Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mind Map Directory

I found my print making mind map on another blog called Roy's Blog. Apparently this is a company or product called Topicscape that specializes in mind maps. Anyway, they have a lovely mind map directory at this address:
It contains 60 pages of maps on all kinds of fascinating topics.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Done Deal

Well, here we are. Matt from Po' Boy drums just sent me this poster and it looks like I'm up first. Hey, no pressure. This is a benefit and all proceeds go to the Rocky Mountain ALS Association. Saturday, May 31st at The Toad Tavern. I'm all set. As I said before, the format of my clinic will be Canon and Fugue as applied to the drumset (with a two-part fugue), some discussion of polyrhythms and ostinti, and finally a composition featuring all of the above.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

If You Have Ears To Hear

I was wathching Terry Bozzio play The Black Page on the new Zappa Plays Zappa DVD and, lo and behold, I noticed that he had earplugs in. Not in-ear monitors, but orange, squishy, foam, industrial variety earplugs. This warms my heart. I have been playing in bands and attending concerts for thirty years and I have no significant hearing loss and I do not have tinnitus. I attribute this to the practice of always wearing ear protection. I always practice with either earplugs or isolation headphones. Whenever I go to a club or a concert I bring earplugs just in case. You can never tell how loud things are going to get. I buy the Aero classic earplugs in boxes of 200 pairs through for $20 a box. I encourage my students to wear them too.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

We Can Work It Out

Educational Psychology and modern teaching theory both indicate that information is more easily learned if it is considered relevant by the learner. If the information is perceived as useful and can be assimilated easily into the learner's schema, it is more likely to be retained. That said, it behooves the educator to relate new information to the learner's experience, interests, and learning style. So how does this relate to teaching drumset? Well, for my part, I ask students what they're listening to and I give it a listen. Here's the deal, they like what they're listening to or they wouldn't be listening to it. So I listen to it and try to use that to teach them . Example: I have an eight year old student who came to me with a genuine love of The Beatles. Surely that came from his parents, but who cares? This kid loves The Beatles. He tells me Beatles trivia. He knows the words to tons of their songs. Now, I worked with this guy on basic drum grooves and counting time and such, but it didn't start to come together until we started playing along with Beatles songs. I found that if he sings the lyrics, his meter is spot on. Furthermore, I had him play (and sing) We Can Work It Out . There are triplets in the bridge and this kid nailed them by ear. I honestly don't believe that this eight year old is ready to comprehend the theory involved in a 3:2 polyrhythm (I won't bother to quote Piaget here). Now I ask you, should I be making this kid play rudiments and try to tell me the difference between a half note rest and a quarter note, or should we just be jammin' along to Beatle's songs?

RTF Romantic Warrior

I've been listening to Prog and Fusion since they were invented and (don't laugh now) somehow I missed this album for 30 years. My guitar player, Frank D'Angelo, turned me on to it just this week and it's all I've been listening to. It's not like I don't know the band or the musicians. I saw Chic Corea play with Mirislav Vitous and Roy Haynes. I saw Al Di Meola play with John Mclaughlin, Paco De Lucia and Steve Morse. I saw Al Di Meola open up for Jean Luc Ponty. I've seen Stanley Clarke play with Ponty. I have RTF "No Mystery" and "Light As a Feather". I have Di Meola, Chic Corea, Lenny White, and Stanley Clarke solo records. Somehow, I just never heard this one until this week. All I can say is OMG! This disc is amazing. It's very jazz, but it's also very Prog. The first tune Medieval Overture feels a lot like what Gentle Giant was doing in the day. The last track Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant is epic. Of course it's very jazz fusion, but it's also very Prog. Towards the end it breaks down into a pseudo-baroque counterpoint (again, very GGish) and the conclusion sounds like it's in the same key and uses the same synth patch as a piece by Kansas. It might be Icarus: Bourne On Wings of Steel. Whatever, this disc is a must. Great stuff, glad I found it after all these years. Thanks Frank. Oh by the way, Lenny White's drumming on this disc is phenomenal.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Another Mind Map

Well, I can't begin to express how much I love this concept. I actually should give credit where it's due and thank Professor Virginia Kraus for introducing me to it. I know this has nothing to do with prog drumming, however it has a great deal to do with education so I'm posting it. This is a Mind Map, a graphic depiction of a concept. In this case it's important print makers, their movements, and continents. I just want to post this because I think it's a brilliant way to organize data and really personalize it. I don't necesarily think sequentially. Sometimes this kind of organization works best for me. If you do this with a topic you're passionate about, it helps you to visualize and personalize the data, and that will help you remember it. Love it. Thanks Virginia,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oops, I Dropped My Atlatl

