Discuss drumming technique here
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By e2c
#8426
I'm at a loss to understand why most African teachers don't go beyond slap, tone and bass in intermediate-advanced lesson material.

Equally, I'm mystified as to why many folks seem to think that only master drummers are able to create other kinds of sounds on the djembe. I mean ??? (Really.) My thought is that other kinds of sounds/strokes are meant to be an integral part of the vocabulary of *any* kind of hand percussion instrument; both as accents and as effects (for changes in tonal color, etc.) - not some kind of trade secret. Granted, they're not necessarily part of the bedrock of technique; they're more like grace notes...

Are we maybe a little too dependent on these teachers, in some ways? (Serious question - to which I don't have any answers.)
User avatar
By michi
#8430
e2c wrote:I'm at a loss to understand why most African teachers don't go beyond slap, tone and bass in intermediate-advanced lesson material.
I've had teachers who taught closed tones and slaps, and half-muffled slaps where, instead of dampening the skin with the flat hand, you dampen with two or three fingers near the rim, so the slap still gets some sustain.

But I take your point: most teachers never go beyond the basic bass, tone, slap and maybe muffled slap. No idea why really. I guess it's because almost everything you play consists of those sounds and, in an ensemble, other strokes tend to get lost because, as a rule, they are quieter (such as rim shots with the finger tips).

Notable exception: Mamady, who taught quite a few unusual techniques in San Diego, such as the one I posted. There was also a phrase in the Kudani solo where everyone played a tone roll with one finger only, and we plenty of opportunity to experiment with muffled and grab-slaps.
Equally, I'm mystified as to why many folks seem to think that only master drummers are able to create other kinds of sounds on the djembe. I mean ??? (Really.)
Yeah, a lot of people aren't very creative. Of they aren't confident enough. Many of the unusual techniques are quiet, so you end up playing them only in a djembe kan type of solo, and not many people have the confidence to do that.

I often sit down and just tinker. Try slaps and tones in different places while pressing down with one finger in different places on the skin, and pressing down harder or lighter. It's surprising how many different kinds of sound can be made that way.
Are we maybe a little too dependent on these teachers, in some ways? (Serious question - to which I don't have any answers.)
I think people are so concerned with clean technique that they forget all about the other sounds. And, because most rhythms don't use other sounds, the other options get kind of forgotten. I totally agree that it's not necessary to have a teacher to come up with new sounds. And all of those sounds have their place...

Cheers,

Michi.
Last edited by michi on Tue Dec 22, 2009 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By michi
#8431
BTW, just watch Mamady do one of his solos. You can see an incredible array of different striking techniques, rim shots, grabbing strokes, cupped strokes, different types of muffled hits, hits on the seke seke, even simultaneos hits with both hands (not a flam--I mean simultaneous), scratching the skin with finger nails, pushing two fingers across the skin to make a farting noise, etc, etc...

Basically, absolutely anything goes. I don't think there are rules or "proper" style for this. It's simply that, the more different sounds you can make, the more interesting the vocabulary becomes. To be sure, these additional sounds end up being used sparingly. But they do add interest and are fun to muck around with...

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By e2c
#8432
I guess some of my thinking is like this: it's music. Anything goes!

I'm also very much influenced by my background in Middle Eastern percussion, where all kinds of effects (normally done in a fairly subtle way) are pretty much standard operating procedure. am also thinking that playing an instrument where the skin is (more or less) on a vertical plane is much more conducive to fooling around with getting different types of sounds from it, if only because it's so much closer to your ears and you can both hear and see many things that are a bit harder to spot when the drum is bigger and *not* that close to your ears. :)

I suppose what you're saying re. solos played by people like Mamady might get translated into "Only someone who plays on that level can do that," but still...
User avatar
By Carl
#8441
e2c wrote:I suppose what you're saying re. solos played by people like Mamady might get translated into "Only someone who plays on that level can do that," but still...
One thing that I think influences teachers (especially at the Mamady/Famoudou level) is sound.

The basic bass tone slap is a starting point, and from the teaching point of view, you do not want to distract your students with other sounds until the 1st 3 are set. Considering a good slap can take YEARS to develop, I can see why it seems like they never teach anything else.

