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....

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dig This - Cymbal storage solutions

If you're a normal drummer, you probably have way more gear than you could every possibly play at one time. And chances are a lot of that gear is cymbals.  Where do you keep yours?

For awhile I had mine in old cymbal bags.  But I'm a cymbal nerd.  Not only do I like the sound of them, and how unique each one is, but I also just like the look of them.  I want to see them.  I want to be able to flick through them like a vinyl record collection.  Because of this I've spent quite a bit of time in the past Google-ing phrases like "cymbal rack", "cymbal storage", etc., not coming up with much in the way of fancy storage ideas.  However, my prayers were finally answered recently.

My buddy Mike Dawson over at Modern Drummer has a great video series (are the kids saying "Vlog" these days?) on his facebook page and on YouTube.  While watching one of his videos I saw it.  Tons of cymbals stacked beautifully vertical for all to gawk at.  Immediately I dropped him a line asking, "What is that?!"  To my delight, it was nothing more than a $5 guitar (read: cymbal) stand.

So now instead of this....

I've got THIS....

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Permutations of a Bill Stewart fill

If you're a Bill Stewart fan then you almost certainly recognize this lick...

It pops up quite a lot in Bill's playing.  The placement of the bass drum seems to change from time to time.  Maybe it's a tempo thing or maybe just a personal choice.  Either way it's worth trying all three versions.

I was playing around with this phrase recently and started moving it around the bar, and inverting it, ending up with ideas like this....

Just by shifting everything by an 8th note we can get three very different feeling phrases.  Place the bass drum in all three places for each permutation and all of a sudden we've got 9 different phrases to play around with.

By playing 16th notes instead of triplets we can take this one step farther....

We now have a three beat phrase, which works well in 3/4, or perhaps even more so, as a hemiola idea that moves over the bar line.

Send me an e-mail if you'd like a PDF page of all the combinations.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Transcription - Edu Ribeiro, "Baião Doce"

Today I've got for you a groove that comes from the northeast of Brazil called a Baião.  You may have heard of it before, as it often gets a passing mention in method books after the one page on samba.  Baião comes from a family of rhythms called Forró.  I've got a larger piece about forró in the works, so for now we'll leave the history lesson at that.

The underlying rhythmic feel of a baião looks like this:

It's likely that you've seen an arrangement where the & of 2 is also on the bass drum, but I don't think that's very accurate.

In a drumset orchestration, the bass drum is imitating a drum called a zabumba, which is worn on a sling at an angle, much like an old snare drum, but higher.  The zabumba plays both the high sound and the low sound as the top head is played with a beater or mallet, and the bottom head is played with a long, thin stick held in the left hand.  The stick creates a sharp snap sound which we can imitate with a rim click.  It's quite common for the only other percussion instrument to be a large triangle.  So a stock baião orchestration would look something like this:

When a comping instrument is present, it's common for it to chase the low sounds of the zabumba.  This is also often supported by the high sound of the drum like so:

Where I feel the vibe of this rhythm is often lost when applied to the drum set is in the absence of improvisation.  While the part you see above is the foundation of the groove, many drum set players stay there and never move.  It's very common for a forró group to be only a trio: triangle, zabumba and accordion.  As the triangle is the motor and rarely fluctuates, most of the interaction with the accordion must come from the zabumba.

Edu Ribeiro nails this improvisatory element on "Baião Doce", a tune written by bassist Paulo Paulelli for Trio Corrente's debut album.  Check out how the basic baião feel is always present, but is very much embellished with the rim click, and improvisation with the bass drum.

E-mail me for a PDF

"Baião Doce" starts at 25:12