Sand, Pebbles, And Fill – RR/LL, RRR/LLL, and RRRR/LLLL Sticking Combinations From The Original “Stone Boulder” Series

You could spend your life on the first six pages of “Stick Control” and still not cover all the possibilities. Dynamics, accents, foot-hand, foot-foot, fast/slow, hands on top of foot patterns, feet on top of hand patterns, regroupings and accenting in 5-7-4 (regrouping of the 16 strokes per pattern), 7-5-4 (re-regrouping of the 16 strokes), yadda yadda. If you see the first six pages of Stick Control as just exercises, you miss the fantastic complexity YOU can introduce to constantly humble yourself while hovering over a practice pad.

George L. Stone's Stick Control

You should have a copy regardless (amazon.com direct link).

The original post related to the PDFs below (link) provided two downloads. The first was all 65,536 R/L combinations for 16th note groupings (so full measures of 16th notes in 4/4 time). The second contained all 4,096 8th note triplet groupings (so full measures of 8th notes in 12/8 time, or 4/4 “jazz” triplets).

This first set is academically complete, but any sticking combination with more than 4 R’s or L’s in a row is just endurance overkill (and even 3 becomes a problem until you figure out your fingers or controlled rebounds). In the interest of having something a bit easier on the warm-up and coordination routine, six new PDFs are below that divide up the 16- and 12-note grouping PDFs into 16- and 12-note sets that contain no more than 2, 3, or 4 R’s or L’s in succession (including the repeat of the pattern as you hammer through X many times). In sticking with the Terry Bozzio theme of the ostinato description of the first post, one could call these “The Easy Teenage New York Versions” of the original series.

Some Practice Ideas

The usage styles are the same as before. I have discovered a few things in working through the 2 R/L triplet combination page that I’ll point out.

1. Work through the whole list once without a click to get comfortable with the patterns. Going in cold will only frustrate when you reach a pattern your hands just aren’t interested in playing correctly yet.

2. The best way to build independence is to overwork your brain. If you can do “the pattern” with your feet playing a pattern, great. Your voice makes for a great 5th limb, more so when you speak the time out loud (in-head counting doesn’t quite cut it).

3. Put your hands on different instruments (maybe obvious). R on bell, L on snare, etc.

4. Escher-ize the patterns (see the sticking pattern as two independent patterns, then try to merge them). There were more than a few patterns where my hands did not work for the first passes, specifically a few patterns where the RR or LL occurs at the end of one beat of three and the beginning of the next beat of three (RRL LRR, for instance)).

My solution was to stop trying to play the sticking pattern and instead focus on playing “one hand” of the pattern, then filling in the missing beats with the other hand. For instance…

RRL LRR LRL RRL

Gets reduced to only the right hand, so only play the pattern as…

RR_ _RR _R_ RR_

When that’s comfortable, fill in the empty spaces with the left hand, perhaps playing the L at half-volume (say “l”) so the R pattern still stands out…

RRl lRR lRl RRl

Two things may happen. The first is that trying to stop thinking in terms of clave and instead in terms of sticking combination will make you butcher the pattern again. That just means you need to practice the pattern longer. The second is that you’ll play this thing with your right hand, think to yourself “that’s kinda funky if I play that on the bell,” and you’ll discover a groove that is magically easier to play than you thought based on your previous mangling of the pattern.

The Files

For notes on their generation, see www.somewhereville.com/?p=1399.

2011december17_stone_boulder_16th_grouping_series_RR_LL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_16th_grouping_series_RRR_LLL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_16th_grouping_series_RRRR_LLLL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_jazz_grouping_series_RR_LL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_jazz_grouping_series_RRR_LLL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_jazz_grouping_series_RRRR_LLLL.pdf

Ideas of pattern use abound. If something hits you as particularly profound, please send me a note (damian@somewhereville.com) and I’ll gladly added it to the list.

The “Stone Boulders” – All 12-Group (4,096) and 16-Group (65,536) L/R Sticking Combinations In PDF Format

George L. Stone's Stick Control

You should have a copy regardless (amazon.com direct link).

[Drafted as an article for somewhere, stuck here instead…]

You could spend your life on the first six pages of “Stick Control” and still not cover all the possibilities. Dynamics, accents, foot-hand, foot-foot, fast/slow, hands on top of foot patterns, feet on top of hand patterns, regroupings and accenting in 5-7-4 (regrouping of the 16 strokes per pattern), 7-5-4 (re-regrouping of the 16 strokes), yadda yadda. If you see the first six pages of Stick Control as just exercises, you miss the fantastic complexity YOU can introduce to constantly humble yourself while hovering over a practice pad.

