10 Ways To Sound Like Bill Bruford

For Bruford, and many others, the paradiddle and its permutations provide a sort of vocabulary of stickings that allow us to explore more complex rhythmic territory. (For example, the handy RLRLRRL and RLRLRLL stickings help you to play in 7/4 by allowing you to begin each new phrase on the right hand.) Bruford has been able to exploit the endless usefulness of figures like these to a high degree in much of his playing, providing the seed for some of his most celebrated material.

Examples 2a, 2b, and 2c are all taken from three different performances of the fusion-y 9/8 workout “Beelzebub.” The first is the original studio recording from his 1978 solo debut, Feels Good To Me, the second taken from the Earthworks rendition heard on the Magna Carta label’s Drum Nation Vol. One (2004), and the third comes from a Bruford clinic at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario in 2006. Notice how he uses a distinctly different pattern for each, yet relies heavily on paradiddles for all three. Bruford is also particularly fond of the paradiddlediddle. To this day, the entirety of Yes’ “Heart Of The Sunrise” remains perhaps the greatest recorded document of one man’s ability to creatively and musically incorporate this rudiment into a piece of music. The passages in Ex. 2d are taken from this masterpiece. Similarly orchestrated figures are plentiful in the King Crimson song “Easy Money” from Larks’ Tongues In Aspic record (Ex. 2f).

Swift, single-stroke sextuplets have always been a reliable choice for Bruford as textural material during a fill. As a result we hear them quite commonly in his playing. Oftentimes he seems to enjoy the rhythmic contrast of following and/or preceding these with straight sixteenth-notes, as in the gripping opening phrase of “Heart Of The Sunrise” (Ex. 2d) as well as other moments in that song (Ex. 3a). Ex. 3b shows a similar application, also preceded by straight sixteenth-notes and further enhanced with an accent pattern. It is from yet another live version of “Beelzebub,” this one from a 1979 performance captured on The Bruford Tapes (each recording of this tune is unique from the others). Example 3c is his clever orchestration of a sextuplet between the hi-hat, snare, and kick, also from “Heart Of The Sunrise.”

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