Rhythm and melody, two different diciplines?

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
However, I would argue that just about every drummer that is universally respected/emulated has strong elements of melody in their playing whether they think of it that way or not.

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Andrew I like your kind and gentle way of introducing new tricks to people like me. I would very much be interested in your exercises for developing my melodic side, thank you for the generous offer.

From the part I quoted above, are you saying that I could already be incorporating some melody in my drum solos without my knowing it? Of course you'd have to hear one of my solos to make that determination, but you make it sound like it's possible that I'm doing it already, which would support the fact that I really don't know what I'm doing in a solo lol.
 

Anduin

Pioneer Member
Wow! I see that the confusion I tried to clear up is still rampant.

A true melody is made up of distinct pitches. Yes, my cymbals all sound different: some sound high, and some sound low, and some sound in between. I can play a solo on all those cymbals, and there will indeed be higher sounds and lower sounds. BUT THAT’S NOT A MELODY in the literal meaning of the word. Why? Because you can’t listen to any one cymbal and reasonably tell me that it’s playing e.g. an A flat. A drum kit just doesn’t work that way (Bozzio excepted).

When somebody like Keith Carlock talks about playing melodies he is NOT talking about playing a series of pitches. He’s talking about a series of SOUNDS. Some are high, some are low. But they are not distinct pitches. In this usage, “melody” is a metaphor, and that’s why we’re not all talking about the same thing.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Andrew I like your kind and gentle way of introducing new tricks to people like me. I would very much be interested in your exercises for developing my melodic side, thank you for the generous offer.

From the part I quoted above, are you saying that I could already be incorporating some melody in my drum solos without my knowing it? Of course you'd have to hear one of my solos to make that determination, but you make it sound like it's possible that I'm doing it already, which would support the fact that I really don't know what I'm doing in a solo lol.
Thanks Larry,

Absolutely! I think almost everyone does. Thinking melodically doesn't mean you have to change everything you are playing. It is just another angle to approach the drums from and can help you get a closer connection with the music.

I know you love warm up exercises that help you really focus on basic elements of hitting the drums, so here is the warm up exercise from my book to start with:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/77678427/The-Caravan-Warmup

A couple of things I should probably say about this:

1. This is written from the perspective of a jazz musician, and I am worried that some of this music may not speak to you the way it does to me. If that is the case you could potentially find different melodies that could substitute for the ones I use. That being said, try giving this stuff a shot. Learning a Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol melody is certainly not going to hurt you, you might even dig it!

2. I don't know how much time you have spent messing with the Moeller stroke. I know I didn't have any understanding of it until I started checking out JoJo Mayers DVD. After a couple years of using this warm up that I developed I can honestly say that the Moeller has become a huge part of my technique, and I feel enormously excited about how I can find new ways to expand my vocabulary with it. However, if you really have no desire to learn the Moeller this warm up could potentially be adapted to another kind of stroke (I haven't really thought this out).

Here is a link to some video of me doing this exercise:

http://haredrums.blogspot.com/2011/05/caravan-warmup-part-1.html

If you have ANY questions about this at all or you feel like it is too much don't hesitate to ask (on here or you can just message me). I really love talking about and sharing this stuff, so just let me know! Good luck!
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Wow! I see that the confusion I tried to clear up is still rampant.

A true melody is made up of distinct pitches. Yes, my cymbals all sound different: some sound high, and some sound low, and some sound in between.
How do those high, low, and in-between sounds not qualify as distinct pitches? I guess they're at least distinctly high, low, and so on.

I can play a solo on all those cymbals, and there will indeed be higher sounds and lower sounds. BUT THAT’S NOT A MELODY in the literal meaning of the word.
What are we supposed to call it then? Is there another musical term I am unaware of to refer to changes in pitch in a musical line?

Why? Because you can’t listen to any one cymbal and reasonably tell me that it’s playing e.g. an A flat. A drum kit just doesn’t work that way (Bozzio excepted).
...and? I need you to tell me why you believe the term refers only to tempered (or “distinct”, as you call it) pitch, and what term you would have me use to refer to changes in untempered pitch.

