A place for teachers to discuss issues to do with teaching
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By the kid
#6803
michi@triodia.com wrote:It's (djembe) supposed to be played from the gut
I generally play from my pancreas :rofl:
Some of the girls might sumon up power from there fingernails :rofl:
Who knows...

What i've read from above tread it seems like there is a concentration on perfection in Ballet drumming. I'd say not to be so competitive and nit picky and realise everyone has different personality and drumming style and try to appreciate what every one brings to a drum circle/ performance etc etc etc.
Its all so long i cant be assed replying on specifics
Yea short phrases are good too :rofl:
By bubudi
#6806
KEANIEirishdjembe wrote:I generally play from my pancreas :rofl:
the isles of langerhans? :lol:
Yea short phrases are good too :rofl:
:lol: :tsktsk:

but seriously i think michi has brought up some great points that haven't been discussed here before... equally applicable to traditional, non traditional and ballet styles.

i particularly like the point re: making your solo about adding to the music that your group is making, not about proving or challenging yourself. often i see someone solo and someone else in the group will lose the timing or sweetness of their accompaniment, especially if they are tensed up from concentration just to keep up. at that point the music starts to sound weak and it's time for the soloist to stop soloing and help out the group - guide the accompanist back into their part, or play a solo accompaniment for a little while... and only resume soloing when the rhythm is sounding good again. there is nothing worse than hearing someone solo loudly over a messy rhythm.
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By e2c
#6817
Keanie, no offense, but I don't think michi's posts are about perfectionism (or ballet playing) - more like honing skills and musicianship. I don't think it's easy to actually *talk* about (put into words) thoughts about this stuff, but there's a lot in his posts that's worth thinking over, imo.

it would be nice if we all had instant access to high-quality audio/video (of ourselves, to be posted here) to make our points, but since we don't, we're stuck with words. :)
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By the kid
#6818
I definitely have Langeritus and i'm not even from cork :rofl: fuyck

i aggree many good and interesting points, just over the top on occasion. Shorter posts would lead to easier understanding and dealing with a few points at a time would encourage better discussion on those points.
e2c wrote:if we all had instant access to high-quality audio/video
Canon Ixus or any compact digital camera?? = cheap alternative
User avatar
By michi
#6823
making your solo about adding to the music that your group is making, not about proving or challenging yourself.
I've met Mamady once so far, last year, for two of his workshops in Melbourne. I'd watched all his DVDs, read his book, listened to all his CDs... In one interview I saw (In "Legends of West Africa"), I thought he came across as a little self-important. So I wasn't sure what to expect, and watched and listened very closely all the time I was with him.

One thing that struck me during his workshops was his restraint. He gave almost all his energy to his students. The students weren't at the workshop to serve as a back-drop for him to show off his brilliance. Instead, Mamady was there to personally make sure that every person at the workshop took home as much as they possibly could to make them a better drummer.

The other thing that struck me was his absolutely effortless grace and sensitivity. He did solo occasionally. When he did, there was not one second where he didn't enhance what was happening right at that moment. Every note he played existed to add something to the rhythm and make it more beautiful. Not once did I even get a hint of what I so often see from other soloists (even masters) namely, the style of soloing that goes "see how much better I am than all of you."

At all times, he demonstrated a deep respect for the rhythm as it was happening right there and then. And, more than once, the rhythm would go a little out of shape because a group of accompaniment players would go off beat a little; every time that happened, no matter whether he was in the middle of a solo or not, Mamady instantly jumped in and supported the faltering group. At all times, to him, the sum was more important than the parts.

I have never seen that level of respect, humility, sensitivity, and sheer grace from anyone else I have studied with. I walked away from the workshops deeply impressed, and deeply in thought...

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By Dugafola
#6828
michi@triodia.com wrote:
making your solo about adding to the music that your group is making, not about proving or challenging yourself.
I've met Mamady once so far, last year, for two of his workshops in Melbourne. I'd watched all his DVDs, read his book, listened to all his CDs... In one interview I saw (In "Legends of West Africa"), I thought he came across as a little self-important. So I wasn't sure what to expect, and watched and listened very closely all the time I was with him.

