Monthly Archives: February 2013

Think You Know the Drumset? . . . Think Again

Daniel Glass introduces The Century Project and TRAPS

Hey everyone. My name is Daniel Glass, and it’s a real honor to have been asked by Alfred Music Publishing to contribute to their Ledger Lines blog. I’m a drummer, author and educator, known primarily for my work with retro-styled artists like Brian Setzer, Royal Crown Revue and Bette Midler. I’m very excited to announce that I’ve just released two large scale DVDs in conjunction with and Alfred Music Publishing: The Century Project looks at 100-years of American music (1865-1965) from the perspective of the drums, and TRAPS is an in-depth documentary about vintage drums, featuring one of the planet’s most knowledgeable vintage experts, John Aldridge.

These DVDs are the culmination of a journey that began nearly 20 years ago, when I joined Royal Crown Revue, the L.A. based band that pioneered the ‘90s phenomenon known as the “Retro-Swing Revival.” RCR played a lot of what I call “Roots” styles of American music – styles like early jazz, swing, rhythm and blues, rockabilly and early rock ’n’ roll. Although I had studied a lot about jazz and in school, I quickly learned that the music RCR was playing was something altogether different. It contained elements of bebop, of the blues, and of rock ’n’ roll, but it wasn’t any of these things. It had improvisation going on, but it was also dance music. It had a horn section and an upright bass, but it ROCKED as much as any rock band that we shared the stage with.

The guys in the band kept telling me “Daniel, what you’re playing just isn’t quite right,” so – not wanting to be an ex- band member – I decided to “hit the woodshed.” Much to my surprise, when I went looking for the instructional materials that were going to teach the nuts and bolts of these styles, I found next to nothing available. At that point – around 1999 – it became clear that if I was going to be a master Roots drummer, I would need to go straight to the source. I had discovered that many of the drummers who had played on the records we loved were living right in Southern California, so I started calling them up and interviewing them. I also began intensively researching the history of the drum set, trying to understand when and why many of the pieces – hi hat, ride cymbal, tom toms, etc. – had first appeared.

What emerged from all this research was an incredible story – a side of the drums and the way we play them that had never been documented before. The results are brought to life in The Century Project. This high energy, multi-media lecture-performance takes viewers on a thrilling journey through 100 years of music history and reveals a side of the drums never before seen. It traces the story of the drum set from its inception at the end of the Civil War (1865) to the dawn of the British Invasion (1965), and shows how – unlike any other instrument – the drums evolved hand-in-hand with America, and influenced American music in a totally unique way.

The Century Project introduces a variety of classic styles and techniques, including: double drumming, ragtime, New Orleans jazz, Chicago jazz, classic swing, bebop, rhythm and blues, rockabilly and early rock ‘n’ roll. To bring these eras to life, The Century Project incorporates eleven stunning vintage drum sets, hundreds of rare product and vintage catalog shots, and a dozen high energy performances from an all-star band featuring members of Royal Crown Revue, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Conan O’Brien house band, and Bette Midler’s “Kiss My Brass” Revue.

Filmed and recorded in stunning high-definition, The Century Project will turn your conception of “history” on its ear, and show 21st Century musicians just how much they actually have in common with their forbears. Believe it or not, understanding the origins of the drum set will make you a stronger and more competitive musician, even if you play “modern” styles like rock, hip-hop, funk, reggae, punk, metal, etc.

TRAPS: The Incredible Story of Vintage Drums brings together an unprecedented collection of vintage gear – including many rare and museum-quality pieces – and looks at the same 100-year period (1865-1965) from the nuts-and-bolts perspective of the gear itself. Featuring special guest commentator John Aldridge (author of The Guide to Vintage Drums), TRAPS brings the vintage world to life through eleven stunning kits that cover all the major American drum companies (Ludwig, Slingerland, Gretsch, Leedy and Rogers). TRAPS also uses more than 300 vintage catalog shots to touch on a wide range of vintage-related topics, including: badges, finishes, pedals, calfskin heads, Ludwig Black Beauty Snares, Slingerland Radio Kings, K-Zildjian cymbals, and much, much more.

If you’d like to learn more about me and my obsession with Roots drumming, please feel free to visit the Drum History section of my website:

How to Become an Articulate Jazz Musician!

By Pete BarenBregge
Jazz Editor, Alfred Music/Belwin Jazz

Why do you need to know and understand jazz articulation? Often, jazz instruction begins with improvisation. While improvisation is certainly the essence of jazz and essential to study and learn, jazz articulation is basis of the jazz style. Articulation is a fundamental element—basic jazz vocabulary. Jazz is a language, and as with any language, you must begin to learn by grasping basic vocabulary.

Playing with accurate jazz articulation will allow a player on any instrument to have the correct jazz style, and ultimately, jazz phrasing—essential ingredients to jazz. If you are playing in an ensemble, jazz articulation is even more critical. Accurate and cohesive jazz articulation in an ensemble will make the band sound more mature, polished and musical—trust me!