Just on the off chance that you didn't know, an atlatl is a paleolithic tool believed by many to be the first advancement in weapon design, predating the bow. The word is Nahuatl (ancient Aztec) and is pronounced AT-LAT-UL. It literally means "water thrower", but has come to mean "spear thrower". Basically, the atlatl is a hooked stick upon which a spear is cradled. This serves to extend the length of the thrower's arm and adds centrifugal force to a throw, greatly increasing the velocity of the thrown spear. Early accounts by Spanish Conquistadors relate that by using the atlatl, Aztec warriors could throw a spear with enough force to pierce Spanish armor.

If you read the earlier post titled "Mind Map", you will find reference to a piece of music called "The Venus of Willendorf's Atlatl". The Venus of Willendorf is a stone age fertility idol. Maybe she had an atlatl too.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Polyrhythm / Polymeter (MP3)

Listen to this example

So, can one drummer play in two time signatures simultaneously? Yes... and no. Here's a little exercise consisting of a fairly simple groove in 5/4 time that can be played with just the right hand and right foot (it feels a bit like the Beatles song Ticket To Ride). Above it, I've done a really simple 3/4 subdivision on the hi-hat and hi tom-tom that can be played with the left hand (actually, in the audio sample I'm playing the left hand on a jam block and the hi-hat). As you can see, you have to play five measures of 3/4 and 3 measures of 5/4 before they fall together on "one" again. I'm sure you can imagine that after playing this a bit, you could start to move the right hand around on various toms and maybe you could start to add some syncopation to the left hand figure.

Now, look at this exercise again. I could actualy write that as just three measures of 5/4 with a shifting accent. So that begs the question: is this really a polyrhythm? Again, the answer appears to be yes and no. Forgive me if I'm a bit ambiguous on that. It's not quite the same as playing 5:3 (described in an earlier post), but it's not all that different either. If I played the 5/4 part on the drums and had a bass player play the 3/4 part, I would definitely write it out as two seperate time signitures and call it a polyrhythm. But the way I wrote it above is really just to make clear what's going on. If I were actually going to write that groove as a drum part, I would most likely write it as three measures of 5/4 with shifting accent (by the way, even with 5:3 or 3:2 we still need the figure to be in the context of a specific time signiture in order to figure out what's going on.). So here it is written in just 5/4, but I've hi-lighted the first beat of each group of 3 in one color and the first beat of each group of 5 in another color.

Interesting, eh? Now let's take a look at the 5:3 polyrhythm that I described earlier and see if there's some similarity.

Obviously, there's a great deal of similarity. In fact, the 5/4 vs. 3/4 concept will probably help you understand the 5:3 concept. In the 5:3 tuplet example the five would be spread across three beats. In the 5/4 vs 3/4 measure the five are distributed across three meaures.

I have run across the word polymeter used to distinguish between this and tuplet based figures. I don't know if this is common usage or not, again it seems to be kind of a grey area. None the less, because tuplets require specialized notation (5:3) and the other really does not, I think it's good to have some way to distinguish between the two. So unless a higher authority comes along to correct me, I'm going to use the terms Polyrhythm and Polymeter as similar but different terms. At the same time, in general usage, I'll probably consider both to be polyrhythms.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mind Map

I'm posting this because I know some of you enjoy following the process. This is a mind map that I made to outline the topics for my clinic. I'm just writing notes on there as I think of things. Bach is there because he's the godfather of fugue. FZ is there because he's the king of polyrhythm. The Venus of Willendorf is there because it's a paleolithic fertility fetish and Bach had twenty children. I think Frank would have liked it too. TVOWA stands for "The Venus of Willendorf's Atlatl", that's the last piece I'm planning to play. I have this map hanging up in my studio so all my students can be exposed to J.S. , FZ, and The Venus.

Tiki Man

If you don't have one of these, you should probably think about getting one. It's very Prog. When you push the button, the little Tiki Man pounds on the little plastic animal skulls in a kind of pagan island love groove that's simultaneously invigorating and annoying. If you have small children in the house, they will ceaselessly delight in pushing the little guy's button every chance they get. You will become so irritated with Tiki Man that you will probably remove his batteries. But every now and then, when no one is around, you will put the batteries back in and push Tiki Man's button. You will be enthralled by his rhythmic abandon.

