Collage Break-Beat Drumming

CBB Drumming:  Modern Progressive Break-beat Fragment Collages, Jazz Wobbles, and Tempo Shifting

Conventional drummers, and even standard break-beat artists, will often use only one tempo for the main percussion sections in a song. Break-beat tends to ‘take breaks’ from the beat, for ambient sections, but it usually keeps to ‘breaks’ (broken fragments) within a zig-zag 4/4 rhythm. However a progressive break-beat drummer can progress through various rhythms by using wobbles, bridges, blasts, fills, fades, and dead breaks.

Traditionally only the best or most arrogant drummers could ever claim to ‘perfectly’ keep a steady tempo or beat rhythm all the time. Even today most human drummers will have subtle variations or wobbles in their rhythms, as compared to a more constant metronome or digital beat machine (such as a computer). Variations in beat happen even when humans use mechanical devices to aid their timing. This is due to deviations in mental evaluation, audio perception, and physical dexterity.

Once we understand that even the best human drummers are not going to be ‘on beat’ perfectly all the time; we can begin to have patience for an emerging musical movement that embraces our ability to change, and even accepts our fallibility. Traditional and conventional drummers and people conditioned to hear their repetitious rules, call tempo shifting or playing off beats “bad drumming” or “annoying”; since progressive break-beat is not limited by tempo dogma.

Progressive Break-beat is like an audio Jeet-Kun-Do. As Bruce Lee said “Do not concentrate on the finger… be like water, be formless… do not believe in styles, styles separate man, it is a process of continuing growth.” Just as we should practice martial arts that fit our own bodies and minds, we should practice music that best fits our own bodies and minds.

There are different types of personalities, that will practice in different ways; to be able to play together we must first understand this. Once we understand our differences, we can adapt our forms and patterns, to have a conversation or relationship with the others that are at first impossible or annoying. Any type of music may be annoying to anyone at any time, although certainly the most annoying sounds are ones that seem to have aggressive conflict or discordant tones or beats. To a mind wanting to experience those issues, the music is not annoying, but rather used for venting self-expression as cathartic therapy.

So the premise of CBB (Collage Break-beat Theory), is that a progressive break-beat drummer can progress through various rhythms by using wobbles, bridges, blasts, fills, fades, and dead breaks. This is possible to achieve even while playing with conventional drummers, if they are patient enough to keep playing their own style, or adapt to the breaks. There are many tool techniques to make a CBB song, which pastes together audio and forms how the collage pieces fit together.

A wobble can be a beat bounced (shaken or wiggled) around like a ball, as well as a bass tone stretched and shifting pitch (oscillating bass). In drum circles this wobble sound can be made with a drum or didgeridoo, horn, or voice. Even a whistle or drum blast can be used as a transition signal.

A musical bridge is a piece of transition music played to patch together sections of a song. The bridge can be an interlude solo, or it can be a combination of the sounds before and after it. Fills, noodles, and grace-notes can be used to make use of discord or mistakes.

Fades and dead-breaks are the easiest ways to cut into a new beat.

If someone cannot play with you, they can chill until they find a way into the jam. Jam sessions (like free-form drum circles) are all about taking turns, trying to harmonize, and negotiating differences in styles to be able to play together. A generous expert player will play to the least level, to invite others to play at least for bit.  Ok, play on!

Walton Drum

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