King Cadence: A Philly Joe Jones Inspired Eight Bar Break

Philly_Joe2Back when I was shedding a lot of Philly Joe Jones and Vinnie Ruggiero stuff, I started writing out some cadences that came to me while practicing. What strikes me as I look over this material again is how musical it is. The phrases have space and are syncopated in that traditional jazz type of way. And that makes them sound great. I wrote a few of these, so I will look for the rest of them. In the meantime, this should do as a start.

This one is called “King Cadence.” By the way, two of the definitions of “cadence” are:

  • The rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words
  • A rhythmic pattern that is non-metrically structured

Here is the PDF: King Cadence

Vinnie Colaiuta’s Led Boots Drum Intro

imagesI’ve recently been listening to Jeff Beck’s “Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott’s,” featuring Vinnie Colaiuta. I’ve always loved “Led Boots,” from the “Wired” album, and Vinnie doesn’t disappoint on the live version.  “Led Boots (Live)” is a great example of how to approach adding your own voice to a song that fans already really know.  You have to respect the original–you don’t want to disappoint the fans.  But you want to play it your way too.  Vinnie references the original, and keeps some key moments the same, but he adds his own touch.

The studio version of “Led Boots” featured Narada Michael Walden on drums and his original drum intro is one great example of rhythmic displacement, which has become much more popular since.  Vinnie pays homage to this in his version.  Check it out.

 

Here’s the PDF with the drum intro transcribed: Led Boots Vinnie Drum Intro

The Music Technology Trap

The-Thinking-DrummerThe technology now available is extraordinary. What is possible with just a laptop computer makes very high quality recording available at one’s fingertips. I find these advances inspiring and enabling. It is much easier to create high quality music than ever before. But it is only easier in the realm of TECHNOLOGY. Let me explain.

The new technology allows me to hire a song writer and have him deliver stunningly high quality demo recordings that he created in his living room studio. It allows performers to bring their laptops to a gig and, with the push of a button, play tracks created with unlimited layers of amazing sounds and processing as their backing bands–again, possibly created while sitting in their apartment.

However, there is a paradox. If the songwriter creating the music for me in his living room hasn’t put in the time and work to write a good song, all is lost. In addition, if he hears guitar on the recording, he either needs a skilled musician to come and play for him or he must be an accomplished guitarist himself.

The laptop artist performing live and accompanying his computer tracks still has to be a strong performer and singer, guitarist, or other instrumentalist.

The skill required to sing, write a good song or play any instrument at a world-class level remains the same as ever before. The existence of the new technology doesn’t change this. Actually scratch that. The technology means you have to be better than in the past to compete. That’s right. The level of skill required to perform well as a top musician is actually HIGHER than ever before in the history of recorded music. Why is this?

There are several reasons.

1) The new technology has removed all barriers to entry. This means anyone can make and distribute music. This means that you have to be much better than ever before to stand out from the massive amount of music out there.

It used to require a lot of money to rent a studio and record. No longer. Distribution used to require a record company gate-keeper to anoint you so you could have your music get out into the world. No longer. Distribution is essentially free.

But the problem is that the removal of all the barriers to entry means that everyone thinks they can be a recording artist. Well, in fact, anyone CAN be a recording artist. And because of this, there is a huge amount of new music being made all the time. Much more than ever before. Unfortunately, most of it is crappy.

You know why? Because people learn how to use Ableton Live or Pro Tools and create tracks and sounds. But they don’t spend the time learning how to write a song, sing or play an instrument well.

And those skills are what separate the crap from the fantastic. It’s great that we can make music “more easily.” But in reality, you still have to practice your ass off to be a good pianist, guitarist, drummer, singer or songwriter.

So, the technology won’t save you. And “The Music Technology Trap” creates a situation where many aspiring musicians are forsaking the work needed to become a skilled musician or songwriter and becoming good at the technology end instead. But the trap is that you need BOTH.