Marty's Mystery Snare

Wow, check this out. My friend Marty, father of one of my students, had this snare that he got from his grandfather. I don't even know what this is except that it's obviously a very old piccolo with sixteen lugs and a wooden shell. Marty had it repaired recently and he sent me these pics. It looks gorgeous. I'm hoping he'll let me play it sometime and maybe even let me use it on a recording. Peace, Marty!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Another Round (video)

videoOkay, so I know I've already posted this on you tube, but whatever. I've been blabbing so much about canon and fugue on the blog that I thought I should post here too. This is happening, of course, because I'm preparing to teach a clinic on canon and fugue for the drumset and I want people to have an idea of what that is. So, if you don't know, this is a round (the simplest form of canon). In this video each voice (hand or foot) is playing exactly the same rhythm, displaced from the previous voice by one quarter note.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Clinic So Far

Well it looks like this is where I'll be playing next. The Toad Tavern in Littleton Colorado. It'll be sometime in the late afternoon on May 31st, 2008. This is a promo for Po' Boy Drums (very good drums by the way). At this point, I will be teaching a clinic on Canon and Fugue for the Drumset, Polyrhythms, and Ostinati. I'm very stoked about this. Sadly, my band won't be coming along, they just couldn't commit. What the heck, I'll be there reflecting the love of my inner Christ, promoting world peace and connecting with the youth of America, supporting the Dalai Lama, fighting global warming, and drinking a few beers. Maybe those other bums can come next time!

1000 Words

This has to be one of my favorite Prog Drum Pics of all time. This is (of course) Neil Peart from the sleeve of the album A Farewell To Kings (1977). The photo is credited to Roger Stowell and he definitely deserves the credit. I guess anything that has a profound effect on you when you're fifteen years old will stick with you for the rest of your life. You may laugh about it later, or you may worship it. None the less, you can't deny it affected you. This picture (the music too) was undeniably influential on me. Yeah, Neil, love this pic.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Real Genius

George Bernard Shaw once famously stated, “He who can does; he who cannot teaches.” That statement typifies either the height of ignorance or arrogance - possibly both. Here’s a quick list of individuals who both could do and did teach:

Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Archimedes, Pythagoras, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Steven Hawking, Carl Sagan, Robert Oppenheimer, Buckminster Fuller, Richard Feynman, Steven J. Gould, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Hindemith, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Elliot Carter, Max Beckmann, Thomas Hart Benton, Kathe Kollwitz, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Newt Gingrich, Henry Kissinger, Timothy Leary, Noam Chomsky, Douglas R. Hofstadter, Lewis Carol, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, William Falkner, Buddha, Gandhi, and Jesus Christ

Wow, a couple of those teachers actually did a whole lot more than Mr. Shaw. I don’t know what he was thinking when he said it but it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t clever, and it wasn’t even logical… it was just worthless.

A Simple Canon Exercise For Drums

Obviously, the whole Row Row Row Your boat deal is just intended to convey the basic concept of a canon. What I've added here is a much simpler example that you can probably learn in a few tries and it really brings the idea home.
The first measure is just a dotted quarter and an eighth, i.e. ONE and two AND three and four and. Play it with your right hand on a cymbal (or tap the table, whatever).

At measure two you'll play the same thing, but you'll add your left hand playing TWO and three AND. Probably do that on the snare.

Now at measure three you'll add the bass drum on THREE and four AND.

Finally, you'll add the hi-hat with your left foot on FOUR and one AND. Notice that at this beat, the figure carries across the bar line into the next measure. This is where it starts to loop around.

If you can't do this, you could always cross a bar line and drink a lot of liquor. Then you would start to loop around. It wouldn't be the same but it might be fun.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Canon for Drumset (video)

videoSo I figured since I've been talking about canon and fugue for the drumst, I ought to post some video. This is me playing a canon on the drumset. Yes, Row Row Row Your Boat is a canon. Specifically it's traditionally sung as a round - the simplest form of canon. I think if you try this you'll find that even a simple canon is extremely difficult to execute on the drumset.

