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

Can’t Hide Love

From Drum Charts

This month I will be taking an in depth look at the drumming of singer-songwriter, arranger, record producer, band leader and drummer Maurice White. He was founder and lead singer of the band Earth, Wind & Fire and one of three incredible drummers for the group along with younger brother Fred White and Ralph Johnson. White’s drumming also appears on many R&B classics from earlier in his career as a session musician for Chess Records, and on nine recordings with the popular jazz group the Ramsey Lewis Trio. An incredible drummer, musician and producer, Maurice White has had a profound influence on soul and pop music over his illustrious career.

Can't Hide Love (EW&F) - Drum Chart_000001

I will begin this Artist Spotlight series on Maurice White by taking a look at his drumming on the Earth Wind & Fire classic “Can’t Hide Love” from the 1975 album Gratitude. A cover version of a song originally recorded by Creative Source in 1973, this demonstrates White’s incredible arranging skills.

Although this is a ballad tempo at just 77BPM, White propels the band with incredible energy and excitement. He plays 16th notes on the hi-hats accented on every beat giving the groove a tremendous forward motion and the syncopated bass drum part locks in perfectly with the funky bass guitar part at various points in the song. As ever with White it’s a classic “less is more” approach and he really holds back until unleashing some terrific fills during the repeating out-chorus.

The shaping of this song is outstanding, from the beautifully orchestrated horns and strings, the inventiveness of White’s groove in the introduction, and the perfectly executed form of the song (note White shaves off 4-bars from the beginning of the second verse) he takes the listener on a soulful journey.

I’ve included a drum chart and full transcription so you can see how the song form works but also learn from White’s fantastic ensemble playing in the chorus and outro. Enjoy, and trust me… it’s harder than it looks!

In the next part of this series I will be looking at White’s drumming on his own composition “Sing A Song”, see you then!

Can’t Hide Love (EW&F) – Drum Chart

Uptown Funk

From Drum Charts

Uptown Funk - Drum Chart

Here is a drum chart for the song “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson. Not only does Bruno Mars feature as vocalist on this recording, he lays down some PHAT drums as well! Also check out the FUNK in Jamareo Artis’s bass lines… Beautiful. I’ve made an “Essential Fills” sheet for this as well as a “Notebook” with some ways to approach the outro groove and more fills transcribed from the recording. Enjoy and let me know how you get on….

Uptown Funk – Drum Chart
Uptown Funk – Essential Fills
Uptown Funk – Notebook