2) The technology makes everything sound so good, that if your playing and sound on your instrument isn’t at least as good as the tracks you can create with your computer facility, you’re weaknesses are exposed immediately. This is the second part of “The Music Technology Trap.”

I’ve recently seen a bunch of live music where people relied heavily on their laptops onstage. The double-edged sword of the technology became apparent quickly. I’ve seen some incredible musicians, highly skilled at their craft, use technology to supplement what they do and achieve amazing results. It worked for them because they were already amazing at their instruments. Add to that the power of technology and what can happen is astounding. This is one possible outcome and its the one we hope for.

However, I’ve also seen the reverse. Up and comers will go on stage and have amazing sounding backing tracks. But then they start singing on top of it. Or playing their guitar. Or playing drums. And the skill and sound exhibited with the craft of playing those instruments is not on par with the skill and sounds of the technology.

And then, all is lost. The guitarist who does not have a good guitar tone or stunning technique is exposed as a charlatan because the rest of the music—the computer programmed stuff—sounds so good. But the guitar sound and playing can’t live up to it. It’s a trap. And the musician in question has walked into the trap himself, knowingly and willingly and most likely naively. He just didn’t realize that his weakness would be so easily exposed. More likely, he did not consider or understand that the weakness existed.

I’ve seen this with some frequency over the past few years. I’ve seen a drummer who is just OK play on top of a track that sounds pretty good, but his drums just sound so bad. And that great track behind him magnifies that disparity greatly.

I love new technology. I love what it makes possible. But you still have to be able to play your instrument—-and you must be able to play it even better than before the technology opened up all of these doors. You have to be able to write a better song than ever before. That’s “The Music Technology Trap.”

Can you use technology to make your music sound great? Yes, but you better do the work on your primary ax. Go practice. Then make some music. Then go practice some more and make some better music. Record yourself and criticize your performances, then improve and do it again. If you do this, maybe you’ll get some people excited about what you create.

Just be aware that the technology can potentially expose your weaknesses, so do the work. There are no shortcuts.

A Vinnie Colaiuta Inspired Triplet Lick

Vinnie-Zildjian-Ad-Image-cropped

Here, in “Nasty Lick #67,” we have a Vinnie inspired idea that sounds different because of the placement of accents in the context of 16th note triplets. Many experienced drummers are used to hearing the placement of accents in a 16th note triplet context based on our use of six stroke rolls or paradiddle-diddles.

What I love about this idea is that it puts the accents in different places than we’re used to; that’s a Vinnie Colaiuta trademark.

Play this the same way you would a six-stroke roll—make the accents loud and all the other notes very quiet/ghosted. You’ll be able to play this idea very fast with some practice. The idea is shown with both right and left hand lead, and you’ll find that the way you can place the accented notes around the drum kit will change with each version.

Here’s the PDF: Nasty Lick 67

Jojo Mayer On Greatness

gallery_31_16_96545

This quote pretty much nails the big picture of how to conceptualize what a drummer needs in order to be a great player. We’re not talking about skills. Yes, you need to learn to read rhythmic notation and gain technique. Yes, you need to study and gain multi limbed independence. Yes, you have to learn foot technique and study different styles. But those are micro level things. Jojo is great at explaining details but he is also really good at condensing the big picture into understandable concepts. That’s what he does here. He boils it all down to three big picture ideas. Succinct and thought-provoking. Check it out. It’s Yoda-like and heavy.

Do you know the John Bonham logo, the three circles that intersect? Those three circles I see as the physical or technical world, or the body; the conceptual world or the mind—the choices; and the emotional world. There are areas where the three overlap, but you can also separate them.

