Friday, March 28, 2008

Canon and Fugue

Alrighty, so I'm moving along like this clinic is a thing that's actually going to happen. Of course I'm also considering that this is the music business and, as such, it is also possible that this could all fall through the cracks at the eleventh hour. At any rate, hope springs eternal and I'm assuming a probability of fruition. That said, the topic of the clinic will definetly be Canon and Fugue for the Drumset. I've been working through the material that PAS published and I'm trying to determine the best way to deliver the concept to a disparate group of drummers. So far, I'm looking at about an hour's worth of material to demonstrate the concept and take an audience from Round to Fugue while bringing home the salient points and still playing enough flashy stuff to keep them interested. After all, a clinic is sort of half class, half entertainment. So I'm debating... Do I want to add in other topics, like polyrhythms (I really want to play The Black Page), or do I just stick with the one subject? Hmmmm... the mind ponders.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Drum God's Clinic

When I think of drum clinics I typically think of a setting where some drum god comes to a local music store sponsored by a really expensive drum company. The drum god then wows the audience with an amazing solo. The drum god then talks about what it was like to play with so-and-so, how he constructed the drum part for such-and-such a song, and how much he likes his new expensive 27 ply birch/maple/zebra wood snare. Then the drum god leaves having imparted almost nothing more substantive than anecdotal apocrypha and advertising copy. To be quite honest, I am very weary of the drum god's clinic. As I mentioned in the last post, I have been invited to teach a clinic. I desperately do not want to be the drum god. More than anything else, I want to actually teach something.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Possible Clinic

I have been invited to teach a clinic on drumset counterpoint, polyrhythms, and ostinati. I'm rather excited about that. Also, the sponsers have invited my band to come along and play a show as well. How cool is that!? I will let you know what's happening as the saga unfolds. For now, let's just say it's all in the planning and logistics phase. I don't know about the band yet, but I have sent the sponsers a note saying that I am committed to teaching the clinic. I sure hope more than three people will come.

Playing for Three

Why on earth would anyone spend three months working on a piece of music and rehearsing a band, only to perform for three kind people and ten drunken fools? What kind of a genuine idiot would waste precious time that could be spent in fruitful labor or endearing relationship, by lugging heavy equipment to a bar where intoxicated buffoons ignore even the slightest semblance of art or intellect? Is there a benefit?
Who are these tiny fools who, in the inimitable words of Lawrence Ferlinghetti are, "Constantly risking absurdity" by performing night after night to utterly empty houses? I really don't know the others, but apparently I am one of them. Would it not have been better to merely perform the work in a salon for the three, rather than a barroom for the thirteen? I'm not sure and certainly these questions are largely rhetorical. I must point out, however, that there is a degree of exhilaration and (dare I say satisfaction?) to be gained from simply performing an outrageously difficult and brilliant work in any public forum. Perhaps that is a large portion of the motivation. Perhaps the response of three special people is sufficient reward. At any rate, my sincere and humble thanks go to you three truly special people for being both a public forum and an intimate circle.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I Did It

I did it
I did it
I really
really did it
I said that I would do it

and indeed I did!
My New Year's resolution was to finally play The Black Page. Well, by golly last night I did it. I played The Black Page live flawlessly... for three people who loved it and ten people who drank at the bar and never heard a note. The band that played after us did a halfway decent Slayer cover.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

You Gots'ta Break Free

Lat's talk about musical independence.

That crazy practice of performing two or more independent tasks simultaneously

I don't catch a lot of saxaphone or trumpet players doing it. It's mostly a practice of the polyphonic instruments: predominantly keyboard, strings, and (yes) drumset.

Some examples of musical independence include: playing melodic phrases over ostinati (repeated figures) on a solo instrument, playing polyrhythmic figures on a solo instrument, and performing contrapuntal phrases (round, canon, and fugue) on a solo instrument.

You know what? You can do all those things on a drumset!... Uh hunh! This is the stuff that fascinates me and I will be positing more on this subject.


