Ari Hoenig Clinic

8:53 We’re in and wating for the clinic to start.  There’s a small, 4pc Yamaha kit on stage with what appears to be Zildjian Constantinople cymbals.  There are handouts on all of the seats.  They look like ads for book, Whole Music Drumming.  Kind of a thin crowd, but thn again it is very early for musicians.

8:59 PAS guy out again and introduces Jordan Bart from Yamaha A&R

9:00 Yamaha guy out to introduce Ari.  Ari plays with his band Ari Hoenig and the Punkbop.  Ari went to UNT and currently teaches at NYU.  Bandleader, composer, arranger.

9:01 Ari takes the stage.  Laid back looking guy in a hoodie.  Opens with a solo with timpani mallets.  Lots of tom work and effects.  The snares are off and he’s making melodies around the kit.  Lots of pitch bending on the toms.  Adds HH ostinato.  Solo ends abruptly … (applause) ok, that’s not the end.  He has to retune the snare.  Not a good sign for that Yamaha drum.  😉  He’s easliy getting 2-3 pitches on each drum.  Explores all of the sonic characteristics of the mallets – beater, shoulder, shaft.

Playing with his hands now.  Conga-type pitch bends and slaps.  Back to the mallets.  He really is exploring the melody.  He ends with playing “Tequila” on the kit.

9:09 Ari Takes the mic.

Ari: The subject of this clinic is how to make melodies on the drumset.  I started doing this because I was getting melodies in my head that I wanted to get out.  I didn’t have to exactly play the pitches, but I wanted to play the phrasing – the count going up or down.  If I started with a piece with a leap, I’d change drums.  If it was a smaller step, I’d use my hands, or my elbows.  That led to being able to play notes.  Here’s an example of how I started to develop this.  The first tune I learned this was Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation.”  Not the pitched but the contour of the melody.  Here’s how I did that. (Demonstrates on toms).  See, I’m not going for the actually pitches, but the contour.  What matters is the phrasing, not the actual pitches.  If I kept to that, it ould recognizable. (Plays the melody on the toms.)  You could play the melody just on the snare or toms, as longs as you have the phrasing. (Demonstrates just on the snare.  Moves to toms, and the melody is clearly heard.)  (applause)

From there, I realized that I can play some notes and maybe even play the actual melody.  I started with simple melodies and basic intervals.  I’m lucky, b/c I have a good sense of relative pitch, and that has helped me a lot.  Some basic ear training might be a good idea to get a good idea.  Also, be able to sing the melody.  To internalize it and hear it.  It will help that process.  Here are a couple of exercises.  First the major scale.

9:15 Plays scale on toms and snare by elbowing into the drums to raise the pitches.

Ari: Minor, arrpegios. (demonstrates.  It does take a little bit to get in tune with how the pitches sound on the drums.  It’s there, but it takes a bit of effort to try to get.  Other types of exercises you might do on piano (demonostrates scale patterns and exercies usually heard from a piano.)  Here’s a good one from my father who is a vocal coach. (Plays vocal warmup type of pattern.)  THe range is very limited.  You can use mre drums, but the artistic value is from making at with what you’re given.  That’s why I only play with four drums.  Is the bass drum involved?  Sometimes.  I can make a difference in the pitch (presses into the beater to get 2 pitches).  I haven’t really

I’m going to talk about how I tune the drums.  The root is F, the small tom.  The floor is C, so it’s the 5th.  The snare is tunes to an A, or Ab depending if I’m going to play in major or minor.  They’re open tones, like on a guitar or violin.  If I’m going to be improvising in a certain key, I’m going to use the open tones as much as I can. (PDemonstrated and takes the key and retunes to Ab while playing).

9:21 Plays another piece with a cross stick groove accompaniment. Keeps HH on foot going while playing minor melody around the kit.  Sounds like a slow blues tune.

9;25 Ari: So that brings me to my next point.  It’s also possible to improvse if you are familiar with the intervals and how the tuning worls.  There are 3 ways to get the pitches out the drums.  One way is with my hands (demonstrates).  One way is with my elbow (demonstrates), and the other way is with the drum and the stick – pshing the stick into the drum. It’s the least accurate, but you can use it for speed as long as you keep the phrasing (demonstrates).  I try not to use that technique if I can help it, but a lot of time there’s not enough time to use the elbow.  Question?

Q: What about press strokes.  Also, what drum sticks?
Ari: It’s a different sound, but it still works with sticks.  The press stroke, I use it because it’s a more legato sound.  It will work with the more stacatto sound if that’s what I want. It’s the drummer’s way of getting a legot sound without using the cymbals.  (Demonstrates bot technique).  You can still hear the melody more or less when I play stacatto.

Q: Does timpani playing help yor drumming
Ari: Yeah, but the main thing that helps me with this is developing the ear for pitch.  Timpani helps that, but singing along and hearing melody inside you also helps.  You have to have some kind of relative pitch to tune the pitch.

Q: How do you incorporate cymbals into this concept?
Ari: You can use specifically tuned cymbals, but I’ve never tried that.  Let’s move away from specific pitches and see what cymbals can do.

9:31 Demonstrates cymbal only solo.  There aren’t clear pitches, but there is a definite intervallic relationship between the 2 rides and the HH.

Ari: I’m note using the cymbals as actual notes, but it’s about creating something that sounds like it’s a composition.  What I’ve learned is to repeat the first thing I play.  I would try an idea, and I didn’t like it, and I kept searching.  The problem is if you keep searching what you like, you’ll never find anything you like.  I play the first thing that comes to mind and I develop it.  It takes on a life of its own, no matter what it is.  Anything you play on the drums will become music with repetition.  Even mistakes (Demonstrates piece where he drops a stick.  Proceeds to repeatedly drop sticks – even throwing them at the drums.)  Just trusting yourself to have that ability to repeat what you play.  Turn your mistakes into music.  It’s why I’m not terribly nervous when I come up to play.  I’m confident that I can turn those mistakes into something musical.

Q: What about comping to the melody.
Ari: I’ll demonstrate how I comp.  Here’s a melody called “Doxy.”

9:38 Plays melody and comps with kick and hat.  Turns on snares and comps more traditionally along with swing ride pattern.  Admittedly, the pitched melody idea is lost, but there is still a contour to the lines.  Turns off snares and plays through melody again and comps with hat while punching every now and then with kick and ride.

9:41 Ari: Does anybody have a request of a song for the process I would go through to go learn a new song? (Lots of tunes yelled form the audience).  I heard “Anthropology.”  Since we’re short on time, I’ll do that one even though I’ve learned that one before. (Plays through tune.  The melody is so fast, it’s tough to discern the pitches. Improvises around the melody adding HH backbeats. Switches to timpani mallet in rh and stick in lh.  Plays “This Little Light of Mine.”  He’s really laying into the snare.  I think I heard 5 pitches at one point.  Sings along with melody.)

9:47 Ari: How do I do this in a band context?  It’s imposible to show you, but you’ll hanve to come see my band tonight! (laughter). (Thank yous)

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