Now, say there’s a drummer who’s ready to emote and share his feelings but is technically unable to execute his ideas. He’s going to be frustrated. Now let’s say there’s a drummer who has a meticulous understanding of the physics of his instrument and a very good concept, but he cannot emote. He will only be interesting to other drummers. He’s going to be a clinician. He’s going to do incredible things, but your girlfriend is going to go out and grab a coffee and meet you after. Then maybe you have a technical or body understanding and you are ready to emote but you have no concept. You’re going to become a clone of somebody who’s already out there. And you’re going to miss authenticity, which is very important.

So, all of us have to allow ourselves to be honest and aware of our emotions. We want to share these things with someone else, so we have to put them into some sort of structure so people can understand it. And then we need technique to do it. So in the process you make acquisitions of knowledge. You process this, but then you have to let things go, because you cannot be everything. You cannot be Jack DeJohnette and John Bonham and Stewart Copeland and Elvin Jones. But you can simplify and find clarity, and you find clarity when you remove things and you spend time with simple things.

–from Modern Drummer magazine, May 2015 issue

Bill Stewart on Technique

billstewartOne of the purposes of “The Drumming Blog” is to curate. As one who is obsessed with drumming, I’m a big consumer of the drumming media and therefore I stumble upon little tidbits of drumming wisdom all the time. Often, it’s from interviews I read with great drummers either online or in magazines.

In this edition of “DrumSpeak,” Bill Stewart, one of our generation’s most influential jazz drummers, speaks about technique. I found this quote in an interview with Stewart that appeared in the April 2015 issue of Drumhead, a relatively new entry in the drumming magazine world. If you don’t know Drumhead, it’s a magazine worth checking out.

Here is Stewart’s response to the question: “What gives you the desire to work on technique?”


I work on technique every time I practice. I come across things that I’m maybe not doing well enough so I will focus on whatever is bothering me, as far as execution goes. Obviously I work on technique, but it’s in order to play what I want to play musically. I’ve never liked it when musicians play things that seem technical for the sake of showing that; showing fast hands, for example. It’s usually something fast that people associate with that. That’s not really where Im coming from but obviously I do have to work on getting my hands and feet and coordination to all work well. To me, technique is about getting a good sound too; it’s not just about playing a bunch of flashy stuff.

On Drumming Open Handed

Open handed drumming is a method that is debated frequently. I’ve considered it and have applied it to my drumming here and there. In this article, I will weigh in on the pros and cons, my experience with playing this way, and my net-net opinion.

For those not familiar with it, let’s define open-handed drumming. Let’s assume a right-handed drum set-up. Most of the time, the right-handed drummer will cross his right hand over the left to play the hi-hat. Certainly, in rock and pop music, a lot of time is spent in this position, because the primary function of the drummer is to play grooves to support the band.

A good view of Simon Phillips playing "open-handed" at a drum clinic.

A good view of Simon Phillips playing “open-handed” at a drum clinic.


Drumming “open-handed” simply means that the drummer plays the hi-hat with the left hand while the right hand plays the snare drum. This avoids the crossing over of the right arm above the left. Proponents of the open-handed style claim that the un-crossing of the arms frees up the right hand to play anywhere on the kit that is desired.

The open-handed method also allows the right hand unrestricted power on the snare drum. With no arm above it, the snare drum arm can rise as high as the drummer wishes and hit the drum as hard as is desired.

Open handed players will often mount their ride cymbal on the left side above the hi hat and play the ride cymbal with the left hand as well. Some open-handed players have their ride in the “regular” right side position, effectively becoming ambidextrous.

Some well-known drummers who play “open” include: Billy Cobham, Kenny Aronoff (sometimes plays this way), Simon Phillips, Claus Hessler, Dom Famularo, Will Kennedy, Carter Beauford and Lenny White.

My first exposure to open-handed playing was when I saw Billy Cobham (as Jack Bruce’s drummer) play at the Bottom Line in NYC (circa 1980). Besides Cobham’s obvious mastery and technique, the idea that he played “uncrossed” was impressive to me because it just seemed so difficult to do. As a teen, I recall Billy’s open-handed playing had a real “wow” factor.

