshit.”  But on the other hand, I thought, if it gets me to where I want to go sonically, then who cares?

So, a few months back I started putting in some serious effort to what most people call the “slide technique”.  There seems to be a handful of different approaches to it, but they all work in essentially the same fashion.  Rather than bouncing the stick, or push and pulling, it’s swept from side to side, so that each motion that would traditionally yield one sound gets us two.

I asked Kiko Freitas about it in a lesson shortly before I started working on it in earnest, and he pointed out that it comes from brush technique.  Marcio Bahia's style of playing with brushes is a perfect example.  

But, as I started to get more comfortable with this technique I realized that for me, even more so than brushes, it feels very similar to playing a shaker.  And to my ear that vibe very much comes out in the sound as well, to the point where I’ve been using it even at slower tempos that I would be able to play normally because it creates that relaxed feel so indicative of Brazilian music.

One thing to note that can be either a drawback or a bonus, depending on who you are, is that it can be difficult to get a big sound out of this technique.  For me it’s great because it naturally has that very light sound that I’m after.  But, If you’re a hip hop or metal drummer looking for speed AND power then this may not be for you.

Let’s take a look at this technique in action.  It’s popped up on the blog once or twice before.  The video below appeared in this post from 2018, which features an unknown drummer who might be Cesar Machado.  His technique is more of a twisting motion, which seems to me would hurt after awhile, but clearly works for some.  The original video is no longer on YouTube, but you can see it here.
This technique also appeared last week in the Arismar do Espirito Santos video.  Like in the video above, Arismar uses a bit more of a twisting motion.  However, he places his index finger over the stick on the same side as the thumb.  This helps him get more power.  For me, though, I found this made it much more difficult to get into and out of the slide, so I’ve avoided it.

There are three other drummers out there today who use some variation of this technique and, not too surprisingly, they’re all Brazilian.

Ramon Montagner who plays one handed rhythms that seem to defy the laws of physics also uses the slide technique in addition to all of the crazy contortionist push/pull motions he’s capable of.  Here’s a slow-mo of his motion:

Douglas Alonso plays a sort of variation on the slide technique.  In the video below, you’ll notice that his style is based on the motions of pandeiro playing and is more complex than the simple back and forth motion.  He starts discussing it around 3:20, and is worth a watch even if you don't speak Portuguese.  But if you want to jump straight to the meat and potatoes, it's at 7:45.

The most recent person I’ve discovered using this technique to great effect is Diego Zangado.  His version seems to be the most straightforward and what I looked to the most when trying to put this together.

So, I tend to think of it a bit like full strokes in German grip, but your thumb is on top like French grip.  That way what would be each down stroke and up stroke you achieve a note with a glancing blow.  You'll have to let your hand relax at the wrist a bit so that the stick isn't moving in a perfectly straight line.  It takes a little tweaking to really feel it and find the sweet spot.

And I tend to lead with the back of my hand, at least when playing samba, so that the downbeats and "&s" move away from me, and the "e" and "a" move towards me.  This is 1. to more closely mimic the motion of a shaker, and 2. because the strokes coming towards you will almost always have a little more weight to them.  This puts a slight emphasis on the "e" and "a", which is exactly what we want when playing samba.

All that said, I do practice it in both directions, so it's more applicable to other styles.
Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about this technique.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Dig This - Arismar do Espírito Santo on drums

Arismar do Espírito Santo is one of those enigmatic figures in music.  He is a prolific composer, and is very much beloved in Brazil and abroad.  Many of his compositions are already modern day standards, and I think most would agreed that it's fair to label him a living legend.

Beyond his incredible writing, Arismar plays most instruments to a very high level.  Many other multi-instrumentalists seem to have a primary instrument, and then happen to be good at others as well.  I'm not sure that is the case for Arismar.  He seems to gig regularly on guitar, bass, piano, and drums, and many of his albums are multi-tracked with him playing every instrument.

