Afrobeat Drumming – Beats Of Tony Allen, Book Review

Afrobeatt Drumming - Beats Of Tony AllenOK, I think it’s obvious by now that I’m really in to the drumming of Tony Allen and Afrobeat in general. When I got into Afrobeat, I looked for teaching materials to help me develop my Afrobeat chops. There weren’t many resources available so I had to start writing my own. Over the last couple of years I’ve managed to get a good sense of Tony Allen’s drumming and have been lucky enough to see Allen live on two occasions. I hope my recent series of posts presenting a range of exercises for developing Afrobeat coordination reflects my understanding well.

I was very excited when I discovered the book Afrobeat Drumming, Beats of Tony Allen by Turkish drummer and educator Anil Sahinoz. The book contains transcriptions of the grooves from 54 of Tony Allen’s tracks including music recorded with Fela Kuti as well as his solo recordings. Each groove is broken down into its component parts to help you learn the patterns by working through a series of simpler steps. The grooves are laid out very clearly with one bar per line and wherever it helps the process there are detailed descriptions of what the student of Afrobeat drumming needs to look out for to get the feel and details right as well as some nice insights into the author’s process in learning these beats himself.

I highly recommend this book to any drummer interested in the music and drumming of Tony Allen and to any drummer who would like to grow their vocabulary and learn a new idiom which will develop feel and coordination. Learning to play like Tony Allen is a great way to enrich a drummer’s set of possibilities in terms of general facility and in particular for developing new perspectives applicable to funk and jazz playing.

I think Anil Sahinoz has made a great contribution to drumming literature in covering a topic that doesn’t get the attention it deserves among drummers. It’s encouraging to see someone independently producing music education material of such a high standard.

I bought the ebook version which is an unrestricted PDF download. An old fashioned dead-trees version of the book is available too.

You can get more information about Anil Sahinoz’s book and buy it here – afrobeatdrumming.com

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Developing Coordination With Afrobeat Drumming Pt. 4

Check out part 1, part 2 and part 3 of this series of exercises based on Tony Allen’s first groove of Afrobeat. Now let’s get stuck in to some bass drum variations. As with the previous exercises, work on each example individually until you feel very comfortable. Then try playing through the sheet in sequence. Finally, you should play along to some recordings. Play each groove for a time in the order they appear on the page. Then pick grooves in a random sequence. Once you can comfortably play any of the variations, forget the sheet music and try improvising.

Download the Variations On The First Afrobeat Groove – Bass Patterns.

Variations On The First Afrobeat Groove - Bass Patterns-1

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Developing Coordination With Afrobeat Drumming Pt. 3

If you haven’t seen them already, Check out part 1 and part 2.

So let’s continue to develop our coordination with Tony Allen’s first groove of Afrobeat. Now that we can play a bunch of different ride and snare patterns, it’s time to do some work on the left foot. A unique aspect of Tony Allen’s style is the way he creates an interesting interaction between his hi-hat foot and his hi-hat hand patterns. I missed this facet of his playing when I wrote my first sheet of exercises for myself. You will have noticed already when playing the ride variations that playing the hi-hat foot on 2 and 4 and then changing the hand pattern adds really cool textures to the grooves. I find that varying between heel up and heel down allows even more scope for different colours.

Now we’ll work on varying the pattern played by the hi-hat foot. Once you get the hang of doing this with the right hand on ride, play the same again on the hi-hat (I recommend starting with the ride so you can focus on articulating the hi hat foot beautifully). I think many of us have neglected to explore the possibilities of the hi-hat foot and I found that working on this stuff has opened up lots of interesting possibilities in my funk and rock playing as well as helping with my jazz skills.