Despite the allure of the “open-handed” method, I continued to play the “normal” way and still do.

I don’t disagree with the logic of uncrossing one’s hands as described above. Yes, you can play anything you wish with your right hand while maintaining the hi hat pulse. And yes, you have no power restrictions. Yes, it looks pretty cool and it is different from the majority of players.

However (and this is a very big “however”) there really is no logic to re-learning to play “open-handed” once you’ve gotten very far down the road with your right hand leading on the cymbal. Imagine how much work that would take! Hours and hours and hours. Perhaps more than a thousand hours of practice. I find that daunting and actually just stupid.

Instead, I’ve used the idea on occasion, when it served a musical purpose. Recently, when playing with MANCIE, I wanted to play a groove that included the hi hat on every eighth note with the tom toms mixing in with the snare drum and bass drum. I simply decided upon the beat I wanted to play, learned some additional variations on it, and played open-handed in order to execute. I could have added a remote hi hat on the right side to meet the same goal, but I would rather not carry the additional hardware and cymbals around with me, so learning the open-handed beat was an easier choice. It required a few hours of practice, not a thousand.

I also once learned an entire set of music open-handed but I only did that because I was bored with my playing in that particular band. We were touring a bit and I knew the music so well that I needed to think of a new way to play the music without getting bored and without over playing. It worked. But it was an exercise rather than a necessity.

Let’s look at the main advantages put forth by the proponents of open-handed playing.

1) The entire kit is open to the drummers’ right hand when the left hand is playing the hi hat.

Yes, this is true. But do you really want to incorporate tom toms and cymbal bells into all of your beats? Do you need or want to do any of that with any real kind of frequency? I would argue that the answer is “no.” No, you don’t need to play that many sounds on your kit with much frequency at all. In fact, if you did play that way all of the time or with great frequency, you’d be one of those annoying, over-playing drummers who no one wants to play with.

Remember, our function is to lay down the groove. With only the three basic rock/pop voices (hi hat, snare and bass drum) you’ll have plenty to work with if you have technique and control over your dynamics. In addition, linear ideas can allow you to move around the kit more if you wish to play more “stuff” with out playing open-handed.

So, yes, the assertion is true, but I don’t particularly care that much about having the entire kit available to my non-cymbal hand at all times.

2) The snare drum hand can hit harder.

Yes, but really, who cares? You can hit plenty hard crossing over, particularly if you know how to hit a good rim shot.

Here is an important final issue. What about someone who is just starting to play? Does it make sense to play open? I personally think it’s fine to present it to drum students and give them the facts. Some students have a natural affinity for this style.

I rejected open handed playing because I would have had to practice a huge amount to get as good that way as I am crossing. But the beginning student is not re-learning anything. A newbie, who learns open from the get go is not wasting any practice time and will reap all of the benefits of the style. I see no reason to discourage it. I have one student in particular who has been pursuing open handed playing and I am happy to help her with that endeavor.

I do not mean to be negative about open handed playing at all. I like the notion. I think it does make for interesting possibilities. I have dabbled in it. But to make a switch after years of playing? No way. As a way of playing from day one? Absolutely.

9 More Exercises To Build Bass Drum Double Strokes

9-more-exercises-illustrationOne of the most popular posts on this blog is 9 Exercises To Build Bass Drum Double Strokes. I wrote that page of exercises a few years back in order to help give some structure to drummers who are working on doubles with one bass drum.

To follow up with some more exercises, I put together a new worksheet that has 9 two measure phrases. The focus is on doubles with the bass drum in a more musical way. These stray from the usual “two” and “four” on the snare drum rather quickly, but I think you’ll find the phrases interesting. The ideas here come from applying the jazz drumming concept of comping and over-the-bar-line phrasing to 16th note funk/rock playing.

I hope you find it helpful….you may develop some new phrasing ideas in addition to getting your bass drum double strokes together.

