to JAZZ and BIG BAND DRUMMING
Two excellent books for practicing reading skills are Modern Reading Text in 4/4 by Louis Bellson and Syncopation by Ted Reed. These books are also a primary source for INDEPENDENCE exercises. I suggest practicing these books within the context of a basic jazz groove (see example 1), reading as follows:
One of my favorite books for INDEPENDENCE is Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone. Within the context of a basic jazz groove, play everything notated with an "R" (right) and play it on the BD or HH (example 2). Simultaneously take everything marked with an "L" (left) and play it on the SD or tom-toms.
CHART READING requires you to follow the form (road map) of the piece being played. Drum parts are notated in many ways. There is no "standard" notation that you can study/memorize that will apply to every chart you encounter. Some charts are very clear, precise and easy to follow with all necessary musical information included. Other times parts may be nothing more than a sketch (play 8 bars at A, 16 bars at B etc.), a rhythm section lead sheet or a copy of a horn part. Steve Houghton's book Studio and Big Band Drumming provides excellent examples of several possible variations in drum charts. No matter what kind of chart you are given, drummers are expected to read the written music and, more importantly to interpret, improvise, be creative and make the music feel good!!! Ultimately the goal is to memorize the chart(s) so you no longer have to read. Keep the music in your head, not your head in the music.
*PRACTICE ALL EXERCISES WITH A METRONOME!
FILLS, HITS and PUNCHES
Figure interpretation can loosely be divided into 2 categories. Hits and punches usually occur during light ensemble, soli or background sections and may be played as part of the on going beat pattern. Kicks, fills and set-ups occur during large tutti or shout sections. You may be required to "catch" figures from both categories simultaneously. It is up to the drummer to determine what type of kick, hit, punch, fill or set-up is required. Keep in mind that your job is to enhance, support and "set-up" ensemble entrances. The way in which the drummer sets up the "shout section" or catches the figures of a chart often determines the phrasing, feel, dynamics and style of the entire chart. Good set-ups will make the ensemble entrances powerful, clear and precise. A bad set-up may cause a "train wreck". All kicks, fills, set-ups, punches and hits should be IN THE STYLE of the music you are playing (no heavy metal fills for a Duke Ellington chart) and executed with solid time and a good feel.
Try practicing the following examples to work on your fill skills:
Students can often read the written figures, but don't know how to set them up. Learning this skill is three fold:
First - Find recordings of music for which you have the drum part, listen to them and copy what you hear, even if it isn't 100% accurate.
Second - Aurally identify common figures, kicks, set-ups, etc. on recordings (without the drum part) and memorize them. Make them part of your musical vocabulary
Third - Isolate a particular rhythmic motive or phrase (perhaps from a reading exercise) and practice catching or setting-up that motive/phrase within a variety of tempi and styles. Your ears are a major contributor to your musical development. Copying or stealing "licks" is not bad, it is a crucial and helpful step in your musical development. Some of my favorite big band drummers are Mel Lewis, Buddy Rich, Jeff Hamilton and Dennis Mackrel. I also recommend anything by Count Basie, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Toshiko Akiyoshi or Duke Ellington.
Practice playing time in a variety of styles at various tempos. Also, practice alternating phrases of varying grooves (example: 16 measures of swing into 16 measures of samba). Finally, within various styles, practice alternating specific phrases at a set tempo and double time. You can also alternate phrases of time with phrases of solo (example: trading 4's or 8's). Make EVERYTHING smooth and connected. The beats (notes and rests) should always be legato, seamless and flow together. I also strongly suggest practicing with a metronome for several minutes, not just several measures.
The following books are excellent sources for studying prevalent styles of music: Afro-Cuban Rhythms for Drum Set by Frank Malabe and Bob Weiner, The Art of Bop Drumming and Beyond Bop Drumming by John Riley, Advanced Funk Studies by Rick Latham, The New Breed by Gary Chester and Brazilian Rhythms for Drum Set by Duduka Da Fonseca and Bob Weiner. And of course the new Vic Firth/Tommy Igoe Groove Essentials poster is a great reference tool for a wide variety of styles!
The best way to learn, interpret and understand various styles of music is to LISTEN DAILY as part of your daily practice regime. Once you can identify and play a certain style or groove, check out the variations within. For example, play one of the reading exercises from section one as Gene Krupa (swing), then as Philly Joe Jones (be-bop) and then as Elvin Jones (modern jazz).
The out of time or "open solo" can be one of the most exciting, or scariest, moments for a drummer. You are given an empty space of indeterminate length (often indicated by a fermata) and asked to play something interesting and effective. An open solo is the perfect opportunity for drummers to express their musicality (connectedness with the music being played), creativity (fresh ideas of sound and color) and technique (show-off your chops) in anyway they choose.
Ideas for soloing can be discovered through a lot of listening/transcribing of both drum and other instrumental solos. When you have the opportunity to "blow", you must listen and react to the musicians and music you're playing. As a practice exercise (using some basic elements of music such as rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, orchestration, form, sound, phrasing, emotion, tension, release, color, technique…..etc.) select ONE rhythmic or other musical element and explore as many aspects of that rhythm or element as possible within a specified solo form. Also practice playing jazz standards on the drum set, melody and all!
Try expanding on these simple rhythmic ideas to create a solo of your own:
For developing single strokes and a deeper understanding of basic rhythmic subdivisions practice the following exercise. In 4/4 play the BD in quarter notes and the HH on beats 2 and 4. Set the metronome between 60 -100 and on the SD play 4 measures of whole notes, followed by 4 mm. of half notes, half note triplets, quarter notes, quarter note triplets, eighth notes, eighth note triplets, sixteenth notes, sixteenth note triplets and 32nd notes. Then repeat and orchestrate around the drum set. Notice you are going from 1 to 2 then 3, 4, 6, 8,12,16, 24 then 32 notes per measure. Keep all subdivisions even, smooth, connected, seamless and flowing. Increase the tempo as your chops develop. Eventually you can add quintuplets and septuplets in their sequential order.
Dr. Sherrie Maricle was born in Buffalo, New York and was raised in Endicott, NY where she began playing jazz drums at the age of thirteen. In addition to leading DIVA, she is also a percussionist with the New York Pops Orchestra and leads the jazz quintet, FIVE PLAY. Sherrie is the Director of Percussion Studies at New York University, the Education Coordinator for the NY Pops' Salute to Music education program, and a past President of New York State's International Association of Jazz Educators. She received her B.A. from SUNY-Binghamton, and her M.A. and Ph. D. from New York University. The DIVA Jazz Orchestra's 4th CD Live in Concert will be released in January 2003.