1: the act or process of displacing : the state of being displaced
2: the substitution of another form of behavior for what is usual or expected, especially when the usual response is nonadaptive —called also displacement activity displacement behavior
Displacement doesn’t only occur when diving into pools or dropping too many ice cubes into your drink (Jim Beam & Diet Coke), it can also take place in music. In the world of drumming, beat displacement is a technique where you change the perception of the back beat by moving the whole groove forwards or backwards (usually by an eighth or sixteenth note) while keeping the underlying time signature intact.
I first learned about beat displacement while going through my “Dave Weckl phase”. I was in the eighth grade and listened to nothing but Weckl’s debut album, “Master Plan”, for about three months straight. Apparently, Dave’s “Master Plan” was to confuse the bass player in my junior high jazz band by showing me how to move the beat around. Throughout the album, he constantly uses the technique of beat displacement, ultimately creating rhythmic tension until re-establishing the “one” of the downbeat.
Today’s loop is a basic example of beat displacement. It starts off as a straight ahead groove but in bar three and four I move everything back by one eight note, causing the back beat to occur on the “and” of 2 and 4. This gives the impression that the whole groove has shifted until it turns back around when the phrase repeats.
Note – this kind of stuff (and anything else inspired by Dave Weckl) should be used sparingly. A little goes a long way. Much like cologne or those packets of yellow mustard you get when ordering Chinese food.
Recently I’ve been digging through my collection of albums on the ECM label. It’s been a refreshing change to the over-compressed (then compressed again to mp3) music that’s usually jammed into my eardrums throughout the day. ECM records tend to have a very distinct, clear and present sound that are particularly complimentary of cymbal work.
Several of my favorite drummers have recorded on albums produced and released by ECM. The two that have probably influenced my playing the most are Jack DeJohnette and Peter Erskine. I highly recommend checking out Jack’s work on the Keith Jarrett trio albums or Peter’s 1992 record, “You Never Know”.
Today’s loop is inspired by all of those great ECM recordings. It’s also a great opportunity to fine tune my overhead mics (and play fills over the bar line).
Get those djembes out! If you’ve ever met me, then you know there’s nothing I love more than a good drum circle. Take a large group of hippies (preferably ones that haven’t showered in at least a week), light some incense and place them in a public park. Give them a wide assortment of hand percussion and lose yourself in hours of endless tribal drumming (with origins that stem deep into the suburbs of Boulder and Santa Cruz).
Inspired by a rare Phish b-side, here’s a loop you can really jam to, brah.
If you consider yourself a true music fan and live in Boston, then odds are you’ve been to Wally’s. Since 1947, it’s been a Beantown institution, known as a stomping ground for both Berklee students and touring musicians alike. The size of a small apartment (it’s literally the ground floor of an old brownstone), Wally’s is about as intimate as a venue can get. In order to safely walk to the bathroom, you need to squeeze past the hi hat and pray to god the drummer doesn’t do a fill.
While my friends and I were in college, Wally’s was our Mecca. You could find us there on any given Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday night. These were known as “funk nights”… and funky it was. The musicians responsible for “house band” duties usually consisted of Sam Kininger on sax, Eric Kranso on guitar, Adam Deitch on drums, and a slew of other musicians who would later go on to form the band, Lettuce.
This is a groove inspired by those late night jam sessions at Wally’s. Uptempo funk with a bit of conga in the mix. For this loop I used my little 10″ Premier snare and cranked it up nice and high with no dampening.
My love affair with odd meters started back when I was in high school. Sparks flew the first time I heard “The Inner Mounting Flame” by The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Billy Cobham’s drumming was the perfect combination of technique, musicality and intensity. I was fifteen years old and immediately became fascinated with learning how to play in time signatures like 7/8, 5/4 and 9/8. Suddenly, all of those INXS albums seemed so boring.
I went out and bought the subsequent Mahavishnu albums including “Birds of Fire” and “Between Nothingness and Eternity”, but it was Billy Cobham’s 1973 solo album, “Spectrum”, that ultimately made the biggest impression on me. From the album’s opening track, “Quardrant 4” (a double bass shuffle that makes the intro to “Hot for Teacher” seem like a walk in the park), to the ultra laid back closer, “Red Baron”, Spectrum is the ultimate study in fusion drumming. Billy’s playing is both both virtuosic and inspiring, while always remaining musical.
In honor of Billy, here’s my first odd meter loop (in 7/8). For this very special occasion, I decided to pull out my “big” hi hats, which are essentially a 17″ K dark crash on the top and an A Custom on the bottom. The sheer size of these cymbals tend to add some extra weight to the feel, while the hand hammered tonalities of the K keep things nice and dark. I invited Jan Hammer to come jam on some keytar but unfortunately, he was already hangin’ with Crockett and Tubs. Maybe next time?
In 1970 Miles Davis turned the jazz world upside down with the release of Bitches Brew. Featuring 20+ minute songs and an expanded rhythm section, Miles pushed the envelope of a genre that would be later be known as “fusion”. Blending jazz improvisation with rock instrumentation and grooves, Bitches Brew was a turning point not only for Davis, but for several members of his band.
One of those members was keyboardist, Joe Zawinul. After the release of Bitches Brew, Zawinul went on to start his own band, Weather Report along with sax player and fellow Davis alum, Wayne Shorter. Weather Report carried the fusion torch into the 1980’s, releasing several classic albums along the way including; I Sing the Body Electric, Night Passage and my personal favorite, Heavy Weather.
Today’s loop takes the hypnotic, vamping style of Bitches Brew and mixes it with the quarter note, cross stick grooves found on several tracks from Heavy Weather. I took out all of the muffling in the kick drum and tried to lay down the foundation with more “boom” than “thud”. Unlike many of the albums mentioned above, no drugs were used during the recording process (mom, I swear).