One of the things that bothers me about people who AVOID traditional technique, is that a lot of them don't really bring anything interesting to the drum (in my opinion). Now, people who have taken the time to get the basics down, and then go out to develop their own techniques, they usually have something to say! (basically, that's the point I take from your quote above)

Another thing that comes to mind, and this is just a guess on my part, is that there is some expectation that you will develop your own sound. So by the time you've "mastered" bass tone slap, you have heard enough music to start developing the new techniques on your own without having it handed to you.

The "sit everyone down in one room and teach everyone at once" idea of teaching is very new. Traditionally you would follow your teacher around to all of the festivals and what not, and pick things up as you went. There is a huge difference in the one on one elements of study, as I quickly realized with Mahiri. If he sees me doing something wrong, he corrects it right away, and once he sees that I get something, he gives me something new, something to expand my technique. Much harder to do that with a group of 30 - 70 people. :-)

Finally, most classes revolve around accompaniment parts, so no need for expanded techniques. The solos are where you pick up the "new stuff" and a lot of solos can be taught with "just" bass tone and slap. It would be interesting to look at which drum techniques come in on which "traditional" solos, and which come in from "ballet" or even just personal experimentation.

As with many things, context is everything. Like upthread, if you are using MidEastern influenced finger techniques, you would probably not be heard if there was any "traditional" accompaniment. Also, if you are playing for a dancer, and you start making sounds that they don't expect, you could possibly create confusion for the person you are supposed to be supporting! (also, if you are sitting in with acoustic guitar and riq and upright bass you MIGHT not want to play full "traditional" techniques)
:mrgreen:

C
User avatar
By e2c
#8449
Carl, part of my point (something I think I said earlier in this thread) is that both frame drum and darbuka technique - as I've learned them - encompass a number of slaps and tone-like strokes that involve the whole hand. (But on a vertical plane, not semi-horizontal.) Not everything is "finger technique" by a long shot. (And even the parts that *are* that are actually more of a lower arm thing... rolls, etc. start a lot further up than might be apparent in videos, etc.)

Which means that.... for people who already know those techniques, they transfer pretty well to djembe slaps. ;) I think that might be equally true for people who've played other types of hand percussion instruments; that there's existing technique that transfers/adapts quite well to djembe.

Now, starting from zero (no previous experience with any type of hand percussion) is another thing entirely. :) And I'm certainly not saying "Don't bother learning traditional technique." I think it's essential.
Another thing that comes to mind, and this is just a guess on my part, is that there is some expectation that you will develop your own sound. So by the time you've "mastered" bass tone slap, you have heard enough music to start developing the new techniques on your own without having it handed to you.
I think you've nailed it here. :D And I'm sure - as both you and michi have said - there's a lot going on re. developing confidence. (Especially for those who are new to percussion and/or have never played any instrument before.)
Last edited by e2c on Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By Marc_M
#8501
Hey everyone -

I'm glad to see that this topic has generated some interesting discussion. I think I am at the point where I finally have the basics down and starting to branch out to new sounds. I think Carl nailed it when he talked about coming up with one's own sound.
Carl wrote: Another thing that comes to mind, and this is just a guess on my part, is that there is some expectation that you will develop your own sound. So by the time you've "mastered" bass tone slap, you have heard enough music to start developing the new techniques on your own without having it handed to you.
C
I think the magic in a great musician is their ability create some signature sounds or phrases in work of music - whether you are Carlos Santana or Adama Dramé.

I'd have to agree with E2C, Michi, Carl, et all, who encourage experimentation as a way to find sounds of your own. I think that will come a little more down the road once I have a few tasty techniques under my belt. My interest in study right now are the more popular techniques that translate better onto the djembe and into solos rather than djembekan - the Drisa Kone video has a lot of techniques I'm interested in. I really find the videos posted to be helpful, because it gives me a starting place to look at when I am choosing what techniques work best for me.

Thanks to all who posted, especially the videos. Hope people keep posting more vids ! ! !

Cheers.
User avatar
By e2c
#8502
Marc, I was really happy to find that vid of Drisa Kone! Lots of good stuff there that can easily be applied to soloing, playing in smaller-group settings, playing with amplification, etc. (And lots in the Adama vids that can be used on those settings as well.) If I discover anything else along those lines, I'll definitely post it in this thread.