Please feel free to comment or otherwise let me know what you think.

Here’s the worksheet: 9 more exercises to build bass drum double strokes PDF

Steve Gadd On Groove

Unknown

In the latest DrumSpeak, Steve talks about groove and how his jazz background, combined with the music that was popular while he was coming up helped define his sound. There is a lot of great information here—soak it up.

Below, the interview with Gadd from Modern Drummer online (July 1, 2005).

MD: I was a freshman at North Texas State in 1972, and my teacher was John Gates, who had been in the Army with you. He told me, “There’s this guy that nobody knows about named Steve Gadd, and he’s something else.” That began my search for your recordings. Chuck Mangione’s Alive was the first record I heard you on, and the groove was incredible. Your solos on “High Heal Sneakers” and “St. Thomas” have the clarity of Max Roach, and there is an incredible fluidity and a contemporary slant. Do you recall what you were listening to and practicing at that time?

Steve: That was done right after I moved to New York. I had just gotten out of the Army, and before that I was in school. My main background was listening to guys like Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Tony Williams, and Art Blakey. Then I got to New York and started hearing some funk players, so I started to concentrate more on the groove than on the freedom of straight-ahead stuff. One of the first guys I heard that had a really great groove was Rick Marotta.

MD: So he was established before you?

Steve: We both got to New York around the same time. But he grew up with a different background—more of a backbeat thing—and he had a hell of a pocket. Still does. So having come from the kind of background I came from and then hearing that groove, I was inspired to technically emulate those jazz guys but to put some of that stuff in a great pocket.

MD: I hear that in your earliest recordings. How did you develop that deep, relaxed pocket?

Steve: I think it’s a matter of being aware of it and trying to do it. No matter how “out” and over-the-bar whoever you’re trying to sound like did it, the challenge is to try and do it in a way where you’re paying tribute to what they did but that is understandable in terms of a groove.

MD: Did you have a method for practicing that?

Steve: No, it was just a matter of being in a situation where I had the chance to record and hear it back. That’s a tremendous education right there, because there are a lot of things you do in the studio that get very creative and exciting, and you think they sound great, but on playback you can tell it’s jumbled up and not easy for the listener to understand. So you go back and simplify some things and you find out that it’s a lot more understandable when you leave some space. So being in the studio and hearing things back was a good education. And then years later, when they started using clicks, when things got exciting you could tell where you got away from the click. So those were ways of testing yourself and trying to develop the pocket.

MD: Your playing is highly supportive and highly interactive. But there’s also a transparency. Although the playing may be busy, it doesn’t create interference.

Steve: When you’re playing high-energy music in the studio, a lot of times when the soloist gets busy, everyone gets busy. I’ve learned that that’s the time to not get busy and just be supportive. When he takes a breath, that’s a better time to play something in terms of being a support player. You have to pick and choose your spots, sort of like filling in the blanks.

MD: I was in the studio once in the early ’80s watching you do a Dave Liebman record called What It Is. I remember the rhythm section putting down a track, and then Dave put a saxophone solo on. The groove was kind of static, but he played on top, behind, and all around the time, and it was a really interesting contrast. Mike Mainieri was producing, and after Dave put his solo on, I remember Mainieri saying that something was missing. You said, “I have an idea.” You went in and made a pass that corresponded to the saxophone solo. Do you remember that?

Steve: I remember working with Dave, but I don’t remember that particular session. What condition was I in?

MD: At that time you seemed to be burning the candle at both ends. You were playing sessions all day, and then I remember you playing at Mikel’s all night. It seemed like an amazingly stimulating but exhausting period.

Steve: Yeah, it was a great period, but it was pretty exhausting. So I don’t remember that particular session. How did it come out?

MD: It came out incredible. You did exactly what you were just describing: following the emotional path that he was on, but not talking when he was talking, so to speak.