As I look at the sets of exercises, I see what I assume most of us do – paradiddles, singles, doubles, multiple-hits of the same stick, some oddball patterns you start playing as written and then mess up without knowing, etc. The question I found myself asking was “What drove Stone to use this particular sequence?” I eventually turned that question around and decided to answer the question “What did Stone leave out?” The PDFs linked to this article are what I’ve affectionately come to call the “Stone Boulder,” providing EVERY sticking combination Stone included and every other combination he didn’t. Some intro to how and why is below, followed by a bit of explanation. I think the patterns themselves are self-explanatory.

While not the most cite-able examples in all of genomics, there have always been passing references to drumming “being in someone’s DNA.” As it happens, drumming and biology did overlap in general approach during the mid-80’s-to-early-90’s (or so) in the great heyday of linear drumming (go dig out your Murray Houllif and Gary Chaffee books). The idea is simple: no two drums/cymbals hit at the same time, producing an often staccato and generally (well, to my ears anyway) more melodic sound from the drums (and much easier to transcribe than some of the superhuman overlapping rhythms people are having fun playing today). Ignoring the complexities of 3.5 billions years of evolution, DNA works the same way as these linear patterns to convey a message. The four bases in your DNA, A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine), and T (thymine), act as a code that is read like those old drum beats were played – one at a time with no doubling-up please. The identical three million base-long DNA sequences in each of your cells (see CSI) could be turned from seemingly random patterns of [A,C,G,T] into seemingly random patterns of [L,R,B,H] (that’s left hand, right hand, bass drum foot, hi-hat foot), then some experimental linear drumming composer could “play” your genome. Better still, if the transcriber was as good as your cellular machinery, the entire performance could be written down and reconverted into [A,C,G,T] format exactly so you could be cloned and double-drum with someone who rushes and slows down just as much as you do.

While most people think of a drum programmer as someone who generates patterns on a computer, I took the route of programming to generate patterns to drum. I most certainly did NOT put the pattern pages together by hand (I promise, no mistakes). A small script in the Perl programming language used to generate DNA sequences did all of the dirty work (including making sure all patterns only appear ONCE in each document). The math for figuring out the total number of left/right patterns is quite simple. The number of combinations of unique sticking patterns for a particular pattern length is 2^n, n being the number of beats. For a single beat, that’s 2^1, or just 2, that single hit being performed with either the left or right hand. For a four-stroke pattern, that’s 2^4 (2 * 2 * 2 * 2), or 16 total patterns. These are shown below out of academic interest (although I hope you could write them down from memory).

Now, consider the first six pattern pages of the Stone book. 16 beats per pattern. That’s 2^16, or 65536 total patterns. At 20 patterns per page, the complete Stone book of these first six pages would take up 3,277 pages. At 2 seconds per pattern, you could rip through all 3,277 pages in about 36 hours 30 minutes (about the perceived length of a society gig).

For you fellow jazzers out there looking for a more swingin’ set, I’ve also included the same sticking deal with a triplet-feel set (12 beats instead of 16, so you’ve only got 4096 patterns to contend with, meaning you could play through the whole set in about 2 hours 30 minutes).

4,096 patterns are bad enough. 65,536 is borderline something uncouth. On the one hand, that’s a lot of patterns either way. On the other, for the obsessive compulsive readers, these are IT. There are no other 12- or 16-stroke sticking combinations that have a stick hitting on each beat (that is, no rests). As Terry Bozzio has said in one form or another in his many clinics introducing his ostinato independence exercises “once you’ve played through the 16, you’ve played every 16th note pattern there is.”

And it could be worse! If you wanted every combination of left, right and rest, that’s 3^16, or 43,046,721 patterns. At 2 seconds per pattern, that’s 23,915 hours, or about 2 years and 8 months. I pondered doing the same thing for all 16-note linear drum patterns (L,R,B,F), which would produce 4^16, or 4,294,967,296 patterns. That’s 2,386,093 hours, or 272 years and 3 months (that’s approaching four reincarnations of “no life”).

Each full page has three columns of 40 patterns (120 per page), producing a document that’s only 547 pages long (but entirely green-friendly in PDF format). You will note that most of the pages look like the same stupid thing. This is because the mechanism of generation for the sequences involved making single changes at a single position and walking down the entire 16-stroke sets until all changes had been accounted for. I become bored to tears staying on a single page and generally scroll at random and point the stick at the screen to pick a pattern to play. Be as methodical or all-over-the-map as you will.

