Discuss drumming technique here
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By e2c
#20409
More significantly, I have this handing problem only because this is Mamady's phrase, not my own. I'm trying to be Mamady in this solo.
So can't you just play it your way - change it up a bit?

I don't mean to be stirring things up, truly, but i just *don't* understand why everyone is trying to learn solo phrases as anything other than a guidelines for playing solos on their own. I think over-focusing on playing something in the exact same way as [insert name here; can be any teacher] does it is ... well, where is the feeling? Are you [plural; not you personally] internalizing the feeling of the music, or just playing by rote? (Like practicing scales on guitar or piano.)

Maybe I'm being unfair, but to me, that's like trying to become someone else, rather than actually absorbing the music and playing it on one's own.
...even Mamady doubles up in some of the solos he teaches (one of the Zaouli breaks comes to mind) in order to avoid rolling from his weak side.
I think that's because he's teaching it the way he does it, not because there's any flaw or weakness in what he does. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses; I don't see it as being anything close to crucial in the overall scheme of things.

And... to make something of a leap (in terms of analogies), if you were taking classical piano lessons, no teacher in their right mind would expect all students to be able to play everything in the exact same way. (I am not talking about playing written notes but about overall technique and feel.) Besides, the classical repertoire is enormous - some people specialize in the work of certain composers because they are good at meeting the technical demands in those composers' works (Liszt is a prime example of this - very few people are able to play his advanced pieces with great facility). But those players also have to have the right feeling for the works they play. If not, they're kind of dead in the water.

I think we all have natural affinities for certain things as opposed to other things... and that that is taken into account by good teachers of W. African percussion (not just djembe/duns, but music from Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, etc. etc.).
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By The Dank
#20411
e2c wrote:I don't mean to be stirring things up, truly, but i just *don't* understand why everyone is trying to learn solo phrases as anything other than a guidelines for playing solos on their own. I think over-focusing on playing something in the exact same way as [insert name here; can be any teacher] does it is ... well, where is the feeling? Are you [plural; not you personally] internalizing the feeling of the music, or just playing by rote? (Like practicing scales on guitar or piano.)
I completely agree that learning solo phrases should not be an end in and of itself, but rather a means to the end of becoming better at playing our own solos. As you say, learning solo phrases by rote is very analogous to practicing scales on the guitar. However, any expert guitarist would tell you that they spent a *lot* of time just practicing scales, in addition to the time they spent learning the vocabulary and feel of their particular style of music.

I also agree that our goal as students of this music should not be to always play everything exactly like, for instance, Mamady Keita, and I don't think that's what Michi is advocating either. That said, Mamady is a master player with a stunning level of technical proficiency on his instrument. For this reason, I think it's worthwhile to make note of the finer points of what he does, despite the fact that Mamady's way of doing things may not be the best way for Michi (or me, or e2c).

I tend to find analyses like the one Michi posted quite interesting, but I certainly understand that not everyone finds them useful or enlightening. Maybe it's just the math teacher in me :D .

Peace,
~D
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By e2c
#20412
I wonder if it the exact handing really matters, so long as the notes are played... (also not meaning to dispute anything michi said; it's just that the approach troubles me on some levels.)

Like I said, I am not a very analytical-type learner, at least not where music is concerned.

and... with DVDs (etc.) available, it's possible to study someone else's technique - on virtually any instrument - to death. But does that mean that someone who imitates every movement his/her favorite musician makes - be it Pat Metheney or Van Cliburn - will be able to play like either?

[kinda obvious answer]

So... play the music, not the exercises. The latter are only there to facilitate the former, after all. Chops aren't everything.

