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Old 01-11-2016, 12:08 PM
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Default Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?
by Scott K Fish



Is it time to retire ding-dinga-ding-dinga?

Jon McCaslin's drumming blog, Four On The Floor, is among my favorites. Dr. McCaslin posts unique drum videos that say something. A recent video is from new-to-me drummer Joe Farnsworth's master class in Italy.

At one point in the video, Mr. Farnsworth tells attendees it is important to practice keeping steady time on the ride cymbal with quarter notes. Only when drummers can do that, says Farnsworth, can they keep steady time playing the standard jazz ride rhythm ding-dinga-ding-dinga.

That brought to mind a couple of my drumming ideas. (And this is not a dig at Mr. Farnsworth. Watching his video simply triggered a memory. It could have been any drummer's video.) I think it may be time to retire ding-dinga-ding as the foundation of modern jazz drumming.

When I play the drumset, when I listen to others playing the drumset -- I hear melodies, musical lines, musical sounds. I don't hear stand alone rhythm. When trying to imitate a drum beat or concept -- I first try to imitate the sound(s). I don't dash for pencil and staff paper to musically notate what the drummer is doing with his right hand, left hand, left foot, right foot -- and then try to duplicate the sound from my written notation.

Is that a long way of saying I play by ear? No. I think we've all grown up with the idea that drummers who play by ear are never quite as good as drummers who read/write music. People who can't read or write their native language are illiterate. Drummers who can't read or write music are...musically illiterate? I think that stigma holds true. It is the root of most drummer jokes.

Yet, Max Roach told me of a Ghanian drummer who teaches separated from his students by a curtain. The teacher, said Max, does not want students to imitate how he, the teacher, makes sounds. He wants them to listen and discover their own way of making the sounds.

Max, Alan Dawson, and Roy Haynes are a few great drummers who spoke with me about hearing Papa Jo Jones's hi-hat playing on radio or record. They had no way of seeing Papa Jo unless Count Basie came to town. But they wanted to play their hi-hats like Jo Jones. So they worked at making the sound they heard.

Which brings me to my second point. Ding-dinga-ding on the ride cymbal hasn't always been with us. It was preceded by press rolls on the snare drum. Indeed, ride cymbals weren't always with us. They too were preceded by snare drum press rolls. Press roll timekeeping transferred to the hi-hit, then to the ride cymbal. And each transition kept the press roll rhythm Baby Dodds used.

Plus, even the early great jazz drummers -- Baby Dodds, Chick Webb, Jo Jones, Gene Krupa -- didn't play metronomic ding-dinga-ding.

Meanwhile, most of the great drummers I listen to don't play locked in to ding-dinga-ding. I hear them -- on the whole drumset, not just their ride cymbals -- playing melodies, musical lines. And what about the rock and latin cymbal beats that are part of the modern jazz drummer's language?

Are there times ding-dinga-ding is appropriate? Yes. Is ding-dinga-ding valid for drum student use in developing independence and coordination? Yes. But I think it is time drum teachers stop insisting students always play ding-dinga-ding as the one "right way" to play jazz. Really? Ding-dinga-ding is a right way to play some styles of jazz -- but all styles of jazz?

"Not everything I play has a name," said Roy Haynes. I love that idea. It reminds me that we, as drummers, might better serve upcoming drummers by giving more emphasis to the drumset as a musical instrument; using it not just to play beats and licks, but to play music.

Brian Blade might agree with me. (Watch Brian Blade Video)

Scott K Fish Blog: Life Beyond the Cymbals
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Old 01-11-2016, 04:01 PM
Matt Bo Eder
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

I agree! Ding dinga ding is just a mutation of time and it isn't the standard to apply to all jazz. Certainly the masters don't adhere to that idea.
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Old 01-11-2016, 07:17 PM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Everybody needs to start somewhere. Learning ding-dinga-ding is a good pattern to learn independence over--much better than straight quarters, in my experience. In time, ride patterns become a fluid, constantly-changing part of the groove, and you can "say" as much through your riding as you can your comping. But, everybody needs to start somewhere.
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Old 01-12-2016, 01:07 AM
AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken is offline
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Learn to play ding-ding-ding-ding.
Learn to play a-a-a-a
Learn to play ding-dinga-ding-dinga-ding.

Mix and match.

Ding-dinga-ding is just the conversation starter. If you don't know the song, it's a safe thing to play. If the people you're playing with don't know the song, it helps them feel comfortable and feel the beat. After that just stretch out and play.
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Old 01-12-2016, 03:54 AM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

This is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read, anywhere:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott K Fish View Post

… Max Roach told me of a Ghanian drummer who teaches separated from his students by a curtain. The teacher, said Max, does not want students to imitate how he, the teacher, makes sounds. He wants them to listen and discover their own way of making the sounds.
I don't know why it touches me so! But it does.
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Old 01-12-2016, 04:00 AM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

I had the same feeling about that same sentence. So much for mirroring the instructor, or playing in front of a mirror. I guess there is room for both, but even on this forum we get questions about "how did he do that?" Rather than listening and playing. thanks Scott for this post.
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Old 01-12-2016, 07:07 AM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

2016 has just started, but I think I just read Article Of The Year.
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Old 01-12-2016, 07:34 AM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Great post.

