Here for the transcription? Grab that here.
Why not play brushes on everything?
That’s the question John Riley asked me, many years ago, for which I didn’t have a great answer.
Through the years, I’ve tried to wage a “booster” campaign for the humble brush - to coax others out of the resistance that kept me from getting great at the brushes for so many years.
Eventually, it was my love of the great jazz drummers, from Ed Thigpen, Vernel Fournier, and Roy Haynes to Blade, Bill Stewart, and Hutch.
But I’m painfully aware that my channel attracts both jazz enthusiasts and…not-jazz-enthusiasts alike, and…well…the brushes have an image problem the sticks don’t share.
Sticks, you see, are equally appropriate in any musical genre.
Only play country two-steps? Great. Sticks.
Like zydeco? Fantastic. I’ve got an idea: drumsticks.
You get the idea.
Brushes, however, and with few exceptions, are only associated with jazz.
Which left me in the difficult position of making the case that we should “liberate” the brush from simply a jazz implement…
…without seeming to disparage the great drummers who developed the idiom.
Let me put it this way:
Papa Jo, Connie Kay, Ed, Vernel, Roy, Philly Joe, Art Taylor, Paul Motian, and everybody else took the brush tradition so deep that, for aficionados, their music needs no qualification.
But, for people not familiar with these greats, are we going to say brushes are “off limits” for them?
Play brushes along with Jack White.
Play brushes with Cardi B. With Rihanna. With Hova. With Soundgarden.
They’re just another texture - and a great one.
Play Brushes On Everything.
And this lesson humbly submits two way you might start.
First, though, grab your transcription here.
So there's something that happens when I see a difficult tune I can't play.
It's akin to Biff Tannen calling Marty McFly "chicken".
I'm all set for the day in the shed...
I've got my life in a good balance...
I don't want for anything.
All I have to do is walk away.
Then, I hear the tune calling "what are you...CHICKEN?"
"NOONE CALLS ME CHICKEN"
So it was was the tune that inspired this week's lesson. And, like many of the tunes that "call me chicken" recently, it's by Tigran Hamasyan.
But let's get deeper.
I realized there's something specific that make a lot of Tigran's tunes particularly difficult.
It's not just the shifting meters you have to remember - though some tunes certainly have those.
It's the way you often have to keep two rhythms - of two different phrase lengths - in your head at once. And, I realized, it's not unique to Tigran.
In today's lesson, I'll examine 3 tunes by 3 different composers, all-of-which place a similar demand on our cognition.
Oh - and don’t forget Le Transcripcion:
First things first! Grab your transcription here.
I thought it was time to wade into the “traditional vs matched” debate.
For how little “dog” I have “in this fight”, it’s astonishing how much the two sides get "dug in”.
I had teachers actively discourage me from learning traditional grip (the same as some now discourage learning leglock entries from reverse delariva guard;).
So what are the sides?
In my experience, it breaks down like this:
On one side, the “traditionalists”. You don’t hear them talking about it much, but they all play it.
(Many in the New York jam session scene are so “traditional-dominant”, their left hand is weak when they try to switch over to matched.)
Spend enough time around Smalls, The Needle, Lincoln Center, etc, and you’ll start to feel some “peer pressure”.
On the other, the much-more-vocal “evolutionists”. These are the folks who will tell you trad grip is a “waste of time”, or it’s “obsolete”.
Well, what do we find when we look at actual jazz drummers? Evidence of both approaches being successful:
Ari Hoenig, Eric Harland, and Bill Stewart on the “mostly matched” side…
…Brian Blade, Hutch, Kendrick Scott, Jochen Rueckert, Tane, and plenty others on the “mostly traditional” side.
But, as I’ll argue in the lesson, at the highest levels, you don’t find many trad players who can’t also play matched. (Think from among the above group.)
What’s more, the newest generation of players like Marcus Gilmore, Justin Brown, Justin Faulkner, etc seem to play both with about equal competence.
So - which way to go?
Check out the lesson.
And don’t forget to grab your transcription/exercise book here.
First thing first - grab your transcription here.
It's been challenging getting fired up to write about some of the topics I've covered in recent weeks...
Sure - I like playing like Tony Williams...