Without further ado…

Download the PDF here – Variations On The First Afrobeat Groove – Left Foot Patterns

Variations On The First Afrobeat Groove - Hi Hat Foot P1

Variations On The First Afrobeat Groove - Hi Hat Foot P2

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David Byrne: When to Resist Technology

I accidentally found this clip on this Vimeo channel in which David Byrne talks about technology used in music making. I am very ambivalent about technology in general and think its use in creating music has turned in to a negative force in many ways. Valve amps electric guitars and Hammond organs are great, sequencers and drum replacement software taking over the majority of mainstream music, not so great.

Anyway, Byrne’s thoughts here are interesting and pertinent.

David Byrne: When to Resist Technology from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

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Beathaven – Good Riddance To The Old Music Business, Not

So I got a message via LinkedIn from a bloke promoting his website, thebeathaven.com. It’s one of those sites where musicians can post their tracks and invite others to add parts to the arrangement. If your contribution is used and the track earns some money, you can get your slice of the pie. All very cool. This is the kind of idea that allows people from all over the world a crack at earning some money using their musicianship, composition and arranging skills. The company claims it is in a position to sell music for profit, to get musicians and composers opportunities to work with successful artists and help gain greater recognition in the world of professional music-making.

Sounds great, right?

Except for one thing – if you find a track that you’d like to contribute to, you have to pay $4.99 (I guess US dollars) to download it. Oh…

Seeing the charge just made me think that this is just another attempt to rip musicians off. Beathaven wants me to employ my hard earned skill, my time and my expensive professional recording gear based on the possibility I might be able to share some royalties or session fees. OK, I might have a punt at such a proposition. But if they really thought they were able to make some money selling tracks, why try to hustle for money on top of asking me to do speculative work? It’s like being charged a fee to attend a job interview.

When I explained my reservations to the guy who contacted me, he did’t like it at all. He seemed to think he was offering me an opportunity rather than just trying to get me to buy some music at $4.99 a track. But it seemed to me that he was just making a sales pitch. I guess some business people can get caught up in their own “propaganda”.

I understand that some of my fellow musicians would like to have a go using a site like this and I hope there are real opportunities to make some money for people who choose gamble their $4.99 per track. But to me Beathaven looks like another olden-days hustle where the suits are doing whatever they can to get a few bucks off people struggling to find paid work.

Addendum: The guy from Beathaven was upset that I didn’t mention the fact that he’d offered me some free tracks after I gave him the feedback he requested. I declined the offer. I don’t think this changes anything relating to my review but you can be the judge (if anyone even reads this, I have no idea).

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Developing Coordination With Afrobeat Drumming Pt. 2

In my last post I shared a bunch of exercises based on Tony Allen’s first Afrobeat groove that worked on some different ride patterns to help free us up to improvise with Afrobeat drumming. In this post we’ll look at changing the snare part around still based on the same original groove.

The object of these exercises is to develop the facility to improvise freely with all limbs. The way I work on stuff like this is to practice each individual exercise until it feels easy and smooth. I am enjoying playing to a metronome that’s set to click 16ths, it allows me to be very fussy with my timing. Once I feel that the patterns are settling in, I’ll play them in sequence maybe four or eight bars at a time. If that’s feeling good, I do the same to music. Finally, I will play four bar phrases with three of the original groove and one of a variation until I can do all of that in sequence to music. During this process I always spend some time improvising with the patterns I’m getting good at along to music.

For practicing you can try something like Fela’s Go Slow or Look & Laugh. Any of the slower tracks really.

Download the PDF here: Variations On The First Afrobeat Groove – Snare Patterns

Variations_On_The_First_Afrobeat_Groove - Snare Patterns

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Developing Coordination With Afrobeat Drumming

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time working on my Afrobeat chops. I’ve been listening to a lot of Fela Kuti and his artistic descendants such as Antibalas and Abayomi Afrobeat Orquestra. I am slowly starting to grasp the complex style of Tony Allen’s drumming in particular and it’s a lot like developing jazz chops.