To metronome, or not to metronome? Is there a question? Everyone thinks he has great meter. Well, this thing will test you, prove you're wrong, then help you get better. For the last three months I've been working on one of the most difficult drum pieces I've ever tried to learn and this humble little appliance has been an invaluable assistant/slave driver the whole time. Actually, I use a pair of isolation headphones with a built in metronome, but that's beside the point. The salient bit here is: this tool will help you improve. Here are a couple of things to try with your little clicky friend. Set it to play a quarter note and solo against it. Then set it to play a half note and solo against it. Then set it to play a whole note and solo against it. Next, set it to play a quarter note and solo against it, but play so that the click is on your "e", "and", or "a". Next, imagine your telephone number is a string of note groupings, i.e. 737-4279 (by the way that's not my number so don't call it). Set your metronome to play a slow quarter note and play those groups against it as tuplets. That number would be: septuplet, triplet, septuplet, quadruplet, duplet, septuplet, novuplet. 'Taint easy my friend. Okay, one more thing. Any clock with a second hand is a great metronome. Of course you're stuck playing at 60 bpm or 120, but who cares? It's still a great way to waste time at work.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Francesco Napping

Every once in a while I think it's important to post a picture of your guitar player posing in a particularly rock starish manner. This is Frank doing his best napping rock star pose. Do you see the ethereal light washing down on him from above? That's not a naked 60 watt light bulb in a low budget recording studio. It's the light of inspiration. It's the irrepressible glow of the muses flooding the mind of a resting genius. Rest Frank, rest... and may the spirit of music fill your heart with the peace and harmony of the universe.

Wow, what a crock of hooey that was!

Monday, March 17, 2008

More On That

In my last post, "Strictly Need To Know", I talked about a teacher who I think is doing his student a disservice. Well, this subject is eating at me and I just can't let go of it. I'm talking about teachers who seem to have some codified, age-old methodology that they believe is the one and only true way to teach a subject. Frankly, that concept makes me sick. I have a student who also takes piano lessons. When his mom told the piano teacher that I was teaching her son to play drumset, he said that's ridiculous, I should be starting him out on snare drum and I should be teaching him rudiments. Well... first off, what the hell does a piano teacher think he's doing telling me how to teach percussion? Second, who says there's one way to teach? As I study modern education theory (and yes, by the way, I am currently studying education theory) it is more and more apparent that the best way to teach is by getting students interested, engaged, and participating in the learning experience. That said, I can't think of a kid in the world who wants to play drums, that thinks it would be great to play rudiments for the next six months. However, if I can get a kid to play drums in a way that he thinks is fun, I'll bet I can get him to play some rudiments in the process. Why does a kid want to play drums? Probably because he thinks it looks like fun. If it isn't fun will he keep trying to learn it? Probably not. If it is fun will he keep doing it? Probably. The kids in the picture I put with this post are from my summer percussion camp. They're playing with their teacher and a full band in front of an entire church congregation. Do you think they're having fun? I know they had a blast. They're nine years old. They didn't know what a paradiddle is, but they played them and they had fun doing it. Now they know paradiddles.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Strictly Need To Know?

Last year I gave a clinic at the junior high school of one of my students. One of the drummers there was intrigued by the notion of 7/8 time. Now they are both in high school. My student (a girl) is the percussion section leader in her high school symphonic band and the student who was intrigued by 7/8 (a boy) is playing snare drum in the marching band. My student told me that the boy came to her the other day and said he just can't get that 7/8 thing down. It turns out he has a marching band piece in 7/8 and asked my student to help him out with it, which she did. I asked her if the boy was taking drum lessons and she said he is, but his teacher didn't feel that learning odd time signatures was important just now. There seems to be a school of thought among some drum teachers that the focus needs to be on rudiments and grooving before anything else. I could not disagree more and, at least in this case, it's apparent that understanding 7/8 time is extremely important if this kid is going to be able to play the piece his band director wants him to learn. Certainly a teacher needs to focus on rudiments and grooving, but it's just as important that a teacher teach music theory. Furthermore, I believe that it's extremely important for a teacher to teach what a student is interested in. This kid was intrigued by the concept of 7/8 time. Well, for god's sake use it! You've grabbed a kid's interest, that's a magnificent thing. If he's interested he'll think and try. If you squash that interest there's a good chance you'll loose him forever. Besides, who says you can't teach rudiments and grooving in 7/8? Be contemporary, be creative, be attentive, and tailor your teaching to the student's individual interests and characteristics. No two students learn the same way. Hell, I thought that was basic education theory. I'm inclined to think that kid needs a new teacher.

