Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bill Stewart Transcription of "7.5" from Snide Remarks (Blue Note)

Hello Drummers-

Today I am focusing on the great drumming of Bill Stewart.  If you haven't had the opportunity to read my article in the November 2012 issue of Downbeat Magazine, now's your chance.  Bill Stewart has been a longtime inspiration of mine and I hope you enjoy the transcription and analysis below.  Thanks for visiting!


Bill Stewart arrived in New York City from Iowa in the late 80's, where he was quickly recruited by legendary players such as John Scofield, Maceo Parker and Joe Lovano.  A polyrhythmic drummer with extreme dynamic control, Stewart has made his mark as one of the top post-modern jazz drummers of our time.  In addition to his extensive work as a sideman, Stewart has developed his own compositional style that reflects his interest in unique song forms and avant-garde melodies.  A noteworthy example of Stewart's playing and writing style can be found on the track, "7.5", from his major-label debut, "Snide Remarks" (Blue Note).
The song "7.5" derives its name from the number of bars present in the form.  In this case, Stewart has written a quick riff based melody over a total of 7 bars of 4/4, and one bar of 2/4, creating 7.5 total measures.  Stewart uses mainly a combination of extended dominants to harmonize the melody of the song, giving the head a modern "bluesy" flavor.  The melodic motif used in the first two bars of the melody is repeated in bars 3 and 4 and answered by measures 5 - 8 using a similar melodic arch shape.  Stewart incorporates all of the band members as featured soloists in this cut, each taking a full chorus of solo, including Stewart, for a total of 5 choruses per player.
In chorus 1, Stewart continues his ride cymbal pattern while quoting the melody in measure 1 between the snare and bass drum and answering that phrase in measure 2.  By measure 3 of the solo Stewart moves to quarter note triplets while using his ride cymbal to offset the rhythm and later resolve each of the three phrases with a crash.  Throughout chorus 1, Stewart uses a pulsing high hate on beats 2 and 4, however, he abandons this rhythmic anchor in subsequent choruses.
Chorus 2 begins with a 3 over 4 triplet polyrhythmic motif.  This pattern is an arch melodic form moving from the high tom down to the floor tom and back in on sweeping motion.  If Stewart had continued this polyrhythm through measure 3 it would have resolved itself by measure 4, but instead he introduces the resolution early in measure 3 by inserting eighth notes on the first beat.  At the end of measure 4, Stewart unleashes his signature unison "press" strokes.  This technique, a favorite of Stewart's, is that of a buzz roll, only played with unison hands.  On other recordings, Stewart can be heard performing these challenging strokes as flams in unison with the bass drum or as one handed presses against a steady ride cymbal ostinato.  A technique with obvious links to Roy Haynes, Stewart has made this "lick" his own and mastered the art of making the press strokes sound seamless at a variety of dynamic levels.  In this chorus, Bill starts these "press" strokes as quarter note triplets on measure 4, placing them in groups of 3, and playing directly over the bar line until measure 7.
In the 4th measure of pianist Bill Carrothers' third chorus, Stewart introduces the polyrhythmic idea of 2 over 3 in 4/4 in the ride cymbal to build tension.  Instead of abandoning this polyrhythm as he enters his own solo, Stewart uses this phrase to build a complex Afro-Cuban influenced groove consisting of a dotted quarter note rhythm in bass drum/high hat unison, a solo conversation between the toms, and a series of steady eighth notes on the snare rim.  Stewart continues this pattern until the end of bar 7 when he releases the tension with a simple lead in fill.
Entering chorus 4, Stewart takes the motif from measure 1 of the melody and uses it as the basis for his solo throughout the chorus.  However, instead of quoting the rhythm verbatim, Stewart re-arranges the eighth notes on the 2nd beat of the measure into triplets, using the technique of diminution, while expanding the rhythm into the following bar.  In doing this, Stewart stretches the phrase out over 6 beats, which he repeats four times until the 7th measure, when he brings back the quarter note triplets to end the elastic solo.
Stewart's final chorus concentrates specifically on dynamic and simplicity.  In measure 1 and 2, Stewart quotes the melody quietly on the floor tom and cymbals with minimal variation and proceeds to repeat this same quote across the kit until bar 7 and 8 when he raises the dynamic level with a variation of flam accents smoothly leading the band back into the melody.
This composition, along with Stewart's amazing display of polyrhythmic independence, is a great example of his depth as an artist willing to step out on the edge of his music.


