A. READING is a required skill for all serious musicians in most of today's musical environments. One way to become a good reader is to read (sight read) a lot of music during your practice sessions (don't practice, just read) and if you make a mistake keep going. Recovering from mistakes is an important aspect being a successful reader. The music you choose to "practice-read" should be played in a predetermined style and tempo. (Ex: legit snare drum, jazz feel, funk feel, etc.) A common ability shared by good readers is the immediate recognition of rhythmic motives and phrases (groups of rhythmic figures). When you acquire this ability your identification of, and reaction to "the music" will be instantaneous and precise.
Two excellent books for practicing reading skills are: Modern Reading Text in 4/4 by Louis Bellson and Syncopation by Ted Reed. These books are also a primary source for INDEPENDENCE exercises. Independence allows you to respond freely to the music you are reading and interpreting. To that end I suggest practicing within the context of a Basic Jazz Groove while reading the written lines as follows:
If you want to further expand these exercises read the written line as follows:
One of my favorite books for practicing independence is Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone. Within the context of a Basic Jazz Groove play all notes marked with an "R" (right) on the BD .Simultaneously take all notes marked with an "L" (left) and play it on the SD or Tom-Toms. You may also practice the "R" and "L" as BD and HH or exchange any "L" note (freely or in a predetermined pattern) between the HH and SD/Toms.
B. CHART READING requires you to follow the form (road map) of the piece being played. Drum parts are notated in many ways. There is no "standard" notation that you can study/memorize that will apply to every chart you encounter. Some charts are very clear, precise and easy to follow with all necessary information included. Other times parts may be nothing more than a sketch (play 8 bars at A, 16 bars at B etc.), a rhythm section lead sheet or a copy of a horn part. Steve Houghton's book Studio and Big Band Drumming provides excellent examples of several possible chart variations. No matter what kind of chart you are given, you are expected to accurately read the written music and, more importantly to interpret, improvise, be creative and make the music sound and feel good. Ultimately your goal is to memorize the chart(s) so you no longer have to read. Keep the music in your head, not your head in the music. Section II discusses the basic "how to" of chart interpretation.
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