Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quick Lick - Jeff Hamilton

In an effort to start posting more regularly again I thought I'd do a couple of short posts to get myself back in the habit of signing in to Blogger.

Awhile back I was considering buying a riveted china cymbal for that big band sort of vibe.  I eventually decided against it (at least for now), but I did come across some videos of Jeff Hamilton demoing one of them.  At the end of one of the videos Jeff plays a very nice little one-bar fill.  It's nothing difficult, but it sits under the hands really nicely and is fun to play.  So I thought I'd jot it down for you in case anyone was interested in a new fill to throw into their bag.

Start around 0:32 for the fill

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to Use "Accents and Rebounds"

Accents and Rebounds is the lesser-known, but equally as important and useful little brother of George L. Stone’s Stick Control.  It’s a great book, but if you’re just playing through the exercises within it like an “Accent Tap” exercise of a high school drumline, then you’re not quite realizing it’s full potential.

To get the most out of the book we must remember that there are four distinct strokes that make up the majority of drumming: The full stroke, the upstroke, the downstroke, and the low stroke or tap stroke.

The full stroke, as the name suggests, covers our full range of motion.  It begins from a raised position, is thrown down into the drum and allowed to rebound back up to the same position at which it started.  This gives us a nice full sound, and if we’re playing multiple high notes in a row, it saves us the trouble of having to lift the stick back up into playing position.

When using the downstroke, we stop the stick before it is allowed to rebound so that the stroke ends low to the head of the drum.  An important thing to remember is that until after the stick strikes the head there is absolutely no difference between a downstroke and a full stroke.  We throw the stick downward from a raised position and then apply a little pressure to the stick AFTER it strikes the head.  If you squeeze the stick before it hits the head you will choke off your sound, and in the long term probably hurt your wrists or forearms.  We use this stroke when we need a low stroke immediately following a larger stroke.  Without it, the stick would be in a raised position and we would first have to lower it before we could execute our low stroke.

The upstroke is the opposite of a downstroke.  This motion starts from a low position and ends up high.  Use as much rebound as you can to get the stick back up to the raised position, but you’ll most certainly need to give it a little help.  It’s not going to make it all the way to the top on it’s own.  Again, the use of the upstroke is the same as the downstroke, but in reverse.  If we need to play a larger, more powerful, stroke following a low stroke, putting that upward pop on it puts us in better position to execute the next stroke.

And last but not least the low stroke.  The low stroke, or tap, is essentially just a full stroke, but played at a much lower height.

As you’ve probably gathered, the whole purpose of these different strokes is to economize our motions as much as we can to maximize fluidity around the drums.

Let’s look at a practical application using paradiddles.  If we were to play each note of the paradiddle at the same volume, we would use full strokes, whether they be high or low.  But if we add an accent to the first note of each paradiddle, everything changes.

Our first note would need to be a downstroke, because we’d want to start high to achieve the accent, but we’d want to stop the stick low to the head in preparation for the next right hand which is low.  The second note would then be an upstroke.  It’s not accented, so we want it low, but the next note that hand will play, after the double strokes, will be an accent, so we need it up high.  And those two doubles will simply be low strokes.

So our paradiddles strokes would look like this:

F = full stroke
D = downstroke
U = upstroke
T = tap, or low stroke
To practice all four strokes in a row all we need is a bar of 8th notes with the first four accented and the second four unaccented.  The first two would be full strokes to prepare for the next two accents, the second two would be downstrokes to prepare for the first two low strokes, and the last two would be up strokes in preparation for the first two accents on the repeat.

If we apply this concept to Accents and Rebounds, the book becomes far more useful.

Let’s break down the first example:

1 - full stroke in preparation for the next right hand, which is accented
& of 1 - tap as it is unaccented, and so is the next left hand on the & of 2
2 - downstroke, as it is accented, but then needs to be low for the next right
& of 2 - upstroke in preparation for the accent it on the & of 3
3 - tap, as the right hand as no more accents in that bar
& of 3 - downstroke
4 - upstroke to prepare to start the pattern over again
& of 4 - tap
Of course, when the stickings change it also changes the type of stroke needed.  I went ahead and did the whole first page for you to get you started, because that’s the kind of guy I am.  E-mail me if you’d like a PDF.

