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Topic: Marking Transitions  (Read 845 times)

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Offline Steve "Smitty" Smith

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Marking Transitions
« on: February 20, 2012, 09:28 PM »
My latest creative musical challenge pertains to tastefully marking transitions between song parts – specifically in a pop/rock format. 

For example, let’s say a song is mid-tempo pop and  follows this basic structure:

Lead/Solo Section

I could take a very less-is-more approach and not play any transitional fills between verses and choruses and maybe play looser on the hats during the choruses and lead section, but that seems so bland and safe to me.  I want to make a creative and interesting contribution to the song from the drums that remains supportive of the song. 

I guess my question is this:  What is your process or philosophy (if any) for developing tasteful and interesting fills and licks when playing straight ahead pop and rock tunes – particularly phrases that mark transitions between song parts?

Are there any instructional materials out there on this subject?

I hope that makes sense.

Offline Bill Bachman

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Re: Marking Transitions
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2012, 09:54 AM »
I think that marking the transitions from one section of a song to the next is a really good thing to do and that the band really appreciates it. I think of it like I'm driving the bus and  putting on my turn signal so that they're all aware and comfortable with where we're going next.

From there (and this part may be more pertinent to the question), I'm a fan of being able to set up a transition within the song form without a "fill" as people think of them. Instead of heading into the “fill” world where you leave the hi hat or ride cymbal ostinato and jump to the toms (or whatever), you instead keep the ostinato going while adding a few extra bass drum notes and/or a few extra snare notes and maybe end with a big snare flam on beat four. The trick is to do this without ever leaving the basic groove feel so it's not a reach, yet the band & listeners know that we're moving on to the next section.

Along with that it’s quite often good to gradually open the hi hats to a sloshy-er vibe over the last bar or two as well. And, sometimes you'll get slickness points if you blow off the crash on beat 1 or take it a little bit over the bar line.
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Offline Bob Dias

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Re: Marking Transitions
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2012, 04:20 PM »
Well, while being careful to not play lead drum, I'll often play (answer) with whatever major rhythm that the LS is singing, or the guitars are playing. I'll just try to reinforce what the other guys are doing in a tastefully syncopated way.  Try thinking about what rhythms the other guys are playing.  Bob
"It's O.K. if you only know three chords, but for God's sake, play'em in the right order" (H. Hill)

Offline David Crigger

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Re: Marking Transitions
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2012, 11:30 PM »

Are there any instructional materials out there on this subject?

Yes - your record/cd/mp3 collection.  :-)

And that's not at all intended to be a flip answer.

This is an area which I believe can ultimately only be figured out on an individual player basis through as thorough of an exploration of the recorded archives as possible. Only with a good handle on "how has it been done before?" can a player, when confronted with one of thousands of musical scenarios, come up with the "best" way to deal with each one.

For me, studying this amounted to A LOT of playing with records - sometimes learning note-for-note what the player on the record played, though probably most often simply finding the closest paraphrase of what he played that I could muster. Then after that, I would also start to try different solutions - different fills, different transitions, different from the record (maybe only slightly, but sometimes dramatically different) - all in the quest of figuring out why the drummer might have chose to do what he did, and what the other possibilities might be instead. Always keeping open to the fact that the notes on the record might not have even been the best ones (though of course often they were) - so lot of playing, analyzing, playing, analyzing...all at the same time.

Another great exercise for all of this IMO was to take a snippet of some kind of transition - like setting up a transition to a section that starts by accenting/pushing the & of 4 for example.  Anyway the exercise would be to repeat it over and over starting with the simplest approach possible, and with each repeat getting incrementally more complex - and seeing how many repeats I could do without ever back tracking (getting simpler)  - a real exercise in restraint... jump ahead too soon and you'll run out of choices quickly.

Another variation of this would be to simply repeat the short transition area and see how many different approaches you can come up with on the fly. If I couldn't come up with many - then that was my cue to learn some more "stuff" from some more records.

The idea here is, in every situation, to have as many arrows in your quiver as possible. This way, while actually playing, your focus can be all about listening to the music and discerning what would best serve it or at least serve the effect you're are wanting to have. Then as you decide, it is just a matter of pulling out and letting fly with that specific arrow.

And I don't see anyway of digging in, figuring it out and cataloging it yourself.  Any kind of book on fills is either going to cover very little ground or it's going to leave out way too much of the music context. And I believe, it's cataloging each fill, variation and device with it's various musical contexts that is important here. Not just learning the fills, variations and devices themselves.

And the end result of all this really goes a long way in define each player's specific personal style - because we are each going to catalog and prioritize each of these things a bit, or a lot differently from each other.

Hope that helps.


Offline Steve "Smitty" Smith

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Re: Marking Transitions
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2012, 03:23 PM »
As usual, some excellent advice here. Thanks, all.  :)


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