Steve: I’ve found over the years that the feel overcomes everything. If you get a good groove happening, that carries it along. If it feels good, there’s not a lot you have to do. You can pick and choose your spots to dynamically respond to what’s going on, but you don’t have to technically, constantly challenge yourself to fill in those spaces.

When you play live, it’s another ballgame. People can see the excitement, and that helps them put it together with the audio. When you don’t have that visual thing, it’s better to keep it simple. It’s a lot more understandable.

Jojo Mayer’s Sonor Perfect Balance Bass Drum Pedal Revisited

I’ve been messing with different bass drum pedals lately. I know. So what else is new, right?

Any drummer obsessed with sound and technique is always trying different gear. It’s a never-ending journey. This is one of the reasons I am glad I don’t endorse a ton of drum related products.

I like to change my mind. Artists do that. It’s OK. I endorse Vic Firth and no other companies’ gear. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with Vic. For a while now, I’ve been using their Keith Carlock signature sticks. They’re killer. But I digress. (If you’re interested, you can read about my obsession with these sticks HERE)

So with my bass drum technique, I’ve been messing with four pedals lately.

Sonor's Perfect Balance Pedal by Jojo Mayer

1) Sonor’s Perfect Balance Pedal

DW 5000 Heel-less Pedal

2) DW 5000 ADH Heel-less w chain

Yamaha FP 6110 w/ Strap

3) Yamaha (FP 6110) with a strap

Yamaha Direct Drive Pedal

4) Yamaha’s Direct Drive (FP 9500d)


When I originally wrote about the Jojo pedal, I was over the moon. You can read that article HERE. I loved it. At the time I was deeply into playing jazz and only jazz. I was trying to play mostly heel down. The pedal was great for that. Feathering the bass drum? The Jojo pedal is amazing for that. Heel down doubles? Not bad at all.

Later, I started having some reservations because I began playing more heavy rock. The Perfect Balance pedal is not intended for that. It’s not built for smashing. For that heavy style of louder rock (think Dave Grohl circa Nirvana), my DW 5000 is ideal. Chain drive pedals that are supported by thick metal hardware are intended for that purpose. When I tried the Jojo pedal in that musical situation I was disappointed. But that should not be a surprise. It just didn’t feel right for that application, but I may revisit this again.

Lately, a larger portion of my playing time is devoted music where my playing is more subtle. I’m working on a project that requires a lighter touch and more technique. It’s more funk, more progressive, more ghost notes, more double strokes, less pounding, more caressing. So, I revisited the Jojo pedal.

I’m glad I did. The pedal really feels great. In particular, fast doubles are very clean and consistent. There are some ideas i’m using that require two 32nd notes in a row on the bass drum at 100 to 116 bpm, and this pedal makes it feel almost effortless.

Now, let me tell you a little about the Yamaha Direct Drive and the older strap based FP 6110.

The Direct Drive is a pretty good pedal. I like the feel. But for fast doubles, the pedal seems inadequate. I use a sliding motion that comes from a toe-heel movement (think Gadd and Weckl’s motion). At higher speeds, with a greater foot slide up the pedal, the entire pedal would just move off of the hoop of the bass drum. After a while, the pedal was almost falling off the drum completely. Very surprising that this pedal wouldn’t hold up under this motion. The Jojo pedal had no problem with this at all.

The old Yamaha strap pedal was great. It actually felt the closest to the Jojo pedal of any of these. It’s a decidedly “old school” pedal. Not a lot of extra metal. It is definitely not a heavy-duty type of pedal. But it feels great, and fast doubles are pretty consistent. A close second to the Perfect Balance.

But overall, I’m back in love with the Perfect Balance. I may be sticking with this pedal for a while.

Try it. It’s not for your metal band; but that’s OK. There are other pedals for that.

If you want a pedal that reacts to your foot technique the way sticks react to your hand technique, this is a pedal you need to try.

Plus, it really is the coolest looking pedal I’ve ever seen.