Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Swing Control

Due to many requests for some more frequent lessons here at Four on The Floor, here's something to chew on. Hopefully you've all been keeping busy over at Jesse Cahill, Todd Bishop and Ted Warren's great blogs where they've been posting great things to practice and think about. I know I've been!

Today's lesson deals with phrasing sticking patterns and exercises from George Lawrence Stone's book "Stick Control" with the goal of making them swing.


A simple, basic exercise that I like to work on involves the following:

1) Playing the lines from Stick Control on the snare drum while playing a basic 4/4 swing pattern with my feet
(ie. 2&4 on the hihat and either feathering the bass drum on all four beats or playing a two-feel/beats 1 & 3).

You could also get fancy and incorporate a Brazilian bossa nova/samba or a Cuban tumbao bass drum pattern and/or play quarter notes with your hihat.

2) Furthermore, I would practice the eighth-notes both straight and then with a swing/shuffle feel.

I found this exercise a very helpful way for me to develop my touch on the snare drum and tune myself to simple, swinging snare drum phrases.


A variation that I've been working on lately deals with the swung/shuffle version described above.

Play the patterns as I've described above however, start the patterns on the + of beat 4 instead of beat one, therefore anticipating the phrase by an eighth-note.

Line 1 RLRL of Stick Control would then look like this:

Line 5 RLRR LRLL would look like this:

I've found this to be a great way to develop how to hear and play syncopated eighth note phrases that can be used as the basis for solos, trading and fills while swinging.

A couple of other things to think about:

-Experiment with playing accents at the beginning of each line and ending with an accent on the last beat

-Accent the beginning of each four notes

-Try starting the phrases on the all the different upbeats of the bar.

For example: the + of 1, + of 2, + of 3 and + of 4

-Spread these patterns and phrase variations around the rest of the drum set and cymbals

I've found these variations very useful in terms of developing a swing feel on the snare drum and for developing vocabulary.

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