*
I would have to say that I do hope more teachers will speak up to encourage students to experiment - a bit of a positive "push" can go a long way, and would likely alleviate fears about doing something "nontraditional" or "wrong." If I ever end up teaching anything other than a beginner's level class, I'll definitely make it part of my spiel. ;)

*
And - in my case, at least - some of the niftiest things I've heard played (re. "new" sounds) have happened more or less by accident. I've had a few "Aha!" moments while comping where I had (or someone else) had just done something very "right" that wasn't planned at all. I *love* when that happens in a group setting, because the energy level rises quite a bit, and the interaction tends to get better. (No matter what kind of music you're playing.) if it was me producing the sound, it's really been a surprise - and I have to wonder why on earth I'd never thought of *that* before! (It's not like I'm a genius; the likelihood of other people having done whatever it is that I've just done is VERY high. ;))

Am thinking that a lot of "developing your own sound" is something that doesn't happen consciously... and that maybe it's a bit like learning to drive a car. I remember feeling almost panicked during my 1st drivers' ed. sessions, because there was so much to do, simultaneously. But eventually (I'm not sure how!), all of those separate things started to come together, to the point that I didn't have to think about them all the time.... .
Last edited by e2c on Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:24 am, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
By e2c
#8512
Drissa Kone again. The konkoni player is doing some pretty nifty things. Wish this had been miked a shade differently, among other things. * Note: there are voiceover sections that you might want to skip...



Question for you Mali-style players: What's up with the little calabash being used as a flute/whistle?
User avatar
By Dugafola
#10023
michi@triodia.com wrote:
michi@triodia.com wrote:I'll see whether I can post a short video of myself doing this. You'll have to accept though that I won't be doing it anywhere near as well as Mamady... ;)
OK, here it is... Apologies up-front: this was recorded not with a video camera, but a Canon SX 100 IX still camera, so quality isn't great. Neither is the sound quality: the camera doesn't do a good job of recording a djembe, and the drum has a new skin on it that is still dropping and nowhere near proper playing pitch. And I haven't had a shave in several days... :)



Cheers,

Michi.
cool. i was in the class where he created those phrases for Matoto. at that time, we were just playing bass notes instead of the bass/tone thingy.
User avatar
By michi
#10025
Dugafola wrote:cool. i was in the class where he created those phrases for Matoto. at that time, we were just playing bass notes instead of the bass/tone thingy.
You witnessed the birth of Matoto? I'm envious... :)
michi@triodia.com wrote:and the drum has a new skin on it that is still dropping and nowhere near proper playing pitch.
Looking at that image, it's embarrassing. I set the rings quite high. But this is one of those extra-stretchy skins, and it came down a long way very quickly.

I did another drum last night, deliberately setting the rings high. Now it's mostly dry, and I'm having doubts whether I'll be able to bring the rings down far enough.

Can't win, sometimes....

Michi.
User avatar
By Dugafola
#10026
michi@triodia.com wrote: You witnessed the birth of Matoto? I'm envious... :)

Michi.
not the birth of the rhythm, the birth of those phrases...which i'm sure have changed over time.

that drum looks big! what's the diameter on it?
User avatar
By michi
#10027
Exterior diameter at the head, not measuring rings, is 14.2" (36cm). So it's on the large side.

I know that, with a larger drum, you get more stretch. I compensate for that when I fit the skin by setting the rings a little higher, and leaving a little less slack in the skin for the wet pull. But, with that one, it's definitely the skin. It started out nice and high, and then just kept getting bigger and bigger. It's now about two months since I fitted that skin, and the top of the rings is down a little over an inch from the playing surface. But, at least, that seems to be the limit. The stretch has stopped. But I still don't like the way it looks...

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By Mikeleza
#16084
[/quote]

cool. i was in the class where he created those phrases for Matoto. at that time, we were just playing bass notes instead of the bass/tone thingy.[/quote]

I was also at a Mamady workshop recently in August where he taught the same solo phrase for Matoto but without that particular tone/bass technique.

Its been an interesting thread.

I am going to go to the Soboninkum thread and see if I can find some of those solo phrases you have all been talking about. The heel/toe thing looks very familiar as it is something that is used in Brazilian percussion quite a lot, I suppose that would be because the swing has the funny half way between 6 and 8 feel just like Soboninkum