Hello Everyone-

Thank you for visiting "The Drummers Way" at!  To date, we have had over 30,000 unique visitors from all over the world!  I appreciate all the support, comments, and connections I have made through this blog, and I'm really happy that you enjoy the content we provide.  My mission is to present quality transcriptions, teaching methods, and resources for beginner - advanced drummers in an effort to inspire, educate, and motivate drummers throughout the world.  I stress quality over quantity as a rule, which is why you don't see a post everyday from me.  Honestly, anyone can post up videos from youtube and make a quick comment...  I love visiting those blogs too because they're fun, but there is something to be said for going beyond entertainment and digging deep into the technical/musical aspects of an artist or performance.  So keep coming back, go through all the old posts, and keep leaving great comments.  As always, I offer custom drum lessons via Skype to a full roster of student weekly.  If you are interested in getting in and improving your skills, whatever your interests may be, then please send me a message at



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rich Redmond - "Fly Over States"

Rich Redmond

Greetings everyone from slightly chilly Nashville, TN.  I hope everyone had a restful and relaxing holiday season! It has been a little over three months since I packed up my drums, cats, and wife and moved down to further pursue my drumming, teaching, and writing in Music City, USA.  Although I miss my friends and colleagues up in the windy city of Chicago, IL, it has been a blast getting acquainted with this new fun city.  I have been fortunate and blessed to begin working quickly, most recently playing a Thursday - Sunday comedy/musical Christmas revue at a popular dinner theater in town.  I have also been busy meeting lots of musicians, including an exceptional group of Nashville drummers who's talent and camaraderie is second to none in all the cities I've lived.  Of course, I am always busy teaching skype lessons to some of the greatest students a teacher could have, and I'm excited recently to be adding in students from Europe and Asia!

Nashville has no shortage of incredibly talented drummers...  This city can at times be split between touring musicians and studio musicians, however, on occasion someone breaks that mold, and this month's featured drummer is one such person.  Rich Redmond, most well known as the exuberant drummer for country superstar, Jason Aldean, is a renaissance man of the highest order.  Whether he is traveling the world playing sold-out arenas with Aldean, recording hit records in the highly competitive Nashville studio scene, conducting his C.R.A.S.H. education seminar to both aspiring drummers and non-drummers alike, or writing columns for well known music publications, Rich Redmond always brings with him two things...  LOVE AND POSITIVE ENERGY!  

Recently, Rich has been sharing video's on youtube of himself playing the final takes of chart topping hits!  For a guy like me who's main goal is to become a busy studio drummer, getting the opportunity to watch Rich perform "keeper tracks" in the studio is complete magic. This month's featured transcription is Rich performing the song, "Fly Over States" from Jason Aldean's album, My Kinda Party.  The first thing you will probably notice is Rich's extremely hard hitting back beat akin to the great, Kenny Aronoff.  Redmond places every note exactly where he wants it and completely commands this track from the first crash cymbal to the last.  I mean, even his count-off has better energy then most drummers!  A great benefit of having video is having the ability to take a sneak peak into the way a drummer like Rich uses ghost notes to fill out a groove.  Note to up-and-coming drummers:  Ghosts notes are everything!  When listening to the final studio version on the radio you can't necessarily hear the ghost notes, but you sure can feel them in the way the band grooves, and that's a key reason why this track feels so good.  I tried my best to catch every ghost note I could hear/see rather then just giving you a general map of the song, which I feel would be missing the point entirely.  I may have pulled out a few hairs, but no more then transcribing Elvin, Max, Blakey, or my most recent transcription for Downbeat of Bill Stewart...  I was almost hospitalized! 

The studio is a high pressure situation with time and money on the line, but Rich keeps his positive energy and wonderful personality in check, and in the process keeps everyone smiling and having fun.  This is the mark of an incredible and wise studio drummer.  If you have the opportunity to study with Rich Redmond or attend one of his many seminars, I would absolutely jump on it!  

