The key to swing drumming

Tornado

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Early on, I watched Ed Soph do an entire set with brushes from maybe 15 feet away, but I was so green that it all shot right over my head. I was impressed, but I didn't know how to process it.

Ha, same with me. And then even more later on. Ed's brush playing is masterful of course, but Ralph's really spoke to me. It was just so powerful.
 

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It’s an interesting video and I have practiced his “throw up” exercise for a few days now, though I’m not sure I feel much improvement to my swing just yet. Maybe it was pretty decent to begin with :). Anyhow, at one point he shows this chart and in referring to the first three lines, talks about a bass player being able to play the four beats of the measure as either quarters, eighths, or sixteenths. He then talks about drummers being able to do the same thing on the ride cymbal, but what he really means, and what he is really getting at with the throw up exercise, is we are moving our ride stroke in the feel of quarters, similar to how an upright bassist plays quarters with a circular motion, rather than shorter movements. Obviously we can’t get a cymbal to sound out for just a single eighth note unless we are then muting it for an eighth rest, as a bassist can do. So he seems to say that quarter notes that swing well do so because of the movement of our ride stroke. Trying to play quarters with less of a stroke sounds choppy. But then again, it doesn’t feel natural to me to even try playing like that. So for me, yes, the throw up exercise and moving my arm in the feel of quarter notes makes sense. Back to practicing it!
71CC6C8B-9E1D-4588-B8B3-24E45FC96808.jpeg
 

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It’s an interesting video and I have practiced his “throw up” exercise for a few days now, though I’m not sure I feel much improvement to my swing just yet. Maybe it was pretty decent to begin with :). Anyhow, at one point he shows this chart and in referring to the first three lines, talks about a bass player being able to play the four beats of the measure as either quarters, eighths, or sixteenths. He then talks about drummers being able to do the same thing on the ride cymbal, but what he really means, and what he is really getting at with the throw up exercise, is we are moving our ride stroke in the feel of quarters, similar to how an upright bassist plays quarters with a circular motion, rather than shorter movements. Obviously we can’t get a cymbal to sound out for just a single eighth note unless we are then muting it for an eighth rest, as a bassist can do. So he seems to say that quarter notes that swing well do so because of the movement of our ride stroke. Trying to play quarters with less of a stroke sounds choppy. But then again, it doesn’t feel natural to me to even try playing like that. So for me, yes, the throw up exercise and moving my arm in the feel of quarter notes makes sense. Back to practicing it!
View attachment 537955
What stands out in my mind that makes his method “ work “ is that the tip of the stick doesn’t come to a stop …
 

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The term throw up is a terrible way to describe what he does .
It’s more like throwing dice and letting stick come back effortlessly.
 

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Okay after working on this some and then going and actually playing some music, I can definitely feel my quarter notes swing much better.
 

nanashi

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During an interview, Duke Ellington was asked to explain swing. His response was " If I have to explain it to you, you will never understand". The ability to swing is not an intellectual exercise, it's about the feel. Talking about note values does not work because they change at different tempos. The faster the tempo, the more compressed the note value, a triplet becomes an eighth note, etc. Also, a good player can swing playing straight quarter notes. It's something one develops more from playing than following some format. Some drummers never get it.
 

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During an interview, Duke Ellington was asked to explain swing. His response was " If I have to explain it to you, you will never understand". The ability to swing is not an intellectual exercise, it's about the feel. Talking about note values does not work because they change at different tempos. The faster the tempo, the more compressed the note value, a triplet becomes an eighth note, etc. Also, a good player can swing playing straight quarter notes. It's something one develops more from playing than following some format. Some drummers never get it.
I think it's seductive to think that we're the kind of person in the in-crowd, who gets the thing that just can't be taught. Just because Duke couldn't explain it doesn't mean it's unexplainable, and maybe the attempt to explain it ruins the magic for some who already intuitively understand it, but I imagine people who don't get it but want to must resent the heck out of statements like that ("Sorry--you just weren't born as cool as the rest of us."), and certainly aren't offended by those unicorn-killing explanation attempts.
 

