Alan Dawson’s Syncopation Jazz (Plus More)

July 6, 2012 1:41 pm in Drumset by kevin fortunato

Hey Everyone, thanks for tuning in again this month. Let’s get right to the point, shall we? Today I’m going to demonstrate examples of jazz coordination using Ted Reed’s book “Syncopation”. Just to give you a little history lesson before we get started, the book wasn’t written with these exercises in mind. What you’re about to hear and see are the now famous exercises designed by legendary drummer and teacher Alan Dawson. For those of you who don’t know who Alan is, look him up on wikipedia – he’s arguably the most influential drum teacher of all time, and the former educator to other legendary drummers like Tony Williams, John Ramsay, Bob Gullotti, and Terri Lynn Carrington to name just a few. Unfortunately, I never studied with Alan, but rather it was Bob Gullotti who passed most of this information along to me. (with the exception of Examples 10, 11, and 12 – which I thought of as a result of working with John Riley’s books) And now I’m passing it along to you. Keep in mind that most of these patterns have the traditional “jazz ride cymbal and stepped hihat” played throughout. You will notice that pattern immediately in my hand written version of example 1.

Since there’s a lot to cover, why don’t we jump in. But before we do that, take a look at the actual page from Syncopation. The page is written as just a snare rhythm, which varies from line to line, and eventually from measure to measure. Remember, the pages you’ll use are 33 through 44 in an older copy, and 34 through 45 in a newer copy. There’s a quarter note bass drum pattern written throughout, but you will ignore this bass drum pattern, and only focus on the snare rhythm for these exercises. Since it’s written this way, and you’ll play it quite differently from what you see, I’ve included my own hand written examples of how you’ll decipher each style.

Hand Written Examples 1

Hand Written Examples 2

Example 1 – This style is called snare drum reads. You’ll play the traditional ride and stepped hihats, but you’ll add the snare drum rhythm from the syncopation book. In the video you may notice that I played the snare line with a “natural accent”. This is my natural way of articulating the snare line. You should try to play it without articulation at first.

Example 2 – This style is called long and short. The way to decipher it is to play the 8th notes on the snare, (short sound) and the quarter notes on the bass drum. (long sound) Remember, you’re ignoring the quarter note bass drum pattern written along the bottom of the staff. The quarter note bass drums that you’re playing are written as part of the snare line.

Example 3 – You’ll begin with the traditional ride cymbal and stepped hihats. But to this you will add the last two partials of a triplet played on your snare drum. Then, the bass drum reads the rhythm written in the snare line. In the video, I begin this example by playing two measures of this without adding the bass drum part, then I play another 4 measures with the addition of the bass drum. (sorry, there’s no name, that I know of, for this style)

Example 4 – This style is called filling in the triplets, bass drum reads. It’s kind of a derivative of the above example. Again, the traditional ride cymbal and stepped hihat continues. To that you will read the snare line with your bass drum, and add all of the missing notes that would have made up a triplet with your snare drum. This is complicated to understand, which is why I added the hand written example. Please refer to that if you’re confused.

Example 5 – This style is called filling in the triplets, snare drum reads. It’s the exact opposite of the above style. Snare drum reads, bass drum fills in the missing triplets.

Example 6 – This style is called hihat reads, snare drum fills in the missing triplets. And, it’s played exactly as it sounds. You’ll begin with the traditional ride cymbal pattern. But this time you won’t include the stepped hihats on beats 2 & 4, and that’s because the hihat foot will read the notes written in the snare drum line, and you’ll fill in all the missing triplets with your snare drum.

Example 7 – This style is called snare drum reads, hihat fills in the missing triplets. And, it’s the exact opposite of the above style. Read the snare drum line with your snare drum, and fill in the missing triplets with your hihat foot.

Example 8 – This style is called hihat reads the 8th notes, bass drum reads the quarter notes, and snare drum fills in the missing triplets. It plays exactly as it sounds in the description. Basically, within every measure you will find a combination of 8th notes and quarter notes. Again, you will play the traditional ride cymbal pattern. And to that you will add the stepped hihat wherever you see an 8th note, a bass drum wherever you see a quarter note, and the snare drum fills in the missing triplets.

Example 9 – This style is called bass drum reads the 8th notes, hihat reads the quarter notes, and snare drum fills in the missing triplets. And, it’s the opposite of the above style.

Example 10 – This style is called long and short movements around the toms. Basically, it’s example 2 from above where the snare drum plays the 8th notes, and the bass drum plays the quarter notes. However, this time you’ll move around the toms. The way I designed it is to use the bass drum notes as a signal to move your hand off the snare and around the toms. Each time you play a bass drum note, or succession of bass drum notes, you’ll then move to a tom of choice. In the video, I gave you examples of clockwise, counterclockwise, and other options. But you should be the master of which sounds you want based on melody. Given that each tom has it’s own pitch, you would select the tom to move to next based more on that. The examples I show are simply to get you moving around the toms.

Example 11 – This style is called bass drum reads, snare and toms fill in the missing triplets. In a nut shell, it’s the exact same style as example 4 from above. The difference is that it employs the concept from example 10. Depending on tempo, you’ll have to move around the toms at a much faster pace to fit all 12 notes into a measure. Please refer to the hand written page if you’re confused.

Example 12 – this style is called hihat reads the 8th notes, bass drum reads the quarter notes, and snare and toms fill in the missing triplets. Again, this is the exact same style as example 8 from above, but you’ll use the same concept as examples 10 and 11. In the video I play an up, down, and back motion. But again, you can decide on the motion to move based on pitch.

These exercises are just some of the ways to learn jazz coordination. Your body and ears will remember the movements and sounds when you’re playing on the bandstand. However, they’re not meant to be your voice as a jazz musician. But rather, they’re designed to get your body coordinated. Once you obtain all this new found ability, we’ll then need to begin learning how to phrase it. That will be the topic of another article in the near future.