As a kind of ridiculous "P.S.," I've had people give me a very hard time for not being able to read music well, and for my propensity for learning by ear and by watching. It doesn't make any sense, but there it is. (Especially because the criticism came from people who claim to be jazz players.)
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By michi
#20419
e2c wrote:
More significantly, I have this handing problem only because this is Mamady's phrase, not my own. I'm trying to be Mamady in this solo.
So can't you just play it your way - change it up a bit?
Normally, yes, I would do just that. After all, the solo originals are meant to be a source of inspiration around which people are meant to improvise and add their own ideas. But, in this case, I'm going to sit the exam with Mamady and, unfortunately, I don't have any such leeway there. I have to play the solo exactly, not approximately :)
I don't mean to be stirring things up, truly, but i just *don't* understand why everyone is trying to learn solo phrases as anything other than a guidelines for playing solos on their own. I think over-focusing on playing something in the exact same way as [insert name here; can be any teacher] does it is ... well, where is the feeling? Are you [plural; not you personally] internalizing the feeling of the music, or just playing by rote? (Like practicing scales on guitar or piano.)
Completely agree, as would Mamady, I'm sure. But, as I said, in this case, I don't have any room to move.
...even Mamady doubles up in some of the solos he teaches (one of the Zaouli breaks comes to mind) in order to avoid rolling from his weak side.
I think that's because he's teaching it the way he does it, not because there's any flaw or weakness in what he does. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses; I don't see it as being anything close to crucial in the overall scheme of things.
Right. But, when being forced to play someone else's solo or break exactly (as is the case with the Zaouli break), the weakness can force awkward handing.
I think we all have natural affinities for certain things as opposed to other things... and that that is taken into account by good teachers of W. African percussion (not just djembe/duns, but music from Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, etc. etc.).
Absolutely. And Mamady makes allowance for rolling preference when he tests people for the certificate. But, unfortunately, with the Garangedon phrase, there is no really good alternative. Ideally, I'd play the phrase rolling left, but I'm not good enough to do that. The other option (anticipating the handing change) is "cheating" in the sense I explained earlier, and the final option (doubling up) is risky too because it's easy to fall behind...

Cheers,

Michi.
By djembeweaver
#20475
bubudi wrote:i think we pretty much agree on this. but rarely is not never ;)
regardless of the structure, all it takes is one extra stroke (or a roll) and you're onto the other hand.
I think you've hit the nail on the head...one extra stroke and you're onto the other hand.

I've been taught rolls starting on both right and left with Mamady Keita, Nansady Keita and Iya Sako. Every time it's ended up putting me back on the right (correct) hand after the roll.

Interestingly Iya told me that Mamady advised him to shift a lot of phrases over to the left because he was too strongly right-handed so that might be another reason to start rolls with the non-dominant hand.

I think you need to be able to play any way the situation calls for.
By Daniel Preissler
#20478
djembeweaver wrote:I've been taught rolls starting on both right and left with Mamady Keita, Nansady Keita and Iya Sako. Every time it's ended up putting me back on the right (correct) hand after the roll.
could you gibe a notation example of that (better: 3)?
That would be interesting for me.
Greets, D
By djemberay
#20970
Interesting example around Garangadon. I remember specifically learning it (more than once I think) from Mamady and he explicitly stated it was ok to move that last bass before the roll to the other hand. I almost want to say he recommended doing so, but I may well be off on that subtlety. I always have concerns about doubling up from a speed perspective so I've been using option 3 as described by Michi, but that could change!
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By archetypo
#23760
Interesting discussion, but you guys are all WAAAAAY over-thinking this. Sure, one can look closely at Mamady's or whomever's handing and try to emulate that, but at the end of the day, if you can't play the music with the right feeling, it doesn't matter which handing you use.

WRT someone's question regarding left-handed djembefola, Amadou Kienou is left-handed, but he has the ability to switch handing at the drop of a hat. He is insistent on his students developing the ability to play phrases with EITHER hand, and often has us working on phrasing where the repetitions alternate their handing, which is a real brain-twister. It's quite humbling to attempt simple phrases with non-dominant handing and realize you're not quite where you thought you were, especially when you've already been playing well over a decade and fancy yourself a half-decent player. Amadou is also a real stickler for technique - he can spend two hours drilling us on pure technique, just on getting our tones and slaps to sound the same on both hands, on getting one phrase to sound exactly the same played with either handing. His point being that if you really want to master this instrument, you can't afford to favour one hand over the other.

I tend to agree with him. The instrument we really have to master is not the djembe, it's our own body. This is the instrument that resonates the musical feeling - the djembe is just a tool to amplify those frequencies and give them form.

