Drum & Percussion Lessons
Drummer Cafe 20th Anniversary
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I'm proud to invited by Bart to contribute to his fine establishment! I've chosen to begin with a nod to a drummer and educator who deeply impacted both of us, as well as so many others, the incredible Alan Dawson. So pour a cup and get ready to play! Here at the Drummer Cafe, subscribers can download a pdf of The Rudimental Ritual. The Ritual is a collection of the Standard 26 American Drum Rudiments, several Swiss rudiments, and a collection of Alan's own "Innovations," all of which he combined into a logical, flowing arrangement, accompanied by a foot ostinato, that takes roughly twenty minutes to play straight through. The Ritual will challenge you to your core and test your stamina. It can take a good deal of time to get each rudiment together much less combine them and play the entire arrangement, but it will be worth every second you spend on it. The payoff of all of that discipline is the musical freedom you gain as a result. If you haven't checked it out, don't waste another minute - go download it right now and get into it. Each section is like part of a foundation of a house and the combination, a beautiful suite. Take your time going through it. What I will focus on here is what you can do with the Ritual once you've mastered it in its original form. I was inspired to master the Ritual myself by watching Alan play through it - by memory - on several occasions. He moved at a formidable tempo, upwards of 160 bpm, and played with great musicality and feeling. It was far from robotic or stiff - Alan was a consummate Jazz drummer, one of the musics finest. And with all the nuance he gave the rolls, diddles, flams and ruffs, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention he performed the entire Ritual with a pair of wire brushes! More on that later.

Though the Ritual seems to focus on the hands, it is also a study in 4-way coordination. Alan insisted the feet accompany the hands, suggesting and utilizing a typical Bossa Nova type of bass drum/hi-hat combination as seen here:

Bossa Nova - Bass Drum / Hi-Hat

Believe me this "ups-the-ante" in mastering the Ritual, but makes perfect sense. The snare drum is often viewed as the center of the drumset and so we drummers often spend much more time on our hands than our feet. Music however is structured from the bottom up and the more you can express your drumming naturally in that fashion the more grounded your groove will be. The focus of Part One of this series looks at the benefits of applying a variety of coordinated foot ostinato accompaniment to the Ritual. In many ways this approach pegs Alan's Ritual as "The gift that keeps on giving." I will not just throw a bunch of patterns at you and sign off - as if you'd ever even try them. Technique for technique's sake is not the goal. Instead we'll break the rhythms down methodically - so that they can serve a musical application and purpose.


Let's begin with a few standard hi-hat ostinatos:

Hi-Hat Ostinatos

When I employ any of these ostinatos in a groove or solo it's not because they are "stock" patterns I've learned, but rather a purposeful rhythm I choose to provide the best feel for the music in play. Example 1 is our old friend the backbeat. Let me tell you when I play the backbeat, it's not passive, even if it's whisper-soft. It is purposeful and felt, whether as celebratory as a tambourine in a gospel church, as big as Bonham's snare drum on one of Led Zeppelin's slow blues numbers, or as cool as a dapper gentleman I remember snapping his fingers to the shuffle of Art Blakey at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, I mean to make that backbeat swing hard - no matter the musical style. Example 2 illustrates the quarter-note pulse. If I use this rhythm, I mean to lock the time down rock-steady and bring the band - or my solo phrasing - together clearly and communicatively. Nothing does that as effectively as playing ... Right. On. The. Beat. If I use it at tempos approaching and surpassing 200 bpm, it shifts into a more intense, driving feeling much like the 8th-note rhythm in Example 4. More on that in a moment. Example 3 illustrates the 8th-notes on the upbeat of the bar. I will use this syncopation to achieve the very same feeling that defines it - upbeat! The lilt is infectious and irresistible when done right and, lest we forget, this rhythm is also the backbeat once again - in double-time! Example 4 - Play all the 8ths in the bar and you've got a serious rhythmic motor running - in moderate to moderately bright tempos. At extremely slow tempos it can lock a pulse in even stronger than the quarter-notes, and still offer space in the rhythm, but at fast tempos you can risk "choking" a groove with it as well. This also can be an easy rhythm to rush depending on how relaxed and well developed your foot technique is, so beware!


David StanochDavid Stanoch has has an eclectic background of experience performing with Sheryl Crow, Richard Davis, Herb Ellis, Keb 'Mo', New Kids On The Block, Bernard Purdie, Bonnie Paitt, Don Rickles, Martin Short, Butch Vig and Mary Wilson, among others. David has studied with Max Roach, Alan Dawson, Richard Davis, Elliot Fine, Jeff Hamilton, Ignacio Berroa and Chad Wackerman. A faculty member of the McNally Smith College of Music since 1990, David is also a contributing author to Modern Drummer, Drummer (UK), and PAS/MN magazines.