WELCOME TO FOUR ON THE FOUR: A BLOG ABOUT JAZZ DRUMMING AND ALL THINGS UNRELATED, BROUGHT TO YOU BY JON McCASLIN

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

OH DRUM CANADA! Vol.5
















Featuring:

Owen Howard - Brooklyn, NY (Edmonton, AB)

Chris Wallace - Toronto, ON

Hans Verhoeven - Nanaimo, BC

Rich Irwin - Montreal, QC

Justin Hauck - Moose Jaw, SK

Fabio Ragnelli - Winnipeg, MB/Toronto, ON

Raul Tabera - Calgary, AB

Luis Tovar - Calgary, AB

Mario Allende - Toronto, ON

With Special Guests John Sumner and Jerry Fuller

Monday, July 27, 2020

Jazz Drums Around the World Wide Web























Never before in the history of the world has there been so much information available to us so readily. In particular, the internet currently offers a plethora of great resources to learn about jazz drumming. Given our current circumstances, we now have the luxury of conveniently accessing a lot of great rhythmic information via the web and we are able to connect directly with many great jazz drummers from all over the world via social media, YouTube and a variety of on-line platforms.

Personally I've been trying to use these means myself on an on-going basis lately and I encourage everyone to take advantage of these learning opportunities currently offered to us.

Here is my completely subjective list of online jazz drumming resources that I continually return to for motivation, inspiration and information these days:












- Chris Smith is always up to great things via his on-going YouTube series The Drum Hang:



His topics are excellent, relevant and his explanations are always very concise and clear. I always learn something every time I tune into his latest episode (Chris plays his ass off too!)

Chris will soon be launching his own dedicated, subscription-based platform Jazz Drum Hang and I look forward to learning from what will certainly be another great jazz drumming resource on the web.










- Justin Varnes is one of most prolific jazz drumming teachers on the web via his platform and companion YouTube channel The Jazz Drummer's Resource.



Justin's archive of lessons is extensive and covers a lot of very practical subject matter. He's also a really great player and articulate teacher who draws a lot of his material directly from his own playing experience and from recordings of the great jazz drummers.

Justin recently had to offer these words about what's currently happening at JDR:

2020 brought a new round of "52 Licks" on YouTube, a new platform, new studio, guest instructors, and a focus on more individual help as opposed to just loading up video after video. 

Speaking of videos, there are 300 video lessons on the site now, broken down into categories and tags so it's easy to find what you're looking for. The two most useful features of the site are Courses and "What to Work On." Courses help you keep track of your progress (you can also mark lessons as "Watched" or save them for later in your "My Account" section)

Some of the most recent courses include "Continuous 8th's" - a set of vocabulary that lets you flow continuously through ideas, ala a bebop horn solo, "Big Band" - chart reading, common figures and setups, and flexible fill and setup vocabulary, and "Upping Your Tempo"- a 12-part course in the techniques, vocabulary, and comping exercises to play faster, all done by going up the metronome 10 clicks at a time. 

The "What to Work On" page allows subscribers to reach out to me with what they'd like help with. Then we work to create a practice plan (with lessons on the site, or stuff I create for them) so they can stay focused and see results. 

The goal is not just to host a bunch of lessons. The goal is to be your online teacher.























- I often revisit New York's Jochen Rueckert's 10 part instructional video series. These are very well produced and offer great explanations and insights from a drummer who is well immersed in the New York contemporary jazz scene.

For more information, check out his website.



Here is Rueckert's summary of the ten videos in his series:

This first episode focuses on improving your general time, swing time feel, feathering the bass drum and has some tips on playing fast.

This second episode contains pretty much everything I have to say about playing brushes.

This third episode is a collection of things I hear people do all wrong, over and over...

This fourth episode focuses on the way I like to practice improvising and soloing.

This fifth episode focuses on everything connected to touch and sound, including ways I hold a stick, where I hit a cymbal, but also what cymbals and sticks I use, for example.

This sixth episode focuses on getting comfortable in odd meters like 5/4 and 7/4 as well as more composite time signatures, like 15/8.

This seventh Episode offers some thoughts on how to interact in a band, some tips on playing in 2, and how to navigate original music.

This eighth episode outlines my general influences as a composer (especially besides jazz music) and offers some thoughts about four of my songs from "We Make the Rules" including Alloplasty, Yellow Bottoms, Saul Goodman, and Pretty From Afar.

This ninth episode focuses on my background and analysis of four songs off of my album Charm Offensive including Purring Excellence, 5-Hydroxytryptamine, Stretchmark, Charm Offensive, as well as Hayden Chisholm's arrangement of "Just friends" from my very first album "introduction".