My husband Seydou isn't left-handed, but he's another djembefola who is insistent on being able to play phrases with either handing. I think M'Bemba Bangoura might be left-handed, but again - not totally sure - all I know is that he's yet another drummer I've seen playing phrases with both handings. I'm sure there are many more - I don't necessarily notice people's handing styles unless I'm trying to learn phrasing from them, and I think in teaching situations, many teachers tend to use more 'standard' handing than they might do in a more traditional or performance context.

I will say this much - developing that skill has not only made me a much better drummer, I'm pretty sure it has improved my neural connections in a whole lot of other areas as well. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I feel as if I'm just more coordinated in a general sense since I've been learning to play this way. When I first started playing, I studied with Famoudou and various sons, and according to my understanding, Famoudou developed his pedagogical style for 'westerners' with the help of his German students (Paul & Sylvie Kronewald I believe). I don't think that necessarily means he plays that way himself all the time - just that he's accepted the value of teaching handing in this way to westerners.

As a teacher of primarily beginners and westerners myself, I can see the value in staying consistent with your handing. I find students who don't develop this discipline to start with tend to have a hard time sensing and finding the beat, especially with more complex solo phrasing, but often even with simple things like placement of the breaks. Until a student has a really solid grasp of how to 'feel' where the beat is at all times, I think it's a mistake to push too hard on developing ambidexterity. I've actually had this discussion with Amadou, and although he agrees in principle, he still thinks it's beneficial for every student to learn ambidexterity right from the get-go, and that students should learn how to sense the beat by developing their listening ability, whereas I tend to think that a student has a better chance of developing an internal feel for the beat through consistent repetitive movements that eventually build familiar neural pathways. I also think it's probably difficult for many African teachers to really comprehend how far behind our neural development is as a result of not growing up hearing this music every day and learning the dance steps from the time we can walk.

My own observation, based on just watching students I've known over several years who have started working with Amadou more recently, is that the ones who have a well-developed set of neural pathways wrt consistent handing and who are consistently able to feel the beat usually do OK with switching around the handing. The students who are still building those neural pathways (you can spot them pretty easily - they're the ones who still look a bit awkward in their hand movement, the ones who have a hard time relaxing, the ones who can't quite figure out where the break or solo phrase is supposed to go when asked to play it by themselves) - these ones usually have a harder time being able to make the handing switch, and their comprehension of the beat can become even more confused.

So I would say, from my purely experiential POV, that most beginners should focus on building consistency in their handing, but once they get past the point of internalizing the beat and the melody, it's important to start developing ambidexterity.
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By djembefeeling
#23762
Hi Anna (at least this is what I recall as your name, archetypo)

I really liked what you just wrote and totally agree with it. It's so important to pay attention to the multitude of different qualifications that we "old" beginners of drumming in the west and those young kids in Africa have. You cannot simply transfer a way of teaching from Africa to us. We have to learn simple concepts of that music first that are only prerequisites of the real music. It's a long way for us. And, on the other side, our culture sometimes provides us with some helpful concepts like notation and the like that we can build on, that wouldn't do in Africa. And I had to develop those neural pathways myself before I could intergrate my weak left hand more. So, sometimes when a student opposes a suggestion in my teaching, I think I can wait and see if he or she is ready for it a year or half a year later. There obviously are other matters to be digested first.

best, jürgen
By bkidd
#23765
Hi Anna,

Thanks for opening up the discussion on ambidexterity. It's practice and teaching point that seem to divide teachers. I'll say that I'm still on the fence about it's actual benefit. It might be a good idea in principle, but, like you said, it's probably a better idea to have students develop their timing and sound before tackling being ambidextrous. What's interesting to me is that it seems like it would be roughly twice** as much work, time, and effort to get equally proficient with handing. Maybe the time would be better spent working out other aspects of music and enjoying playing rather than drilling ambidexterity?

I'll have to take your word on the benefits of ambidexterity because I'm not there and at this point, and frankly, don't see the clear advantage. Having more options is not always better. :) I'm still not happy with my musical proficiency taking a dominant hand approach and it seems like "mastery" will take even longer if I try to force ambidexterity. Not to mention the fact that there will always be an asymmetry.

As far as paying attention to other people's handing, I've found this useful for learning phrases. I look for where they start and stop and listen for the sound as a key to figure out what handing I should use. Most of the time a straight copy of what they're doing works great and allows me to produce good sound and timing.