Attacks, releases, jazz syllables are all part of the process of learning jazz articulation. Using jazz syllables will help you to master the jazz language. Educator/author Caleb Chapman states a basic jazz articulation rule: Always slur from the offbeat eighth note to the downbeat eighth note.

How do you know what to articulate? To put the simple jazz articulation rule into action, let’s explore two basic jazz syllables. (1) First is the syllable for a tongued or articulated note: DA. Notice how when you say “DA” the sound begins with the tongue and incorporates the “D” sound to begin the articulation. Using the “D” articulation is very important—it sounds smoother than a “T” articulation and is more appropriate for the jazz style. Rhythm section instruments should mimic or adapt this same articulation on their instrument.

(2) The next syllable to learn is for slurred notes: AH. So, two basic articulation syllables are DA and AH, it’s easy!

Begin by applying the jazz articulation rule to eighth notes by slurring from the offbeat eighth note to the downbeat eighth note.

Practice saying these two syllables “DA” and “AH” repeatedly as if they were in 4/4 meter using eighth notes: DA AH DA AH DA AH DA AH. Now try (8) eighth notes followed by a half note: DA DA AH DA AH DA AH DA AH. It kinda swings!

In the following music exercise there are articulation syllables written below some of the notes. However, not every note has a syllable. So you fill in the missing syllables in the space provided below the note. Then sing it or play it with the syllables. In this music exercise, notes longer than an eighth note should all be articulated by using the DA syllable.

So, check it out, and most importantly, have fun playing JAZZ!

The composition, “Strollin’,” is by Jeff Coffin and is taken from the series of books, The Articulate Jazz Musician by Caleb Chapman and Jeff Coffin.


Teach Me to Sing!

By Sally K. Albrecht and Andy Beck, Alfred Choral & Classroom Editors

At several recent conventions, Andy Beck and I have enjoyed presenting a session titled “Teach Me To Sing! A Guide to Training Young Singers.” We have had so many positive comments about the presentation and the approach that we’ve taken to developing children’s singing skills. Here are the six simple steps we recommend.

STEP 1 – Develop basic singing and listening skills with ECHO SONGS.
Echo songs are the very best way to start primary singers. When you demonstrate proper vocal tone and technique, then your singers will echo it back correctly. This is a wonderful way to develop ear training, pitch awareness, rhythmic accuracy, and good vocal habits in young singers.

>Click here for product suggestions.

STEP 2 – Now that we’ve got the basics, let’s sing in UNISON.
Start young voices on simple age-appropriate melodies set in comfortable vocal ranges. Then gradually introduce challenges as musical objectives are met. Remember, students will learn so much through lyrics, so choose songs that inspire and educate as well as entertain!

>Click here for product suggestions.

STEP 3 – Develop vocal independence by singing ROUNDS AND CANONS.
There’s no better way to introduce part-singing than by performing rounds and canons. Be sure to thoroughly learn the melody in unison first, then divide students into sections. Take turns leading or following. Or YOU be the leader, and let students follow!

>Click here for product suggestions.

STEP 4 – Pair two complimentary melodies singing PARTNER SONGS.
These highly effective teaching songs ensure vocal independence as two tunes are overlapped. Repeat each song three times; sing the familiar melody first, the new melodic partner second, and then combine them for each-to-achieve counterpoint harmony!

>Click here for product suggestions.

STEP 5 – Integrate RHYTHM AND MUSIC READING ACTIVITIES into your curriculum.
We know that learning styles vary, so it’s important to teach and reinforce musical concepts in a variety of ways each time you are with your students. For rhythmic reading, try clapping, tapping, chanting, walking, and playing classroom instruments. For music reading, incorporate regular practice and drill to develop musicianship.

>Click here for product suggestions.

STEP 6 – After all of your hard work, now you are ready to sing BEGINNING 2-PART SONGS.
Now you’re ready to experience the beauty and fun of choral singing, introducing beginning 2-part songs with independent counterlines, echoing phrases, or musical lines that move in opposite directions. Select repertoire that is designed for success.

>Click here for product suggestions.

After all your excellent preparation and fun work, now you should be ready to introduce your developing 2-part singers to choral octavos!

Teach Me to Sing>Click here to view a PDF booklet of sample pages introducing these 6 simple steps.

Choosing New Music

By Bob Phillips

As a string teacher for many years, I always enjoy looking at new music. It’s a bit like opening a present! As an editor at Alfred, I see the music about a year before it is released. After releasing our Belwin Pop titles early for the first time, we are now preparing to release our new music collection for the 2013-14 school year. Things have changed from the days when we all spent a lovely summer day in an air-conditioned music store looking for just the right pieces to play that year. Now we depend on the internet and all the great websites to browse the classics or look for exciting new pieces. No matter what you are looking for, be sure it fits the skill level of your group. I would generally choose to play a slightly easier piece and play it with excellence than play a more difficult piece poorly. Of course, there are times that a challenge is called for! Keep your curriculum in mind as well and find tunes that provide the opportunity to teach the appropriate skills. Enjoy!

