Category : Lessons

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Blue Whale/Los Angeles Residency Featuring Steve Coleman & Five Elements December 14, 2016

During our second residency since our first appearance in Downtown Los Angeles at the club Blue Whale in 2014, our band conducted daily three hour workshops followed by two sets of nightly performances.
15391294_10154929316364284_6313977484603794744_oThe workshops allowed musicians as well as anyone merely interested to get an insider’s look into how Coleman’s approach to composition works. Coleman led lengthy explanations that were more like briefings on a specific subject that usually tied into another such as harmony and leading tones. Or another example is rhythm concentrating on triple (ternary) feel versus duple feel. Workshops were as spontaneous as performing onstage because the main goal was to cover as much material as possible on any and all subjects involving music composition. So, in a sense, workshops never really end.
The performances were a way to express and demonstrate the material covered in workshops.

Cascara 1 & 2

Two patterns are used in traditional and contemporary Afro-Cuban music deriving from sacred and secular folkloric traditions. The timbalero (solo percussionist) plays these patterns. Over time, this adapted to the full drum kit. The name “Cascara” refers to these patterns being played on the shell of timbales or the rim of the floor tom. Today, Cascara refers to the rhythm itself. The thing to pay attention to as with Son and Rumba Clave are the distinct differences with how the Cascara fits with each Clave. For example, Son Clave pivots on the “and” of 2. Rumba Clave pivots on the “a” of 2. Playing this very slowly will give you the distinct difference. Notice how the Clave is played with the side stick on the snare rim and the Cascara is played on the cowbell, hi hat or ride cymbal. The kick drum is the same for Cascara 1 & 2. It fits between the Clave beats creating a very funky vibe.

Son & Rumba Clave

Legendary Cuban Drummer, Ignacio Berroa, said “Clave is a pattern and a feel around which all the parts of the music has to fit. It’s like a guide that will tell you how to play this music.” There are 2 claves. Son clave and Rumba clave. With Son clave the third beat falls on beat 4. With Rumba clave the third beat falls on the and of beat 4. You can play each clave 3, 2 or 2, 3 meaning the first three beats in the first measure and the last two in the second measure or vice versa. When accompanying music, the melody tells you which type of clave to play. The opening performance switches between Son and Rumba 2,3 claves. The lesson demonstrates Son and Rumba clave at 80, 120 and 140BPM.

Triple Chant in 7 #2

This chant is a triple feel version of Duple Chant in 7 #2. It begins on the pedaled hat alternating with the ride. Although it sounds very simple, the thing to keep in mind is once you become solid playing it, you’ll notice how challenging it is to come back on the top of the chant when improvising inside the shape. I strongly recommend mastering the feel of this without improvising. Then you’ll have to practice improvising and coming back into the chant at the top. As stated in the previous lesson, Western drumming emphasizes returning to the top landing on the kick and cymbals. That is not the case here. You have to get used to coming out of improvising landing with the pedaled hat and snare.