Up Tempo Comping with Stick Control, part 1

This is an exercise that I’ve had around for a little while that utilizes one of my favorite books, George Lawrence Stone’s Stick Control. A while back I realized that my left hand would tighten up when I was comping on the snare drum at a faster tempo. It occurred to me that my left hand typically worked just fine up beyond 250bpm when I was warming up on the snare drum with Stick Control. If you think about it, the 8th note stickings at 250 are really 16th note stickings at 125. I’m not going to try to convince you that that’s slow, but it’s not breakneck fast either. So what’s the deal?

Simply put, every move you make with your right hand, effects your left and vice versa. When you’re playing your paradiddles (#s 5-8 on this first page) your hands are working in concert, one moves, then the other. Your sticks are (hopefully) right in the middle of the drum, your shoulders are relaxed and you’re using your wrists to move the fluidly through the stickings. When you’re comping your hands are playing two separate parts, the goal is to make these individual movements sound like they are working in concert, they are after all part of one single musical voice (you).

I’m going to stick with those paradiddles for this exercise. To begin we’re going to isolate the left hand and play the ride cymbal pattern over it.

full paradiddle comp ex

Once you have the coordination worked out (start slow and all that), alternate with measures of the full sticking on snare drum.

alternating paradiddle comp.jpg

The idea is to remain as fluid during the measures of time as you are during the measures of snare drum.

Work through the four paradiddles, then go back and start from #1 in stick control, singles can be particularly difficult. Once you master them though, you can begin mixing them with your paradiddles to create longer comping phrases.


Elvin Jones Stream Of Consciousness Triplets

This exercise is an attempt to achieve some of the freedom Elvin had with triplet figures not only around the drums, but also phrased through the music. The first step is to pick a rhythmic source, I’m using Ted Reed’s Syncopation, Set 1 and 2 starting on P. 33. You could also use a couple measures from a tune you like (Oleo could work well) or a phrase that you compose. The second step is to learn the “triplet ways”, look up John Ramsay’s Alan Dawson book for reference.

Here’s where we’ll start. Pick two measures from Syncopation, these are the two I used:

Sync Src Elvin Triplets

Now you’ll work through them using simple phrasing ideas; AAAB, AABA, ABAB, etc. Here’s what that looks like as bass drum = the line, snare drum fills in the triplet:


Once you feel comfortable sing a tune while you play, I chose Autumn Leaves, you’ll feel the arc of each phrase more intensely by hearing it against the melodic phrase.

Finally, when you’ve played through your written source material, begin to improvise each B. As with any improvisational exercise it’s up to you how far you allow yourself to stray from the original parameters. I found myself working in two ways. First, with a steady ride cymbal “in the style” of the written exercise, essentially “improvising” a measure from set one or two. Second, without the steady ride cymbal allowing myself to freely play through each B, keeping in mind the goal is to play with a triplet feel.