Exercise #9: The Melody with “Setting Up the Hits”

Drum set

A Intro (Saxes) $ $ !! $ $ ! "!# # #
mp

Swingin' the Blues
$ $ # " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " "

" " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " "

Count Basie

5

" " " " " "
p

" " " " " "

" " " " " " " " " "

" " " " " " " " " "

9

13

Intro (Piano)

17

" " " " B " " " " " " " "
mf Brass

21

% #
ff

25 Whole Band

29

" " " "

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" " " " "

33

% & ## " "

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37

41

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2
45

49 Interlude

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Break

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53

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Sax Solo

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57

61

65

Trumpet Solo/Sax background

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69

73

77

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81

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87

! $ F

Interlude

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Sax Solo

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99

Trumpet Hits

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103

107

111 Trumpet Solo

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115

! ! ! ! I Whole Band 123 & & % ! %
119 127

& ! % & ! % J Shout ! ! ! !

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Solo/Set up hits

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Solo/Set up hits

131

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Solo/Set up hits

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135

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139

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Fill

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Solo through hits

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Setting up the hits Papa Jo’s playing with the Basie band from 1936-1948 was the standard of big band drumming for the swing era. In other words, Papa Jo invented or refined many of the techniques that came to be expected from drummers playing this style of music. One of the most important of these techniques is the idea of “setting up the hits”. Setting up the hits refers to the technique of playing fills that guide the band into unison, rhythmic figures or hits. Using this technique successfully is a challenge as the fills need to be both totally improvised, and also perfectly compliment the character of the music. Because of dthese challenges, learning this technique can be a daunting process. By breaking up the learning process into a series of steps you will eventually be able to master this technique.

Step 1: Listen Listen to the suggested recording and follow along on the chart to get a good grasp of the entire song. Try to start memorizing the big themes of the song. Starting with this first step is critical because it give you a sense of the overall character of the music. Without a good sense of the character of the music it will be impossible for you to blend in.

Step 2: Papa Jo’s Hi-hat Beat Play simple time on the hi hat through the song to start getting a feel for the Basie band’s famous groove. Papa Jo’s hi hat beat has a subtle nuance that is easy to overlook but is critical to it’s sound. Rather than always closing the hi-hats crisply on beats 2 and 4, Papa Jo would instead sometimes close the hi-hats lightly on the “+” of 1 and the “+” of 3. Playing the hi-hat this way makes a continuous string of swung eighth notes, effectively a shuffle beat. Although this may seem like a small difference, mastering this shuffle style hi-hat beat is extremely difficult as it requires your L.F. to be out of sync with your R.F.. Practice playing just the shuffle hi-hat beat by itself before trying to play it with the music. You should also be able to switch seamlessly between the two styles of playing the hi-hat.

Example #1

Drum set

$ !#! & " "#! #

1. Standard Hi-Hat Beat

$ # $

$

$ &

#

$ # $

$

$ ## $!## & %" #

2. Shuffle Style Hi-Hat Beat

$

$ #

$

$ &

#

$

$ #

$

## $ %

Step 3: Memorize the Hits Listen to the concise and elegant figures that Papa Jo uses to set up the hits throughout the song. Try transcribing some of his figures (see example #2 below). During this step it is critical to memorize and be able to play/sing all of the hits the band plays.

Example #2 (Measures 88-89)

Drum set

! #

" !

"

" #

"

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#

#

# #

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$ " # #

" !

#

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Step 4: Practice Setting Up the Hits Take the sections with hits and isolate them. Repeatedly practice setting these hits up using both Papa Jo’s as well as your own ideas. Always sing the hits as you play them. Notice that the hits are all on different beats, meaning that where you start to set the hit up will change. In general you want to start setting a hit up at least a beat and a half before that hit. Practice setting up theses isolated hits until it is comfortable and sounds good to you. Having vocabulary at your disposal for setting up hits will free you up to use your ears and read ahead in the chart when you are actually playing.

Example #3

Drum set
3

!# Measures 34-35 " "# & & !# Measures 43-44 " "# & & !# " "# & !# " "# & ! " "## &
Measures 88-89

!! "! "## &

Measures 23-24

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& & $ #

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## $ % ## $ % ## $ % ## $ % ## $ % & ## $ %

5

7

&

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9

Measures 98-99

&

11

Measures 123-126

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# % # ' ( (

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Step 5: Play Through Song Play through the entire song using the chart sparingly to remind you of important musical moments. Be sure to always read ahead of where you are in the chart to give yourself time to prepare. Using the vocabulary you developed in step 4 set up all the important hits. Also be sure to mark the form, comp conversationally with the soloists (but not too busily!), and generally play strong, driving time on the hi hat.

Playing Tips: The Artistry of Setting Up Hits Successfully using this technique requires drummers to not only have masterful control of their instrument, but also to have a complete command of the music. To set up hits successfully, drummers have to have the musicality to both clearly hear what is about to happen in the music, and to know what figures are appropriate to set this up; have the technique to execute these figures seamlessly; have the creativity to play original ideas; all without losing any of the drive of the groove. In other words, setting up the hits requires you to excel in every element of drum artistry.

Trusting Your Ears Memorizing and singing the hits of the music that you play is critical to your ability to successfully set up the hits. In fact, Papa Jo and the other members of the Count Basie band rarely read from charts, relying on their ears and memory instead. Reading big band charts (or reading any kind of music) while playing is comparable to reading a map when driving. A map can help you make some important decisions when you haven’t traveled a particular route before, but fundamentally, you still need to keep your eyes on the road. When playing music your ears are like your eyes in that they allow you to interact suc-

cessfully with your environment. If you spend too much time and mental energy focusing on the map when you are driving, you are likely to crash. And likewise if you spend too much time and energy focusing on the chart when playing, you are likely to make a huge mistake. Memorizing and being able to sing the hits will free you from page and allow you to fully engage your ears. Just like anything else, the more experience you have memorizing charts and singing the hits the easier it becomes

Suggested Recording Count Basie, “The Complete Decca Recordings” (Disc 2)