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I don't know what the key to swing drumming is, and won't pretend to.
All the great drummers I've ever seen in any genre all seems super relaxed, and confident in their craft
 

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During an interview, Duke Ellington was asked to explain swing. His response was " If I have to explain it to you, you will never understand". The ability to swing is not an intellectual exercise, it's about the feel. Talking about note values does not work because they change at different tempos. The faster the tempo, the more compressed the note value, a triplet becomes an eighth note, etc. Also, a good player can swing playing straight quarter notes. It's something one develops more from playing than following some format. Some drummers never get it.
I can tell you didn't watch the video because Daniel Glass literally talks about quarter notes, not the skip notes that change at different tempos. Disagree if you must, but at least know what you're disagreeing with. It's not that much effort.
 

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During an interview, Duke Ellington was asked to explain swing. His response was " If I have to explain it to you, you will never understand". The ability to swing is not an intellectual exercise, it's about the feel. Talking about note values does not work because they change at different tempos. The faster the tempo, the more compressed the note value, a triplet becomes an eighth note, etc. Also, a good player can swing playing straight quarter notes. It's something one develops more from playing than following some format. Some drummers never get it.
Yup , another guy who didn’t watch the video ….geez
 

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I think it's seductive to think that we're the kind of person in the in-crowd, who gets the thing that just can't be taught. Just because Duke couldn't explain it doesn't mean it's unexplainable, and maybe the attempt to explain it ruins the magic for some who already intuitively understand it, but I imagine people who don't get it but want to must resent the heck out of statements like that ("Sorry--you just weren't born as cool as the rest of us."), and certainly aren't offended by those unicorn-killing explanation attempts.
Yes - and it is not as though every bit of instruction exists to "explain it" or to directly enable understanding - lots of (maybe most) instruction exists to just help the player move one step further down the path.

And yes, everyone has to travel a path to great playing - Nobody and I mean, nobody is born a great player. And IMO every insinuation that they are amounts to... someone looking at what they are currently able to do and without zero knowledge of the the work they done to acquire that skills, dismisses that work, demeans their effort as inconsequential... because "Well some people are just born with it".

Not wanting to confront the more likely truth that support, opportunity, encouragement, sacrifice and just the willingness to single-mindedly, relentlessly, obsessively do the work and expend the time and effort required.

Practice.jpg
 

nanashi

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I did not watch the video and I was not commenting on the video. I was commenting on the concept of swing, and the responses and attempts to explain it. You can analyze it all you want but it does not mean a thing once you get on the band stand, you can play all the things you think you know perfectly, that does not necessarily result in one being able to swing. Being able to play an eighth note pattern does not mean you can automatically get a groove. Some people have it, others can develop it and others will remain hopeless, no matter much it is explained to them. It's no different. In regard to Duke, if you are listening, you either feel it or you don't. Someone may give you pointers on what to listen for, but that does not necessarily translate into feeling it. By listening, one can learn to understand it.
 

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Yes - and it is not as though every bit of instruction exists to "explain it" or to directly enable understanding - lots of (maybe most) instruction exists to just help the player move one step further down the path.

And yes, everyone has to travel a path to great playing - Nobody and I mean, nobody is born a great player. And IMO every insinuation that they are amounts to... someone looking at what they are currently able to do and without zero knowledge of the the work they done to acquire that skills, dismisses that work, demeans their effort as inconsequential... because "Well some people are just born with it".

Not wanting to confront the more likely truth that support, opportunity, encouragement, sacrifice and just the willingness to single-mindedly, relentlessly, obsessively do the work and expend the time and effort required.

View attachment 538951
You are correct, no one is born a great player, however some people are born with a greater sense of rhythm and an innate ability swing or find a groove. And yes, some people can develop it. But practice and highly developed technique does not automatically lead to it.
 

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You are correct, no one is born a great player, however some people are born with a greater sense of rhythm and an innate ability swing or find a groove. And yes, some people can develop it. But practice and highly developed technique does not automatically lead to it.
The thing is - that is really an unprovable hypothesis (at least, not until someone maps out that "sense of rhythm" gene). Each of us from day one - have different experiences... the sounds we are exposed to, how in combination with other things in our environment we react to the those sounds. Seriously, just the effect of the right "good job" words of encouragement while clapping or singing along to music can have a profound effect on how confident we are when interacting with music later on.

