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.

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