Tony Allen | Afrobeat

It’s not just about learning afrobeat as a style. Tony Allen’s patterns and sound is the perfect way for me to understand 16th note syncopated beats. You get a ton of ideas just by looking at him lay effortlessly one idea over the next.

Quarter Notes

Gotta start writing again. Too much material to share. Many news too.

Instead of blabbering about everything I could just get down to the important stuff. Guess what: quarter notes. Actually not the notes themselves but more of what they hide into them.

Each kind of music has its own pulse and in most cases during the rise of western (and mostly pop) culture that pulse gets its groove by the syncopation that surrounds all those quarter notes.

Take disco for example. Oh forgot to mention something. For the past month I just listen to Disco-Funk playlists and records. Anything that went around 1977-1984 before the real heavy drum machinery made it’s way to most big studios is my cup of tea at the moment.

As with every musical phase I go through, I tend to continually stumble upon the right modern records that were influenced by that particular genre. And finally I get to my point. Take disco for example.

Some facts about this song. It’s a track from a record called ‘All Night Long’ by the B.B. & Q. Band. Discogs credits the drummer to be Yogi Horton and I can really believe that because the grooves on this album are IMMENSE. This particular song was sampled by NxWorries aka Anderson Paak & Knxwledge in the song ‘Scared Money’.

It’s a medium to slow (considering the age) disco song. And guess what, the groove is just quarter notes on the hihat. Ooor maybe it’s not just that. No, it’s a constant 16th note pulse that’s being used as a subdivision for little fills and kicks during the songs. These disco dudes could play a whole 6-minute arrangement using the hihat only and still hitting all the right spots in the mix.

Anyway, just listen to this damn record. Lyrics are awful but the production is beautifully smart and the grooves are tastier than pancakes.

Daniel Glass – A Drum Historian

There are a lot of cool things about Daniel Glass. First of all, his hair. Secondly his pure rock n’ roll energy. Lastly -and most importantly I should say- his musical history knowledge.

Being a fan of relentless cliche dropping I should now say that: knowing where you came from helps a great deal in learning where you ‘re going to. Mr. Glass wants to get that point across in every opportunity he’s given and I truly support him for that.

His Vic Firth series about History of the Drumset has been eye-opening for me. Below you can watch the first 9 parts alltogether. Then you can follow the rest from the related videos section, the series goes up to part 15.

Let me elaborate a bit with an example on what his knowledge has given me. You ‘re at a soundcheck with your band and the engineer asks for a beat and some fills in between to check his levels and kit tone through the PA.

As a cool “into now” drummer, any of us would most likely play a steady 4/4 groove with the right hand on the hat the left on the snare, a cracking backbeat, maybe some ghost notes in there and fills that go around the toms from high to low. This has been absolutely correct and useful for drummers for at least 40 years now. But was it always like this?

What about those people that didn’t have any toms to play big fills? What about the guys that didnt even KNOW what a backbeat on beats 2 and 4 is gonna sound like? What about the dudes that were playing packed 3k seaters and didn’t have a PA to get their little intricate ghost notes (???) to sound along with the rest of the kit? Daniel Glass mainly responds to all these questions in these series.

I can now understand that the instrument I’m sitting behind every day is probably younger in age than my dad. And believe it or not this has helped my mind in terms of playing more than the 6-stroke roll I so love to use.

In this Drumeo feature he really expands his concepts on teaching and playing. He explains how significant a good pulse of quarter notes is not only for timekeeping but in playing in general along with sounding good on the kit. Now, I get it maybe for most people this stuff sounds boring. But I’d like to see anyone try to lay a rock n’ roll beat without a good sense of quarters or even better try to immitate a Gene Krupa feel on the toms. He’s absolutely right when he says that pulse and natural quarter note flow is what makes people move and dance and generally relate to a bunch of guys standing some feet above them, making noise.

A small treat for me when I did some research on Daniel is that he’s somehow involved in one of my favorite films as a kid, The Mask with Jim Carey. Turns out his actual band is called the Royal Crown Revue and were the house band of the night club scene where The Mask goes on rampage. I think maybe the drum intro is still stuck in my head after almost two decades.



Some Don Henley Magic

“Well, tell me this. What does Modern Drummer want with me anyway? I’m no drummer.”

Don Henley’s question to interviewer Robert Santelli.

When you think of rock drummers, Don Henley doesn’t cross your mind early on the list. He may not even appear ever in there. That doesn’t mean you can’t remember every single fill he played on ‘Hotel California‘. A fine example of smart drumming, parts someone could actually sing and raw attitude, Don Henley is not a player to ignore.

He had a strong opinion on the sound of the instrument and that can be seen in the documentary ‘History Of The Eagles’ where he remembers the fights he had with the great Glyn Johns about the tom micing. Don wanted them to be separately mic’ed cause he knew he could really sell his minimal fills. You can witness it by the time the band started making records with producer Bill Szymczyk.

Note the simplistic 8th note fills before the choruses of “One of These Nights”. Toms baby!!

Stongly influenced by the Ringo sound in the late Beatles albums (Abbey Road and later…), his snare drum became iconic for the LA sound of the ’70s. Generally, a 14×6,5 Supra played smoothly and in a relaxed backbeat fashion was his weapon. Gearwise, as I can see in the documentary pictures he always prefered a lacquered natural finish Ludwig kit (3ply w/ reinforcement rings) and ALWAYS in concert mode. That means no reso skins at all. The resos came back when the band reunited but that era won’t concern this article.

I ‘ve delved into their discography for days now¬† and as I understand his laid back style really drove the band in terms of group time. At many points, it seems like he’s dragging the groove back and forth and it’s probably true. Many drummers criticise him for that in forums. I personally LOVE that. You see, many things about The Eagles had to do with personal expression of the members. Everyone sang perfectly¬†so when it came to instruments, each one had his ‘little things’. For Don, one thing was surely loose time feel (ex. above on “You Never Cry Like A Lover).

And then he started dragging some more:

And some more:

But you see that’s the thing with “soft rock” it gotta sound soft ain’t it? Hence, the fat snare, the simple melodic fills, the careless dragging time feel. I wouldn’t imagine these songs played in any other way. And that’s enough for everyone to respect mr. Henley.

“I was definitely a “less is more” drummer, there’s no doubt about that. And that was by choice. I could have played more complex stuff. I could have been a busier player. But that’s not what I wanted to do. I played what I wanted to play. I even started out with the traditional grip. And then when Ringo came along I turned around the left hand and started playing that way. So that takes away some of your dexterity right there. When you turn that stick around, rolls and things like that become almost impossible, although I can do sort of a rudimentary kind of thing with that grip. And remember, I was singing. And that in a way forced me to be simple. But the simple drummers were always my favorite kind of drummers.”


Time for my personal favourite Don Henley recording:

I don’t know, people tell me I got the soul of an old man.. But I just can’t get enough of that verse.

And then of course there’s this live performance from 1977 that really wraps up the whole purpose of this post. Notice how he plays every fill of ‘Hotel California’ exactly like on the record (lots of songs are on YouTube from this performance).


PS. Check out the whole interview on Modern Drummer magazine here.