One thing that struck me during his workshops was his restraint. He gave almost all his energy to his students. The students weren't at the workshop to serve as a back-drop for him to show off his brilliance. Instead, Mamady was there to personally make sure that every person at the workshop took home as much as they possibly could to make them a better drummer.

The other thing that struck me was his absolutely effortless grace and sensitivity. He did solo occasionally. When he did, there was not one second where he didn't enhance what was happening right at that moment. Every note he played existed to add something to the rhythm and make it more beautiful. Not once did I even get a hint of what I so often see from other soloists (even masters) namely, the style of soloing that goes "see how much better I am than all of you."

At all times, he demonstrated a deep respect for the rhythm as it was happening right there and then. And, more than once, the rhythm would go a little out of shape because a group of accompaniment players would go off beat a little; every time that happened, no matter whether he was in the middle of a solo or not, Mamady instantly jumped in and supported the faltering group. At all times, to him, the sum was more important than the parts.

I have never seen that level of respect, humility, sensitivity, and sheer grace from anyone else I have studied with. I walked away from the workshops deeply impressed, and deeply in thought...

Cheers,

Michi.
that's why he's the MAN. best teacher i've ever had...hands down.
User avatar
By Carl
#6831
Wow Michi, you are on a ROLL!

Some thoughts:

On good solos... I feel that there is this thing which I can only call "musical thoughts". These are not representational of anything outside themselves/music. It is like a language, there are things that make musical sense, just like words make linguistic sense. This is greatly complicated when the music has to relate to something outside it's-self, like playing for dancers (or writing opera, where there is a plot to consider, not to mention dialog!)

When you first start soloing, you have simple musical thoughts, and they can be "said" in a relatively short solo. That's one reason why some people can solo for 10 min. and it will sound amazing, and for others, if they solo for more than 40 seconds, it seems like it is going on forever! The more complicated your musical thoughts, the longer it takes to say them.

Everything mentioned in the list of "bad solos" can be related to speaking or writing, talking "over the heads" of your audience. Not making logical sense with your words. using complicated words just to use complicated words.

One of the ways that I think about it, is that each rhythm is a subject and I solo on that subject. If you listen to a LOT of music, I think you will naturally "stay on subject" when you solo on the songs that you are familiar with, because you've heard a lot of people "talk" about it in their solos. The danger comes if you learn a lot of solos, but do not hear them in context. For example, while my class way playing Soli - Rapide one of my students played a very Soli-des-manian type solo technique. (I had just explained some of the theory of the technique, and he was playing with it...) It sounded very strange to my ears! like someone talking about his favorite pizza in the middle of a conversation about auto repair. What I find particularly interesting in this case is that there is a exra-musical relationship (they are both from the Soli family) but the musical grammar is in conflict.

Ok, I'll have to make time to post some more... There is a lot more that I'd like to talk about on this subjetct....
:ubergeek:
C
User avatar
By Carl
#6832
Another thought...

Wara Wara

While it is easy to think that wara wara is all about ego, there is another side to this to keep in mind.

Music, like everything else, evolves over time. Most generations want to add to what happened before them. Also, it seems to me, that the best musicians love to be challenged. They are always looking for the next thing to learn to keep them "fresh".

The problem is when the search for "the new" looses connection to it's history and tradition.

Arnold Schoenbergs birthday was this past Sunday, he came up with the "12 tone" system for classical music. This is a much misunderstood, and often poorly utilized approach to music composition. It is very mathematical and it is easy to write very BAD music using this system. His problem was that he came onto the scene at the end of the "romantic" period. the tonal system, which had been the heart of european music for centuries, seemed to have run out of "new" ideas for composers to work with. Schoenberg system was a great breakthrough for developing new ideas. Schoenberg and his school produced amazing, provocative, groundbreaking music.

