Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Thoughts on Comping Part IV

How to Hear Figures

The whole point of playing an instrument is to make meaningful sounds in a musical context. Comping is the art of making sounds that compliment a soloist. We can take a cue from Be-bop and use a mnemonic device to help us hear common comping figures. The term 'be-bop' itself came from the vocalization of a rhythmic figure that dominated the music:
It's a good practice to hear sounds internally to better produce them on your instrument.  Once a figure is internalized, it's easier to play and will sound more musical when applied to the drums. The be-bop mnemonic technique can be applied to most figures. Here are the vocalizing sounds I like to use to help me hear figures and rhythms:
Short Tones:  bap, bup
Long Tones:  Doo, Bah, Dah
Medium Tones: buh
Silence:  umm, mmm

Try adding these mnemonics to the figures in the Ted Reed ‘Syncopation’ book as you play them (see Thoughts on Comping Part III). If you have any charts you’re working on, try the mnemonics there as well to add a more musical element to the figures. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Thoughts on Comping Part III

Comping Practice using Ted Reed’s “Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer”

You can use the various syncopation exercises in Ted Reed’s landmark book * as a source for common comping figures, but you need to reinterpret them slightly to fit into a musical context. Rarely would you play a four-bar phrase of one syncopated pattern, let alone repeat it for eight bars or more, as exercise books often imply. Comping is often done over a single bar or perhaps two bars, and it should always fit into the musical phrasing.

Start with Syncopation Exercise #2 on page 34. (Exercise #1 shows variations on how the patterns might be written). Begin by playing a single bar of swing time on the cymbal, with hi-hat on 2 & 4, bass drum lightly playing quarter notes. Then play one bar of the first syncopation figure on the snare drum while playing time on the ride cymbal.

E.g.:     /  1 bar of time  /  1 bar of line 1  /   1 bar of time   /  1 bar of line 2  /  etc…

Play each figure only once and work your way down the page. Then go back to the top and do it again. Practice at various tempos, slow to fast, and listen to the phrases as you play them. Also reverse: 1 bar of line 1 followed by one bar of time.

When you become comfortable with this, move on to 4-bar phrases by playing 2 bars of time followed 2 bars of the syncopated figures.

E.g.:     /  2 bars of time  / 2 bars of line 1  /  2 bars of time   /  2 bars of line 2  / etc…

Work on all the figures from the exercises on pages 34 through 45 and also play them with music.

Your next step would be to play the figures on the bass drum. Then move the figures around the drum set, and between your hands and feet.

* Any book that has comparable syncopation exercises will work just as well.

Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer(C)  1937 Ted Reed
Alfred Publishing Co.
ISBN-10: 0882847953
ISBN-13: 978-0882847955