The Buxtehude Dude

I was not familliar with the work of Deiterich Buxtehude, but I've always read that he was a huge influence on J. S. Bach, so I decided to buy a couple of his fugues online. I have to say I'm very pleased. The Buxtehude Dude writes a pretty mean fugue. Guess I'm a fan. I read somewhere that Bach spent some time following this guy around like he was The Gratefull Dead.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Willie Wilcox

Don't know why, just had to post this pic. This is John "Willie" Wilcox, the drummer from Todd Rundgren's Utopia playing the "Trapparatus" circa 1985. Maybe it's a gimmic but, what the hell, it looks like fun! Willie Rocks!

Two Part Fugue

Okay, here's what I've been working on, a genuine contrapuntal composition based on imitative polyphony. This is a two part fugue for the drumset. It is complete with an exposition revealing the subject in two voices, followed by a development featuring the subject in it's original state as well as inversion and stretto. I've also used sequence units.

I'm going to use this to round out my presentation on canon and fugue for the drumset. I'm planning to add a little prelude to it just to be really Baroque. This will be Prelude and Fugue for Drumset #1.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

5:3 Polyrhythm

Here's a five against three polyrhythm as I explained it to Andy. To get the hang of this, you're going to tap quarter notes with your left foot in 3/4 time (the red squares). Then you're going to tap quintuplets with your left hand (the black circles). Then you're going to tap every third beat of the quintuplet with your right hand (the blue squares). As you do this, count the quintuplets out loud, "one, two, three, four, five - one, two, three four, five", until you're very comforatable with it. Then you're going to stop playing the quintuplet with your left hand, but keep counting out loud. Go back and forth for a while between playing the quintuplets and not playing them. Eventually, you won't need them.

This technique works with everything. If you want to play 7:2 for instance, tap quarters with you're left foot. Then tap septuplets with your left hand. Then tap every other note of the septuplet with your right hand. Then stop tapping with your left hand. You'll be left tapping seven evenly spaced notes with your right hand, against two evenly spaced notes with your left foot.

If you want to play 5:2, tap quarters with your left foot. Then tap quintuplets with your left hand. Then tap every other note with your right hand. Then stop playing the quintuplet.

This will work with any tuplet. By playing the tuplet against the quarter note, then playing either every other note or every third note of the tuplet, you'll be able to figure out some pretty interesting stuff.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Script for a Clinic

So I wrote myself a script. Since I've never really taught a clinic before, I thought it would be wise to map out what I'm going to talk about, where I'm going to play an example, where I'll ask the audience to try something, etc. I'll run through it tomorrow and see how long it takes.

By the way, I'm also planning to invite a number of musician friends over in the next couple of weeks and run the whole clinic for them so I can get some feedback on what they think works and what don't. Should be interesting. If you know me and you're interested in attending let me know. I would really appreciate your input. You don't even have to be a drummer!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pachelbel's Canon

Johann Pachelbel wrote what may be the most famous canon in history, the Canon in D. It's an absolutely lovely piece of music that I think is a terrible example of a canon because it doesn't sound like a canon. It doesn't sound like a canon because there's no syncopation in the subject. If you look at the score you'll see that the canonic imitation is ocurring strictly on every downbeat. While it is canonic imitation, it just sounds like a developing chord progression, rather than a contrapuntal composition. Furthermore, there are no variations added - no inversion, no augmentation, no diminution, etc. I am certain that when most people listen to this piece they are missing the essence of what a canon is. As evidence, consider There are countless videos of drummers "playing the Canon in D." All of them are, in fact, playing along with the Canon in D and none of them are actually playing a canon. Furthermore, there are lots of guitar players playing the melody of the Canon in D and I would be willing to bet that few of them actually understand why it's called a canon in the first place. I am not a scholar of Pachelbel, but I do know that Mr. P understood what a canon is. After all, he wrote more than a hundred fugues. I wish that all the folks claiming to be "playing the Canon in D" actually knew what a canon is.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pondering Canonic Imitation

In William Falkner's novel The Sound and the Fury, the same events are presented from the perspectives of four different individuals - individuals from different circumstances, generations, social status, gender, and mental capacity. In a painting by Wassily Kandisky, the same subject is representented in different dimensions, colors and placement, as well as in entirety or in part. In a Bach fugue, the same subject is rendered in two or more voices, at multiple pitches, inverted, reversed, expanded, contracted, etc... In each instance there is a sense of simultaneity and seperateness. In each instance there is a sense of wheels within wheels, a feeling of cyclicle recapitulation infused with variation. I love it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

This Would Be Me

I think I'm doing too much and it's starting to become a little overwhelming.

Phrase For The Day

"Contrapuntal compositions based on imitative polyphony"

I just love saying that.