Enjoy the chart.  The final take starts at 2:42 after Rich jokes about the always cultural Smyrna, TN!  Please note that at the bottom of the page I will include a link to the PDF for your downloading pleasure!  Also, please visit Rich's webpage, it's incredible!

Final take starts at 2:42 after Rich jokes about Smyrna, TN!

Would you like a download of this PDF, please click here!

Nashville Drummers, Rich Redmond will be conducting an in-store clinic at Nashville's Guitar Center on January 12th @ 1pm!  Come on out!

Thank you as always for visiting... Please "like" my blog and share it with your drumming buddies!  Also, I always love to hear your comments and to connect with my readers from around the world, so please don't be afraid to reach out here or at

Thanks and keeping rawking!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Basic Afro-Cuban Studies

                                                                         (pictured: Horacio 'el negro' Hernandez)

Afro-Cuban music is one of the most exciting, progressive, and complex styles of music on the planet!  Like American Jazz and the music of Brazil, Cuban music is deeply rooted in African culture and rhythm, particularly West-African drumming.  The music of Cuba first emerged in the United States in the early 1940's by way of "Machito and his Afro-Cubans," a group based out of New York City.  A little later, the great jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie teamed up with Cuban drummer, Chano Pozo, to create a fusion of jazz improvisation and Afro-Cuban rhythm, creating Afro-Cuban Jazz as we know it today. 

Because this music has stretched across the globe and influenced nearly every other style of music, it is very important for developing drummers to get their Afro-Cuban "chops" together.  Like jazz drumming, the Afro-Cuban style requires advanced 4-way independence and deep listening to develop an authentic 'feel' for the music.  As educators, we can expose our students to the basic concepts of Afro-Cuban drumming by first developing the various 4/4 and 12/8 clave rhythmic patterns.  Clave is the underlying rhythm that supports Cuban music and must be understood in order to appreciate the composition and rhythms of this culture.  To learn more about clave and it's history, please visit this page.

Below, I have included step-by-step exercises for developing basic 2:3 Son Clave, 2:3 Rumba Clave, 3:2 Son Clave, and 3:2 Rumba Clave rhythms on the drumset.  Please take your time and eternalize the different clave patterns.  As you become more accustomed to these rhythms and listen to this style of music, you will begin to pick out which pattern corresponds with which song.  Please note, a clave pattern can change in the middle of the song and can even change meters from 4/4 to 12/8 at any time, so watch out!  This music is complex, but something that will open up your playing into a another dimension.  Practice slow and aim for quality of sound ,and always, a sense of groove.

                                  Here is one of my favorite Afro-Cuban drummers in action!

Thank you as always for visiting.  I love to connect with my readers, so please feel free to contact me at anytime with questions or comments.  Thanks and keep drumming!

- Jeff

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Skype Lessons Are Here!!!


If you have ever wanted to study drums privately, but didn't have access to a skilled drum instructor in your area, now is your chance!  Starting September 2012, Jeffrey Lien Drum Studio is expanding its operations to include drum lessons via Skype. 

All you need is a computer with a webcam and an internet connection, a drumset, and a pair of headphones.  That's it!

Each lesson is 30/60 minutes in length and covers a wide range of techniques (Moeller, Alan Dawson, Berklee, etc), style studies, transcription and analysis, chart writing, soloing, 4-way coordination, and Jeffrey's own unique methods to launch your playing to the next level!  

All Styles.  All Levels.  All Ages (7 - adult).  Together we will design the lessons that fit best with YOUR goals!

No matter if you live in Italy, Japan, or the middle of Alaska, you now have access to affordable and professional drum lessons!  Let Jeffrey Lien guide you through his 20 years of performance and teaching experience. 

First lesson is always free, so sign up today! 