...but others have written so-damn-much, what am I going to add to the conversation.
The last lesson I was this excited to write about was the "live rounds" episode. Even now I'm perking up;)
So - today's lesson is something you might hate me for...
...but which I love. It's that dotted-8th sh$#.
And we go deeeeep. As in, I was listening to the edit, going, "are they gonna turn on me with pitchforks?"
As in, I'm picturing my viewership dropping off at minute 2 of this video.
But think Kevin Smith's Fat Man on Batman. Think Labor of Love from somebody who (have I mentioned this yet?) deeply loves this subject.
Today's lesson is not going to make your fills faster (though it will spark some new ideas).
Today's lesson is not going to make you better looking (though it will put a smile on your face, which, scientists agree, improves attractiveness).
And it won't give you a big, hulking, NFL/PED Muscle Meat frame to showcase on the beach (though it will improve your coordination, and myelinate neural pathways, the same process that allows people to add plates to their deadlift).
So I give you: the Humble Dotted Eighth. If you're one of the few, the proud, the Drum Nerds, this one's for you.
And don’t forget to grab your transcription here.
First things first: grab your transcription here.
Of all the lessons I’ve published in the past few years, none has attracted more eyeballs, nor generated more controversy, than my first Tony Williams lesson from 2016.
On its face, it’s not the subject I would’ve predicted would generate so much buzz.
My Chris Dave lessons, or any of the “gospel”-related lessons would’ve been more likely culprits, in my estimation.
But I was wrong.
Thousands of people take to YouTube every month and search stuff about playing the ride cymbal like Tony Williams.
The reason the first Tony lesson generated controversy was that I probably gave short-shrift to a particular aspect of Tony’s technique.
The method I was showing had come from John Riley, who has a different approach to Tony’s famous five-not groups.
All-the-same, I felt it was time to double-back, and both clarify, and give you guys some more resources to play-like-Tony. (Especially since I myself have been revisiting the Lord of Ride.)
Please enjoy this week’s lesson, and make sure you pick up your transcription here.
First things first: grab your transcription here.
This week’s lesson manages to run afoul of two things-at-once:
It’s something I’m practicing already, rather than a slick transcription of someone else’s playing.
Buuuut I still managed to pirate somebody else’s tune, and get a copyright strike on YouTube.
(If anyone’s interested, I’ll be selling bootlegged copies of Invisible Cinema out of the back of a pickup later. KIDDING.)
All the same, I think you should check it out, and here’s why:
It extends on a concept I debuted last month with the “bet you can’t play this” beat: straight 8ths on the hats, with an implied 16th-note phrase shift.
The point is not, I promise you, to teach you to get fired from gigs. (Though that will be the subject of an upcoming lesson.)
The point is that once you have the skillset in that lesson, things like the exercises in this week’s lesson will be child’s play.
Ok, so why should you care?
If Eric’s beat isn’t enough for you, I humbly submit:
Need I go on?
Get your straight-8th hat stuff going.
Get your life.
And don’t forget to grab your transcription here.
First-things-first: grab your transcription here. (You’ll also get my 3-videos-to-improve-your-playing-in-3-weeks)
Most weeks, I bring you either licks I lift from other drummers, or concepts I’m messing with.
Every once-in-a-while, though, I’ll catch myself playing something repetitively.
If it sucks, I try to “unlearn” it, or choose other ideas.
If it doesn’t - if I’m like “whoa, did I come up with that?”, I share it with you guys.
This one was a bit of a challenge.
I knew what I was playing, but I decided to go “before” and “after” the licks.
In the “before”, I try to show you what I might have been messing with to come up with the lick.
In the “after”, I take it, and apply it to a different rhythmic context.
Hence, two “sextuplet” licks that work both as (1) proper sextuplets, and (2) subdivided triplets, which subdivide the measure differently, but occur at equivalent rate to that of sextuplets.
So it turned my head around a bit. What I’m trying to say is…I’m sacrificing for you guys;)
Anyway, enjoy the lesson, and don’t forget to grab the transcription, and your 3 free videos, here.
First things first: grab your transcription here.
In creating lessons like this week's lesson…
...I've lately been "digging deep" into my own playing.
Yea, it's fun to do Spanky, or Chris Dave, or Marcus...
