Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WMSWMB parts isolated - drums

Today's parts are the parts that are played on the drums. I have parts for djembes, dun-dun, talking drums and kpanlogo. If you have a different selection of drums, many parts are interchangable. Parts can be simplified to be played by less experienced players, as well. This song, as well as the percussion patterns are of my own devising, so there is no fear of playing something 'wrong'.

The Djembe and Dun-Dun parts are played together. I think of the DunDun as playing "One, rest, Two, rest, Three, rest, tri-pe-let, One, rest, Two, rest, Three, rest, Trip-e-let . . .
The Djembe part can be played by a couple of players. The 'One' beat of each measure is played as a bass sound, the other sounds are tones. If you get good, you can add a 'slap' after the second bass for some variety.

The Kpanlogo is played with sticks on this piece. It is the part that plays right at the end of each phrase, and gives energy to start the pattern off again. If you don't have a kpanlogo, a small djembe with a high pitched tone would also work by using the hands right at the edge of the drum.

The talking drum plays during the intro, then sits out for the first verse. It comes back in for a nice solo bit during the interlude, and then continues playing for the rest of the song.

If you enjoy playing this pattern, It can also be played as a background for instrumental solos, and as an accompaniment for other uptempo songs in 2/4 time. Have fun with it! Leave a comment if you'd like to share your own ideas for this pattern, or just to share your own successes and challenges with it!

WMSWMB parts isolated

Getting right down to brass tacks, I've posted the first three percussion parts on today's blog (actually, I guess it's now Wednesday, so it's yesterday's blog.) The Cowbell, Shekere and Gankogui are the 'non-skin' instruments, so they'll be here together. Any time you want to practice one of those parts, just click on the play button on the little movie, and play along. There is a picture of the written out notation in the movie. I'm not sure how legible it is, but it is there.

Cowbell part plays a very traditional pattern; 3 + 2. It's a staple of Latin American music as well as African music. This is the lead part. Play it strong.


 Shekere plays a nice part that has two sections per phrase pattern. It also gets a nice energetic part in the coda.

Finally, the gankogui part. It's not complex, but it is very important that it keeps a steady rhythm.

So many students that I teach want a drum part, and don't realize the key role that the bells and shakers play in an African ensemble. The players on these three parts should really work to 'groove' the parts together, so there is a good foundation for the drum parts.

Good luck practicing. I'll post the drum parts later on Wednesday.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

WMSWMB - The Percussion Parts, Notated

This is the second part of the "Welcome, My Sisters! Welcome, My Brothers!" series. If you listened to the song & followed along with the lyrics and melody of the song, you are ready to read along with the notated percussion parts, as presented here.

The parts are written out in traditional percussion notation. There are a lot of ways that people write out percussion parts, and many times, it is as difficult to decipher the alternative notation as it would be to simply learn to read traditional music. Truly, this notation is only intended to remind you of how something sounds, rather than as a means to learn something you've never heard. (That's why the audio file came first in the series.)

The individual parts have some additional instructions, such as high and low notes above and below the single line. (Most melodic music is written on a five line staff. This percussion music is written on a one line staff.) Those individual parts will be explored in the next posting of WMSWMB.

As with the lead sheet (lyrics and melody from my previous post,) I have not yet gotten to the point of posting a PDF of the music, but I have posted the two page JPG picture file. You should be able to print this off and use it as regular sheet music. It is two pages long, and if you print it, you should be able to follow along while you are listening to the sound file.  The first line is the introduction. The second line is the section that repeats during the body of the song, and the third line (second page) is the ending of the song. The talking drum part rests during the first time through the singing of the song, and then joins in during the interlude, continuing through the end of the song. This provides some contrast for the performance.

Welcome, My Sisters! Welcome, My Brothers!

Here is a complete audio performance of a new song I wrote for Synod School 2011. It's called "Welcome, My Sisters! Welcome, My Brothers!" I am blogging my complete learning sequence on this song during this week. Then, it will be available for class participants during the week of Synod School. I am hoping that the format I'm following will make it simple to both learn the song in the first place, and then to teach the song to your friends and congregations when you get home later. I've always found that there is just SO MUCH to learn, that our brains get over full, and then we can't remember important elements of the complete performance of a song, so we either forget about performing it, or perform it poorly. This week, I'll be posting this song in these parts:

1 - complete audio version and JPG of the song words and melody.

2 - JPG of the percussion parts written out in traditional notation.

3 - Audio of each part played individually.

I hope that those of you who can use this method of learning parts will be able to help me learn what I can do to improve the experience for you, and that you can then use this song in your own worship experience.

Audio of song (includes singing, clapping and drumming.)

Here is the melody line and the words in a JPG picture format. I'll see what I can do about including a  downloadable PDF of this piece. In the meantime, though, I believe you can just click on the picture, and print it from there, if you want.  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Doin' the Fanga

The Fanga (or Funga) is a welcome song from Western Africa. It is very well-known, and one of the rhythms that has many variations. When I check out YouTube, or sites of collected rhythms, or published drumming materials, I find that no two of the written transcriptions or performed rhythms 'match up' with each other. Sometimes, it is simply variations in suggested instrumentation. Sometimes there is agreement on the drum part, but bell & shaker parts are different from each other. I always get a bit of a laugh from the responses & comments to performed or written postings; "THAT'S not the Fanga - the bell part is much more complex and the fifth beat is a bass, not a tone...."