This tenth episode focuses on answering the question : "Who are your greatest influences as a drummer?" I discuss all of the ones that made a big impact on me, especially when I was in my early 20's, try to explain why, and give listening examples. The email that you will get from the store will have a list of each drummer's records that I listened to a lot.








- Falk Willis' Jazz Heaven.com offers an extensive collection of informative lessons and masterclasses with a variety of contemporary jazz Masters.



There is so much great information to be found here in this well-curated platform.

In addition to this amazing instructional series, Jazz Heaven also offers a weekly webinar series that features a who's who of the contemporary jazz scene.

Also new is the JazzHeaven Community https://community.jazzheaven.com/ which has been described as "Facebook for Jazz". It looks like a great resource and place to share knowledge, ask questions, post videos/audio/images, etc. And there is also the option to hop on instant Zoom-style video group chats with others.

Falk has been working very hard on this over the past 10 years or so and I encourage everyone to take advantage of the great information and access to the Masters that he's compiled here.













- I've subscribed to several great video lessons from My Music Masterclass over the past couple of years from the likes of Mike Clark, Charles Ruggiero, Rakalam Bob Moses, Louis Hayes, Ari Hoenig and Dan Weiss. I think we are very fortunate to be able to learn from great drummers like this!












- Open Studio is an amazing resource for jazz musicians and jazz drummer's in particular, featuring a variety of in-depth lesson packages with the likes of Greg Hutchinson, Ulysses Owens Jr. and Brazilian drummer Edu Ribeiro.






FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS:

- I've heard great things about both Peter Erskine's Artistworks platform and Stanton Moore's Drum Academy from other drummers. I don't have experience with these myself, however judging from what I have seen via Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. and from clinics I've attended in the past, these guys are both really great teachers. These are a couple of resources I'll be checking out in the future for sure.






- I haven't really checked out the Patreon platform yet but from all accounts both Ari Hoenig and Dan Weiss are both worth serious consideration. Hoenig and Weiss are both serious students of the instrument and expanding the lexicon of jazz drumming through their advanced considerations of rhythm.





- Oh yes, and apparently the one and only Geoff Clapp will have his own lesson platform up and running starting this fall, so keep an eye out for that one for sure! (Check in at his web page https://geoffclapp.podia.com for updates)



- And finally, no day on my laptop is complete without checking in on my two favourite jazz drumming blogs: Todd Bishop's exceptional Cruise Ship Drummer and Ted Warren's Trap'd.

Both of these dedicated bloggers keep me musically & rhythmically grounded on a daily basis, with plenty of things to think about and practice.

Check out this wonderful recent blog post of Ted's entitled The Joy of Practice.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

OH DRUM CANADA! Vol.4
















Featuring:

Travis Knights - Toronto, ON

Anthony Michelli - Toronto, ON

Buff Allen - Bowen Island, BC

Jaime Carrasco - Winnipeg, MB

Jesse Cahill - Vancouver, BC

Nathan Ouellette - Edmonton, AB

Raydel Martinez - Edmonton, AB

Joel Cuesta - Edmonton, AB

Mike Cassells - Kingston, ON

Max Senitt - Toronto, ON

Tony Ferraro - Rossland, BC

With Special Guests Archie Alleyne and Bob McLaren

Monday, July 20, 2020

Thoughts on Practicing Rudiments























Over the course of our current circumstances, dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic, I've been inspired by several great drummers who took it upon themselves to share their knowledge and passion for drumming via social media on a regular on-going basis.

In particular, these are some of the great drummers that have inspired me over the past few months and I've learned a great deal from their regular Facebook/Instagram posts and videos:

- For a couple of months Calgary's Gavin Sorochan offered a daily demonstration of Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual via Facebook; one rudiment, one day at a time. As well, he gave very informative and concise daily explanations, demonstrating rhythmic applications of Gary Chaffee's compound sticking concepts. I'm not familiar Chaffee's method so this continues to be very eye opening for me. Gavin's posts also encouraged me to invest some time on my own drum pad and revisit the Rudimental Ritual.

- Eric Binder (whose wonderful publications are no stranger to the readers of Four on the Floor) is continuously sharing great clips of him playing his vast collection of vintage drums & cymbals. His newest book 3/4 Rudimental Rundown and frequent demonstrations of Charles Wilcoxon snare drum solos are inspiring and motivating to say the least (I'm also always really impressed with how quietly Eric can play this stuff!)

- Jason Brown has been consistently sharing a vast wealth of snare drum and rudimental knowledge, offering very clever and rhythmically challenging variations on standard rudiments and sticking/accent patterns on a daily basis via Instagram. Jason was also offering a weekly masterclass drum hang with Charles Goold and I found these be really great as well. Tune in with Jason and you'll learn something!