And I agree to certain extent.

I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water, but I now do see the light as far as the value of straight quarters on the ride.

I was playing in an ensemble with a great bass player (who is also a great drummer), and he said to me, "hey, just play straight here... we gotta lock in, man. We gotta swing. Playing that ding dinga ding ain't swinging."

I was a little taken aback, a) that I was told I wasn't "swinging," and b) that it's okay to not always play that ding dinga ding pattern.

After that, I've found myself dropping that pattern more and more now. It's freeing to a certain extent. And, actually, a little difficult sometimes just because I'm so used to playing it.

That being said, my studies currently revolve around the Chapin book, doing all the patterns over the standard ride beat, hats on 2&4. I think the first section of the book is hard to do over the ding dinga ding pattern, so it's a useful thing to develop the limb independence, but I think (now) it's also valuable to keep straight quarters in mind as well when playing.
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Old 01-12-2016, 09:10 AM
Skrivarna Skrivarna is offline
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Great post, thanks a lot for kicking off our year in such a positive way.

While I tend to keep the dinga-ding as a basis and "safe" fallback for most of my "traditional" jazz playing, I try to think carefully about what to play and in which limb/instrument to imply the swing factor. As you say, it really doesn't have to be the ride cymbal.

And, as a comment to the recent threads about tuning, this paragraph says it much better than I could:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott K Fish View Post
When I play the drumset, when I listen to others playing the drumset -- I hear melodies, musical lines, musical sounds. I don't hear stand alone rhythm.
Still, the Max Roach story is something to remember in this day of YouTube and immediate and endless access to all kinds of instructions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott K Fish View Post
Yet, Max Roach told me of a Ghanian drummer who teaches separated from his students by a curtain. The teacher, said Max, does not want students to imitate how he, the teacher, makes sounds. He wants them to listen and discover their own way of making the sounds.
Listen. Listen. And listen again.
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Old 01-12-2016, 04:55 PM
brentcn brentcn is offline
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott K Fish View Post
Yet, Max Roach told me of a Ghanian drummer who teaches separated from his students by a curtain. The teacher, said Max, does not want students to imitate how he, the teacher, makes sounds. He wants them to listen and discover their own way of making the sounds.

Are there times ding-dinga-ding is appropriate? Yes. Is ding-dinga-ding valid for drum student use in developing independence and coordination? Yes. But I think it is time drum teachers stop insisting students always play ding-dinga-ding as the one "right way" to play jazz. Really? Ding-dinga-ding is a right way to play some styles of jazz -- but all styles of jazz?[/url]
Who are these teachers who are insisting that "spang-a-lang" should always be played? Has anyone ever encountered such a teacher? And, if so, are you 100% sure that you didn't miss some additional instructions, i.e. "play quarters, then accessorize" or "realistic jazz ride playing is crazy but we need to keep it simple for now so that you can develop some coordination and timing"? It feels like you're setting up a false idea of drum instructors.

And about the curtain approach, while it does have a certain poetic quality, it's usefulness is doubtful. Research in cognitive neuroscience has shown that, as a player's ability grows, so too does their appreciation for subtlety and detail in others' performances. It follows that a student should first just copy (by hearing, by sight, and by speaking), and grow their abilities as they learn to listen critically. Teaching and learning are both much more than "Listen to this. Okay, now play it. Go."
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Old 01-13-2016, 12:02 AM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Ding-Dinga-Ding is Dead!

Long Live Ding-Dinga-Ding!
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Old 01-13-2016, 12:48 AM
SmoothOperator SmoothOperator is offline
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Yeah, from a learning perspective the ride has problems. You really can't hear the precise timing that a swing implies. Better to work it out on a practice pad, wood block or cowbell first, then play it on the ride. Also, switching between eighth, triplet and sixteen smoothly should be a prerequisite, to playing something in between.
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Old 01-13-2016, 03:40 AM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Your bass player wants to hear that so they can swing.
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Old 01-13-2016, 09:11 AM
Skrivarna Skrivarna is offline
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Quote:
Originally Posted by brentcn View Post
Who are these teachers who are insisting that "spang-a-lang" should always be played? Has anyone ever encountered such a teacher?
No, I don't think that is common with experienced teachers. But it is a misconception easily obtained from some books and exercises in magazines and websites.

Quote:
Originally Posted by brentcn View Post
It follows that a student should first just copy (by hearing, by sight, and by speaking), and grow their abilities as they learn to listen critically. Teaching and learning are both much more than "Listen to this. Okay, now play it. Go."
I think the main point of listening and trying to emulate or interpret what they hear is that the student will not exactly copy, but will find new ways to play (which we old farts would never have dreamed of or just considered "wrong"). It should (in theory) foster more individual players and spur innovation.