The problem (again) came when others used his system without connecting it to it's history. Later composers used this system as an excuse to ignore other rules of composition, which were vitally important to the 'listenability" of music.

There have been many innovations due to the creation of the ballets. Mamady himself has made the point that he has no problem with the ballet or with innovation. As long as you are coming from an understanding of the tradition.

I strongly feel that when you 'come from the tradition', you have learned the "language" of the music. If you are able to speak with the traditional tongue, then, when you come up with "new" things, it will make sense to other people who know the traditional language.

Now, to be clear, there are a lot of levels of understanding here. Just because you can come up with a good solo improv. for Soli Rapide, it does not mean that you can write a convincing 'dununba' rhythm, and vice versa.

Man... this is very interesting to me, and I wish I had more time to talk about it, but I've been ignoring work WAY to long!

Please continue this conversation, I'll chime in when I have time (or when I just can't help myself...)

Carl
User avatar
By michi
#6839
Carl wrote:I feel that there is this thing which I can only call "musical thoughts". These are not representational of anything outside themselves/music. It is like a language, there are things that make musical sense, just like words make linguistic sense.
I think I know what you mean. There is an internal structure, grammar, and syntax in solos and rhythm that stands all by itself and has aesthetic value. Just like certain colors go together and make for a visually pleasing experience, even if they have no shape that would relate to the outside world; the color combination all by itself has aesthetic value. Similarly, in music, there are tonal intervals that we perceive as pleasant and others that we perceive as unpleasant (such as the tritone interval, which was apparently banned in some places in medieval times as "the devil in music"). These intervals sound pleasant or unpleasant independent of their surrounding harmonic context.
This is greatly complicated when the music has to relate to something outside it's-self, like playing for dancers (or writing opera, where there is a plot to consider, not to mention dialog!)
Yes. Scoring for a film comes to mind as an extreme case of where external events shape the music. I've always thought that the role of music in movies is grossly under-appreciated in its contribution to the emotional impact of the movie. Most of the time, viewers aren't really aware of the music and all their focus is on the visuals, dialog, story line, and sound effects. Yet, without the music, a movie has much less of an impact. (I've had the opportunity to watch movies without the music track, but with everything else intact. It is amazing how flat a movie gets when the music goes missing.)
When you first start soloing, you have simple musical thoughts, and they can be "said" in a relatively short solo. That's one reason why some people can solo for 10 min. and it will sound amazing, and for others, if they solo for more than 40 seconds, it seems like it is going on forever! The more complicated your musical thoughts, the longer it takes to say them.
I only know a handful of drummers in person who can solo for 10 minutes and keep me interested for the entire time. Without exception, all of them are West African masters.

I agree about the complexity angle: if I take 10 minutes to say something, there had better be 10 minutes worth of content. And because good soloing requires maintaining a theme, managing a tension curve, reiterating previous points, and so on, that implies a story underneath it, not just a long sequence of interesting phrases.

I just listened again to Mamady's Djembe Kan solos. Technical wizardry aside, listening to those solos makes it very clear that there is a story here, with a development, highlights, little jokes along the way, and element of surprise, and a plot. (To me, these are the best unaccompanied djembe solos I have ever heard.)
Everything mentioned in the list of "bad solos" can be related to speaking or writing, talking "over the heads" of your audience. Not making logical sense with your words. using complicated words just to use complicated words.
I wouldn't say "everything". For example, bad micro-timing seems to be just that, bad micro-timing. But I agree that most of the features of bad solos relate to not relating and talking over the heads of the audience and/or fellow musicians. After all, solos are communication. If the communication goes one-sided, with the speaker ignoring the audience, pretty much by definition, there is no longer any communication (because communication implies a two-way exchange of information).
One of the ways that I think about it, is that each rhythm is a subject and I solo on that subject. If you listen to a LOT of music, I think you will naturally "stay on subject" when you solo on the songs that you are familiar with, because you've heard a lot of people "talk" about it in their solos.
I strongly agree with that. What you call a "subject", I called the "essence" and "identity" of each particular rhythm. Respecting that subject or identity is essential to good soloing.
The danger comes if you learn a lot of solos, but do not hear them in context. For example, while my class way playing Soli - Rapide one of my students played a very Soli-des-manian type solo technique. (I had just explained some of the theory of the technique, and he was playing with it...) It sounded very strange to my ears! like someone talking about his favorite pizza in the middle of a conversation about auto repair. What I find particularly interesting in this case is that there is a exra-musical relationship (they are both from the Soli family) but the musical grammar is in conflict.
Totally agree. I've come across the same thing many times. A drummer plays a set solo they have learned somewhere, but plays it over a different rhythm than the original one. I listen and recognise the solo. And I listen to the overall effect and shy back. Quite often, my inner voice goes "yes, these are nice phrases, and I know you learned that solo from such and such, but don't you realize how you are fighting the rhythm with what you are doing?"