In spending a little time breaking these examples down one stroke at a time and playing them really really slowly, focusing on the mechanics of each stroke, I found that my motions became smoother and more effortless, and as a result I got faster.  I recommend writing in the strokes and really focusing on them for awhile.  Eventually choosing the correct stroke to apply will become second nature and you’ll be able to move through the book more quickly.  Do be careful though, as much like Stick Control, you can easily go overboard with this and run it into complete tedium to the point where the amount of time you’re putting in is far disproportionate to the results you are getting.

Oh, and I've decided how I'm going to make my mark on the drumming world.  If R, L, and B are “stickings”, then F, D, U, and T shall henceforth be known as “strokings”.  July 18, 2017.  You heard it here first.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Project Terrarium

It's been a busy spring, and I've been lucky enough to be asked to play for some fun projects.  Here's another one I did recently led by saxophonist Josef Stout called Project Terrarium.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Groove Transcription - Will Kennedy, "Capetown"

Pedro Velasco has been keeping me busy with this Machimbombo stuff.  He's really inspired by many different styles of African music (particularly Malian) and is showing up to rehearsals with a lot of interesting 6/8 and 3/4 stuff.

So, on the one hand I'm just trying to continue to come up with new groove ideas in 6/8 so that I'm not constantly playing the same thing on all of his tunes.  And on the other hand I'm trying to get a little deeper into African rhythms that I'm not familiar with.  If you're a regular reader of this blog then I'm sure you're aware of my disdain for the term "Latin" in all it's vagueness, so believe me when I say that the hypocrisy is not lost on me when I use the equally vague term, "African".  But I'm working on it.  So here's a groove I've been fooling around with.  Apparently the parent rhythm originates in Cameroon, but in this case we're looking at a drum set orchestration by Will Kennedy on the Yellowjackets tune "Capetown".  Will calls it "Magabe" or "Mugabe", but a little Googling shows that the real name appears to be "Mangambeu".

The basic groove (as Will plays it) looks like this:

Now, I've notated it the way he counts it in, but I can't help but wonder if it would be more accurate to notate like so:

Again, I'm no expert on this rhythm, but it seems to be characterized by three things:

1. This shuffley hi-hat pattern, which presumably is derived from a bell pattern:

2.  The low sound - in this case a bass drum - emphasizing beats 4 and 5

3.  A high sound on the upbeats

Here it is in context with three quarters of the Yellowjackets and Will using one of those weird tilted drum racks that I didn't think any drummer ever used.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Here's a little video of a new-ish project I've been working on led by Portuguese guitarist Pedro Velasco called Machimbombo.

Machimbombo - Yellow Is The Fastest Colour from Freeze Productions on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Stick Control Flam Beats - a little Christmas present

UPDATE:  I've done the remainder of page 16, and all of page 17.  It is directly below page 16.  Enjoy!

I've been working with some of the lesser-played pages of Stick Control lately and have really been enjoying the "Flam Beats" from page 16 to 23.  However, you may have noticed that the way Stone notates the stickings - with an F for a right flam and an F in a circle for a left flam - is less than ideal.

I mean, it's certainly readable, but even now I still occasionally mix them up, and some of my students really struggle with it.  So, seeing as it's no longer the standard flam notation - if it ever even was - I just decided I'd take a few minutes, crank the exercises into Sibelius and put in the "normal" stickings as a little Christmas gift to you/myself/my students.

So far I've only done the first 18 exercises from page 16, but hey, it's Christmas; it's the thought that counts.  Maybe I'll do some more at a later date.  I hope this is helpful for you.  Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Ted Gioia's 100 Best Albums of 2016

Ted Gioia has just released his 100 Best Albums of 2016.  If you're not familiar with Gioia, he is a writer, historian, critic, what-have-you.  I've read and thoroughly enjoyed quite a few of his books.  He's also got tons of great articles on his website which are certainly worth a browse.