Considering all the different ways our instruments can be played, isn't it odd that we are even discussing "necessity" of the ride spang-alang in 2016?
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Old 01-13-2016, 01:25 PM
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Scott K Fish Scott K Fish is offline
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

brentcn -- Spang-a-lang or ding-dinga-ding is certainly quite visible in popular drum method books, i.e. Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer. And when I was first learning drums, the expectation was that Chapin's exercises were to be played against ding-dinga-ding.

Also, as far as the "uselessness" of learning by ear. At least as late as the generation of Bebop drummers -- from what drum method books did they study? Certainly they learned the rudiments -- but much (most?) of their learning came from listening/emulating players heard on radio, records, in concert.




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Old 01-13-2016, 07:56 PM
brentcn brentcn is offline
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott K Fish View Post
brentcn -- Spang-a-lang or ding-dinga-ding is certainly quite visible in popular drum method books, i.e. Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer. And when I was first learning drums, the expectation was that Chapin's exercises were to be played against ding-dinga-ding.

Also, as far as the "uselessness" of learning by ear. At least as late as the generation of Bebop drummers -- from what drum method books did they study? Certainly they learned the rudiments -- but much (most?) of their learning came from listening/emulating players heard on radio, records, in concert.
Good point, but to teach through hearing, and the exclusion of the other senses, while it was necessary thing at one moment in time, has been rendered obsolete as an approach and should be avoided, not held up as a new or novel way to teach the next generation.

We have no idea how the first bebop drummers honed their skills, but probably it was a much harder and longer process than learning from a book! Also, the US army bands were a great resource for these early bebop players, as there would have been more than one drummer in the room, and opportunity to share ideas and approaches. The teachings of Alan Dawson, who was in the US Army Dance Band, spread far and wide, especially after Tony Williams came on to the scene.

Yes, Chapin's book wrote out spang-a-lang throughout the pages, but that was to aid the reader in seeing now the bass and snare notes played with or in between the ride notes. The book was never intended for self-study; it was (and is) expected that a teacher would guide you through it. Also, the instructions to constantly play spang-a-lang in a musical situation never appear in the book. Furthermore, modern books, such as the Art of Bop Drumming, do not assume a teacher with jazz experience will be present, and are careful to point out that spang-a-lang is the beginning, and not the destination.

Quote:
I think the main point of listening and trying to emulate or interpret what they hear is that the student will not exactly copy, but will find new ways to play (which we old farts would never have dreamed of or just considered "wrong"). It should (in theory) foster more individual players and spur innovation.
But it doesn't. It usually results in a limited and unimaginative vocabulary, or, in some weird way that the student thinks is unique, but was actually done long before and to greater effect. A beginning student needs to copy an enormous amount, before they'll have anything worthwhile to say on their own. This may have been less true when jazz was very young, but the paths have long since been travelled well by many great players.
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Old 01-13-2016, 11:18 PM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Ding Dinga Ding is just a musical cliche one has to use I guess.

But every beginner-to-advanced jazz drummer knows everyone
is going to vary from there, isn't it?
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Old 01-13-2016, 11:34 PM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Is there a ding-dinga-ding equivalent in other music styles? Rock? Blues? Country? Latin?

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Old 01-13-2016, 11:40 PM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

I guess the money beat?
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Old 01-14-2016, 02:20 PM
Skrivarna Skrivarna is offline
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

Quote:
Originally Posted by brentcn View Post
But it doesn't. It usually results in a limited and unimaginative vocabulary, or, in some weird way that the student thinks is unique, but was actually done long before and to greater effect. A beginning student needs to copy an enormous amount, before they'll have anything worthwhile to say on their own. This may have been less true when jazz was very young, but the paths have long since been travelled well by many great players.
OK, let's agree to disagree. I think listening is still the absolute most important method for learning, and in some cases best used in isolation to avoid being tricked by what is written or what you think you see. There's so much more than what is in the music on the page. There are so many different ways to produce the sounds we hear from others or in our heads.

After all, in the end it is the sounds we produce that counts.

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A beginning student needs to copy an enormous amount, before they'll have anything worthwhile to say on their own.
And this part is definitely not true. As a student I'd be quite upset if I heard something like that from my teacher.
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Old 01-15-2016, 05:52 AM
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

I'm just getting a grip with Ding-Dinga-Ding, and you want to retire it ? Noooo..........
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Old 01-15-2016, 07:16 AM
brentcn brentcn is offline
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Default Re: Time to Retire Ding-Dinga-Ding?

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And this part is definitely not true. As a student I'd be quite upset if I heard something like that from my teacher.
Well, it definitely shouldn't be phrased that way, no. :) Most students want to sound legit as possible, and appreciate knowing the source of the awesomeness.

You can copy and still be improvising, of course. How many of us have played something awesome that Buddy or Tony or Gadd or Weckl or Bonham haven't played at some point in their lives? It's not necessary to be 100% original in order to enjoy playing or learning.
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