About a year ago he released a series of videos on his YouTube channel in which he talks about and plays many of his instruments.  My Portuguese isn't great, and he tends to speak fairly quickly and colloquially, but still, the musical content is fantastic.  Even if you don't speak a word of Portuguese, the playing alone makes it worth the watch.  His style is incredibly creative, while being steeped in tradition.

Below are the videos on drumset and percussion, but as a rhythm section player the others are certainly worth a watch as well.


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Groove Transcription - Celso de Almeida, samba cruzado

Samba cruzado is one of, if not the, earliest forms of playing samba on the drumset, predating the use of cymbals as pioneered by Edison Machado.  You can hear this style in the playing of drummers like Walfrido Silva and Luciano Perrone.  

Cruzado, which means "crossed" in Portuguese, refers to the way one must cross their arms to play this style.  But, rather than crossing our dominant hand over our weaker hand as most of us do with our hi-hat, we cross our weaker hand over our dominant hand.  This is because the dominant hand plays telecoteco on the snare drum, while the weaker hand mimics the surdos on the toms.

I've had a more in-depth post on samba cruzado in the draft folder for ages, and I really am hoping to get to it soon, but in the meantime, I've been doing a lot of playing along to this loop I created of Celso de Almeida playing a more modern style of samba cruzado from his self-titled 2014 album.

Here Celso plays a steady stream of 16th notes on the snare drum in his right hand, and uses accents to present a typical bossa nova pattern:

In his left hand, Celso plays the toms to mimic surdos, including a third surdo-like turn of phrase:

And with his feet, he plays what is probably the most common bass drum/hi-hat combination:

Here it is all together, with a loop of Celso playing it to help capture the feel:

Friday, March 22, 2024

Jacob Collier - "Djesse Vol. 4"

Now that it's been released I'm allowed to tell you that I had the great pleasure last year to spend an evening in the studio with Jacob Collier to play a very small part in recording his newest record, Djesse Vol. 4.  No drumming, I'm afraid, but I do appear on two tracks singing backing vocals and doing hand claps.  The vocal track features rhythms from all over the world segued seamlessly from one to the next, as seen in the very cool video at the link below.

Unfortunately, embedding was disabled, but you can still check it out on YouTube:

Monday, March 18, 2024

Groove Transcription - Steve Gadd, "Lenore"

This is one of the first Chick Corea tunes I ever heard.  As a clueless 18-year-old jazz studies major I was told I should check out Chick Corea.  So, I went out and got Verve Jazz Masters 3 - Chick Corea, a greatest hits collection featuring "You're Everything", "Spain", and a number of other Chick classics.  I remember really loving "Lenore", but it wasn't until many years later that I realized how hip the drum grooves were.

In the A section Steve Gadd plays open-handed, with his left hand on the hi-hat, much like he does on "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" and other signature grooves of his.

A few times later in the tune he drops his left hand down to the snare on the & of 3, which makes a nice variation.

Now, even the most cursory of searches will show you that I'm not the first person to transcribe or write about this groove, not by a long shot.  But most people seem to focus solely on that first part and fail to talk about how super hip the groove is in the next section.  It's pseudo-linear, with hard-driving accents on the pulse.

Towards the end there's considerably more improvising, but as it builds in density we hear something more like this.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Joel Rothman

Right around Christmas I got a message from the prolific drum book author, Joel Rothman, introducing himself and asking if I'd like to check out some of his books.  I was already familiar with some of Joel's work, and had used his book Basic Drumming back when I first started teaching as a good catch-all book that would cover a lot of topics and last beginner students for a couple of years.  What I didn't know, however, was that not only has Joel been living in London for the last 40 years, but he lives a mere 15 minutes from me.
So, a few weeks ago, Joel invited me to his home and we spent a couple hours talking about drumming, teaching, living in the UK as an American, etc. etc.  And he very kindly gave me a great selection over his more than 100 books.  I'm looking forward to spending some time with them.  I hope work my way through some of them in the coming months and will let you know what I find.