...but I try to keep a balance.
For one, for every "tribute" video I do, I'll get comments like "why don't you stop featuring others and teach us something original?
For two, I've been going "introspective" for the last few months anyway.
I "came up for air" to check out Andy Prado's playing, and record half of a lesson that I hope will someday see the light-of-day...
...and to check in briefly with Ofri, and see if my left foot had improved relative to last time (it hadn't by much, which cued the self-immolation many of you witnessed on Instgram)...
Besides that, though, it's mostly been getting-out-by-going-through.
So, the reality of this week's lesson:
It's a 9-beat pattern I realized I was playing.
I thought it was cool enough to canonize in lesson form.
It has many applications, in my opinion.
But I took to the internets, to see what the kids were searching for.
After all, if the lesson doesn't get see, what's the point.
It turns out the kids, in large measure, are searching for "easy drum fill that sounds hard."
Press Pause: what does that say about our culture? Could you think of five words that more succinctly sum up the American ethos, in the Kanye era
Be-that-as-it-may, today's like is easy..
...and it does sound hard.
So if you want to use it to fool people into thinking you've put far more years in on the trap kit than you actually have, at least until you play a beat...
...I suppose it would work.
Either way, it sounds good in both sixteenths and sextuplets, and the body choreography opened up my playing quite a bit.
First things first: Download the transcription here, and get 3 bonus videos to improve your playing in 3 weeks.
The lesson I'm publishing this week is one I recorded just a week after I published the "are rudiments still relevant" lesson.
Since then, YouTube's kind of turned into a "show me your singles" contest.
Let me explain:
Two years ago, I did a lesson called "what I really think about hand technique". I spoke about things like back fulcrum, and the "overlap method" for making anything with doubles clean, slow-fast-slow.
I thought that lesson would start some controversy, but it was pretty well received.
Last month, I decided to circle around again to the issue of rudiments, since some of my YouTube brethren were weighing-in on it.
Now, I've always insisted that much of the way drums are currently taught is wasted time:
Hours spent practicing the same abstract exercises...
But, in the latest rudiments lesson, I took a softer tone. Rudiments are important, I argued, for a number of reasons.
It's just that they've turned into a religion, or an orthodoxy.
Maybe, I hinted, if we spent 10% of the time we spent practicing rudiments on something else, it would be a better use of our time.
I called out my familiar culprits: lack of a clean sound, lack of hands/feet playing together when they're supposed to, and crappy time. And I showcased a couple of exercises to work on that stuff.
Most people were kind.
Some straight insisted on the rudiment orthodoxy without really engaging with the material in the lesson.
But a couple called out my rudiments. Haha.
At the beginning of the lesson, I played through a few standard rudiments, just to put some "skin in the game". If I'm taking a stand on rudies, I should put some of mine up there to judge.
I didn't think they were great - maybe B+.
I've stood alongside Maison Guidry when he plays singles. I've stood behind Greg Hutchinson as he played a solo on the snare drum. I've watched great classical percussionists play Delecluse. I have a pretty good idea what rudiments should sound like. (Haha look at me getting all defensive;)
Of course I was self-conscious, though. So I'll make another lesson soon devoted to everything that's awesome about rudiments, and will likely shed some material so that my rudiments are at least middle-of-the-road A.
But back to this week's lesson:
This week's beat is a good-natured "challenge" to everybody who thinks their singles are perfect.
First, I want to say, "congrats!" It's not easy, and you should be proud of your accomplishment.
Next, I want to offer this week's beat up, as the next thing to practice.
And let's keep it positive.
All things being equal, someone who practices a lot of rudiments is going to sound better than someone who doesn't.
Also, someone who sheds stuff like this week's lesson, and who can play it cleanly, will sound better than someone who doesn't.
It's not one-or-the-other. It's both.
Alright killers, that's where I'll leave it.
Click here to grab the transcription (and get my 3 free videos in 3 weeks as a bonus gift).
In music, in sports, and in fighting, there are the "highlight reel" skills:
Slam Dunks and Single Strokes
Quarterback Sacks and Double Pedal
Wins By Knockout and Odd Meter Solos
Berimbolo/Inside Heel Hooks and Blast Beats
Then, there are the "adult" skills.
