New Orleans Drumming
Drum Kit
About the book
Copyright 2002-2003
1900-1945 1945-1970 1970-2000 Drum Techniques > Baby Dodds

Baby Dodds: "A drummer is not alone responsible for rhythm. His job is to send the other guy - make him play."

Although the rhythm instruments and their playing techniques were taken from the widely used military-type orchestras, the role of the drums in Crescent City ensemble playing deviated from non-New Orleans contemporary styles. Naturally, the drummer needed to be solid with the rhythm, but 'keeping time' was not his main job in brass band and early jazz music - much unlike the drum set players from vaudeville and ragtime bands outside the city. New Orleans melody instruments play with pulse as prime factor and the drummer's function is to emphasize this pulse and punctuate its phrasing: making the drums sound not rigid but fluent. Adding verve and color to the music, the New Orleans application of the drum set resembles the role of an Afro-American percussionist. (More on this topic in "SECOND LINE".)

In figure 2-5a and b, played on the shell of the bass drum, Baby Dodds delicatly mixes the eighth notes triplet timing with the straight timing of his sixteenth notes. Many early recorded drummers apply the straight timing during breaks as a means of contrast to the swing feel of the chorus. Dodds did not reserve the contrast of timing to the drum breaks, but integrated it fluently into his melody / chorus accompaniment (fig. taken from "SECOND LINE", more figures in the book).

The element that makes Dodds'playing so colorful, is that within the different sounds of his drum set, he couples the extremes. In figure 2-6 the one accent on woodblock contrasts with the metal timbre of the rim pattern.

The very first hi-hat model, constructed in 1919, was called 'sock cymbal', but some called it a 'snow shoe'. The next, improved, model positioned the cymbals straight on top of each other, lifting the cymbals a little of the ground, which brought with it the name 'low boy'. Eventually the 'low boy' developed into the 'hi-hat'. Baby Dodds, and many early stylists like Zutty Singleton and Joe Watkins with him, did not use a hi-hat. Dodds felt that with playing time on snare, the hi-hat did not add rhythmic effect. On the contrary: the hi-hat on '2' and '4' would unnecessarily complicate the music. Doing a time roll the right way, you don't need a hi-hat.
Snow shoe (photo: A. Aukes)
Snow shoe (photo: A. Aukes)
Baby Dodds
1 New Orleans Brass Bands
Cadence and Intro
2 Traditional Jazz
Baby Dodds
Portret gallary