Beyond a Beat

haredrums

Silver Member
Hey Guys,

Recently I have been working on the idea of how to get "beyond a beat". That is to say, to master a new groove to the point where I can be as flexible with it as the music calls for me to be and not be stuck in a pattern. I wrote a piece about the process of trying to get to this point here:

http://haredrums.blogspot.com/2012/11/beyond-beat-part-1.html

So what I am wondering is, how do you guys take something beyond a beat? What do you think the most efficient/important part of this process is for you? Do you even think of mastering grooves this way or do you have a totally different concept?
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Good to see you again, Hare.

My approach to this has always been to listen to the musicians who play the beat I'm trying to learn and take my cues from them. I try to assimilate what they do, the variations they play, the fills, the phrases the other musicians play, etc. . In other words, steal or paraphrase their own stuff.

I like the idea of using Syncopation. I'm sure other texts would work as well.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
If I learn a new groove, say a half time shuffle for instance, I move "beyond the beat" only after the beat has been totally assimilated by me, however long that takes, sometimes fast, sometimes not. I only play things that come and feel naturally rather than consciously trying to think "beyond the beat". Thinking doesn't work for me. Thinking gets in my way onstage, feeling is everything onstage. I have to be able to play the beat unconsciously before any natural movement "beyond the beat" happens. And it does happen, after it is internalized. I guess some could force it by sheer will, but I don't like to work that hard lol. You're a high thinker Andrew.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
90% of the time, I let the music lead me, rather than try to change or influence the writer's material with my spin. When a song wants a straight beat, I know it. When it doesn't, I know that as well. If asked to experiment and try something really different, I'm happy to step outside of the box, but only when the other person prompts me.

The other 10% of the time, I do the same thing.

Bermuda
 

haredrums

Silver Member
This is an interesting range of responses.

8mile- Totally agree, getting vocabulary from the guys playing the groove is definitely one of the best ways to go. I will definitely be including that in the next part of the series!

Larryace- Absolutely agreed, you can't go beyond anything before you are there if you know what I mean! I also agree about over-thinking vs. feeling on the bandstand. In this case I am thinking more about how to prepare myself to be able to go where I feel when the time comes if that makes sense. Thanks for the kind words.

Bermuda- Well said. I suspect we are coming at this from different angles based on genre. When you "change or influence the writers material", are you talking about a written out drum part? What kind of musical situation are you generally in? I am curious, because I often find that written drum parts require a tremendous amount of interpretation "beyond the beat" so to speak. That is you have to play a lot of stuff that isn't written to really play a chart correctly. That being said, it again depends a great deal on genre.
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
I really like using Syncopation for this kind of stuff, for example I've been working since June on being able to keep a 2-3 rumba clave on my left hand and improvise freely on my right (I'm a leftie just in case). Syncopation has given me great results, especially the short 1 bar exercises just before the main Syncopation studies (p. 34 in the new version). I find these exercises more effective than the longer studies because it's easier to memorize and actually integrate into your vocabulary one single idea, then you can eventually string single ideas up into more complex, longer ones.

Also, I loved the short article "Play like it's fun!". We are so proud of David here!
 

haredrums

Silver Member
I really like using Syncopation for this kind of stuff, for example I've been working since June on being able to keep a 2-3 rumba clave on my left hand and improvise freely on my right (I'm a leftie just in case). Syncopation has given me great results, especially the short 1 bar exercises just before the main Syncopation studies (p. 34 in the new version). I find these exercises more effective than the longer studies because it's easier to memorize and actually integrate into your vocabulary one single idea, then you can eventually string single ideas up into more complex, longer ones.

Also, I loved the short article "Play like it's fun!". We are so proud of David here!
Yeah, he is a bad dude! Also a very kind/generous person.

I think you are absolutely right about Syncopation. The longer exercises can also be useful for practicing reading and keeping a groove going against continuously changing rhythms though. Sounds like a killer exercise!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
In this case I am thinking more about how to prepare myself to be able to go where I feel when the time comes if that makes sense.
Preparing yourself to be able to go where you feel. Interesting combination of skills. How do you prepare to feel? My application and method of doing this is practicing the single stroke roll. I try to get it as even and fast as I can. When you can do a fast even single stroke roll, your hands are moving fast enough that when playing anything else that's not blistering, you have the capability to drop notes in anywhere, at anytime, because your hands are fast. There's no bottleneck. The single stroke roll is the hardest rudiment IMO, and also the one that really propels your technique forward.

In my mind there are only a few strokes, singles, doubles, one handed triple strokes, one handed quad strokes, (may get some disagreement there) and flams. Everything else is just a combo of the above, my opinion only. Not trying to minimalize the coordination it takes to get combos to sound smooth, yes that takes much work and refinement, but really if you get the individual strokes happening on their own, the combos are just a mental coordination thing in my mind. Getting clean strokes is the hardest part for me. I find that getting clean and fast singles and doubles has such far reaching effects, that they allow you to play what you feel with no resistance or holdback from your hands.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
So what I am wondering is, how do you guys take something beyond a beat? What do you think the most efficient/important part of this process is for you? Do you even think of mastering grooves this way or do you have a totally different concept?
Great vid, and what a slick groove! :)

Really, though, you're learning to comp with the left hand against a guiero-ish samba ostinato. To anyone who has been through the basics of swing interdependence as found in Advanced Techniques, Art of Bop Drumming, or Time Functioning Patterns, this method makes sense, and it's an efficient process.