Those unsexy skills that won't get you girls (or guys)...
...but they still take a lot of work.
For that category, I humbly submit brushes and half-guard.
You already know what brushes are.
Somebody on Instagram told me that was a "narrow analogy" because not every drummer knows what half guard is.
I replied, visualizing perturbed-Jimmy-Stewart at his typewriter, that every drummer worth a damn knows what half guard is;)
Well, I'm going to help you be "worth a damn".
Half guard is like the last resort when you're getting smashed by a grappling opponent, but you still have one leg to work with.
Instead of turning upside-down and ensnaring him acrobatically, you're mostly-squashed, and you're fighting for inches.
Half-guarders aren't dashing leading men. They're slightly-unsavory characters who have "made their bones". They're not Neo; they're Cypher.
The same is true of true brush artists.
When the chips-are-down, you can count on them to do-what-they-do, and what they do is live according to a byzantine internal code that eschews flashiness and embraces the Grind.
But here's the thing about half-guarders and brushians: like Bane, they welcome a bad situation. They live for it.
Paul Schreiner likes to let you think you're passing, snare you like an anaconda, then have his way with you.
Ed Thigpen could play ballads all night. He found a million miles of nuance in a few decibels of volume.
So, my drummers, I ask you: do you want to be transparently-glory-seeking? Then crumble at the first sign of trouble?
Or do you want you want to be the drummer from the Rated R movie?
The guy/girl with a few too many tattoos in the wrong places?
A few phone numbers you should probably delete.
If it's the latter, join me on this journey to the dark side.
Click here to grab the transcription (and also get my 3 free videos in 3 weeks as a bonus gift).
First things first - here's the link to the transcription.
You'll also get my 3 videos in 3 weeks completely free.
I found this week's beat it on Instagram, where you can Get Humble in a hurry if you play the drums, and Spanky's (@yospank) beat was no exception.
It has so many "hooks" to pull attention, it can be hard to tell where "1" is.
I sure couldn't.
I experimented for the better part of a half hour, before I finally picked up something in the beat that anchored me.
(I probably could have just counted the 16ths...)
To find out what it was, how I reverse-engineered the beat, and what Spanky might have been thinking when he invented it, just check out the lesson.
There's an approach to playing licks that's "additive".
You had a certain "bag of tricks" before, and you're adding a sticking or rhythm you've never played.
Then there's an approach that's all about transformation and enhancement.
Both are necessary, neither is wrong, but the "enhancement" approach is the easiest-to-ignore...
...and also the thing most of the greats have in common.
When you listen to a Spanky beat, it's often a variation-on-a-variation-on-a-variation. Which is probably how he arrived at the beat that's the subject of this week's lesson.
I bought it too.
The siren-song of the hipsters.
"Just play linear. It'll all be easier."
Well, not-so-fast, young'un.
Drummers like Nate Smith, Questo, Kariem Riggins, Harvey Mason, Bernard Purdie, Jeff Porcaro, Anderson Paak, and Corey Fonville want you to know they're judging you hard.
Turns out, linear is out.
The new hotness is the Old Hotness.
The New Hotness is constant, straight-16th, with one hand. (The whoooole gig;)
Thought you were gonna get out of practicing your drop-catch?
Thought you were gonna escape the Pocket Police?
Anderson's bringing it back on Come Down...
...Corey's bringing it back on Forest Green...
...and Nate, Questo, and Kariem are playing like it never went away.
Luckily, it's easier than you thought.
Yours Truly has been Eating His Brussels Sprouts, and I've come back from The Edge with a couple of...shortcuts. (Yes, I said it.)
For starters, you can play almost every constant-16th groove under-the-sun by learning 3 simple idioms you can get under your hands in under-an-hour.
(To perfect them, you've got the rest of your life.)
Ready to see what they are?
Just click here to download the transcription (and get 3 bonus videos to Murder Out your drumming in 3 weeks.
Be good, killaz.
First things first: if you're here for the transcription, grab it here. (You'll also get my 3 videos to double your drumming confidence in 3 weeks completely free.)
It must have been my second or third semester in music school.
I'd long-since been introduced to the Dave Holland Quintet, with Billy Kilson...