For the last 5 years, Ted has been compiling his favorite 100 albums of the year.  He claims to listen to over 1,000 new releases every year (1,021 in 2016).  Where he finds the time to listen to each of these in-depth enough to rank them while still finding time listen to old favorites as well as write, practice, and do whatever else it is he does, I'll never know.

On why/how he compiles this list, Gioia says:
"Like any music lover, I enjoy sharing my favorite music with others.  But in the last few years, a different motivation has spurred me.  I believe that the system of music discovery is broken in the current day.  There is more music recorded than ever before, but it is almost impossible for listeners to find the best new recordings.  The most creative work in music is increasingly found on self-produced projects and release from small indie labels - to an extent hardly conceivable only a decade ago.  Very little of this music ever shows up on the radio, where formats seem to get narrower and narrower with each passing year.  Music fans once heard good new music at indie record stores, but most of them have closed.  Or they could read reviews in the newspaper, but both the newspapers and the music reviews are shrinking or disappearing.  And the big record labels are the worst culprits of all, picking acts for their looks or their potential appeal to fourteen-year-olds, or some other egregious reason, and in general jumping on the must trivial passing fads.  On the other hand, the Internet presents an almost infinite amount of music and music commentary - yet where do fans even begin to separate the good from the bad and ugly?  My personal solution to this dilemma has been to listen to lots and lots of music, and try to identify recording of quality and distinction.  I share my list because I know, from past experience, that many other listeners are frustrated with the broken system of music discovery, and are also looking for good new music"
Personally, I miss the record store days (in my time it was mostly cassettes, then CDs), where you would hear one song on the radio or maybe MTV and you would just go out and buy the whole album on blind faith with the money you saved up from mowing lawns.

So in an effort to recapture that vibe, a few years back I started checking out Ted's list each December and just picking a handful of his choices based on the description (and let's face it, the cover), and ordering the CDs.  I have yet to be disappointed.

I haven't ordered my 2016 picks, but here are a few artists I discovered in 2015 thanks to Ted's list.

Ibeyi - Twin sisters from France with Cuban roots.  They sing in both English and Yoruba, often singing about Orixas for those of you that are into Camdomblé.  There is a Björk-like influence, but they have certainly got their own thing going on; lots of Cuban rhythms and bata drumming blended with electronic beats.

Fabiano do Nascimento - 7-string guitarist from Brazil.  The album is almost entirely guitar and percussion, save a few vocal tunes, which are actually some of my faves.  There is only one original tune on the record, but his choice of covers is impeccable.  He's got some Hermeto Pascoal and Baden Powell pieces, as well as some really nice folkloric tunes, like Ewe.

Daniel Bachman - Killer solo guitar music.  It's not bluegrass per-se, but it reeks of the influence.  Daniel is a young guy from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and you can hear it.  I was born and raised in southwestern Pennsylvania, and lived for seven years in West Virginia, so I've got a real soft spot for this Appalachian sound.  I don't know what his background is as far as training, but to me, his playing has a beautiful rawness that leads me to believe he is self-taught.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

You Be the Drummer - Bill Charlap, "I'm Old Fashioned"

As far as groups still recording today it doesn't get much more swingin' than Bill Charlap's trio with Peter Washington and Kenny Washington.  And the record I have for you here today is simply the Bill Charlap Trio minus Kenny Washington.  How could it get any better, you ask?  By adding Peter Bernstein!  I'm not sure I've heard a group swing harder without a drummer since Nat King Cole, Johnny Miller and Oscar Moore.

This record is, of course, great for any drummer.  I use it all the time.  But I think it's particularly good for up-and-coming, college-aged students as all of the tunes are common standards that you will be expected to know, all played at reasonable tempos.

As always, you should buy this record, but in the meantime....