Time Improvement Audio Files And Tips For Drummers (And Others)

"Some fours take longer than others." – Elvin Jones (9 September 1927 – 18 May 2004)

This quote from The Great One was made not in regards to his soloing technique, but rather to pay regards to his occasional instances of needing to stretch-and-bend the meter in order to get that last thought in.

There's the notion of "organic time," the ebbing and flowing of the tempo as the band intensifies, backs off the tempo for emphasis, etc., "perfect time," the absolute metronomic, dare I say, preservation of the tempo, and "criminal time," the one where you demonstrate that your timekeeping skills were honed by dropping bags of marbles down stairs, where the spaces between your beats obey Boltzmann statistics, where your band mates "put a warrant out for 1" in the hopes that the local authorities can find it before your solo ends. There will always be places for "organic time" and "perfect time" in music, but "criminal time" is, well, somehow criminal, if for no other reason than you can't justify exactly how you've managed to pull it off and, very likely, can't make that lightning strike twice.

The content below is my own response to being a bit less-than-content with my own time management skills behind the drum set.  These audio files are NOT exercises.  Ideally, they are designed to show you just how good or bad your time keeping is at a variety of tempos, both in time keeping and soloing, with the ideal intent of improving your time.

Six different mp3 files for each of five different tempos (60, 90, 120, 150, 180 beats per minute (bpm)) for 400 measures are provided.  One of these six is a constant metronome (call it Series 0).  The other five mp3 files are as described in the image below.

The five series contain combinations of "4 beats" and "4 silents" (4 quarter note rests).  I suspect the explanation is now obvious, but these series provide you the listener with 400 measures of combinations of constant pulses and potential free-fall. The intent here is to play as you would and then gauge your ability to maintain the tempo as your "1" either does or does not agree with the next set of beats.  Your job is to maintain the tempo and to then consider anything you're doing behind the kit that keeps you from doing it.  Do you over-anticipate the first beat when the pulse comes back?  Did it finish faster than you did?  Trust me, you will feel it (and the tempo does not lie).

Series 0. Simple metronome (download the 120 bpm file).

Series 1. The easiest of the series after the Series 0 metronome (download the 120 bpm file).

Series 2. Perhaps the second-to-last most difficult, providing only four beats of time before twelve beats of you hopefully keeping up (download the 120 bpm file).

Series 3. The worst of the series (download the 120 bpm file).

Series 4. Eight pulses, eight rests (download the 120 bpm file).

Series 5. The Elvin Special.  Four measures of time, four measures of anxious anticipation (download the 120 bpm file).

How to use: There are a multitude of ways to use these files.  Simple time keeping is, of course, high on the list.  I've begun using these files as I develop either one-measure (Series 1) or two-measure (Series 4) "complicated rhythms," as you can feel prominently if you're rushing or dragging as you play it by how you come into the next set of beats.  The 150 and 180 bpm series are considerable work after several minutes (the 180 bpm being ideal if you ever intend on starting a live dnb band).  The one clear trend I've noticed is that my right foot (I'm a lefty, so I'm talking about my hi-hat foot) seems to have a much better sense of time than my other three limbs under virtually all situations and, accordingly, I've begun to do much more independence work with the focus on making this foot more dependable (we've all had our hi-hat "go out" at some point during a solo as our brains hit its mathematical limit).  3/4 and 5/4 time, perhaps other tempos, maybe meter-on-meter audio files may appear here in the future, but 4/4, when done correctly, should give you quite the workout.

Each of the five tempo sets and one complete file is provided below in .tar.gz format.  If you're running Linux or OSX, these will self-extract upon double-click.  In Windows, you might need Winzip or related.  The files are all iTunes-friendly and annotated accordingly.

Time Improvement @ 60 bpm, 46.8 MB Time Improvement @ 90 bpm, 46.5 MB Time Improvement @ 120 bpm, 42.9 MB
Time Improvement @ 150 bpm, 39.7 MB Time Improvement @ 180 bpm, 37.7 MB Complete Time Improvement, 213.6 MB

NOTE: Time keeping is everyone's obligation in the band.  These audio files are as useful to bass players as they are rhythm guitarists (well, not necessarily THESE audio files.  No magic here, just Garageband).  Feel free to comment with ideas or any interesting uses you find.


Memorial Weekend 2008 Tune-age, Funktion Key 3 And The Excelsior Cornet Band

A post 150 years in the making (plus a few weeks to get everything else done), with that same 150 year gap in styles and instrumentation bridged in just under 2 days.