But if you haven't had that experience yet, the leap from simply playing a new right hand pattern to playing a bossa pattern or reading rhythms from Syncopation is just too large. To bridge this "coordination gap", a good intermediate step would be to first play only the right hand pattern (without the feet), and play many of the most basic rhythms with the left hand. For example, the first exercise would be to simply play a note on "one", leaving the rest of the measure vacant. Then, shift that note an 8th note to the right and play the remaining 7 possibilities. (Counting out loud is your best friend, here, so hopefully you're in the habit.)

Next, it's time to move onto pairs of notes, and their possibilities. At some point (and it will be different for each student), enough facility has been gained to acquire the desired pattern, and, eventually, the ability to read rhythms from Syncopation or New Breed against it. It's not necessary (or even advisable) to play every single permutation; play enough of them until the new groove or musical exercises seem within reach, then, go ahead and get musical! Of course, this a somewhat dull process, and won't make a very good video. Hard work doesn't usually film well. :/
 

mikel

Platinum Member
I love playing with a beat, Its the reason I drum, Once nailed its great to take it to other places, push and experiment.
It's the whole meaning of rock and roll.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Bermuda- Well said. I suspect we are coming at this from different angles based on genre. When you "change or influence the writers material", are you talking about a written out drum part? What kind of musical situation are you generally in? I am curious, because I often find that written drum parts require a tremendous amount of interpretation "beyond the beat" so to speak. That is you have to play a lot of stuff that isn't written to really play a chart correctly. That being said, it again depends a great deal on genre.
And it depends on the artist/producer/writer as well, and what they hear in their head when conveying what they'd like the drums to do. Some can be very specific, some are fine completely trusting that I'll know how to serve the song best, and some have a combination where they'll specify certain things, but leave the rest to me.

But when I'm allowed to do what I want, I always defer to the music, rather than assume I need to create a part that defines the song from behind the kit. That is, I never assume the drums are the lead instrument. Seems obvious, but I know musicians who try to make everything theirs, and it just doesn't work most of the time (and, neither do they!) Of course there are exceptions, and they're typically obvious. I know when something needs to be more drum-centric, and I play accordingly.

And there are exceptions to the obvious as well. That's why I cheerfully accept direction from the artist/writer/producer. They may want something deliberately different than what's expected, and it's much easier to follow their lead than to fumble around looking for parts..

And when in doubt, I simply do what the pros have done. If a certain drum part sounded great on a song last year or 10 or 40 years ago, it will still sound great today. I'm not trying to innovate or re-invent the wheel, I just play drums and serve the music.

Bermuda
 
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haredrums

Silver Member
Preparing yourself to be able to go where you feel. Interesting combination of skills. How do you prepare to feel? My application and method of doing this is practicing the single stroke roll. I try to get it as even and fast as I can. When you can do a fast even single stroke roll, your hands are moving fast enough that when playing anything else that's not blistering, you have the capability to drop notes in anywhere, at anytime, because your hands are fast. There's no bottleneck. The single stroke roll is the hardest rudiment IMO, and also the one that really propels your technique forward.

In my mind there are only a few strokes, singles, doubles, one handed triple strokes, one handed quad strokes, (may get some disagreement there) and flams. Everything else is just a combo of the above, my opinion only. Not trying to minimalize the coordination it takes to get combos to sound smooth, yes that takes much work and refinement, but really if you get the individual strokes happening on their own, the combos are just a mental coordination thing in my mind. Getting clean strokes is the hardest part for me. I find that getting clean and fast singles and doubles has such far reaching effects, that they allow you to play what you feel with no resistance or holdback from your hands.
I agree with you about the importance of technique, particularly singles and doubles. Without that foundation you can't really get too much else happening on the instrument. And having that foundation will facilitate a lot more musical possibilities.

However, for me I think just working on singles and then expecting that to translate into successfully moving beyond just playing a beat seems to be missing a few steps in the middle. There are so many specific things that I work on that although they could be broken down to singles and doubles on some fundamental level, still need to be practiced relentlessly in order to be felt properly. To me, without this work in the middle (I suppose this is essentially what I mean by "preparing to go where I feel") I would not feel equipped to go beyond a beat. That is why I started the series on the blog, to try to capture this work in the middle and share it/get feedback.

Thanks for your thoughts Larry!
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Great vid, and what a slick groove! :)

Really, though, you're learning to comp with the left hand against a guiero-ish samba ostinato. To anyone who has been through the basics of swing interdependence as found in Advanced Techniques, Art of Bop Drumming, or Time Functioning Patterns, this method makes sense, and it's an efficient process.

