Rhythm and melody, two different diciplines?

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Anduin, thank you for your yeoman-like effort toward keeping things real around here.
J, what I'm talking about is really damn basic; there's nothing radical, unreal, or arty-farty about it. I don't know why you guys are so resistant to calling it what it is, particularly when you have nothing to offer in the way of better terminology. Somebody give me a better word for talking about melodic contour in drumming, and I'll use it.

Oh, and another vote for Larry.
 

con struct

Platinum Member
J, what I'm talking about is really damn basic; there's nothing radical, unreal, or arty-farty about it. I don't know why you guys are so resistant to calling it what it is, particularly when you have nothing to offer in the way of better terminology. Somebody give me a better word for talking about melodic contour in drumming, and I'll use it.
Look, I don't know, Todd. I've said all I have to say: physics, psycho acoustics and music theory are what they are.
 
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toddbishop

Platinum Member
Look, I don't know, Todd. I've said all I have to say: physics, psycho acoustics and music theory are what they are.
Sorry, man, but you can't just say “it's science, I win.” You need to actually state the argument.

Honestly, right now I'm having one of those moments when I think there's something wrong with me, because I keep getting involved in these contentious discussions defending things that are, hey waitaminit, absolutely uncontroversial, and totally embraced by every good player I have ever known.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Great discussion - well done, Lar! Love the analogies ... like thinking in Chinese but talking English ... like I have this hammer, and I am being told to screw in screws with it.

Thanks to BigD for the John Cage Constructions recommendation - listening now and loving it.

I'm not a soloist and not qualified to comment on the virtues of sticking to the form or trying to play more to our instrument's strengths, but when people say melody can't exist without rhythm I think of Robert Fripp's soundscapes and other arrhythmic ambience http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGM2lRpJYU4

Also The Shaggs :)
 

Wavelength

Platinum Member
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.
Suppose I tried to use my less than desirable singing capabilities to sing a tune. While I know clearly how the melody goes, my vocal cords fail me and I manage to sing half of the notes too high and the other half too low. Am I not singing a melody?
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Anon's back! Yay! I was worried because I didn't know you went on holiday. Henri clued me in though, I should have known to check with him before. I missed you! I'll tell you, this thread could very well be the biggest lesson I got here to date. It was a very eye opening experience for me. Plus I just may get a title out of the deal!
 

con struct

Platinum Member
Sorry, man, but you can't just say “it's science, I win.” You need to actually state the argument.

Honestly, right now I'm having one of those moments when I think there's something wrong with me, because I keep getting involved in these contentious discussions defending things that are, hey waitaminit, absolutely uncontroversial, and totally embraced by every good player I have ever known.
No, I think it's me that just takes things a bit too literally.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Anon's back! Yay! I was worried because I didn't know you went on holiday. Henri clued me in though, I should have known to check with him before. I missed you! I'll tell you, this thread could very well be the biggest lesson I got here to date. It was a very eye opening experience for me. Plus I just may get a title out of the deal!
Thanks Uncle Larry! Indeed, if you have concerns always check with my agent first :)

I've learned too - some excellent comments - Aeolian, Anduin, Todd, Andrew, Wave etc.

Re: cymbal pitches ... they definitely have dominant tones that can sound more "in tune" in a spot in a song than another, although it's less pronounced than with toms.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Well it's been about a week now since I have been enlightened by all of you guys, so here's where I am.

Playing my drums this week, talking practicing, I came to a few little conclusions. This week, practice consisted of mainly sitting down at the set and trying to play a continuous stream of things as I hear them in my head, to try and analyze if there is melody in there.

I spend a lot of time just attempting to get what I hear in my head out on the drumset, with minimal losses. So instead of thinking purely in rhythmic terms, I tried to adjust my perception to picking out my "melodies" that I never was aware of. I suppose that because I was consciously utilizing the different pitches of my things in the past, I realized that in fact I was playing very simple "melodies". The big difference to me between my personal drum "melodies" and a melody that comes from a "real" melodic instrument is...

First off, I only have a few tones to work with.

Secondly, drum notes, excluding rolls and crashes, have no sustain to speak of, where when I play guitar, I use sustain as a major component of my composition. My drum notes don't sustain, and the notes are not as pleasing sounding as other melodic instruments, so concessions have to be made in my mind. I substitute attack for sustain as the major component of my drum melodies. The rhythm of the melody takes precedence over the richness of tone and sustain, because I cannot use sustain the way I can on a guitar. And since my pitches are limited, my sentences tend to be rhythmically denser, and simpler, pitch wise, compared to my guitar melodies.

So it's a whole different approach. It makes it harder, because the momentum can't stop. People playing melodic instruments don't have that worry, they can sustain notes for however long they want, while the rhythm section keeps the tune moving along. So playing melodically on the drumset...the rhythm still has to chug along. So in a sense, we have 2 jobs to do during a solo. Correct me if I am misguided, please.

