Tagged: brushes

Filling the Gap

While perusing the homepage of this site earlier today, making sure everything was in order, something jumped out at me: A major gap in my tempo categories! How did this happen? How have I not recorded anything between 260-300 BPM?? That’s prime wanking territory. I’ve spent years perfecting paradiddles and triple flama-ratama-dingdongs in the this range, yet I somehow neglected to record anything for this blog. I immediately went up to my studio, set the click track to 285 BPM and got to work.

Loop #101

The second-fastest loop yet to be released, today’s groove kicks of my new tempo category with some straight up bebop playing in the vein of Max Roach and Vernel Fournier. A four bar phrase with brushes on the snare drum, this uptempo jazz groove is one of many that I’ll be releasing in the next loop pack.

Max Roach
Max Roach

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285 BPM

Brush Party

Well, I promised nothing but jazz this week and I’m staying true to my word. As much as I wanted to record some glam-rock, power ballad beats (trust me, they’re coming), I resisted the temptation and stayed focused on the “classic” stuff.

Loop #63

Max Roach
Max Roach

Like yesterday’s groove, today’s loop is another eight bar phrase, but at a brisker tempo and played with brushes. Stylistically, it’s a mix of all of my favorite brush players including; “Philly Joe” Jones, Max Roach and Vernel Fournier.

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245 BPM

Things that go Thump.

For my 50th loop I wanted to try something a bit different. No funk beats. No paradiddles. No wanking. I wanted to downsize and simplify. I wanted to see how much music I could make with a limited set of tools. I set forth some parameters:

One drum. One measure.

My initial instinct was to run to the safety of my snare drum, but I knew that would be the easy way out. It was time to explore uncharted waters. The threat of pirates only added to the excitement. I flipped my bass drum over and began hitting it with various things. Sticks, mallets, spatulas. Nothing was really working… until I grabbed some brushes.

The Setup
The Setup

Loop #50

It’s amazing how many frequencies you can pull out of one drum with a pair of brushes (especially when you start processing and mixing). With a bit of limiting and a dash of distortion, this loop soon took on an ominous life of its own.

For the geeks who are curious about the mic setup, I kept it pretty simple:

A Shure Beta 52A and a Rode NT5.

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90 BPM

Willie

Everyone has an album that reminds them of their childhood. A certain recording that can instantly transport you back to being a little kid. For me, that album is Willie Nelson’s 1978 classic, “Stardust”.

Every time my family made the six hour drive to my grandparents’ house in Missouri, “Stardust” found its way into the in-dash cassette player. I’m not sure if my parents had inside, CIA-type information telling them that this album would relax their kids and make them stop beating the shit out of each other, but whatever the case, it worked. Willie possesses a voice cool enough to lull Michael Vick‘s backyard kennel into a deep sleep.

Listen for yourself here.

Willie
Willie Nelson

The man responsible for the ultra laid-back timekeeping on this recording (and many other great Willie Nelson albums) is drummer, Paul English. As far as their working relationship, I believe Willie described it best:

I’ve had four wives in the past 40 years, but only one drummer.

Paul must be doing something right.

Paul English and Willie
Paul English and Willie

Loop #49

Today’s loop pays homage to Paul English and his signature laid-back approach. With a brush in my right hand and a stick in my left, I tried to lay down something that sounded like an outtake from the “Stardust” sessions. Now, go pick up your old, beat up acoustic guitar and write some country ballads. Just don’t forget to pay your taxes next week.

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77 BPM

Vernel.

Sorry things have been quiet around here. My wife and I went away for the weekend to celebrate our one year anniversary and for some reason, she wouldn’t let me bring my drums. Look for some new loops tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out this 1959 video of the Ahmad Jamal trio featuring the great Vernel Fournier on drums. Next to “Philly Joe” Jones, he’s one of my favorite brush players.

Brushes + Backbeat = Platinum Records

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After starting off my blog with two rather distorted and edgy loops I’ve decided to chill things out for today’s post. And in the world of drumming, nothing chills things out like putting down the sticks and pulling out a pair of brushes. When talking about brush playing, most people associate the technique with legendary jazz drummers such a “Philly Joe” Jones and Vernel Fournier While it’s true these men perfected the art of timekeeping with a bundle of wires throughout 1950’s and 60’s (this deserves a blog post of it’s own), I wanted to look at the use of brushes in a more contemporary light.

Russ Kunkel
russkunkel

I’m pretty sure the first time I ever heard Russ Kunkel’s drumming was while being shuffled back and forth to pre-school in my parent’s sweet station wagon. Russ Kunkel is a renowned session drummer who first broke onto the scene in early 70’s, recording hit albums with artists such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne (to name just a few). With my mother’s affinity for light-FM radio programming, Kunkel’s grooves were ingrained into my little head from an early age. The thing that made the biggest impression on me was the SOUND he got out of the drums. Fuzzy, warm, funky and round… all at the same time.

It was a few years later (after receiving my first pair of brushes) that I discovered how he achieved this unique tone. Most drummers instinctively gravitate towards a pair of sticks when recording pop/rock music. Russ Kunkel was a pioneer in the use of brushes in this particular vein. On top of having an amazing feel, he also used the sound of brushes to carve out his own distinct identity in the world of LA session drummers. Just listen to the tom fills on James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.

My early exposure to Russ Kunkel came full circle (almost) several years ago while I was recording at LA’s famed Conway Studios. I was initially excited about the session because I had the opportunity to work with Peter Asher who was producing. As well as being an accomplished artist himself, Peter is the one who produced all of those early James Taylor albums that were such a staple of my childhood. To raise the “oh shit, what is going on?” factor up another notch, Peter had hired Russ Kunkel’s son, Nate, to engineer the session.

As we were setting up to record (and as I was trying to keep my cool) I overheard Nate say to Peter.

Dad might stop by the session later today and say hi.”

And with that, the “oh shit” factor jumped off the charts. With one eye on Peter and the other on the door to the studio, I spent the next 6 hours laying down drum tracks, just waiting for Mr. Russ Kunkel himself to walk into the control room. Four songs later and before I knew it, the session was winding down and the assistants began winding up the dozens of microphone cords strewn across the studio floor. Half relieved, half disappointed, I realized my chance encounter with Russ would have to wait for another day.

I guess the irony of this long-winded story is that I never reached for the brushes on this particular day. Between having Peter and Nate on the session, and a possible ‘drop in’ by Russ Kunkel, I don’t think I (or the world) would have been able to handle the magnitude of such a thing. It’s the kind of cosmic intensity that could have sent us (along with most of Southern California) tumbling into the Pacific Ocean. For the love of mankind and the safety of millions, I stayed with the sticks.

However (for all of you equipment geeks out there), I did get to use Russ’s own Yamaha subkick which Nate brought to the studio.

Loop #3

No distortion or crazy effects on this one. Just a clean brush backbeat with a nod to Mr. Kunkel. Hopefully our paths will cross someday.

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80 BPM