- Greg Hutchinson's daily Instagram practice pad sessions have been really informative, always motivating and I really admire his right hand finger technique! Greg pulls no punches in terms of what you need to do to get better.

- Ireland's Conor Guilfoyle always has great things to share whether demonstrating concepts related to snare drum technique, contemporary Afro-Cuban rhythms or approaches to playing odd-meters.

Every time I tune in to watch these guys, I learn something!

Anyways, all this discussion about the snare drum and the rudiments has not only had me practicing more lately but it also got me thinking about some bigger musical considerations as well.

I've been playing rudiments for nearly 35 years now (!) and while I think they are very important for a drum set player, I also think it's easy to take them for granted and lose sight of their purpose if we're not careful.

So here's a fews things I've been thinking about lately with regards to practicing rudiments:

1) IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT PLAYING FAST

When I was a kid the idea of playing rudiments, rolls, paradiddles, etc. really, really fast was considered as a real badge of honour. I thought it was really impressive and initially the idea of playing rudiments as fast as possible was my ultimate goal. That's what I aspired to.

Fortunately, as I matured as a musician and started to study the greats, I quickly realized otherwise and wisened up (!) However, I still feel it's important to remind ourselves, from time to time anyways (and for our student's sake as well!) that rudiments are merely tools for making music.

I recently watched a wonderful Peter Erskine live masterclass via Facebook and when he demonstrated his basic warmup routine he said a couple of things that really resonated:

"I'm not really a rudiment guy..."

"When I warm up, I play slow, I play quiet...and I play relaxed"

What I took away from this was that the mastery of the rudimental language of drumming isn't all about speed or how fast one can play. Rather it's all about control at all tempos (including slow ones!), at all dynamic levels and being able to play with a consistent, relaxed and pleasing tone on the instrument. It's all about sound.

2) MAKE THEM GROOVE

Many drummers have great hands but can't swing or groove worth a dime! (or whatever musical currency you happen to subscribe to...) You'll have much better success applying the rudiments to the drum set if you get used to playing them in time.

I was first introduced to this concept a very long time ago by Ted Warren when I came across a hand written lesson of his entitled Groovin' The Rudiments.

Play your rudiments with a metronome at a variety of tempos (not just the fast ones either!) and get used to phrasing them in 4 or 8 measure phrases.

Jason Marsalis once told me that he liked to practice his rudiments along with music (such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker or Bud Powell) and that he would try to match his eighth-note articulation to the music he was playing along with. Personally I love playing rudiments on a pad along with recordings of Bernard Purdie playing drums.

You've got to figure out how to make these patterns dance.

3) PLAY WITH DYNAMICS

Musical drumming is always the goal. As with tempos, practice your rudiments at all dynamic levels.

Learning to distinguish and properly play accented patterns is really important too.

4) PLAY MELODIES

There is nothing worse than hearing a drummer recite a steady stream of unimaginative, prescripted rudimental patterns when it comes time for them to solo.

Listening to Philly Joe Jones or Kenny Washington (among many others!) will quickly inform your melodic approach while using a rudimental vocabulary.

Learn some melodies (Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, etc.) and play them on a drum pad using a variety of sticking patterns and rudiments to embellish the melodic rhythms.

Use your imagination and see how many ways you can orchestrate a melody using different rudiments.

Always think about the phrasing and the sound.

5) USE YOUR FEET

I once attended a masterclass with Ed Shaughnessy many years ago where the audience was primarily made up of young drummers who played in high school marching band drumlines.

Ed began his masterclass by holding up a hand written poster that exclaimed "If you aren't using your feet, then you aren't playing the drum set!"

It seems pretty self-explanatory (!) but I think the point he was trying to make was that while having great hands and working out on a drum pad are both great, as drum set players we cannot neglect our feet.

Practice playing your rudiments on the snare drum while using any number of foot ositnatos (they don't even have to be complicated...) and get your hands and feet playing together (this is the basis of Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual btw).

Take things a step further and explore different ways you can split up and orchestrate the rudiments between the hands and the feet. Be creative and use your imagination. Think of the drum set as one instrument.

6) PLAY WITH BRUSHES

Play all your rudiments with your brushes and you won't regret it.

Apparently Terri Lyne Carrington warms up every day by playing through Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual first with sticks, then brushes and finally with a pair of mallets on the floor tom.

The brushes are different beast physically than sticks and playing rudiments are a great way to develop your brush technique.

---------------------------

Here's a quick summary of some ideas to think about when practicing rudiments:

- Play your rudiments at a variety of different tempos. Don't get hung up on speed for speed's sake.