I know this is the nature vs. nuture argument. But for me, there are just too many tangible factors in growing up that vary so wildly to allow me to believe in any magical combination of genetic material determining whether someone is able to become a great bebop player or not.

Again it's just an easy answer - that casually dismisses, not just the player's hardwork, not just in the shed.... but in life. Conquering fears, facing rejection and on and on. While also dismissing that player's parents, his family, friends, teachers, schools, communities, society....

IMO a great player is certainly the result of good fortune.... it takes running the gauntlet of a near perfect storm to emerge a world class player.... with hundreds, no thousands of individual life moments that each have to be negotiated successfully in order to actually climb to that height.

Get most of right - negotiate 98% of the opportunities that arise (to play, to improve, to learn, etc) absolutely perfectly and sure a great player will emerge... but not one of THE players.

Again I stick by my post - IMO the only way birth has anything to do with it, is the advantages of being being born into a better support system than someone else. But even that isn't a given - as tons of wannabe players squander that advantage - and many others succeed through working around and through it.
 

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Drive. Some are born with Drive. Can't practice drive. Either driven- toward something- or ya aren't
 

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Drive. Some are born with Drive. Can't practice drive. Either driven- toward something- or ya aren't
No 1/2 thumbs up to give. Talent, it comes easily to some, but impossible to others. A ball player can have all the drive in the world, PED's, the best coaches etc etc, but will never in their lives throw a ball 90 mph.
If someone has the drive, and the talent, the trainings, plus the intangibles, I feel those are the guy's who can get to a level most others can't.
Some things can't be taught to that high level
 

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The thing is - that is really an unprovable hypothesis (at least, not until someone maps out that "sense of rhythm" gene). Each of us from day one - have different experiences... the sounds we are exposed to, how in combination with other things in our environment we react to the those sounds. Seriously, just the effect of the right "good job" words of encouragement while clapping or singing along to music can have a profound effect on how confident we are when interacting with music later on.

I know this is the nature vs. nuture argument. But for me, there are just too many tangible factors in growing up that vary so wildly to allow me to believe in any magical combination of genetic material determining whether someone is able to become a great bebop player or not.

Again it's just an easy answer - that casually dismisses, not just the player's hardwork, not just in the shed.... but in life. Conquering fears, facing rejection and on and on. While also dismissing that player's parents, his family, friends, teachers, schools, communities, society....

IMO a great player is certainly the result of good fortune.... it takes running the gauntlet of a near perfect storm to emerge a world class player.... with hundreds, no thousands of individual life moments that each have to be negotiated successfully in order to actually climb to that height.

Get most of right - negotiate 98% of the opportunities that arise (to play, to improve, to learn, etc) absolutely perfectly and sure a great player will emerge... but not one of THE players.

Again I stick by my post - IMO the only way birth has anything to do with it, is the advantages of being being born into a better support system than someone else. But even that isn't a given - as tons of wannabe players squander that advantage - and many others succeed through working around and through it.
I have no argument about the work needed to be a great player, however, we are talking about the ability to swing. There are a lot of technically great drummers out there, some that I have known over the years and respect highly, that could not swing their way out of a wet paper bag. Technically, they do everything right, however, there is something that eludes them. Before I go on, I will admit there are different perceptions of swing. Anyway, regarding nature vs. nuture, prodigies and savants don't fit into your model. What about perfect pitch. Dizzy was known to have a perfect sense of time, he would wear drummers out. Same with Sahib Shihab. He would joke about standing between Max and Blakey, on the Gretsch nights, beating four on a cowbell yelling " Time bad person'rs. During a playback, during Miriam Makeba's last session in the states, she was bothered by an anomaly in the time of one of the songs. In a room of musicians, I cannot remember who was on the session, no one could hear what she was complaining about until the engineer noticed someone had brushed against a knob and it had moved a fraction of an inch. Where did this ability come from? I know Dizzy and Sahib did not sleep with a metronome growing up, and there was nothing special about their childhoods. So yes, I would say people are born with different abilities, and that also applies to the ability to swing. To some people it comes naturally and others can develop it, the same as some can develop relative pitch., and there are others that will never get it, no matter how how much work they put into it. I stand by my statement.
 


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