May 24, 2008 – Memorial Day Music (and Head Spinning) Festival

Quite possibly a first for the usually sedate town of Manlius NY, guitarist William Nicholson hosted a day-long Memorial Day Music (and Head Spinning) Festival in his own living room and back yard. 30 to 40 in attendance, mostly performers, which was just about the right size to work out the bugs for a 2nd Annual event next year. A few notable notes…

Know Nothing – I'd seen this duo once already at the Continue reading "Memorial Weekend 2008 Tune-age, Funktion Key 3 And The Excelsior Cornet Band"

Bartles And Dame's or Free Jazz And Cadence As Interdisciplinary Excursion

"Musicians are in no way responsible for anything."
"True Art is Always Free!"
– John Bartles

Related to the usual contents of this blog only inasmuch as I pay the maintenance fees regardless, a brief historical post firmly rooted in the "There's a fine line between 'Once upon a time' and 'You're not going to believe this" category of entries. Sunday, March 4 2007 marked the most nontraditional collaboration of my musical career (it takes me that long to get information together. People who request anything from me by email probably already know this) with the recording of "John Bartless Presents Topless and Bottomless," a title sure to artificially increase my Technorati rank.

The kit. Click for a larger version.

Bartles sighting. Click for a larger version.

How: The Metropolis Book Shoppe in North Syracuse had an am amazing run of free jazz and noise artists (Tone Collector, MoHa!, Jeff Arnal and Gordon Beeferman, Tatsuya Nakatani, just to name a few), from which I have a nice collection of autographed CDs of music none but a lucky handful will ever hear. At a few of those gigs appeared the John Bartles of which I blog. When the same 6 people comprise the majority of the audience at all the shows, you get to know everyone. Bartles never travels without a box full of some small selection of his complete works. At the time the jazz shows started, he said he was up to 64 total CDs over a 30-odd year span which, having now 25 or so in my collection with expectations of more in the mail on any random day, I unbelievably believe to be a reasonable count.

Who: John and I share a similar quirkiness (thanks Deepak) he's had the benefit of honing far longer than I, which means the exchange of corny-to-off-color jokes ended only once we were back in our cars, much to the relief of the other participants. The extent to which Bartles' music is nontraditional is reflected in his performance venues. This had become apparent to myself upon the usual google search, where most of the relevant John Bartles links direct one to Dr. Demento playlists. That, clearly, was the virtual handshake on his offer to have me come out and record. If the iconoclastic screwball that did for The Ogden Edsl Wahalia Blues Ensemble Mondo Bizzario Band ("Dead Puppies"), Barnes & Barnes ("Fish Heads") and Napoleon XIV ("They're Coming To Take Me Away (Ho Ho Ha Ha He He To The Funny Farm)") what Beavis and Butthead did for Rob Zombie thought the work of John Bartles was air-worthy, that's enough for me. Any of the circa-1990 to 1994 Jamesville-DeWitt Band Room Lunch Club would agree on that.

Where: The session was held at Holt Studio, home of studio ace and bassist extraordinaire Gary Holt (not to be confused with the guitarist for Exodus). The drive out to Geneseo offered yet another memorable stop to see Buzzo himself (Al Bruno) at Buzzo Music, a music and instrument stockpile housed in a strip mall whose interior is reminiscent of the Bartertown branch of Ameoba Music on the west coast or the Sound Garden here in Syracuse. With Bartles as my discount card, I scored a pair of Verisonic flip-out rubber brushes, the kind your Middle School buys in bulk knowing no single pair would last the school year. Between the flashback and the feel on Remo Fiberskyns, handedly worth the discounted price.

Session: Quick setup, introductions to Gary, Sean McLay (bassist) and Paul Ruske (other drummer), and we were off cutting tracks. No rehearsal, no prior knowledge of the tracks, just a requested style and a two-take maximum. If you've not done it before, I highly recommend NEVER jumping into a recording session laying down grooves with a second drummer you've never met, if for no other reason than the sanctity of the bassist's mental state. Butch Trucks and Jaimoe we were not, but 5 or 10 more years of it and… During the free improv tunes, of course, the more arms and legs the better.

Two hours, six tracks, three jam sessions and a spat of sophomoric humor later, we're packed and out the door back to civilization. Two weeks later, the first press arrives with 13 crafted pieces and liner notes (see photo).

A session and a story worth a mention. If any of the tunes make the Dr. Demento Show, rest assured it'll be at the top of the CV. For those wondering just what it is I'm talking about, I provide an mp3 of "The Human Scratching Post" (the family-friendly one of the series).