Anyway, I wrote myself a sheet of exercises based on Tony Allen’s first groove of Afrobeat. There’s a bunch of tricky stuff I wanted to work on. First, I wanted to be able to vary the right hand ostinatos spontaneously. A characteristic of Allen’s drumming is that he often plays an ostinato with his left foot, like you’d do playing straight ahead jazz, even while he’s riding the hi hat. Whenever he’s playing 8ths or an 8th and two 16ths, the stepped on hats just thicken up the &’s. Changing the right hand pattern or the velocity of the left foot stroke can yield a large number of rhythmically interesting open hi hat sounds.

So I’ve written up the original groove and applied another three right-hand ostinatos to work on. On page two the pattens have been mixed up. Once you get the hang of these, I would then work on playing them on the ride and then improvising the different hand patterns. Obviously, there are many more right hand patterns you could apply to this as well.

Download the PDF – Variations On The First Afrobeat Groove – Ride Patterns

Right Hand Variationa on The First Afrobeat Drum Groove Pt1

Right Hand Variationa on The First Afrobeat Drum Groove Pt2
I will post some more exercises based on this groove dealing with left hand variations and left foot variations too.

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Mike Dolbear Announces Ultimate Drum Experience 2016

Ultimate Drum Experience 2013I just saw Mike’s video explaining what UDE is. I attended the Ultimate Drum Experience a couple of years back and it was a brilliant learning experience. It was well organised, the teachers were amazing and I got to learn about a bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t have normally thought about.

I really enjoyed my time on the course and would highly recommend it to any advanced drummers including teachers.

For more info go to: www.ultimatedrumexperience.co.uk/page/ultimate-drum-experience-2016-event-details

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That Mark Guiliana Is Quite Good And Why Do I Still Want Another Ride?

Mark Guiliana

Actually, Mark Guiliana is bloody incredible. I hadn’t paid all that much attention to him until this random solo happened to catch my eye in the YouTube recommendations. I first stumbled upon Guiliana while letching at the Sabian HHX Groove Ride in this video:

Then I searched for more. This solo came up, I was flabbergasted! The dude’s coordination is amazing. His compositional skills, the dynamics, the tension and release and sense of humour are all evident here. Later on I plan to go sit at my drums and just weep…

Here’s a fantastic example of his playing with his band:

And with Donny McCaslin:

Turns out these cats are the band on Bowie’s final release, Blackstar. I’ll be giving that a listen as well as some of Guiliana’s “proper” music, daddy-o.

I should spend some time getting to know some of the young upstarts they’ve got these days.

Sabian Groove Ride

Meanwhile, I came across the HHX 21″ Groove Ride somehow and find myself wondering if this is the elusive perfect ride that is articulate at a range of volumes, has a shimmering wash and a usable crash sound that would work for the various styles I tend to play. Listen, it sounds great:

Here it is, played by the regular geezer at Memphis Drum Shop:

I feel tempted to break my rule of never buying anything new to get my hands on one of these (If you got one to sell, let me know), although I’m aware that no cymbal sounds the same as it does in a video or even in the shop when you try it out.

Here’s another demo by a famous drummer, Zoro, dig his face when he crashes it the first time…

If I bought this I’d have to get a new bag.

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Tony Allen Interview On The Trap Set Podcast – “My Drumming Is Complicated”

Tony AllenCheck out The Trap Set podcast and this great interview with Tony Allen – www.thetrapset.net/052-tony-allen-fela-kuti-afrika-70-solo-artist-rocket-juice-and-the-moon-team/.

There isn’t all that much by way of Tony Allen talking about stuff, drum related or otherwise out yonder in the cyber-ether-netverse so I greatly enjoyed listening to him talk to Joe Wong about his musical background, his inspiration, influences and outlook.

Allen is kind enough to point out his drumming is complicated. I am entirely inclined to agree and am working on assimilating some of his unique, funky and backbeat-light style of musicianship.

I highly recommend checking out past episodes too, there are conversations with such luminaries of the drumming world as Bernard Purdie, James Gadson and Mike Clark.

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