That's not to say that I'm berating that person. It takes time and experience to develop a feel for what works, and doing things wrong is a necessary step along the path to doing them right. I know that I still miss the mark quite often myself. But, as my experience grows, I find that it becomes easier to pull out those phrases that work and avoid those that don't without having to slavishly stick to a set solo I learned in the past, and without having to play with my head thinking "what should come next" when I'm soloing.

Cheers,

Michi.
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By michi
#6840
Carl wrote:While it is easy to think that wara wara is all about ego, there is another side to this to keep in mind.

Music, like everything else, evolves over time. Most generations want to add to what happened before them. Also, it seems to me, that the best musicians love to be challenged. They are always looking for the next thing to learn to keep them "fresh".

The problem is when the search for "the new" looses connection to it's history and tradition.
That is pretty much what I saw in the young guns in Mali. They were trying to push the envelope and break new ground to some extent. Youth and lack of experience account for the less-than-perfect result as much as the fact that they were breaking new ground: if I boldly go where no drummer has gone before, I'm bound to find myself in the wilderness occasionally. (If I didn't, I would hardly be breaking new ground...)

I also agree that being aware of the tradition is immensely important in this process. There are hundreds of years of development embodied in the tradition. In many ways, the "tradition" is a collection of "things that work". Knowing which things work and which things don't helps a lot in breaking new ground successfully: if I were to break new ground in ignorance of the tradition, I would effectively go and re-invent the music from scratch, winding back time by those hundreds of years. Knowledge of the tradition provides a guide to the wilderness, in a sense.
Schoenberg system was a great breakthrough for developing new ideas. Schoenberg and his school produced amazing, provocative, groundbreaking music.

The problem (again) came when others used his system without connecting it to it's history. Later composers used this system as an excuse to ignore other rules of composition, which were vitally important to the 'listenability" of music.
I think that is the exactly analogous situation: new ground becomes a lot more familiar if it maintains a structural link with old ground.
There have been many innovations due to the creation of the ballets. Mamady himself has made the point that he has no problem with the ballet or with innovation. As long as you are coming from an understanding of the tradition.
Yes. And I would argue that the ballets are deeply respectful of the tradition, even though the music is quite different. The ballets certainly did not go and throw out those hundreds of years of experience and wisdom.
I strongly feel that when you 'come from the tradition', you have learned the "language" of the music. If you are able to speak with the traditional tongue, then, when you come up with "new" things, it will make sense to other people who know the traditional language.
I think that is a very important point. Communication is possible only if there is a set of things on whose meaning the sender and receiver agree. The signals that are exchanged carry information and meaning. If I send the signal "red", and you perceive it as "green", then I may have painted a beautiful picture in shades of red, and you receive an ugly unaesthetic mess of greens. In other words, if we don't agree on the meaning of the signal, communication is impossible and results in an incomprehensible mess.

Tradition is what gives meaning to many of the signals, and it is our common understanding of the tradition that allows us to agree on the aesthetic value of the message.

