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Playing along with pre-recorded music is a useful and sometimes necessary workout for the jazz drummer who wants to keep the chops in shape.

It's always good to practice along with famous drummers particularly if they're Tony Williams and Art Blakey on the CD THE BEST OF BLUE NOTE.

Click here to hear my take on the 1965 Bill Evans Trio with Chuck Israels on bass and Larry Bunker on drums.  The CD has a great sound that lends itself to the drum dub, and Larry used brushes on all the tunes (except for a stick on the cymbal during one solo) so my Regal Tip 5AX wooden tip sort of drowned him out except for his bass drum licks which I tried to imitate.

What they were playing was so hip and different from the ordinary groove that it made me jump out of my skin and get right in there with them.  What a feeling!

On the other hand, consider this lineup of drumless CD's when you want to be by yourself:

Classic jazz: George Shearing on piano, Reg Schwager on guitar, and Neil Swainson on bass.

Soft Bop: Warren Vache on trumpet, John Bunch on piano, and Phil Flanigan on bass.

Old School Piano Jazz: John Bunch on piano, and Phil Flanigan on bass.

Hard Bop: Jack Walrath on trumpet, Anthony Cox on bass, and Michael Cochrane on piano.

Too hip to classify: Jay Leonhart on bass and vocals, Joe Cohn on guitar, and Ted Rosenthal on piano.

After you download the 15-second excerpts, save them to the desktop.

The Lone Drummer's playing is build around riffs based on the three fundamentals of straight ahead 1950's jazz drumming: (1) The 1/8-note triplet is the root, (2) the 1/4-note triplet is its essence, and (3) open- and closed-stroke double sticking are where it's at.

Because the interruption of "one" is key to modern jazz, the 1/4-note triplet's downbeat in modern jazz drumming is either on two or four which gives it a hip "six against four" effect. Check the two-bar pattern illustrated below: bits and pieces of the 1/4-triplet as notated show up in a lot of the licks from this timeless school of jazz drumming.




But it's not enough to just play along with a CD.  To get the maximum benefit from a practice session of this sort, the drummer should record it so he (or she) can later critique his (or her) drumming.  Many drummers who never recorded have been pleasantly surprised--and in some cases appalled--at what they heard during playback.  This process, a POSTIVE FEEDBACK LOOP, can bring out the best in any drummer.

Click here to take a photo tour of the travel trailer studio where these recordings were made.

After recording myself along with a track from one of the aforementioned CDs, I would take the recorded tape and play it back into a WIN98 computer with some inexpensive software from Australia called LPRecorder.  That software converts the music to a digital format (.wav file) without "clipping"--a bugaboo that can ruin the whole trip--that a freeware music editor (like AUDACITY 1.2.0) can later add a special effect to it such as compression and gain which brings out the cymbals and makes the overall sound even more like I was actually playing the gig.  I do the recording with a pair of SONY MDR-V150 earphones ($20 @ Walmart) plugged into the stereo's earphone jack.  During the playback into the computer the earphones are plugged into a BEHRINGER micro amp HA400 4-channel stereo headphone amplifier (on sale from MUSIC123.com) which is plugged into the computer's sound card "line out" jack.

Because there is no standard audio engineering and/or mastering technique, each CD has a sound that is unique to the recording studio that created it and the audio and other effects are quite different from one another.  The Jay Leonhart CD has enough oomph and the right volume to be played straight from the CD tray of the karaoke SINGING MACHINE for a recording session, and it's the CD that started it all.  To get near that benchmark "sound" from any other CD the frequency equalizer, mini-max volume control, and CD player had to be brought into the mix in order to get the desired effect.

Using the microphone mixer settings as a means to control the two dynamic mics that came with the karaoke SINGING MACHINE and the stereo condenser mic ($20 on EBay), along with a master volume, to change the sound of the drums and cymbals to fit the recorded music was an accidental discovery, and the microphone mixer and frequency equalizer settings that were in place for these recordings have been archived in case I ever get rolling again.

But right now everything is under wraps.  The wife had me move the travel trailer to an outdoor spot so she could use it as a ART STUDIO where she would paint pictures, etc.  That meant unloading the drums and other stuff to the barn proper and putting them under a sheet of black plastic.  I'll be back again someday . . .

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