Please contact Jeffrey here for rates and information.  See you soon!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Essential Jazz Drumming Literature: "The Art of Drumming" - Bob Kaufman

I can clearly remember the first time I ever walked into Bob Kaufman's office at Berklee.  It was the fall of 1999 and I was very excited to finally begin my studies at the school.  Not knowing what to expect and a little nervous, I made my way to Bob's office through the corridor of dark hallways in the basement of the 1140 Boylston building.  A few knocks on the door received no answer, but I could hear someone inside...  Figuring maybe Bob just wanted me to come in, I cracked the door and was suddenly blasted with Elvin Jones at full volume!  I believe the song was "Three Card Molly" and Bob was sitting quietly at his desk looking at me with hands folded and eyebrows raised.  Although I was a nervous wreck, Bob looked very peaceful and comfortable in his dimly lit drum space.  As I stepped further into the drum cave I was surprised to see an xray image of a wrist/arm, which was taped crooked against a light up xray screen on the wall.  Written on the xray in permanent marker was the phrase, "Use this!"  I remember thinking, "Jeeze, I'm not in Wyoming anymore!"  Bob didn't turn off the music, but instead sat quietly as I scuffled around not knowing what to do next.  Finally, I found my way to a drum stool and settled in, placing my stick bag at my feet.  I gave him a nervous smile, and he looked up at me and just smiled and pointed at his ear.  So began my studies with master drummer, Bob Kaufman. 

Bob has a very unique way of teaching drums, and in some ways, I was not at all ready for it at that time.  Bob's lessons did not follow the path of methods books like stick control, syncopation, etc, nor were they about applying specific rudiments necessarily to the drumset.  Instead, Bob's lessons were about sound production, relaxation in the limbs, mental focus, and above all, musicality.  No one in my opinion, and I really mean no one, has a more beautiful 'sound' on the drums than Bob Kaufman.  The tuning, the attack, the relaxation in his phrasing..  Sticks or brushes, it doesn't matter.  Just hearing Bob play is lesson enough.  Bob is as deep as the ocean, and as I became very involved in Buddhism during my time at Berklee, I suddenly began to realize that Bob was indeed a Buddha!  :) 

Bob produced two books that should be listed in the hall of fame of drumset publications.  The first book, which was written in 1993 and entitled "The Art of Drumming," goes deep into Bob's concept of 'slow motion swing.'  His theory, and it's spot on, is that practicing at super slow tempos will dramatically improve your sound, time, and overall body motion/tension far greater than flying through a bunch of independence exercises.  Simply, this is meditation through drumming, and the rewards are endless.  Quiet the mind, quiet the tension, and observe and react accordingly.  Again, Bob is deep!  As you go through the book, Bob takes you through various exercises in 4/4 and 3/4 as well as some funk applications, some polyrhythmic concepts, and finally some outstanding transcriptions.  Bob's transcription of "There is No Greater Love" from the great album, Inception, by McCoy Tyner, was a pivotal point in my development and made me fall deeply in love with Elvin Jones.  No one loves Elvin more than Bob, and he passed on his respect and admiration for Elvin to all of his students.

Bob's second book called "Deeper Into The Art of Drumming" further tackles the subjects of polyrhythmic playing, musical phrasing of triplet variations, and more slow motion swing exercises.  In general, "Deeper" goes further into contemporary concepts and features some great transcriptions of Paul Motian, Elvin, and concepts of Jack Dejonette's drumming.

Like all artistic masterpieces, you can find endless amounts of information the deeper you go into Bob's books.  Ten years later, I am still using this book on a weekly basis and all of my students have gained great insight from the concepts that Bob has displayed.  I remember Bob said to me simply, "The students who really follow these concepts and apply patience, become great drummers."  Guys like Jeff "Tain" Watts are proof enough. 

In my opinion, the most valuable part of these books isn't just in the music, but instead in Bob's foreword and instructions in the beginning chapters (presented in both English and French)!  Many of the quotes he comes up with in this section are hanging on my drum studio wall motivating both myself and my students. 

"The Art of Drumming" and "Deeper into...", along with Bob's continued mentorship and kindness, have taught me so much about music and ways to approach my own teaching practice and life.  

Please, do yourself a favor and go get these books!  DO NOT skip over the words and try and tackle these books on your own, or you will miss the point entirely.  Count the exercises how he tells you to count them, and be patient with yourself.  You can click here to purchase.  Also, here is Bob's website for further information.