Drum Charts

I was playing a piece for some folks today and I realized they had no clue what was going on., so I showed them the chart and started to explain what was happening in a certain measure. One of them asked what key signiture the chart was in, and I explained that it's not in a key signiture because it's a drum chart. then he asked if it was some kind of tab. On further investigation, I discovered these fellows had no idea that there is such a thing as drum music, and one of them is a drummer! This is not the first time I've run across this situation. There seems to be a common misconception that you can't write down music for the drumset. Well, you can. The example I've added here is from a song called Time To Kill with drummer Bill Bruford. The top line represents hi-hat/cymbal, the middle space is for the the snare drum, the bottom space is bass drum, everything else is a tom-tom. Notes and rests are the same as any other music.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Zis Guy

Okay, what can I say about this guy? Well, I've just managed to play a piece that I've wanted to play since I was a teenager, and it was written by him. Three of my favorite drummers of all time came from his band. This guy introduced me to Edgard Verese, Arnold Shoenberg, Pierre Boulez, Igor Stravinsky, Johnny Guitar Watson, The Tuvan Throat Singers, Flo and Eddy, Captain Beefheart, the Brecker Brothers, Eddie Jobson, Adrian Bellew, the Bulgarian Women's choir, Terry Bozzio, Warren Cucarrulo, Chad Wackerman, Steve Vai, Mike Keneally and who knows who else? I have more albums by this artist than any other. I owe this guy a real debt of gratitude. He is a true genius of music.

Chapman Stick

This is my Chapman Stick. It's like drumming on strings. Brings joy to my heart.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Whole Score

Okay, okay, okay.... one more. Here's the whole thing as I copied it from the Bozzio video. I just thought that, as I've shown individual measures here and there, I ought to post the whole score that I've been working from. Personally, I think scores are marvelous to look at. it doesn't look like much in that tiny image but, if you click on it, it will open in a new window and you can enlarge it at will. Yes... you can enlarge it if you want to.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Measure 28

Okay, so here's measure 28 of The Black Page. This is the last really tough bit, measure 29 is just an open roll on the floor tom. Anyway, I've worked this out and it isn't really as difficult I thought it would be given that I've already gotten the nested tuplet figure and the undecuplets down. I really focussed on it today and I worked out all the sticking, so now it's just a matter of practicing it with the rest of the piece. That said, I think I will refrain from posting on this subject again until I can present a video.
P.S. Frank and Eliot have both said they want me to play it live, so this will be popping up in a set some time soon. It will be our one and only cover.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Anima Art

Yes folks, here it is. Illustrious Anima Obscura E-flyer art for your personal viewing pleasure. Each of these is a genuine original advertisement promoting good clean fun for you and your friends. My personal favorite is the one on the left there. That artwork is actually from the cover of a little pulp comic book that I bought in a small town in Pakistan three years ago. The text is in Urdu, so I have no idea what the story is but the cover art probably sums it up pretty well. I added all of the text stuff with Photoshop.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Brain Party

Hey doods! How y'all doin' ? there's a party in my brain and everybody's here! We're talkin' Cerebral Cortex, Frontal Lobes, Perietal Lobes, Occipital Lobes, Temporal Lobes (all them damn Lobes is here), Hippocampus, Thalamus, Hypothalamus, Cerebellum, Cerebellum Dentate Nucleus, Corpus Collosum, Reticular Activating System, Amygdala, Prefrontal Cortex, Anterior Singulate, Basal Ganglia, crap even that damn little pussy Pineal Gland is here... hell, every damn neuron I know is here and they're all wearing nothing but a myalin sheath! How wild is that?! Brain party... ooh, ooh! Brain party... ooh, ooh!

And you know what? They're all talkin' to each other 'cause of The Mozart Effect. I just know it's 'cause mommy played me the Turkish Rondo when I was still gestating in her warm wet womb. Mozart... in the house! Mozart... in the house!

