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So, are you looking for a Summer Drumming Project??

Take a look at this . . .

Watch and read along!

This is the transcription Ralph Humphrey gave out at PIT in his "Fusion Drumming" class back in 1989 or so. I don't know who transcribed it, but it's the best one I've seen so far. It's close to the version released on Frank Zappa's "Live in New York" album.

There is A LOT of weird stuff in here, like the quarter note triplet subdivided into two 5 note groupings and a 6 note grouping at bar 5! This is the type of thing you have to learn ONE BEAT AT A TIME.

Starting in May, I will post a lesson or so a week, covering one bar at a time.
Some lessons will cover two or three bars, depending on the degree of "statistical density". I'll be posting the written parts and midi files of each bar.

By the end of the summer, maybe some of us will be able to get through it!


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So we’re off!!!!!!!!

This is the first installment of my effort to dissect, explain, transcribe and finally learn to play Terry Bozzio’s solo “The Black Page”, from the Frank Zappa album “Live in New York”.

First, for some history on this piece of music, go here:

and here :

We will be going through the solo SLOWLY! Bar by bar, sometimes beat by beat.
As new concepts and polyrhythms come up, I’ll try to explain of them as clearly as I can, often using supplemental lessons.

Before getting into The Black Page, I highly suggest that you go over the lesson on poly rhythms by Kevin Barrett here:

One thing I’ve noticed in watching several different videos and listening to recordings of Bozzio playing the piece is that there is room for interpretation within the written music.
I’m basing the transcription mostly on the recorder version from the “Live in N.Y” album, but will reference it to the video from the Vic Firth web site here :

Since this solo is so slow, (about 60 bpm) we need to settle on a counting system for reading these rhythms. For most of it, you’ll do well to count 8th notes (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &). It’s so slow that counting 8ths will feel like your counting Quarter Notes. This will be of vital importance when counting some of the polyrhythms.

For other sections, you might need to count 16th Notes (1 e & a), especially when there are 32nd notes being played. But even then, you should be able to feel the 32nd by counting 8th notes.


The Hi-hat plays Quarter Notes throughout the entire solo. It's the only thing that will keep us on track, and it puts the polyrhythms and off beat figures in their proper context.

OK, so here we go ……………. here is the first musical statement of the solo, which covers Bars 1 -3.



Beat One: As if to start the proceedings off in the most simple way, Zappa starts us off just a single Quarter Note, played on the snare.

Beat Two: A linear 5 note group of 32nd notes, starting on “2” and ending on the “& of 2”

Beat Three: Our first little rhythmic trick. The basic figure is a 16th and an 8th, starting on “E” of 3, but Bozzio adds a single 32nd note between beat ONE and “E”. It’s so slow, that is feels like a 16th Note, but given our counting system and the tempo, we write it as a 32nd.

Beat Four : Again, starting on the “E” of beat 4, Bozzio uses a 9 stroke roll, but instead of ending the roll with an accent with the right hand, he uses the bass drum on the “a” of 4.
Generally, this phrase would be played with a 7 Stroke Roll, but given the tempo, the 9 Stroke seems to work better. The roll is made of 64th notes.


Beat One: A Single Stroke Four, using the kick and snare. I find if comfortable to play this as a floor tom/ snare combo as well.

Beat Two: The same rhythm as Beat 1, with the second note of the triplet missing. Bozzio again uses the 9 Stroke Roll with the last note missing.

Beats Three and Four: Here we have our first use of Polyrhythm – a 5 over 2 poly to be exact. Zappa mixes it up by skipping the first note of the 5.
Now, in the “Live in NY’ version, Bozzio plays the 5 over 2, and crashes on “One” of the next bar. In the Vic Firth video, he crashes of the 5th note of the 5. Interpretation, apparently, is allowed!


Releasing the tension of that 5 over 2 fill, we just play this simple Dotted 8th and 32nd Note rhythm which leads into a Dotted Half Note Roll. In the video, it looks like Bozzio plays a double stroke roll of 64th Notes, with his arms using a 32nd note pulsation.
In reality, it sounds like your garden variety 32nd Note Roll, but because of the tempo, it’s actually 64th Notes.


Next week, we will tackle the first big run of the piece in Bar Four. So get ready for some odd note groupings by practicing your quintuplets and septuplets!


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Here is what is sounds like: 5 over 4.mid - 0.00MB

The snare drum only version sounds like this: 5 over 4 on snare.mid - 0.00MB

What also helps is to sing a melody or say a verbal phrase that's in the polyrhythm that your trying to play. At PIT, they taught us several verbal phrase that corresponded to different polys. For instance, 3 against 2 is "Pass the butter", 3 against 4 is "Pass the bread and butter". I don't remember there being one for 5 against 4, but you get the idea. Maybe we can come up with a good one . . whatever it is, it's gonna sound like an old car engine that needs a tune up!


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Analysis of Bar 4

Bar Four is a fast run of 32nd Notes and Odd Note Groupings. It’s important here to count 8th Notes (1 & 2 &) because the note groupings are in between each 8th note.

Beat One: A linear line of 32nd notes between the snare and bass drum.

Beat Two: Beat Two is a 16th Note Triplet. The “& of Two” is a 32nd Note Quintuplet (5 ). What makes this 5 note grouping interesting is that the first note is played on the bass drum, and the other 4 notes are played on a cowbell or hi-hat. That takes some getting used to.

Beat Three and Four: Here we have a 16th Note Septuplet (7 ). It’s slower than the Quintuplet that precedes it because we are putting 7 notes into the space of two 8th notes. That makes it a 7 against 2 polyrhythm. The quintuplet on the “and of 2” is in the space of one 8th note.

In the videos, Bozzio plays the accents of the 7's on the snare and Hi-hat (closed). There is also a cowbell sound from the percussionist. I would think that you can experiment with timber here.

PS. I noticed that beats 3 and 4 were written incorrectly in the PIT transcription! They had the 7's written in 32nd notes, which is too fast. That way, the 7 notes would have fit between each 8th Note. I guess you get what you pay for . . . or not!