Well, to avoid that, I'll start by declaring that this is "a simplified, Americanized version of the Fanga, written out to be easily played by amateurs." It is a happy, all inclusive piece that's really designed to allow anyone to join in, pick up a shaker, listen to a few bars, and then become part of the group. It is totally participatory. There is, I know, a dance that goes with it, (I'm not sure if that dance is 'authentic' to the fanga, or if it was made up by someone on the spot.) and the rhythm itself just makes you want to move with it.

Here is MY version of the Fanga. This version is especially good for large groups. Be sure to have a person who has been trained on the rhythm on each instrument. A person or two as beat keepers on cowbell and a strong djembe player are important. Everyone else can fill in as necessary, and if they get off beat for a measure or two, they can pick up again by listening to the bell and djembe. Lots of small rattles are nice to have, since they add to the sound, but can be easily learned.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Using Garage Band to Create Drumming Samples

This topic may be further afield than most church drummers worry about, but I've been trying to figure out how to record my drum patterns without setting up a complete recording studio on my bedroom.

I was once asked to phone a drummer, and leave a recording of myself playing the pattern on her answering machine, so she could relisten to it whenever she was unsure of her pattern. That was a really clever way of getting a practice pattern.

Sometimes I don't have the right drums in the right place, so I tried using my 'Finale' program to both write out and play the patterns. This simply didn't work, because the single line staff doesn't have enough room for all of those midi sounds. Then I decided to try to get the sounds I wanted out of my GarageBand program. This was more successful, but I found that it didn't work to simply save my Finale file as a midi file. Instead, I print out the music, then use this formula for creating the sounds I want:

Cowbell -  Rock Kit, Choose from G#2(low), G#3(mid) and G3(high). Use only one of them, to simulate the single tone of a cowbell.

Gankogui - African Kit. I write it out in Major 7ths to avoid too much of a tonal sound
    Low bell: A2 & G#3        High bell: G#2 & G3

Axatse - African Kit.  lap hit = A3, hand hit  = F#2

high djembe - African kit. E1 is a nice strong tone or slap, F1 is a lower, more bass tone.

Mid djembe - African Kit.  C#1 is a tone, D1 is a bass. Not much differentiation between the bass and tone, but it works as a secondary drum part.

Kpanlogo or bougerebu - African Kit. Nice low frequencies, I think these are actually African conga sounds, but they have a nice punch. Bass is A0, Tone or slap is A# 0.
For more contrast C1 for tone, A#0is slap, and G0 is bass.

Talking drum - African Kit. Actually a log drum sound, I think, but it gives a nice tonal sound that's distinctly higher than the djembes. Played from A5 to B6.

I write the pattern out using the bars in GarageBand. It's easy to move the bars and adjust their length. I also make sure that the beginning of measures, and other accent points are given a little more velocity, so that accents feel like they're falling in the right places. Then, once I have a complete pattern, I move the cursor to top right end corner of the green ribbon, and (when it turns to a circular line with an arrow) I pull to the right. The pattern repeats until the point where you stop pulling. 

I suspect there's an easier way to do this, but this works for me with programs I already own and use. I've used drum programs that work well, but don't have the variety of sounds I want. The African Kit is from the 'World Music' expansion pack for GarageBand, and GarageBand is part of the iLife software that comes free with a Mac, or can be purchased for the OSX operating system. It doesn't work with Windows, and although I know there are decent programs out there for that system, I don't know what they are, or what they cost.

After I return from my vacation, I will add some more sound samples to this post so everyone can hear what the instrument sounds are really like. My previous post has the 'Hallelujah in 3' pattern near the end of the post, and the audio recording was done using this method.

Please leave feedback if you are reading this. I'd love a 'shout-out' from some of the synod school folks!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hallelujah - A New Pattern for a 3/4 Song

First, I need to let you know that I am sorry for the mix up we had between which version of hallelujah we were supposed to play for the Thursday evening service. I got complacent, and didn't actually LOOK UP the written music that was going to be used for the service. I've done that kind of thing before, and am hoping to never do it again. You folks were all great in your graciousness and flexibility as we did the switch from a 4/4 pattern to a triple meter. You did well, considering that the triple meter was a 3/4 time, rather than a 6/8 or 12/8 time song. 3/4 has a different feel to it, and is a bit less common in drumming music than the duple or compound meters.

Although we did fine with the pattern we played for the service, it is a little bit static, so I'd like to give you a different pattern for the song we played. The patterns here use rhythms that come from the words of the song. They difficulty with these patterns is that they don't all 'start' on the first beat of the measure. The phrases actually start in different places in the two measure sequence. (That's one reason we didn't use them for the service - they DO take a little extra rehearsal time.)

For a nice entrance build, start with the cowbell, then add the medium drum, then (starting with the 2nd measure) the high drums, then the axatse and gankogui, and finally the low drum. (Starting on the 'hal' of the 2nd measure.) The words are just to get a rhythm pattern - not to be sung as the song is performed. 

The low, medium and high drum specifications are suggestions. As I check it out, I might switch the medium and low drums, or the high and medium drums. Just try to have some differences between either the relative timbre, or the space in which the drums are playing. 

Here's a mp3 of the basic beat. Done at about 148 bps. It is not real instruments, but it's my garageband software, using the 'African Kit' drum set. Not very soulful, but it gives the basic idea. (Also, the video is only there because it's a placeholder. I really need to get some nice drum photos, and then put them in there instead, but you get the idea.)