Okay, that was weird.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Next Big Gig!

Can't wait to see how this one goes... five other bands I've never heard of, at a club I've never played at, through a "promoter" I've never met, on a night none of our fans will come out, across the street from a toxic waste clean up site! Oh well what the heck, music is all about meeting new people and having a good time, isn't it?. Or is it all about organizing and manipulating sound with some regard for melody, harmony, and rhythm? I'm never quite sure. Anyway, I will not be daunted by the whispered lies of the Spider of Negativity! I will charge once again into the breach! My sword is tempered, my loins are girded in steel! I shall prevail... and I will drink a beer and have a good time playing really loud music!

On a side note, is that E-poster kind'a weak? If you know me... I didn't make it. Okay? My E-posters are all better than that one. Really.

The Spider of Negativity

Looking back on some of my recent posts it is apparent that The Spider of Negativity has once again caught my brain in it's evil web. Bound by silken strands of cynicism made stronger by the bitter fuel of irony, my sad cortex has descended to the nether regions and wallows in the quagmire of self indulgent satire and scorn. Oh woe is me, for the Spider doth fatten itself upon the ripe first fruits of misanthropy made abundant in the mind of this pessimist. Surely my sad cerebrum shall once see surcease of this spurious state. Pray, pray thou saints that I may find victory o'er this lowly, demeaning , pathetic, situation.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Club

Looks like this is the next place I'll be playing. Anima Obscura is booked to play on March 21st at 11:30. I drove by the other night and realized it's right across the street from a Motorola plant I used to work at. Have I ever mentioned how much I detest Motorola? Probably not, because there's not enough server space to store the volumes of derision that I could type about the house that Galvin built. Chances are I've skipped that subject because it has nothing to do with music. Thank God. I certainly hope my proximity to that cursed cesspit won't have a negative effect on my performance.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


How many times have I heard guitar players say they hate another guitar players tone? I actually had a guy tell me that he likes Jeff Beck but hates his tone. So what are these people talking about here? It seems they're talking about the sound of the instrument, right? As in, is it too thin, whiny, screechy, hollow, muddy, trebly, warbly....? Too be quite honest, I think most of the time people are talking about how the signal was processed. While signal processing may be part of the equation, I think the real question about tone is how does the artist's playing style and technique effect the sound. I mean, for how long before there was electronic signal processing, were musicians discussing tone? Surely tone is far more than what the mixing board has to offer. I guess that means forget the sound of the instrument and concentrate on the sound of the player. To my ears, it's not so much how much flange, chorus, delay, nylon string, steel string, coated head, maple shell, humbucker, nylon tip, wooden tip, neck through, noise gate, tube, digital, blah, blah, blah. Actually, I think most of that's crap. To my ears, tone is really about does he play spot on the beat, behind the beat, in the pocket, staccato, legato, ghost stroke, flutter kick, touchstyle, finger style, sweep pick, aggressive, passive, second line, rudimental, flat pick... In other words, I think the electronic processing is ancillary. When I saw Adrian Belw the other night, he had a 180 degree array of pedals -flange, delay, chorus, loop, compression, midi, tube scream, wah-wah, volume, etc, etc.... Is that what really defines his tone, or is it the human Idiosyncrasies, quirks, foibles, and preferences that make up Adrian Belew? Here's an example from drummer land which may be more illustrative. Buddy Rich and Neil Peart have radically different tone. It has nothing to do with signal processing, technical proficiency, or equipment choice. It has everything to do with playing style and personal preference. Neil Peart plays spot on the beat. Buddy Rich had (when he wanted) a more legato, in the pocket style. When Neil plays a ghost stroke, it's very precise and deliberate sounding. When Buddy played a ghost stroke, it sounded very improvised and in the moment. Neil's phrasing has the sound of absolute pre-planned precision executed with flawless spot on timing. Buddy's phrasing had the sound of absolute improvised precision executed with flawless spot on timing. Which is better? None can say definitively. It's a matter of personal preference. I can say I prefer one over the other, but I have to admit that both are superior quality. It's not about your pedal, your pedal won't give you the tone you're after. It's all about you. Figure out who you are and what you like, and be that. Then you'll find you're tone.