Monthly Archives: April 2015

Wade In The Water

From Beat Sheets

Wade In The Water (R.Lewis) - Transcription_000001The final lesson from this months Artist Spotlight series on drummer Maurice White looks at his playing with the popular jazz artist Ramsey Lewis on the hit “Wade In The Water”. 

Recorded one year later and on the same record label as Part 3’s “Rescue Me”, “Wade In The Water” shows White in a jazz context with piano trio (piano, bass and drums) plus horn section. This was White’s first outing with Ramsey Lewis, who at the time was famous for recording instrumental versions of hit songs in a gospel jazz setting, most notably his cover of Dobie Gray’s “The ‘In’ Crowd”. Both songs feature the same boogaloo type groove that was popular during the 1960s, where American R&B, jazz and soul was being fused with Cuban rhythms to create a driving danceable beat.

This is a great example of a straight boogaloo feel that is only subtly different to the typical R&B groove found on “Rescue Me” but with some Cuban flavour. Here White plays a cross stick on the snare borrowed from the sound of the clave, and accents the quarter-note on the hi-hat, and later ride cymbal, much like the sound of the cha-cha bell pattern. He also plays some funky accents on the toms once he switches to the ride, this time emulating the sound of the congas. I’ve made a “beat sheet” notating the variations so you can study exactly how these are added during the “Play x” sections of the chart.

Notice how White’s fills also borrow from the sound of the Cuban rhythm section. The accented snare drum rim shots on beat 4 of measures 52, 68, 84, and 92 all replicate the sound of the timbales. These rim shots are moved to the ”and” of 4 in measures 72 and 76 with a crash cymbal for added explosion.

My favourite feature of White’s drumming on this song is the way he frames the excellent horn arrangement. To show how he does this I’ve created a drum chart more in line with what you see when playing with a big band; here the key is to chart the important band figures so the drummer can “set up” the cues and phrase with the band. I’ve also made a transcription of his playing in these sections to accompany the drum chart. I recommend you play through the transcription and compare with the chart to get the feel of how subtly and musically he plays each section.

Look at how he incorporates the rhythms of the cues by crashing the ride cymbal with bass drum whilst maintaining a strong groove feel, most noticeably in measure 93 to 102. The sixteenth note fill into measure 97 has a great impact at this point and sets up the climax of the song. This is some really great drumming.

By going back to some of White’s earlier work I think it is clear to see how he was influenced by jazz and world rhythms to create the unique sound of Earth, Wind & Fire, and it’s also been a lesson on how to play musically for the song. There isn’t anything “technically” difficult about any of the drumming on these songs, however paradoxically it isn’t at all easy to play like that.

Next month I will be looking at the drumming of Count Basie’s drummer, the great Sonny Payne. Until then, happy practicing.

Wade In The Water (R. Lewis) – Drum Chart
Wade In The Water (R.Lewis) – Transcription
Wade In The Water – Beat Sheet

The “takadimi” fill

From Drumadiddle

Takadimi - Essential Fills_000001The second instalment of this Essential Fills series on 1-Beat Wonders looks at what I call the “takadimi” fill. In the previous lesson I introduced the “takadi” fill and showed you some basic voicings. The “takadimi” adds just one more note to the fill, the “mi”, which is the fourth 16th-note of the beat. This is to be played RLRL to begin with (or the opposite if you play left-handed).

There are obviously many similarities between the “takadi” and the “takadimi” fill, however this fill is much more difficult to voice as you have to be careful to avoid the hands crossing over each other in an awkward way. I’ve made a note of some basic voicings that work, but also try out some of your own and write down or make a mental note of which ones work best.

Again, once you can play the fill easily every bar try playing the same fill every 2-, 4- and 8-bars. Then try playing it on some different grooves.

Have fun with it, and see you next time for the next 1-beat Wonder.

Takadimi – Essential Fills

Rescue Me

From Drum Charts

Rescue Me - TranscriptionParts 1 and 2 of this months Artist Spotlight series on Maurice White focused on his drumming with the band Earth, Wind & Fire (see “Can’t Hide Love” and “Sing A Song”). In this third instalment I will look at his playing from earlier in his career as session drummer for Chess records. Here he played on many hit soul records, but perhaps the biggest was “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass.

Chess Records in Chicago was founded in 1950 and became an important label in the development of R&B music, producing many early blues and rock ‘n’ roll records. White was working for them throughout the 1960s and this recoding is from the middle of that period. “Rescue Me” was recorded 10 years before Earth, Wind & Fire’s album Gratitude and you will immediately notice the difference in the way the drums are tuned, recorded, and indeed played.

One of the first things to note is that White is playing with a softer touch and his drums are tuned more like a jazz drum set, with a higher pitched bass drum with less muffling. The bass drum is much less audible in the mix with the congas and bass guitar taking up a similar frequency. Also, the addition of rhythm guitar and tambourine further mask the drum sound. However, as with the Motown sound of the same period, the aim here is for the whole rhythm section to sound “as one” with each part blending into the other. One of the most distinguishing parts of this song is Louis Satterfield’s bass line, and it’s no surprise that Satterfield was another of the founding members of Earth, Wind & Fire, playing trombone with the Phenix Horns.

My favourite feature of White’s drumming on this song is one of his trademarks of landing fills on the open hi-hats on beat 1. You will hear this a lot in both Maurice and Fred White’s drumming, and is a way of accenting a new section whilst “getting out of the way” by quickly closing the hats on beat 2, rather than have a cymbal ring on. Listen to Fred White doing the same on The Emotions “Best of My Love”. Another feature to note is how he plays the ensemble figures with the trombone; here he plays the short notes on closed hi-hat and snare, and the long notes on open hi-hats and bass drum. This is a common way jazz drummers phrase long and short notes with a band.

I have provided a full transcription to accompany the drum chart so you can study the different variations of the fills throughout the song, and an Essential Fills sheet with a few exercises to help practice the fill.

The final part of this series on Maurice White will look at his drumming with the popular jazz group the Ramsey Lewis Trio on the hit “Wade In The Water”, see you then.

Rescue Me – Drum Chart
Rescue Me – Transcription
Rescue Me – Essential Fills

Sing A Song

From Drum Charts

Sing A Song - Drum Chart_000001

Earlier this week I began an Artist Spotlight series on Earth, Wind & Fire front man Maurice White by looking at his drumming on the song “Can’t Hide Love”. Today I will be focusing on his playing on one of my all time favourite recordings “Sing A Song” from the same 1975 album Gratitude.

Composed by White himself with his writing partner Al McKay this R&B classic has all the features that propelled the band to chart success: a joyful and energetic groove, infection horn hook and catchy melody. White demonstrates how to “take care of business” with a simple but effective beat.

As is often the case with R&B grooves this can look deceptively simple. Although its a straight forward beat it’s important to make sure the drums lock-in with the other instruments in the band, especially the bass guitar. Here White demonstrates how to play exactly what the song needs: No ego, just pure groove. If you take a look at the first two measures of the verse notice how the groove effectively begins on beat 3 of the second measure. Listen to how this works with the emphasis in the bass part at the same place. It’s almost the exact same drum groove as The Emotions massive hit “Best Of My Love” penned by the same song writing pair, just displaced by two beats.

Another feature I like is the short “Building 8ths” fill that White repeats throughout the song. It really gives the drum part a sense of identity and the listener the impression the fill has been composed rather than improvised each time. Again this shows great maturity and is a lesson on how to “play for the song”.

The third instalment of this series will look at his playing on the Fontella Bass song “Rescue Me”. See you soon…

Sing A Song – Drum Chart