Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Instrument Is An Illusion

You are the instrument!
I wanted to share this video with you guys because I feel like Mr. Galper's concept of the the musician being the actual instrument is incredibly important.  There are two extensions of this idea that I think are particularly relevant and useful for drummers.

1.  It doesn't really matter what kind of drums you are playing
You are going to sound like yourself, no matter what you are playing.  

Exhibit A: Eric Harland still sounds just like Eric Harland, even though he is playing on a pile of metal

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Double Strokes Around the Drum Set

Double Strokes Around the Drum Set
The written out versions of everything in the video are below.  I just wanted to mention that I originally got this double stroke exercise from an excellent drummer I met in Japan named Junji Hirose.  Also, thanks to Todd Bishop at Cruise Ship Drummer for his recent post that got me thinking about inverted double strokes.  Hope you enjoy the video/idea, and as always, feel free to leave any questions or comments below!  Double Strokes Around the Drum Set

Some New Music

Shameless Plug!
Just wanted to let you all know that my good friends and musical colleagues in the DC Jazz Composers Collective have just released a new CD that I am on.  If you are interested in listening to or buying it, here is the link.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Listen To Eachother!

Just a quick thought today about one of my favorite Kieth Jarrett trio moments captured on film.  If you go to around :35 into this clip you can clearly see Keith reacting to Jack DeJohnette's super slick transition into the solo section.  From my perspective it looks like Keith is almost surprised by what he hears, and decides to just listen instead of play for almost a whole chorus!  Ask yourself how you would react in a situation where you hear something surprising.  Would you have even been aware enough to hear what was happening?  Would you have tried to just play through it?  For me this is a truly inspiring example of group interplay and listening, hope you enjoy it. 

Also, for more great drum/piano interplay check out the trading 8's starting around 6:45. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ballads: Grown Folks Music

Why don't we talk about ballad playing?
Ballad playing seems to be one of the most mysteriously under-discussed topics amongst drummers.  If you are going to be a professional musician in nearly any genre of music, you are going to have to learn how to play a ballad whether you want to or not.  So simply avoiding the topic is not an option. 

Perhaps the reason this topic is avoided is because the role of the drums in a ballad tends to be particularly understated/supportive.  You are not going to be the focus of attention when you are playing a ballad.  However, that in no way means that what you are playing (or not playing) isn't important.  On the contrary for a group to really pull off a ballad, what the drummer plays is key! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trading 4's Using Syncopation

Summary of the exercise
1.  Starting on pg. 34, play the written line with a swinging eighth note interpretation (on the beat = first note of a triplet, off the beat = third note of a triplet) and also play jazz feet throughout.

2.  Play continuous triplets with the written line as accents.

3.  Play continuous triplet rolls with the line as accents (each unaccented note of the triplet gets doubled).

4.  Play all eighth notes from the written line as accents on the snare drum, and all quarter notes or more on either the hi-tom or floor-tom, depending on which hand is playing them.  

5.  Pick one rhythm that you particularly enjoy and memorize it.

6.  Play four bars of time and then four bars of the rhythm you chose.

7.  Sing the melody of "Blue Monk" while trading fours with yourself, try to start transitioning from the rhythm back to time with some improvisation in the fourth bar.  

8.  While trading fours with yourself and singing "Blue Monk", play the written rhythm for two bars and improvise a response for two bars. 

Here are the steps of the exercise written out:
Trading 4's With Syncopation

Monday, February 13, 2012

Papa Jo #3: Letting Your Phrases Breathe

Here is the exercise: Papa Jo #3 
Incidentally, this approach of singing your lines is an effective technique for any instrumentalist looking to get more space into their playing! 

Philly Joe #11: Trading 4's and 8's with the Melody

How to practice trading 4's
I have had a number of conversations recently about how to practice trading 4's, so I wanted to share an exercise from my forthcoming book "Melodic Syncopation" that I give to my students who are struggling with this issue.  I have found that this exercise is so effective because even though it is difficult at first, it gets as close as possible to simulating actual performance.  Here it is:
Philly Joe #11

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Trading In a Latin Tune

Four Pieces of Advice for Developing Your Latin Trading

1.  Study the greats
In order to build your vocabulary you need to spend a great deal of time listening to, absorbing, and trying to imitate some great players.  Two people that I referenced strongly in my trading in this case were Roy Haynes and Terreon Gulley.                                                                                            
In the trading on the bridge you can hear me play some very "Haynesy" ideas between my hands and my foot.  The basic idea I am using is playing groups of three eighth notes, two on the hands and one on the foot, and then orchestrating this around the drum set.  This is the famous diddit-n-diddit-n that Roy uses very frequently in his playing: 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Uptempo Jazz 7: Fast Brushes Continued

Just a quick observation
I had to share today's video because you get to see one of my favorite contemporary drummers Greg Hutchinson playing some uptempo brushes with one of my all-time favorite versions of the Ray Brown trio featuring Benny Green.  If you go to around 1:23 you can see his pattern really clearly, and he seems to be following the Kenny Washington/Papa Jo style described in previous posts on the topic. Greg gets a really beautiful, clean, and swinging brush sound at this tempo.  Also check out the great drum breaks starting around 1:50, the slick stick-to-brush transition at 5:26,  as well as the superb dynamic sensitivity throughout.  Enjoy!

If you want to hear more of this amazing band check out the album "Live At Scullers".  Here is one more blazing version of the tune "Tanga" from the video above, this time with Jeff Hamilton on drums:

Monday, February 6, 2012


The Shuffle!
In today's post we are going to discuss how to play one of my favorite grooves of all time, the shuffle!  The best thing you can do to start learning how to shuffle is to get acquainted with it's sound.  Starting a blog post about the shuffle with anything other than "Moanin'" is borderline heretical, so start listening and playing along here.

This song is basically the definitive recorded shuffle, so listening to and trying to imitate Art Blakey should be your starting point.  The other person to listen to to get your bearings is Mel Lewis.  Here is his famous shuffle on "The Groove Merchant":

Notice that neither one of these guys is overplaying, one of the many temptations when playing a shuffle.  Even though their groove is incredibly driving and strong, they are playing to the ensemble and staying dynamically balanced at all times.  Notice how much Mel drops down at :47 for example!  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Using Melody In A Solo

The melody as the basis for improvisation
In today's post I am going to use my own playing to demonstrate one of the themes of my blog, that is using the melody as the basis for improvising a drum solo.  One of my earliest inspirations for learning to solo using the melody was Roy Haynes' great solo on "In Walked Bud" (if you haven't checked it out already, I have a post about it here).  Some specific examples of how my playing in the video above is melodic are my imitation of the opening phrases of the melody, my use of repetition and space, and finally my adherence to the structure of the form.  If you want to read more about what I mean by melodic drumming, check out the post about Max Roach here.