...spent almost an entire summer wearing out Prime Directive whilst sleeping off cannabis hangovers on my buddy Dan's couch...
...transcribed at least one Chris Potter solo to sing along with, then analyze for a term project in Dave Liebman's class.
Not to mention seeing the quintet live.
So when my buddy Scott told me that a guy named Nate Smith was now playing with Dave Holland, I assumed he was fucking with me.
"Nah, buddy. That's the ten-year plan. You're too soon with that."
Nope. Turned out he wasn't. Another, totally different Nate Smith was now playing with Dave.
There went my life's plan. The odds of lightening striking twice, and Dave hiring two guys with the exact same name seemed slim.
To make matters worse, Nate, when I finally listened to the new record, was killing.
Fast forward more years than I care to admit, (skipping past a bunch of years of Chris Potter's dUnderground band) and Nate's sounding better-than-ever, and writing great music.
The song that inspired this week's lesson is Skip Step, from the recent Kinfolk record, in particular the Tiny Desk performance.
Like Butcher Brown, about whom I just shot the lesson you'll see in two weeks, Nate and Kinfolk manage to "smooth the edges" of the previous generation's fusion. It's some part motown, some part Headhunters, many parts Dave Binney/55 Bar, and so on.
Skip Step epitomizes the group, and Nate's playing.
Got the transcription yet? Grab it here.
First things first: If you're here for the transcription, get it here.
A five year old can play "fast".
But the difference between that five-year-old, and the great players, is the subject of this week's lesson.
It's not just speed, but clarity.
That thing that makes you purse your lips whenever you listen to a Vinnie/Mark/Marcus solo.
Let's call that the "x factor".
But what would happen if you took away the fast, and kept only the x-factor. What would that look like?
It's just that concept I was experimenting with last week. To back-up, I've been spending a lot of time just practicing playing on the drums, with no cymbals.
I felt I was a little to "hat reliant", and I didn't like that I was facing the hats so much, instead of in the center of the kit.
So I'd work on phrases, of the type in my course (continually sharpening the saw), around the drums, only allowing myself to play the hats with LH and LF.
At the same time, I was checking out Taron Lockett's instagram, (@taroney) digging several clips of Taron playing with his band. There's a tune that sounds like a Scofield record with the Chambers/Beard/Granger band, and I was practicing playing over the top.
140 bpm on the metronome, but I found ideas were really repetitive, and I was "hiccuping" a lot. What to do?
Slow it DOOOOOOWN. 70bpm. "Same" tempo, but half the frequency. Sure enough, my ideas opened up, and I was making better phrases.
Along the way, I invented a couple of slick phrases in 16ths that allowed me to "break up" the time, and create the "illusion" of playing faster than I was.
And it's these licks that are the subject of this week's lesson.
You know me: lately, I've been making lessons about pretty practical stuff...
How to take the ho-hum sextuplet and play something more interesting than a six-stroke roll.
Cool ways to take easy-to-play fills and make them sound cooler.
Cool ways to have your hands going a million-miles-an-hour, but your brain at a strolling pace.
So, in my own mind, I've earned some leeway. Just like Stephen Soderberg making the Ocean's Eleven/12/13 movies so he can bankroll The Girlfriend Experience.
Today, we're going to abstract-land. This lick will...
Get you fired.
If you play it in the wrong spot that is.
So where did it come from? Marcus Gilmore and Spanky. Where else?
Both Marcus and Spanky take the quarter note triplet to the state-of-the-art. Soon, I'm going to delve more into Spanky.
But this week's lesson lives most comfortably in Marcus-land. He of the using-the-ride-cymbal-instead-of-tom.
Lately I've become fascinated by Marcus' dialogs with Gilad Hekselman, who loves to dish quarter-triplet-based implied metric modulations, and uses the quarter triplet as the basis for many of his phrases. (Check out This Just In to hear what I mean.)
Marcus has a particular way of "commenting", and while this week's lesson isn't directly transcribed from him, it's inspired by years of listening and playing along.
Check it out here.
And, yes - be mindful of pulling this out on gigs. Jazz only, with players who can hang, and make sure you give them a fat "one" if anybody gets confused.
With those cautionary words, go forth!