When somebody like Keith Carlock talks about playing melodies he is NOT talking about playing a series of pitches. He’s talking about a series of SOUNDS. Some are high, some are low. But they are not distinct pitches. In this usage, “melody” is a metaphor, and that’s why we’re not all talking about the same thing.
It's not a metaphor, it's the correct, literal application of the term— one of them, anyway.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Anduin, you should check out some of the microtonal alternate scale and temperment things some folks are doing with retuned pianos, remapped synths, and so on. Or Steve Kimock on fretless guitar. It is melody without using the conventional tempered western scale most folks are used to.
 

Wavelength

Platinum Member
Anduin, you should check out some of the microtonal alternate scale and temperment things some folks are doing with retuned pianos, remapped synths, and so on. Or Steve Kimock on fretless guitar. It is melody without using the conventional tempered western scale most folks are used to.
Furthermore, the very pitch of the note A has changed over the years quite drastically. Only recently it has been standardised as 440 Hz... or 442 Hz.... or somewhere in the ballpark. Pitch is a convention, and pitch perception is subjective and tied into context.
 

phfreq

Member
I think it all boils down to semantics and how each person processes information/stimuli. Everybody is different.

Personally, I think of it this way:

0) A note has pitch and duration and pitch is the perceived fundamental frequency. So technically, any sound will generate a note

1) Melody is the arrangement of notes horizontally (along time)
2) Harmony is the arrangment of note vertically (at one instant of time)
3) Rhythm is the arrangement/pattern of presence and absence of sounds (along time)

4) A song has a base structure comprised of the above elements and it depends on the players/listeners if they want to extend or reduce or stick to that base structure.
Some songs (or musicians/leaders) require strict adherence to structure while some give a bit of freedom.


With the way I think of it, every song will have all of those, just depends on how one hears/processes the stimuli and what's being called for.
 

Anduin

Pioneer Member
Anduin, you should check out some of the microtonal alternate scale and temperment things some folks are doing with retuned pianos, remapped synths, and so on. Or Steve Kimock on fretless guitar. It is melody without using the conventional tempered western scale most folks are used to.
I have, and there’s a lot of very cool stuff fitting that general description.

But melodies in those cases are still playing a series of distinct pitches. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Western scale, microtonal, pentatonic, or whatever. The common feature is that each note has 1 and only 1 distinct frequency that our brains perceive as a definite pitch.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I think it all boils down to semantics and how each person processes information/stimuli. Everybody is different.

Personally, I think of it this way:

0) A note has pitch and duration and pitch is the perceived fundamental frequency. So technically, any sound will generate a note

1) Melody is the arrangement of notes horizontally (along time)
2) Harmony is the arrangment of note vertically (at one instant of time)
3) Rhythm is the arrangement/pattern of presence and absence of sounds (along time)

4) A song has a base structure comprised of the above elements and it depends on the players/listeners if they want to extend or reduce or stick to that base structure.
Some songs (or musicians/leaders) require strict adherence to structure while some give a bit of freedom.


With the way I think of it, every song will have all of those, just depends on how one hears/processes the stimuli and what's being called for.
I really like this post
 

Anduin

Pioneer Member
Hi Todd,

How do those high, low, and in-between sounds not qualify as distinct pitches? I guess they're at least distinctly high, low, and so on.
Cymbal sounds do not qualify as distinct pitches because, to be a bit recursive, they are not distinct pitches! What I mean is, if you listen to any cymbal, you won’t hear 1 and only 1 dominant pitch. Compare that to a note on a vibraphone: both are pieces of metal that you strike, but the vibes key plays a distinct, identifiable pitch, and the cymbal sounds a series of frequencies so complicated that our minds don’t find any 1 dominant note.

If cymbals played distinct notes, we’d either change our cymbal setup each time the band changed key, or we’d destroy all musicality in every song.

I’m not spouting opinion so much as describing physics and psychoacoustics.


