Okay – big thought today. It’s a concept I put to all my jazz students, accompanied by a series of exercises called “Singing and Snapping.” Check it out and let me know what you think:
When practicing jazz comping figures on the snare, most drummers don’t think about the LENGTH of the notes they’re playing (quarters vs. 8ths, for example), only which BEAT they’re playing ON (the “and of 2,” for example). In other words, rather than thinking of each exercise as a “melody” (the way the other instrumentalists in the band would), they are only thinking about the placement of the notes – more like a math problem than music. What typically ends up happening is that the entire pattern sounds very staccato and the snare is much too loud compared to the other limbs. In order for us to express rhythmic phrases with a JAZZ awareness (meaning, the same as a sax or piano player would), we have to take into account the note LENGTHS (8th=short, Quarter=long) when we play them. The way to create this distinction is to first SING the phrases in the manner or other instrumentalists. Once we start expressing the notes as MUSIC (rather than simply rhythmic ideas), our hands will naturally follow in creating the appropriate feel. Get it?
While Bebop music was exploring the boundaries of jazz music, it didn’t appeal to the average person who wanted to go out on a Friday night and dance to the music. However, another style also evolved from the big band genre while retaining the dance feel — Rhythm & Blues!
One of the things that I think is important when you talk about drumming or the rhythm section is you have to put a historical context onto it. A lot of students are told, “Well here’s this style and here’s that style.” But if they can’t understand how the instrument was evolving at that time or what was happening in the rhythm section at that time, they have kind of a disconnect. It doesn’t paint a full picture.
(photo: Dino Petrocelli)
In terms of be-bop there’s a lot of material out there, but in general nothing had been written about what I was wanting to know. So in the late ‘90s I began interviewing the drummers who had played on these records that had influenced us. The oldest guy I interviewed was Johnny Blowers who was 94 years old at the time. He had played with Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet and had learned press roll patters from Zutty Singleton, who we consider to be one of the first great New Orleans jazz drummers going back to the teens!
One of the ways that I start some of my clinics is I’ll play the first 15 seconds of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” from 1972. Everybody knows John Bonham’s famous drum intro for that song. And then I’ll play Little Richard’s “Keep a Knockin’ (but You Can’t Come In)” from 1956 which literally starts, almost note for note, with the same drum rhythm. Then I put on Louis Jordan’s “Keep A Knockin’ But you Can’t Come In” from 1937 which has a cool little drum lick in it. In 90 seconds I’ve taken the audience from 1972 back to 1937 and shown them a direct lineage of influence and give them kind of an “a-ha!” moment.
We always hear talk about New Orleans being such a great music town. Well, here’s a perfect example of WHY. Imagine living in a city where you can walk out your door every day and find this kind of a jam underway. And imagine if that jam was open to ANYONE who showed up with an instrument.
Hosted by singer and trombonist supreme Glen David Andrews, this particular jam incorporates Mardi Gras Indian chants, brass band second line, drum set, and electric guitar. Like New Orleans itself, it represents how musical barriers are meaningless when people come together, find common musical ground and play WITH one another. It’s not pretty, it’s not slick, it’s not organized, but it s damn sure REAL. Jams like this have been going on in N’Awlins for literally two hundred years or more (going back to the slave “ring shouts” in Congo Square)!
The young man in the foreground playing the marching snare can’t yet be ten years of age, but he is “in it” as deep as anyone esle – getting a serious lesson in groove, funk and a spirit of musical community that can’t be taught in school band, private lessons or any other “formal” setting. Without a doubt, he and his peers will grow up to fuse all these influences and produce a new generation of badassery to emerge from this one of a kind city. Just as so many others have for so many generations.
If you are a lover of music, do NOT leave this planet before spending some time in the Crescent City!
My appearance at the 2015 Chicago Drum Show was completely centered around paying tribute to Gene Krupa and the 80th anniversary of the birth of Swing (1935-2015). Dr. Theodore Dennis Brown (aka “Denny”) and I hosted two big events to celebrate Krupa: A clinic in which we deconstructed the classic performance of “Sing Sing Sing,” and a roundtable where we discussed Krupa’s life in detail (including the infamous “drug bust” of 1943).
To see the full performance of “Sing Sing Sing,” check out the video at the bottom of this post.
The set up includes a 14×26 bass drum, 9×13 rack tom, 16×16 and 16×18 floor toms. The cymbals are a combination of vintage plates, along with newer SABIAN and Crescent models (the latter was bought by the former in January, so I endorse both companies). The set up is rounded out with heads from Aquarian drumheads & Percussion Accessories (mostly from the Modern Vintage line), Vic Firth sticks, and a cowbell (a key ingredient in “Sing Sing Sing”) provided by Latin Percussion (LP).
Thanks to all my companies for creating this phenomenal gear, and for their continued support of my “mission” to share the incredible legacy of our instrument!
Daniel Glass plays “Sing Sing Sing” at the 2015 Chicago Drum ShowTo put you in a festive mood for the upcoming weekend, here’s the complete performance of “Sing Sing Sing” from the 2015 Chicago Drum Show. Enjoy!For more on drumming history and evolution: www.DanielGlass.com
Posted by Daniel Glass – Drummer, Author, Educator on Friday, May 22, 2015
So why have I posted a picture of Barry Manilow on this fine Monday morning? No, it’s not to dump a spoonful of saccharin in your morning cup.
It’s because if you’re a drummer, you really need to watch the video below and see what happens at 0:54.
What you’ll hear is Manilow’s 1974 hit, “Mandy,” and what happens at 0:54 is that the drummer comes in. And what is the drummer doing, pray tell? Playing quarter notes on the hi hat is what. Why is this a big deal? Because it’s hard … REALLY hard on a song at a fairly moderate tempo such as this one.
Now keep listening, and you’ll notice that every time the drummer starts to play fills, they are comprised of 8th notes …. every time, the whole way through the song. Again, playing fills of this kind is actually really hard to do at tempos like this one.
What’s the upshot of all this? If you want to improve your straight eighth groove – get “deeper into the pocket” as it were – it would behoove you to play along with “Mandy” and other Manilow power pop ballads. They all follow the same drumming formula, and will really test your abilities not only to keep steady time, but to go in and out of fills without losing said time.
I learned this lesson firsthand when I worked with Graham Russell from Air Supply (yes, Air Supply) a few years back. I was tasked to cut a demo of a brand new Russell original for a Broadway project, and realized that my “power ballad” time wasn’t so hot. SO, in preparation for the recording, I spent three days in my practice space working on deathly slow rock grooves playing nothing but quarter notes on the hi hat and eighth note fills. It was a great lesson and those three days made me a much better drummer.
Try it – you’ll find a whole new appreciation of SPACE, something that most drummers are absolutely terrified of and have much trouble negotiating.