But if you haven't had that experience yet, the leap from simply playing a new right hand pattern to playing a bossa pattern or reading rhythms from Syncopation is just too large. To bridge this "coordination gap", a good intermediate step would be to first play only the right hand pattern (without the feet), and play many of the most basic rhythms with the left hand. For example, the first exercise would be to simply play a note on "one", leaving the rest of the measure vacant. Then, shift that note an 8th note to the right and play the remaining 7 possibilities. (Counting out loud is your best friend, here, so hopefully you're in the habit.)

Next, it's time to move onto pairs of notes, and their possibilities. At some point (and it will be different for each student), enough facility has been gained to acquire the desired pattern, and, eventually, the ability to read rhythms from Syncopation or New Breed against it. It's not necessary (or even advisable) to play every single permutation; play enough of them until the new groove or musical exercises seem within reach, then, go ahead and get musical! Of course, this a somewhat dull process, and won't make a very good video. Hard work doesn't usually film well. :/
Thanks, I'm so glad you like it!

Yeah, exactly right with the point about comping. I also agree that my process would not work well for a beginner/someone who hadn't gone through a similar process before. As you say, starting with much simpler variations would definitely be the way to go in that case. I think the point about getting solid on a single variation before moving on to any permutations is essential. This series is really about me sharing the process that I go through, although I am definitely also looking for feedback/perspective!

On that note I am curious, what sort of process do you go through for yourself (not for your students)?
 

haredrums

Silver Member
And it depends on the artist/producer/writer as well, and what they hear in their head when conveying what they'd like the drums to do. Some can be very specific, some are fine completely trusting that I'll know how to serve the song best, and some have a combination where they'll specify certain things, but leave the rest to me.

But when I'm allowed to do what I want, I always defer to the music, rather than assume I need to create a part that defines the song from behind the kit. That is, I never assume the drums are the lead instrument. Seems obvious, but I know musicians who try to make everything theirs, and it just doesn't work most of the time (and, neither do they!) Of course there are exceptions, and they're typically obvious. I know when something needs to be more drum-centric, and I play accordingly.

And there are exceptions to the obvious as well. That's why I cheerfully accept direction from the artist/writer/producer. They may want something deliberately different than what's expected, and it's much easier to follow their lead than to fumble around looking for parts..

And when in doubt, I simply do what the pros have done. If a certain drum part sounded great on a song last year or 10 or 40 years ago, it will still sound great today. I'm not trying to innovate or re-invent the wheel, I just play drums and serve the music.

Bermuda
That is an excellent point about letting the music dictate and not imposing a drum part. What I am curious about is, what sorts of things do you do prepare yourself to let the music dictate? More specifically, if you are in a situation where you are learning a new groove/style for a song, but you don't want to be locked into to only playing one pattern because your instincts are that the music is calling for more flexibility?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
That is an excellent point about letting the music dictate and not imposing a drum part. What I am curious about is, what sorts of things do you do prepare yourself to let the music dictate?
I don't really prepare, I just do. I suppose what I do is based on years of playing, and also absorbing what other drummers have done. If a part is tried & true, and applies to the song at hand, I'm not going to fight it. Most songs want a certain part, maybe a few different parts would also serve it well, but there are an infinite number of parts that unquestionably don't work, and I know not to investigate them.

Maybe that's how I arrive at parts... process of elimination. I know what not to do.

More specifically, if you are in a situation where you are learning a new groove/style for a song, but you don't want to be locked into to only playing one pattern because your instincts are that the music is calling for more flexibility?
Unless a song changes its feel/style - and some certainly do - it doesn't need more than one pattern per section (intro, cadenza, verse, b-section, chorus, bridge or solo.) And unless a song needs to build from start to finish, I play the verses, choruses, etc. pretty much the same way each time around. If a build is required, I simply build on the particular part, but I don't change it. I add to it in a progressive manner, so that the sections evolve rather than make hairpin turns.

Never had to think about this stuff before, but it re-affirms for me that the music governs what I play, not the other way around.

Bermuda
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
On that note I am curious, what sort of process do you go through for yourself (not for your students)?
If I tell you, you'll get better, and I won't get paid for any lessons! :) Kidding, of course!

It's going to sound like a cop-out, but my approach changes depending on the material and what I want to do with it. Getting "beyond a beat" is usually first about improvising with one limb, and then usually I need to practice "pivoting" between the new groove and a more familiar one, so that I can transition into and out of it seamlessly. I like to make both grooves different, for example I might practice a few bars of bossa, then a few bars of Purdie shuffle or jazz ballad brush groove. Lately, I've been modulating to related tempos where certain grooves feel better to play (got that from a lesson with Jonathan Mover), and then modulating back. Transitions give me hell, but I feel more in control of the new thing when I can segue confidently to or from other (distantly related) things.

With your brush-bossa groove, I might work on some left-foot comping. I really like the sound of a foot hi-hat note followed by a hand hi-hat note for some reason, so I work on that whenever I have a repeating figure in the right hand. Also, I would like to try interpreting the comping figures as "sweeps" in the right hand. I might never be able to mix all of this together!
 
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