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Old 11-16-2017, 03:14 PM
rrayner rrayner is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 703
Default Drum Groove and a Story

This thread consists of two parts: the first part has to do with the attached Drum Groove file; the second part gives some background information about the source of the drum groove, the Band playing it, and some general reminiscing about life as a part-time musician.

As to part 1, one of my goals in arranging musical pieces in Notation Composer is to try to make the individual parts sound like live musicians. This is very difficult to do, as live musicians don’t play precisely like a PC does, but when I play back my pieces on my Clavinova, I can pretend I’m playing in a live band. One of the absolute joys of playing in a musical ensemble, regardless of size, is playing “tight” (no alcohol involved). By tight, I don’t mean stiff - just playing together very close to the arranger’s/composer’s intent.

This snippet of a drum part is my attempt to replicate the drummer’s line from a pop song called “Sultan’s of Swing”, played by drummer Pick Withers of the British pop band, “Dire Straits”. A good drummer lays down a strong drum line, and can really make a difference as to how good a group sounds. I don’t advance this snippet as a faithful copy of real life, just my attempt at getting close.

All measures are the same pattern. I put a repeat on the four measures, so the listener will get a good eight-measure feel of the groove.

Variations are: the bass drum (B2) on beats one and three is the constant, rock solid base of the rhythm section; the high-hat (Ab3) on beats two and four are advanced as a-7 (attack minus 7) - a trick taught to me by David Jacklin, one of our Mentors. This a-7 gives a feeling of anticipation, with the bass drum holding things in tempo; the snare (E3) on beats two and four are on the beat, but the note velocity of the second of the eighth notes is diminished as to create a sort of echo effect - a trick used by many drummers. Also, I have added a ride cymbal (Eb4) on all four of the beats in each measure, also with attack set to -7. This helps give a “push” feel, like the high-hat, while the bass drum holds the tempo.

I hope this is helpful to anyone writing drum parts.

As to the second part, the Story, this is going to be a blend of liner notes/Wikipedia information about “Dire Straits” and “Sultans of Swing”, and my own personal experience as a working musician. I have chosen this song because it feels good and because the leader is telling a story about working musicians. I love story songs. Kris Kristofferson, Jim Croce, Billy Joel, among many others write/have written good story songs.

Mark Knopfler (MK) is the leader of Dire Straits and the composer of Sultans of Swing. Calling MK a singer would be a stretch, as his style in this piece is more like early rap. MK tells the story of going into a small pub in South London, England to get out of the chilly rain. He hears a band “blowin’ Dixie, double four time” (in my time as a player, this was also referred to as “straight eight time” - no swing variation, just straight ahead 8/8 time)

It sounds like the pub is not very full. MK describes some of the players: Guitar George plays well, but can’t afford a classy guitar; Harry, the pianist, can play honky-tonk like anything - he has a daytime job - he’s doing alright. Sounds like a lot of part-time musicians I’ve worked with.

MK describes a “crowd of young boys, foolin’ around in the corner” - obviously not there for the music. How many times I’ve experienced that situation - you go somewhere to hear a band, and there is a group of people making noise and not paying attention to the music.

So, the band plays a variety of styles: jazz, swing, dixie, creole, etc. My bands were built for playing in clubs/lounges/bars for dancing and listening entertainment, so we were expected to play a variety of different kinds of music. So it is with the Sultans.

As to being part-time musicians like the Sultans, I only had two steady jobs as a musician - while I was in school at Berklee, where I played with a Rock and Roll band in Boston’s “Combat Zone” (not a good part of town) seven nights a week, with matinees on weekends - the other was my four years in the USAF Band. The rest of my music career was traveling to book gigs wherever I could, with whatever size band would fit the paycheck. Many were gigs in places like MK describes above - small dingy bars, or also weddings, special parties, etc. I can really relate to the Sultans.

Well, I hope this wasn’t too much rambling. It’s good to reminisce.

Ralph Rayner
Attached Files
File Type: not Sultans of Swing Drum Groove.not (6.9 KB, 5 views)
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