Best,
-Brian

**Even though it may not be twice as much work, there is a time and effort paid in terms of working out techniques starting from the non-dominant hand.
By bkidd
#23766
Hi Jürgen,

Being a scientist myself, I love reading any peer-reviewed science on music so big thanks for the link to this article. Some people may not have access to the article so I'm posting the abstract for the other folas to see the summary of their findings.

Hannon EE, Trehub SE. Psychol Sci. 2005 Jan;16(1):48-55.
"Metrical categories in infancy and adulthood."

Intrinsic perceptual biases for simple duration ratios are thought to constrain
the organization of rhythmic patterns in music. We tested that hypothesis by
exposing listeners to folk melodies differing in metrical structure (simple or
complex duration ratios), then testing them on alterations that preserved or
violated the original metrical structure. Simple meters predominate in North
American music, but complex meters are common in many other musical cultures. In
Experiment 1, North American adults rated structure-violating alterations as less
similar to the original version than structure-preserving alterations for
simple-meter patterns but not for complex-meter patterns. In Experiment 2, adults
of Bulgarian or Macedonian origin provided differential ratings to
structure-violating and structure-preserving alterations in complex- as well as
simple-meter contexts. In Experiment 3, 6-month-old infants responded
differentially to structure-violating and structure-preserving alterations in
both metrical contexts. These findings imply that the metrical biases of North
American adults reflect enculturation processes rather than processing
predispositions for simple meters.
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By djembefeeling
#23767
bkidd wrote:I'll have to take your word on the benefits of ambidexterity because I'm not there and at this point, and frankly, don't see the clear advantage. Having more options is not always better. :) I'm still not happy with my musical proficiency taking a dominant hand approach and it seems like "mastery" will take even longer if I try to force ambidexterity. Not to mention the fact that there will always be an asymmetry.
Hi Brian, probably there will always be an asymmetry for all of us, and it certainly takes some extra time to develop ambidexterity, but if you always work around, e.g. rolls from the left, you will be forever seriously limited in your drumming. Those kind of things tend to pop up in situations where you don*t need them at all, like on stage. Apart from Annas example of a better coordination in a general sense, there is the advantage of being able to express what you want to "say" on the drum whenever this is needed, not whenever your hands allow you to do so.

About the time needed for developing those skills, it's interesting to see yourself and your students learning faster when you take time for the basics. Just this last weekend, I've been doing another of those suku workshops. The group has been a bit less experienced than my former one, so I started less ambitious and took way more time to teach the basic patterns, so everyone could catch them and had their time to become acquainted with them. In the end, the group learned more additional patterns of the rhythm than the more experienced group I taught before, because they did build a solid foundation of the basic patterns and had their minds free for more. first, it takes more time, but then you catch up easily and get faster!
By bkidd
#23772
Hi Jürgen,
djembefeeling wrote:
but if you always work around, e.g. rolls from the left, you will be forever seriously limited in your drumming.
I guess I'm not convinced this is a work around. At every stage of playing there will be the limit of what one can express based on their technical abilities and creativity. Musicians do what they can with their skill set. Musically there are innumerable possible phrases. Being ambidextrous doubles the possibilities, but they are sound-wise redundant (if one is truly ambidextrous), and it double the practice time. Undoubtably situations can arise where it would be better phrasing to roll left versus right or vice versa. In these situations one could simply practice those patterns rather than working on being ambidextrous in general.

My viewpoint is contrary to Amadou's in that I don't think ambidexterity should be included in the set of fundamental skills to work on. I think we're all in agreement about working on the basics and really building a solid foundation, which can take many years of dedicated practice. I would actually argue from a pedagogical point of view to focus on one particular handing in building this solid foundation (especially for beginners). I put ambidexterity in a "nice to have" skill set that can be worked on later if one wants to. As for limiting creativity or what one wants to say on the drum, I'm pretty sure ambidexterity is not a deal breaker. Neither Mamady nor Famoudou are completely ambidextrous and I don't think their creativity has been limited. :)

Best,
-Brian
Last edited by bkidd on Tue Nov 29, 2011 10:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.