Drum "melodies"...at least the ones I feel comfortable playing...are very rhythmic melodies by nature, with short and percussive notes. Like I don't build in notes into my solos that are long and drawn out like the kind you would hear from a sustaining guitar, (save for crashes and rolls) it would leave too many holes. So my "melodies" tend to be of very short attack and rhythmically denser than a melody I would play on a guitar, as opposed to long held out sustained notes. Which translates into more notes basically. When the notes die off right away, so as not to leave big gaps in my solos, the spaces must be filled with something, that's why I have relied on the percussive/rhythmic elements to compensate for lack of rich tone, lack of chords, and long sustain.

Anything misguided here? This way of thinking about my solos is brand new to me, and I still need guidance. This really is the biggest lesson I ever got here, and it's going to take some time before it is fully assimilated and even longer to surface in my playing.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
Love it Larry!

thanks for taking us on that journey with you.

I find cross training on other instruments really develops my ability to consider pitch and sustain in my drum work/design.

Scat singing the part im playing was one of the first ways I was able to start hearing the non-rhythmic musical components of my drumming....and helped me exagerate what I wanted brought out...while minimizing what was in the way.

I think Gary Chesters books talk about this...but I may be wrong....been a long time.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Hey thanks Otto! I will be posting new occurrences as they present themselves. And I have one more that just happened! I just got done practicing, after writing my last post that mainly dealt with sustain, and my problems with it. Like drum notes by themselves don't sustain. It occurred to me that I really depend on sustain for melody as I traditionally think of it. That's a big thing I'm missing when I drum solo, individual note sustain. So then I remembered something I picked up somewhere that said a roll was considered the drums long tone.

Bingo! I made the connection that what I was lacking in drum note length, or sustain, could be substituted with my long tone. So now that frees me up to phrase with more space, and just sustain through to the next note with my newly happening double stroke roll, because I don't like holes in my drum solo. It was a big step forward for me towards approaching my solos from a totally different angle than I've ever done, and I can see how it totally breaks wide open the possibilities. I'm just beginning and already I am excited at the possibilities.

I can't thank you guys enough.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I spend a lot of time just attempting to get what I hear in my head out on the drumset, with minimal losses. So instead of thinking purely in rhythmic terms, I tried to adjust my perception to picking out my "melodies" that I never was aware of. I suppose that because I was consciously utilizing the different pitches of my things in the past, I realized that in fact I was playing very simple "melodies". The big difference to me between my personal drum "melodies" and a melody that comes from a "real" melodic instrument is...
Yes, you've probably played melodic solo in the past without knowing it, but being aware of what you want to do is a big step in terms of orchestrating your solo, it will be of course based upon rhythm and using a leitmotif to create an effect of melody on the kit, the beauty of it is that you can navigate around that leitmotif, rhythmically and melodically and come back to the original leitmotif, the "melody" created by the leitmotif is the "heart" of your solo if you like, you can go far away from it, wherever your inspiration takes you, providing you'll return to the "heart" of the solo throughout the piece, it will bring homogeneity and a sense of melody within your solo, the leitmotif you create is the part the audience will take as the reference point, melodically and rhythmically, the rest is embellishment and can change from one night to another, the leitmotif(s) are the "key" in which you explore you solo, night after night.

Here's a short vid of Rodney Holmes explaining to an audience how to add a leitmotif into a basic pattern, it's really interesting when the two parts are played together, you're entering another world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mB6n3u8wAA

Drum "melodies"...at least the ones I feel comfortable playing...are very rhythmic melodies by nature, with short and percussive notes. Like I don't build in notes into my solos that are long and drawn out like the kind you would hear from a sustaining guitar, (save for crashes and rolls) it would leave too many holes. So my "melodies" tend to be of very short attack and rhythmically denser than a melody I would play on a guitar, as opposed to long held out sustained notes. Which translates into more notes basically. When the notes die off right away, so as not to leave big gaps in my solos, the spaces must be filled with something, that's why I have relied on the percussive/rhythmic elements to compensate for lack of rich tone, lack of chords, and long sustain.
Yes, the drums are not instruments which provide long sustain, however, with the high and low notes and an open tuning linked with the right strokes to get the desired sound/effect you want to create, the drums can be very melodic, it's the reason why I prefer open sound these days as opposed to punchy sounds, including the bass drum.

Here's a solo from Jojo Mayer, at the beginning of his solo, he uses a leitmotif between the snare/floor/kick/hi-hat, and for the first minute or so, he plays around with it, but you don't loose the feel he created in the beginning, then he open up rhythmically to do some free form soloing to return to an ostinato with the feet and solo over it with the hands, all in all, he plays a very melodic and musical solo which contains all the ingredients, leitmotif, texture, color, rhythm, ostinato, dynamics... the lot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRdB3bCCdPg
 
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