You can find out more about Joel on his website,, and many of his books are available from Hudson Music.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Transcription - Enéas Costa, "Sonho Meu"

Enéas Costa is a real mystery as best as I can tell.  His discography is impressive, having recorded with the likes of Gal Costa, Chico Buarque, Edu Lobo, and Caetano Veloso. But I've never been able to find out much else about him; where he is/was from, whether he's still alive, nothing.  The only thing I've ever found is one picture which supposedly shows him playing with the great saxophonist J.T. Mereilles, and bassist Luizão Maia, who played with Elis Regina for many years.

But we can certainly hear a lot of him, because his name appears on many an album credit.  In addition to the names above, Costa also did considerable work with Maria Bethânia.  Here he is playing the standard "Sonho Meu", from Bethânia's album Álibi.  This recording also features Gal Costa on vocals, Rosinha de Valença on guitar and cavaquinho, the aforementioned Luizão Maia on bass, and a young Tutty Moreno on percussion.

I've done a traditional note-for-note transcription, but below that is a simplified version, which just shows the comping pattern, which is the real sauce of the phrasing and what we're likely most interested in gleaning from a transcription of this nature.  You can then play along with the recording with brushes, a tamborim, whatever you like, really.

Simplified version:

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Art Blakey with Charlie Parker - "Wahoo"

I was recently turned on to this recording featuring a young Art Blakey playing with Charlie Parker.  This is an era of Blakey I've not been too familiar with until now.  I know he played in fellow Pittsburgher, Billy Eckstine's band and with Fletcher Henderson in the big band era, and did some work with Dizzy Gillespie.  Bit still, when I think of Blakey I (like most people, probably) tend think of the Jazz Messengers, of driving shuffles, and of hard bop leaders like Hank Mobley, Jimmy Smith, and Lee Morgan.  So I find it really interesting to hear him playing in this much earlier bebop style.

The left hand comping, which I've transcribed here is out of sight, but what also struck me was the bass drum.  That's far more than "feathering".  He's thumping that thing pretty hard on all four beats, which I think still carried over a bit from the big band era before it started getting lighter.  I only notated the bass drum when he plays it even harder than the "feathering", or when it feels like part of the larger phrase.  The recording quality is pretty rough, but as far as I can tell he doesn't alter his ride cymbal pattern much.

I also noticed how many three-beat groupings he plays, both in quarter notes....

....and in eight notes....

So, here's all the comping, minus the heads.  Each page is a chorus and is time stamped at the top.  Drop me an e-mail if you'd like the PDF.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Brazil again

I was fortunate enough to kick off 2024 with another trip to Brazil along with many of my fellow Brazilian music nerds here in London.

With only a few short weeks to Carnival, Rio was completely abuzz with incredible music and atmosphere.  Whereas on the last trip in 2022 I saw more jazz, this trip afforded me the opportunity to visit some of the samba schools as they prepare for Carnival.

I did have a chance to catch up with some of my favorite drummers, and new friends that I met on the last trip, like Renato Massa, Marcus Thadeu, and Marcio Bahia.

Marcio Bahia

But thanks to some well connected friends I was able to visit some of the oldest, and most respected samba schools in Rio, like....




....and see some technical rehearsals in the Sambódromo.

I also had the great pleasure of seeing master pandeirista, Bira Presidente, at Cacique de Ramos, where Fundo de Quintal was formed.

If, by chance, you're at all interested in seeing more pictures and videos from the trip, you can head over to my Instagram page and see "Brazil trip '24" in my highlighted stories.

Now that I'm back in cold, dark London, I have quite a few posts in the works that I hope to get up here for you soon.

Saturday, January 06, 2024

10 years of "That Drum Blog"

It's hard to believe, but I first posted to this, my own little nerdy corner of the internet, 10 years ago today.  Thank you very much to everyone who has read the blog, and been in touch with questions and comments.  I have enjoyed it immensely.  Some years I post more than others, but regardless, I have no plans of stopping any time soon and hope that 2024 will afford me some more time to transcribe, write, post and share with all of you.

Happy New Year!