Tag Archives: Alan Dawson

Right Hand Lead Phrases – with Video

Apologies for the lack of posts of late. A bout of sinusitis immediately followed by the flu put me out of action for a couple of weeks, but I’m back  in the game now and  have plenty of new ideas to share with you all. Today we’re working on a classic Alan Dawson right hand lead technique.  I was reminded of this useful approach by the excellent Justin Varnes who spotted Antonio Sanchez using it in a live video. The basic premise is that you play 8th note phrases with your right hand, and fill in the triplets with your  left hand.

sample - Full Score

Each of the exercises below have a recognisable tune so try and keep this in mind as you play. Play 4 bars of time followed by exercise 1. Repeat for all 10 exercises as in the video below:

Exercises 8,9 & 10 use a technique known as rhythmic transposition which is when a phrase is stretched or squashed in order to make the time sound like it is being slowed down or sped up. Keeping in mind an emphasis on melody, sing your own simple phrases, then apply them using the right hand lead technique.


Right Hand Leading Phrases - Full Score






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More 8 Triplet Ways in 5/4

Here are three more examples of converting page 38 of Stick Control into 5/4. We can then apply Alan Dawson’s 8 triplet ways to the new phrase.

Alan Dawson's 8 Triplet Ways #2 (new) - Full ScoreAlan Dawson's 8 Triplet Ways #2 (new)2 - Full Score

Alan Dawson's 8 Triplet Ways #3 (new) - Full Score1Alan Dawson's 8 Triplet Ways #3 (new) - Full Score2Alan Dawson's 8 Triplet Ways #4 (new) - Full Score1
Alan Dawson's 8 Triplet Ways #4 (new) - Full Score2




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The 8 Triplet Ways in 5/4

Today we move onto an exercise that I consider THE quintessential method for any aspiring jazz drummer: Alan Dawson’s 8 triplet ways. After spending many fruitful months on this method I was keen to adapt it into 5/4 with the aim of further expanding my odd time playing. I should firstly say that it’s essential to work through Dawson’s original method fully (along with page 38 of Ted Reed’s Syncopation) before moving on, so I urge you to buy his book and get started. Once you’re comfortable with the original, we can use a simple set of rules to convert each bar of page 38 into 5/4:

If there’s a long note on beat 4, add a short note on the & of beat 5
If there’s a short note on the & of 4, add a long note on beat 5
If there’s a rest on beat 4, add two short notes on beat 5 and the & of beat 5
Here are the original bars 1 – 4:
And here’s how they look in 5/4:
 Page 38 5_4
Now try applying the 8 triplet ways to this 4 bar phrase. There’s some tricky 4 limb coordination required once you start adding a 5/4 swing pattern (from triplet way 4 onwards) but this is all extremely worthwhile vocabulary that will come in handy next time someone calls a tune in 5 on the gig.
Alan Dawson's 8 triplet Ways #1 (new) - Full Score1
Alan Dawson's 8 triplet Ways #1 (new) - Full Score2
Once you’re comfortable with bars 1-4, do the same for the rest of Pages 38-39.
Good luck!



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Using Stick Control in 5/4

Here’s an exercise inspired by Andrew Hare from the The Melodic Drummer blog (or perhaps Todd Bishop). By adapting the Alan Dawson esq. Single Stroke Roll Exercise from last week into 5/4 we can simultaneously develop our odd time playing whilst building the speed of our singles. Hare/Bishop’s concept was to add an extra beat (played RL or LR) onto bar 1, page 5 of Stick Control. Play this new 5/4 bar twice followed by fast 16th note singles as in last week’s exercise. Repeat with each exercise of page 5. Just to make things a little more complicated (and co-ordinated) i’ve added an ostinato with the feet. This is a highly portable exercise as the tricky co-ordination required can be practiced with hands on thighs (a method that’s been particularly useful on my current 5 week tour).

Singles in 5_4 Ostinato - Full Score

Singles in 5_4 Ostinato - Full Score2 Singles in 5_4 Ostinato - Full Score3 Singles in 5_4 Ostinato - Full Score4
Singles in 5_4 Ostinato - Full Score5


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Filed under Odd Time Signatures, Rudiments

Rudiments – Why You Need Them


Although my recent touring schedule has left me with little time for practice, i’ve had the opportunity on my travels to pick the brains of some fantastic musicians.It seems a surprisingly polarising topic amongst drummers is the importance of rudiments. This resistance to the rudimental method seems to originate from the fact that some of histories great musical communicators didn’t know their Pataflafla from their Double Drag Tap (the ridiculous names perhaps being one of the turn offs). The argument goes that ‘If my drumming idols didn’t work on rudiments then why should I?’ This feels to me like a royal copout. Greatness is achieved through a fair slice of talent but also a much larger portion of hard work and diligence. In the dictionary a rudiment is defined as ‘the elements or first principles of a subject’. Shirking a task as fundamental as this is quite simply going to limit your musical potential.
The Rudimental Ritual 


I first got serious about the rudimental method after a lesson from my sometime teacher (and great session player) Troy Miller. He recommended the Alan Dawson book ‘The Drummers Complete Vocabulary’ which contains one of the most time consuming and challenging rudimental exercises around: ‘The Rudimental Ritual’. Conceived by Dawson while teaching at Berklee College of Music, it’s a 14 minute long list of rudiments that are to be learnt and played from memory on brushes at a high tempo. It can take months or even years to truly master and has been known to reduce even the sternest of players to tears on completion. On describing the exercise to a friend, he politely suggested that it might not be the best use of my time; after all, I was never going to use most of the 86 rudiments in the book and isn’t the final goal of practice in the end supposed to be about providing you with something you can apply? As counterintuitive as it may seem, not all of the exercises we work on need to be musically applicable. Yes a Double Paradiddle or Swiss Army Triplet have numerous useful musical applications but sometimes the actual physical mastery of the phrase is the goal; a way of conditioning your muscles. One of the rudiments in lesson 26 is a Flama flama flam flam. I can be close to 100% sure that I will never use this rudiment in a performance but the physical and technical benefits garnered from mastering it will help me execute a multitude of other phrases; phrases executed for musical reasons rather than technical ones. The shedding of any musical pretext and the zooming in on the cold technicality is an expedient for progress. Despite appearances this approach doesn’t deviate from the ethos running through each one of my previous articles, namely: the ultimate aim of any practice regime should be to facilitate an improved level of musicality. The difference here is that you actually have to abandon musicality in the process. Here’s my attempt from a few months ago:


Stick To It


I know for some drummers this exercise may seem to veer into the realm of ‘mindless’ practice; It’s a long way from simply ‘playing from the heart’. My advice would be to approach it as you would a marathon. Enjoyment can be obtained from the idea that one day, however laborious the task, you’ll have completed something very, very difficult. This can provide vital motivation during the long, often frustrating hours. Of course the study of rudiments doesn’t end with the Ritual. You can develop your own phrases to help overcome common technical hurdles. As a taster try playing the rudiment below which I call a Flam triple-diddle. It requires groups of 3 notes on each hand, a notoriously difficult skill to master.
Flam tripple-diddle

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