Mastering odd number phrases can give your playing the kind of originality and unpredictability that will set you apart from the rest. Below is an 11 note phrase that’s definitely for the more advanced players out there. The phrase can be played as triplets (for slower tempos) or 8th notes (for faster tempos). It took me a number of practice sessions to get comfortable with these 11 note groupings and I found playing the left foot hi-hat on 2 & 4 helped me keep my place in the bar. The phrase begins with a 6 stroke roll, followed by a 5 note phrase of RLL KK. So:
Try playing the phrase continuously and remember to keep the left foot hi-hat on 2 & 4. Start very slowly, as an 11 note phrase will throw up lots of unusual accents. 4 bars of 8th note triplets consists of 48 notes. Our 11 note phrase will fit into these 4 bars 4 times (44), so we’ll need to add 4 extra notes on the end – RLLK. The whole thing will look like this:
Below are 5 different orchestrations of this sticking followed by the same phrases, but using a swung 8th note sub-division. Play 4 bars of time followed by exercise 1 then do the same for all 10 exercises. Good luck!
Delve into the playing of Latin and Afro-Cuban drummers and you’ll find a huge resource of material for improving your co-ordination and polyrhythms. I regularly use this vocabulary in Jazz but, even if you never find a use for this material on a gig, it will still prove amazingly useful as a practice tool. These rhythms are simply the best way to develop your multi-limb coordination.
Below is a transcription from an Antonio Sanchez LP YouTube video. I decided to transcribe it after hearing the Afro-Cuban style groove mid-way through (from around 4:09). It has an infectious lilt that I thought would sound great as an Elvin Jones style outro vamp groove. The B section is a demostration of using the 2/3 Rhumba Clave on a left-foot cowbell. This will certainly test your co-ordination and, although you may never use it on a gig, will certainly help to develop your 4 limb independence.
As the tour takes us through Virginia and North Carolina, I’ve been finding time to write out drum lead sheets for some of my favourite jazz tunes. Writing a lead sheet for a song – a kind of blueprint – will not only help you understand it’s structure, it will also give you an insight into the composers process, as well as helping you to internalise the main melody line. I transcribe any information a drummer will need to play the tune, such as the structure, the rhythm of the main melody line and any pushes or phrasings.
An artist I’ve been obsessing over recently is the precocious New York-based trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and his Blue Note Records album When The Heart Emerges Glistening. The performances on this album are a masterclass in musical prowess and the listening on display is close to telepathic.
Below is a lead sheet for the second track on the album ‘Jaya’:
Jaya album recording:
- The main melody is a combination of bars of 7/4, 6/4 and 5/4.
- I hear the recurring 11/4 vamp section as two bars of 6/4 with one beat taken out.
- The solo section begins with the 11/4 vamp followed by a more frenetic section of three bars of 6/4 and three bars of 5/4.
- After the solo section there’s an alternate melody line for 6 bars, followed by a return to the main melody.
- Drummer Justin Brown masterfully glides through the changes of meter, often disguising the downbeat.
Here are more exercises to help you develop your 5/4 swing vocabulary. Apply the same process as the first instalment with the 5/4 phrases acting as comping material over a 5/4 swing pattern:
We can also take this further and start ‘filling in the gaps’ using the 8th note comping phrases:
- Play the phrase on the kick drum and ‘fill in’ the 8th notes on the snare drum. Bars 1-2 will look like this:
- Play the phrase on the left foot hi-hat and ‘fill in’ the 8th notes on the snare drum. Like this:
- Next, play the ‘short’ 8th notes from the phrase on the left foot hi-hat. Play the ‘long’ 1/4 notes on the kick. Bars 1-2:
Now apply these three methods for all 16 bars of the 8th note comping phrases.
Here’s a video of the highlights from my trio session and Unit 2 studios last week. I was lucky enough to have the excellent Nick Pini and Piers Haynes along on Double Bass and Alto Sax respectively. Enjoy!