What are we supposed to call it then? Is there another musical term I am unaware of to refer to changes in pitch in a musical line?
You can call a series of percussive sounds a phrase. Or something. Clearly, you’ve hit the bullseye of the problem here. Because there is no great answer to your question, Keith Carlock etc. have taken to using “melody” as a metaphor to describe percussive phrases. The result was (1) a way to talk about their playing, and (2) a way to confuse the on-line drumming community.


...and? I need you to tell me why you believe the term refers only to tempered (or “distinct”, as you call it) pitch, and what term you would have me use to refer to changes in untempered pitch.
I’m not talking about tempered pitches. A reasonable definition of “pitch” is this: 1 particular audio frequency within hearing range. Doesn’t matter if you can find it on a modern Western keyboard instrument. But you WILL find any pitch on a (fretless) stringed instrument somewhere in the violin-bass range.

It's not a metaphor, it's the correct, literal application of the term— one of them, anyway.
I suspect that if we asked a group of non-drummer musicians what “melody” means, a total of zero would mention anything other than clearly-defined pitches.

At the end of the day, while I can’t play actual melodies on my drums, using “melody” as a metaphor does give me a reasonable way to describe percussive phrasing. So it’s great for communicating among drummers, but probably confusing to non-drummers.
 

Anduin

Pioneer Member
Furthermore, the very pitch of the note A has changed over the years quite drastically. Only recently it has been standardised as 440 Hz... or 442 Hz.... or somewhere in the ballpark. Pitch is a convention, and pitch perception is subjective and tied into context.
Well, yes and no.

Declaring A to be 440 Hz is indeed a convention. Just something that people made up and agreed to.

But a frequency is a frequency. Air pressure is fluctuating in a certain way. It doesn’t matter what the context is at that point, it’s pure physics.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
From someone who until yesterday or so thought of drums in strictly rhythmic terms....the fact that we have high pitched drums and cymbals, and low pitched drums and cymbals...that creates the necessary elements for melody as it is traditionally thought of, albeit limited.

And yes they are not definite pitches, and yes, we don't have all the notes at our disposable (generally speaking). But we do have high pitches and low pitches. That's enough. Mary had a little lamb is 3 maybe 4 notes. And it's a melody. We have at least 3 notes. It may not be melody in strictly theory based accepted intervals but there are intervals. So one could infer that drums are capable of at least mimicking crude melody, with the limited amount of pitches available.

I just never thought of the notes I play in terms of pitches, just rhythms. Now I realize, because of this discussion, that in the past, I have consciously made pitch decisions when I feel that this or that would sound better played on my high tom rather than my floor tom. So if I'm making pitch decisions.... in my mind you can't have melody without pitch variations. And reversed, pitch variations automatically by default mean some sort of melody. Does that mean I was thinking "melodically" all along but just never recognized it? Yea, I think so.
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
From someone who until yesterday or so thought of drums in strictly rhythmic terms....the fact that we have high pitched drums and cymbals, and low pitched drums and cymbals...that creates the necessary elements for melody as it is traditionally thought of. albeit limited.

And yes they are not definite pitches, and yes, we don't have all the notes at our disposable (generally speaking). But we do have high pitches and low pitches. That's enough. It may not be melody in accepted intervals but ther are intervals. So one could infer that drums are capable of at least mimicking crude melody, with the limited amount of pitches available.

I just never thought of the notes I play in terms of pitches, just rhythms. Now I realize, because of this discussion, that in the past I have consciously made pitch decisions when I feel that this or that would sound better played on my high tom than the floor tom. Does that mean I was thinking "melodically" all along but just never recognized it? Yea, I think so.
you make me proud uncle Lar

I hope to grow up and be just like you one day

:)
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
NOTE to Bermuda, Bernard, and Arky :

I vote we change Larrys status from Platinum Member to Uncle Larry

lets make it happen

:)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Thanks Anthony for your help me to get here. Everyone else too. None of this would be possible in my own head, you saw how stupid I was being.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Larry, welcome to the melodic club. I think some folks are hung up on the definition of pitch as a pure tone. Although every drum tuning thread uses the term extensively. Outside of a flute or a single drawbar on a Hammond, there are very few pure pitches. Once you start pulling out the other drawbars you're into some mix of fundamental and overtones. The mix of overtones to fundamental in cymbals is higher than it is for toms, but we still perceive relative pitches.

