Melodic Phrasing

What is this?

This is a repertoire and vocabulary building exercise. The [A] section melody and [B] section improvised solo of bebop standard Scrapple from the Apple are applied as a drum set study.

Why practice this way?

Modern jazz drummers are musical drummers—equal voices expected to solo and communicate while keeping the form. It’s one thing to be able to play phrases and another to instinctively know how, why and when to play them. This study will teach you to do all of those things while focusing in a simple way, on the melody.

Everything you practice will apply directly to performance. You’ll reveal areas for technical improvement—guiding the design of an efficient, goal oriented practice plan.

To learn melodic phrasing, we go straight to the source: Charlie Parker. For a drummer, there may be no better source of phrasing inspiration. The character of Parker’s rhythmic phrasing blends perfectly with rudiments, teaches clever use of space and motivic development.

What will I take away from this?
  1. You will have added one song to your repertoire.
  2. You will know how to comp and solo over that song.
  3. You will have increased your comping vocabulary and freedom.
  4. You will have increased your solo vocabulary and freedom.
  5. You will understand how the melody guides practice and performance.
  6. You will have learned how to apply rudiments.
  7. You will have learned how to listen and communicate with other musicians.
  8. You will have learned how to keep your place in the form of a song by singing the melody.
  9. You will have established a practice method for building repertoire.
What do I need before I start working on this?
  1. The original recording: Scrapple from the Apple, Charlie Parker, The Complete Savoy & Dial Master Takes (2:56) We are studying the “head in” from 00:10-00:48 on the original track. 00:10 to 00:30 are the first two [A] sections. 00:29-00:39 is the [B] section sax solo. 00:39-00:48 is the final [A] section of the head in.
  2. Basic comping and soloing proficiency.
  3. Familiarity with the following rudiments:
    The Drag
    The 5 Stroke Roll
    The 7 Stroke Roll
    The 11 Stroke Roll
    The Flam
    The Flam Accent
Supporting Content
  • Drum Sheet Music
  • Charlie Parker Omnibook: For C Instruments (Treble Clef) p16-17 (You can find the Omnibook online through a google search.)
How should I approach working on this?
  1. Treat this first as a listening exercise. Listen and understand what is happening in real time. The form is AABA. The [A] sections are played between the snare and bass drum while keeping time. The [B] section solo is played between the snare and bass drum while maintaining the hi-hat on beats 2 and 4. The entire exercise is played first at 200BPM with a 4 measure intro, then at 100BPM. Strive to be able to play the whole exercise at 100BPM before moving any individual phrases up in tempo.
  2. Loop the melody (head in) 00:10-00:48 of the original track, slow it down and memorize it by ear. This is an absolutely critical piece of technology available to music students today. If you are not using looping and tempo adjustment tools in your practice you are missing a major advantage. There are a handful of applications that do this: mimiCopy(iOS), Anytune(Mac/iOS), Audacity(multi-platform), Amazing Slow Downer(Android).
  3. Be able to sing the sax line by ear and from memory before you begin applying it on the drum set. This is an exercise in musicality. You will need to truly own the melody to benefit from it.
  4. Treat each individual phrase as an exercise. Put phrases in your own words. Apply phrases in your own playing.
  5. Go slow. With this type of study, the slower you go, the faster you will get there.
What’s Next?
  1. Develop and expand on what you’ve learned here. All parts played on the snare drum can be moved to the toms. Use the [B] section to develop solo ideas.
  2. Experiment with leaving space. Continue to sing the melody to keep your place but play only select phrases.
  3. Build your repertoire. Apply the melody of Straight No Chaser, Oleo, Billie’s Bounce and Au Privave. These four standards are classic melodic drumming exercises. Oleo is often called at sessions as a drum feature. Billie’s Bounce is a typical audition piece.

Questions, comments or feedback? Join the discussion here.

Interactive, Goal Oriented