- Stay relaxed and pay attention to the quality of sound you are making (even if you are playing on a drum pad!)

- Play any accented patterns with distinction and clarity

- Play your rudiments at a variety of dynamic levels

- Play the rudiments in Time and in 4 or 8 measure phrases

- Use a metronome

- Play along with recordings

- Make the patterns feel like something. Make it swing!

- Learn bebop melodies and play them using different sticking patterns and then embellish them using rudiments

- Play the rudiments on the snare drum while playing basic feet ostinatos. Get your hands and feet to work together!

- Explore orchestrating rudimental patterns between the hands & feet

- Play the rudiments with brushes (and mallets!)


Recommended Rudimental Resources:

- Percussive Arts Society International Drum Rudiments

- The Rudimental Ritual (Alan Dawson)

- 3/4 Rudimental Rundown (Eric Binder)

- The All-American Drummer & Modern Rudimental Swing Solos for the Advanced Drummer (Charles Wilcoxon)

- Syncopated Rolls for the Modern Drummer (Jim Blackley)

- Stick Control (George Lawrence Stone)

- Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer (Ted Reed) *Use many of Alan Dawson's variations!*

- Master Studies (Joe Morello)

- The Charlie Parker Omnibook


Okay, hopefully this has all been helpful and has offered you at least a few things to think about while practicing your rudiments. Hopefully you'll approach them with a musical sensibility in mind.

And to wrap things up, here's a couple of great clips featuring Ted Warren and Jason Marsalis improvising with just a snare drum. These illustrate pretty much everything I've talked about today, in one way or another:





And this one is a repost, but a personal favourite of mine. Here is Dame Evelyn Glennie playing a press roll for 30 minutes straight, exhausting the musical possibilities of one single rudiment!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

OH DRUM CANADA! Vol.3
















Featuring:

Tom Roach - Halifax, NS

Dan Skakun - Edmonton, AB

Lorie Wolf - Toronto, ON

Aubrey Dayle - Oshawa, ON

Andrew McCarthy - St. John's, NL

Morgan Childs - Toronto, ON

Barry Elmes - Kincardine, ON

Robin Tufts - Calgary, AB

Thom Gossage - Montreal, QC

Barry Romberg - Toronto, ON

Monday, July 13, 2020

Evelyn Glennie: Improvisation on Drums (and vibes!)













If you are looking for some musical inspiration this Monday morning, here is percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie with a wonderfully creative improvisation for you to check out:



Glennie also has a prolific YouTube channel full of cool videos and this lead me to a beautiful vibraphone improvisation of hers, which put a smile on my face and left me in a very good mood this morning...

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

OH DRUM CANADA! Vol.2





Featuring:

Dave Laing - Montreal, QC

Ted Warren - Guelph, ON

Karl Jannuska - Paris, FR (Brandon, MB)

Anthony Fung - Los Angeles, CA (Toronto, ON)

Celene Yohemas - Calgary, AB

Rob Siwik - Winnipeg, MB

Louis-Vincent Hamel - Montreal, QC

Kelby MacNayr - Victoria, BC

Ernesto Cervini - Toronto, ON

AND SPECIAL GUEST...

Norman Marshall Villeneuve - Montreal, QC



Wednesday, July 1, 2020

OH DRUM CANADA! Vol.1















I’ve been working on this project for over a month now and I am excited to finally share this with you all.

This past Spring I was inspired by Kendrick Scott’s YouTube compilation video featuring 38 jazz drummers, all interpreting Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence”, and by Joe Farnsworth’s ongoing series, celebrating many jazz drumming legends.

A month ago I invited Canadian jazz drummers from across the country (and many ex-pats currently living abroad) to contribute 60 second video excerpts of them playing the drums.

“Do your thing!” I asked…

Starting today, and every Wednesday for the next month or so, I will be sharing these videos of Canada’s jazz drummers.

What you’ll see in the video below is a collection of the musicians who graciously replied to my invitation.

So in the spirit of our nation’s birthday, I offer this rhythmic celebration featuring Canadian jazz drummers from coast-to-coast (and then some…)

This week’s episode features the creative and percussive talents of Ian Froman, Michel Lambert, Mark Kelso, Joel Haynes, Jackson Haynes, Efa Etoroma Jr., ValĂ©rie Lacombe, Jamie Cooper, Nick Fraser, Terry Clarke, Alan Dowling and a special “Oh Canada” sing-a-long courtesy of Barry Elmes.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to make this happen.

Thank you for taking the time to watch this and please tune in for next week's episode.

Keep swingin’ and please enjoy OH DRUM CANADA!

Sincerely,

Jon McCaslin

Calgary, AB