Is there a good reason for doing this? Not particularly. There are lots of patterns here that are a mechanical challenge for your arms, but many (many, many) of these patterns do not immediately lend themselves to the funk-ability of some of the Stone patterns (which tend to at least have groupings that, again, reflect rudiments or make you work one limb preferentially in a “usable” way). They are here mostly for completeness and, for when you want to confuse your limbs, picking a page or more at random and seeing how the patterns feel. As independence exercises teach us very early on, our brains are wired for preferential patterning (you hit the same foot as you would hand, you’re non-dominant hand sucks, your hi-hat foot is born useless, and other revelations). This document is simply another PDF you can lose on your machine somewhere or have in that hidden work folder that comes out and gets an intense few looks as you try to split your left and right hands apart more.

And, it should be obvious, the same applies for your feet.

Having fought through enough of the combinations, I began to notice something I’m sure all of us have encountered as we approach that hypnotic state of cruising through a pattern we “get.” Some patterns feel really good to play, but only after you’ve internalized them enough to “play something else,” like feeling an odd clave or taking the patterns with many doubles of one hand and ripping them into a bounce-driven frenzy (or, invariably, playing one pattern we love to play to find out it’s a pattern you heard and memorized in a more musical context on record). The one benefit I’ve found from having this PDF around is that I have all of the patterns in one place, which makes me think harder about the different ways to play the patterns (although that is only a fringe benefit). If you treat them like a journey and not just the first 5 minutes of your warm-up routine, I suspect you could spend your life on any one page and still not cover all of the bases.

So, without further ado:

2011july13_stone_boulder_sticking_series_V1.pdf
2011july13_stone_boulder_jazz_grouping_series_V1.pdf

An Old Post And A New Corresponding Site: The Bozzio Independence Method And Much More At drumcontrol.com

This post existed in the long, long ago version of this website (roughly June, 2001). With javascript-in-wordpress now figured out to my satisfaction (starting page HERE), I’ve reposted this drum exercise for official linking at www.drumcontrol.com, a website started by Roy SeGuine that included several excellent exchanges between Roy and myself and, I’m pleased to report, does a far more thorough job than this little page below does at explaining the procedure (and dig that Classic Gold Sparkle Gretsch kit on the readme page).

This is the method presented by Terry Bozzio in many of his clinics. Once you can play all 15 measures above against ANY rhythm possible from repeated combinations of the above measures (so-called “ostinatos“), then you’ve played every sixteenth note-based subdivision possible. There are, of course, actually 16 measures, the first being the one with nothing played (the easiest to master for most rhythms). The importance of this null case will be important in later sections. Note that the above is for sixteenth notes in 1/4. The game is played differently for 1/4 with triplets, quintuplets, etc. The mechanism is the same, however. If you feel inclined, the other possible combinations are easy to write down using the Pascal Triangle to keep track.

How to use…

Here’s an easy coordination exercise sure to frustrate. Pick 3 limbs (or 4, if you want to use your voice as another instrument). Assign each of those limbs to a particular measure in the above list. Get that rhythm playing so you have some idea of what it will sound like and to try to internalize it for the next step. Finally, with the unselected limb, play through all 15 measures above (or 16, though you’ll have played the null case to death getting the feel for the rhythm). Don’t try to play through the exercise until you’ve internalized where the notes of every measure fall in the rhythm you’re holding steady with the other limbs. That’s the point of an ostinato. The rhythm over which you solo should be fixed and unwavering and something playable in your sleep. Soloing is secondary to locking down the groove.

Once you’ve played through all 15 (err… 16) measures, either make the “soloing” limb a fixed limb and solo with something else (a killer exercise for getting your hi-hat foot conditioned, for instance) or select another set of measures to hold constant and play the same 15 (err… 16) measures over that new rhythm.

A note to the ambitious: You’ve 16 measures to pick from and 3 (or 4) limbs to make rhythms out of. Therefore, the possible number of rhythms you can generate from the above are, including the null case, (16) x (16) x (16), or 4096. A lot of rhythms to try. Throw in a fifth soloing limb (your voice, for instance), and the number of possible “fixed” combinations to play against goes up to (4096) x (16), or 65536. Granted, some of these are quarter notes and the like and are easy to play, but many are completely uncharted (so to speak).

If you don’t feel like thinking up the combinations yourself, here’s a little script to get you started.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JavaScript
www.wordpress.org
codex.wordpress.org/Using_Javascript
www.drumcontrol.com
www.usatt.org/rseguine/drumcontrol/readme.html
www.terrybozzio.com
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostinato
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal_triangle