For many years Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer (better known as just “Syncopation”) by Ted Reed was virtually the only drum book I used. As I alluded to in the Joe Cusatis book post, I’m a big advocate of the interpreting-a-melody-line approach to practice, for which Syncopation is basically the Bible. Or Das Kapital, Origin of Species, whatever you like. It does have its limitations, which caused me to look into sources for similar materials. Here is a survey from my library:
Modern Reading Text in 4/4 by Louis Bellson. A classic in its own right. I find the majority of it a little too difficult for daily use- either Bellson is going way outside what is conventional in order to challenge the user, or maybe he is including things more likely to be encountered by horns. I use it primarily for its “10 Syncopated Exercises”, which are long exercises similar to the ones in Reed. I haven’t devised much in the way of practice methods adapted to the strengths of this book.
Odd Time Reading Text by Louis Bellson and Gil Breines. A thick book dealing with a wide variety of odd meters. There are several pages suitable for Syncopation-type applications, and quite a few more involving triplets and 16ths. Much of it is extremely difficult, in changing or */16 meters, which are frankly of limited value to me.
The Rhythm Book
by Martin Bradfield. Bradfield is a teacher in Pennsylvania who has self-published this book and two accompanying volumes of interpretive methods. Covers roughly the same territory as Syncopation, but with a number of rhythms Reed left out. Maybe the best companion volume of these, and a great value. Highly recommended.
Syncopated Rhythms for the Contemporary Drummer by Chuck Kerrigan. Includes a list of interpretive methods for application on the drums. Four measure and longer exercises, using quarter notes, 8th notes, triplets, and 16th notes. Includes exercises of “equivalent” rhythms- the same rhythm (ignoring durations) is written using ties, dotted notes, and rests. Takes Reed’s somewhat annoying convention of including quarter notes on the bass drum a step further by including quarter notes on the bass drum and the hihat throughout. The 16th note section is more valuable- more real-music like- than the 16th note sections in some other books.
Syncopated Big Band Figures by Jake Hanna. Two volumes, one of which is in duet form. Exercises are written semi-big band style, with combinations of syncopated passages, fill indications, occasional time indications, written out accented singles.
50 Syncopated Solos for Snare Drum by Joe Maroni. Snare drum solos in 4/4, 2/4, 3/4, and 6/8. Mostly in the style of the long exercises in Reed, with some 16th notes, triplets, accents and rolls added. A lot of material, easily adapted to the usual Reed applications, and a good value.
Studio and Big Band Drumming by Steve Houghton. A great book all around, includes several long exercises written quasi-big band style, and also a number of short exercises for working on common figures.
Basic Drumming by Joel Rothman. Includes several pages similar to everything found in Syncopation. An excellent book on its own, but maybe not worth purchasing just for this type of application.
The New Breed by Gary Chester. I only have the second volume of this book. Includes long exercises in 4/4, 6/8, 12/8, 5/8 and 7/8. Emphasis is on 16th notes. I’ve used this book very little. A sacred text of fusion drummers.
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