I've long loved but not really understood the linear gospel chop thing. But here's a simplified bit that I've discovered and been working on that involved picking melodic elements. 8th notes at around 100 BPM out of some basic 4/4 funk beat. RLKKRLKK (to get out of it you substitute the last kick for a hand so you can come down on the 1 with a kick and crash together). If you get them even it starts to get that sound, doesn't need to be blazing triplets. Move the R and L around the kit. Cymbals and especially closed hats with the left hand are fair game. Now it really starts to have that thing. And you start thinking of which sound you want to use for each hand. Do you want the melody to ascend? Or descend? Stay here, or go there? At that speed its also fairly easy to reverse the hands so that you can easily ascend from the floor tom to the shell tom, snare or hat. So you start creating little melodies; dee-da-do-do, ba-dee-do-da, and so on. The great thing about this is that you create this little melodic statement without disrupting the groove.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Thanks Aeolin. Slowly the folds of my brain are yielding to this concept. The process has officially started.

Just another totally free pearl of wisdom made possible by Bernhard and the staff at DW.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Cymbal sounds do not qualify as distinct pitches because, to be a bit recursive, they are not distinct pitches! What I mean is, if you listen to any cymbal, you won’t hear 1 and only 1 dominant pitch. Compare that to a note on a vibraphone: both are pieces of metal that you strike, but the vibes key plays a distinct, identifiable pitch, and the cymbal sounds a series of frequencies so complicated that our minds don’t find any 1 dominant note.
It doesn't matter if the timbre is too complex to easily pick out the fundamental. As you mentioned you have high, medium, and low pitched sounds in your cymbal set up; when you play them in sequence you are creating a melodic contour. That's the straight up dictionary definition of the term. Transcribe it and show it to any Musicianship 101 class, and the melodic component will be one of the things about it they discuss.

You can call a series of percussive sounds a phrase. Or something. Clearly, you’ve hit the bullseye of the problem here. Because there is no great answer to your question, Keith Carlock etc. have taken to using “melody” as a metaphor to describe percussive phrases. The result was (1) a way to talk about their playing, and (2) a way to confuse the on-line drumming community.
There's no great answer only if you refuse to accept that untempered/complexly timbred pitch is pitch. Phrase is not an acceptable alternative.

I’m not talking about tempered pitches. A reasonable definition of “pitch” is this: 1 particular audio frequency within hearing range. Doesn’t matter if you can find it on a modern Western keyboard instrument. But you WILL find any pitch on a (fretless) stringed instrument somewhere in the violin-bass range.
My Oxford dictionary of music is in a box somewhere, but I can accept that as a reasonable definition of pitch for most of the music-making world. It's not much use to drummers, who deal with untempered sounds (like my toms, which do have an easily-detectable fundamental), and complex timbres (like my cymbals, which do not, so much). It sounds like you also think we are not allowed to use the word pitch either, in which case: what word are we supposed to use for high-[blank]ed and low-[blank]ed percussion sounds?

I suspect that if we asked a group of non-drummer musicians what “melody” means, a total of zero would mention anything other than clearly-defined pitches.
You would probably get a variety of answers, because the term is used a number of ways. But if they gave that answer I would say that's a shortcoming in those hypothetical musicians understanding of music outside of their own instruments.

At the end of the day, while I can’t play actual melodies on my drums, using “melody” as a metaphor does give me a reasonable way to describe percussive phrasing. So it’s great for communicating among drummers, but probably confusing to non-drummers.
I hear non-drummers describe certain drummers' playing as “melodic” all the time, by which they usually mean that the drummer uses the pitches of the instrument in a tuneful way, which is a literal, not metaphorical use of the term.
 
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