Cheers,

Michi.
Last edited by michi on Fri Sep 18, 2009 9:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By e2c
#6846
In many ways, the "tradition" is a collection of "things that work". Knowing which things work and which things don't helps a lot in breaking new ground successfully: if I were to break new ground in ignorance of the tradition, I would effectively go and re-invent the music from scratch, winding back time by those hundreds of years. Knowledge of the tradition provides a guide to the wilderness, in a sense.
Yep! I think this applies to all of the arts, not just music. (And to just about any other skill or type of craft that you could name, from farming to physics to cabinetmaking.)
User avatar
By bops
#6847
michi@triodia.com wrote:I agree about the complexity angle: if I take 10 minutes to say something, there had better be 10 minutes worth of content.
It seems you guys are confusing "thought" with "feeling" when it comes to soloing. Complexity is not always necessary. Don't over-think it.

One characteristic of African music is that it is repetitive. The repetition is a way to reach altered or heightened states. Take for example, Takosaba:

Mark the step, mark the step, mark the step, double.
Repeat for about 6 hours.

That's how it's done in Kouroussa. Not a lot of fancy phrasing, but still plenty of interplay. It's all in the nuance, the energy, the feeling. In Africa, there's no such thing as boredom. But there is such a thing as HOT - when a person's temperament or energy doesn't fit with their surroundings. I think this is what's happening when you talk about people trying to solo to impress others or to outdo one another.

But when all the notes fall into place just right... that's cool!
User avatar
By michi
#6848
bops wrote:
michi@triodia.com wrote:I agree about the complexity angle: if I take 10 minutes to say something, there had better be 10 minutes worth of content.
It seems you guys are confusing "thought" with "feeling" when it comes to soloing. Complexity is not always necessary. Don't over-think it.
Yes, there isn't much room for thought in drumming (at least not while I'm doing it). When I'm not doing it, I can think about it all I like :)
Mark the step, mark the step, mark the step, double.
Repeat for about 6 hours.

That's how it's done in Kouroussa. Not a lot of fancy phrasing, but still plenty of interplay. It's all in the nuance, the energy, the feeling. In Africa, there's no such thing as boredom.
I hear you. But that isn't the kind of drumming I had in mind when I talked about soloing techniques. I was more thinking along the lines of a classical djembe solo that is played in the traditional style over some rhythm. What you describe is a different style of drumming, I think. And, yes, there is room for that too, of course!
But there is such a thing as HOT - when a person's temperament or energy doesn't fit with their surroundings. I think this is what's happening when you talk about people trying to solo to impress others or to outdo one another.
Yes. That kind of solo creates disharmony, each and every time.
But when all the notes fall into place just right... that's cool!
Amen! ;)

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By Carl
#6854
bops wrote:It seems you guys are confusing "thought" with "feeling" when it comes to soloing. Complexity is not always necessary. Don't over-think it.

One characteristic of African music is that it is repetitive. The repetition is a way to reach altered or heightened states. Take for example, Takosaba:
Just to be clear, I am thinking of a "musical thought". Thinking "dat - do dat" is a perfectly legitimate thought. There is nothing wrong with that. In the Takosaba example, the musical thought is related to an external event (the dance). But it is a MUSICAL thought about the dance.

To continue the music / language metaphor. it is like using a mantra or chant to make work easier.

And to relate to the 10 min / 40 sec bordome issue, there is a difference between chanting for meditation and that guy at the party who just wont shut up telling the same story over and over again... ;)

Also, in this situation I do not differentiate thought from feeling. Is an emotional thought a real thought? a real emotion? Lots of people like to separate thinking from feeling. While both have regions where they are separate from the other (to a limited degree), I feel that there is a lot more overlap than most people give credit to.

It's like in the drumset world where there seems to be two camps, the thinking camp of if you can't play 7 against 9 over a 15/16 time signature then you can't call yourself a drummer, or the feeling camp of "if you work with a teacher they will kill all of your feeling and originality"... in reality the working drummers couldn't care less about either, but are deeply concerned about where their next gig is coming from.... {hmmm.... 7 against 9 over 15/16... I wonder what that would sound like?}

:ubergeek:

Argh... again more to say but work intervenes.

C