Piano Teaching Tips from Robert D. Vandall


I love the sound of modes, those scales that are so different from major or harmonic minor.  At times I will switch from one modal sound to another within the same composition, following where my ear takes me. Twenty-five years ago I wrote a number of pieces in modes, one of which was a nocturne.  I felt that the title “Nocturne” was not descriptive enough, and as such decided to add the name of the mode. “Lydian Nocturne” is the first piece in Robert D. Vandall’s Favorite Solos, Book 3.

Before playing this piece, the student needs to know what a nocturne is: a short, “dreamy” composition suggestive of evening or night, typically for piano. This particular nocturne features a lyrical, singing melody supported by broken chords in the left hand. The word “Lydian” will also need some explanation. I like to ask students to play a scale on F, but with B natural instead of B flat. They will notice right away that it sounds different from the major and minor scales they are used to practicing. The important feature in this piece, however, is that the B natural is the color tone, creating the effect of the Lydian mode. This explains why the F triad is used a lot as tonic, alternating with lots of G major and e minor triads. The complete F Lydian scale is used in its entirety four times (measures 19, 20, 23, and 24). Every time G major occurs, F is the bass tone, creating a pedal point under the G triad. This also reinforces the B natural color tone over a tonic F.

On the repeat of the melody in measures 11-18, the right hand is an octave lower in the tenor range of the keyboard. This means that the broken triads are played partly below and partly above the melody to complete the harmony and continue the rhythmic movement. In measures 15-18, in the left hand crossings, the triad is not broken, but is three consecutive scale tones. This makes the playing less technically awkward and also prepares for the Lydian scales that start in measure 19 and following, making for a smooth musical transition from broken triads at the ends of the measures to the stepwise motion soon to come.

The words freely and expressively are the student’s permission to play with lots of rubato. You might demonstrate this freedom by playing the piece for your student with exaggerated rubato. In general, shape the phrases according to their rise and fall; increase the intensity as the phrase climbs, and relax the intensity as the phrase drops. Then, ask him/her to try a phrase. Always ask for an evaluation of what was just played. Then have him/her work out a personalized interpretation using rubato during practice.

In measure 35, do not change the pedal on beat one. Let all of the notes of the F triad and the passing tones mix together from measures 34 to 35. Let this mixture sound for the first two beats of the measure, being very sure to hold down the indicated four chord tones. When the pedal is changed on beat three, the F triad will magically appear from among the ethereal mix of tones.  Listen and enjoy this effect!

We live in the best time to be piano teachers, as there are so many wonderful publications to aid us in our teaching.  I feel privileged that Alfred would publish three books titled Robert D. Vandall’s Favorite Solos and am pleased that “Lydian Nocturne” can be used to introduce a student to this style, yet also teach the Lydian mode and its wonderful sounds.

Robert D. Vandall
Author, Arranger, Composer



Seven Songs for Spring—with Movement!

Sally K. AlbrechtBy Sally K. Albrecht

Many choir directors chose to “lighten up” their spring concerts by featuring several pop arrangements or by adding some simple movement or choreography to a few selections. Our newest choral movement DVD “Lift Me Up!” has plenty of ideas for you, including these seven songs for spring!

Green Eggs and Ham – This swinging’ novelty number from Seussical the Musical includes a ready-made “tag.” Earlier this year, we added crazy “Cat in the Hat” headgear with a group of middle school singers. Check it out!

Jambo Bwana (Hello, Sir) – Feel the pulse of African rhythms, sing Swahili salutations, and grab some rhythm sticks for this multicultural feature. The DVD features three different rhythm combinations that are easy to learn. Consider painting your own rhythm sticks using simple dowel rods.

Lift Me Up! – I always enjoy having a spiritual in every program! This one has a gospel sound and several short solos. The choreography has been designed to be performed easily on risers, even while wearing choir robes!

Moses and Daniel (Go Down Moses/Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?) – If one spiritual is good, two is even better! Upper torso movement easily matches each of the vocal lines in this spiritual combination. Eventually, three different vocal lines are sung together—with different movements matching each. Very effective!

One World (In Harmony) – I always try to feature an inspirational ballad as the penultimate (next to last) song in a concert. Our DVD features sign language on this uplifting choral. Consider having a small group sign on the verses, then your entire choir can sign the chorus each time. Chills.

A Pocketful of Rhymes – My other rule? Make ’em laugh! Simple, silly staging for this trio of tunes includes a spider attached to a fishing rod or pole (“Little Miss Muffet”), a big stomp during Haydn’s Surprise Symphony (“Jack and Jill”), and a little boy dressed in a nightshirt (“Wee Willie Winkie”).

Whatever Lola Wants – Sassy “girls vs. guys” choreography makes this Damn Yankees tango a blast to do with mixed groups. Women’s choir only . . . grab an unsuspecting guy from the audience and let your SSA ladies make him the focus of their attention!

> Click here to view a preview of the Lift Me Up! choreography DVD.