MUSiC: Transcribing Drums – Midnight Rendezvous, Casiopea, 1979

Takashi in the studio.*

I have been digging the fantastic drumming of Takashi Sasaki for a while now. He was, strictly speaking, Casiopea’s second drummer. Their first drummer, Tohru ‘Rika’ Suzuki, didn’t record with the group (at least not on an officially released album). Hence Sasaki is commonly thought of and referred to as their first, as he’s the first to be heard in the chronology of their official recorded discography.

His style is light, tight, intricate and highly musical. His chops are extraordinary. With a mastery of dynamics – the range between his ghosted notes, standard hits, and accents, make his playing very hard to accurately emulate – and a penchant for a style Weather Report infamously described as ‘soloing all the time without ever soloing’.

Looks like an album cover or sleeve montage?

He can and does get busy at times, but he always grooves like a mother! Some of his fills are truly ballistic. And, occasionally, they’re almost impossible to decipher. This is particularly true of a few fills (and possibly even grooves?) on the super tasty Midnight Rendezvous.

Even using Moises to isolate the drums, and ASD to slow them down, there’s a fill at around the 3.00 mark that is doing my noggin in. I initially thought perhaps it was in fives, or something like that. But repeated listening leaves me stumped. I need to have it running as a slowed-down and visual (wave-form) loop, methinks. I’ve not tried that as yet.

My score for this is a work still in progress.

It’s taken me a good few hours to get down the first two pages of what will, I think, be a four page score. And even the fifty or so per-cent I’ve done so far will, undoubtedly, be subject to some revision.

I’ve got as far as the end of the (very tasty) guitar solo. Next up is the keys solo, under which Sasaki does some very light and intricate stuff. I’ve blocked in some of this latter section. But I’ve yet to get in there and tweak it.

Sketched out, and still needing fine tuning…

All the cats in this band are just utterly phenomenal. They play in that deliriously groovy sweet-spot, where instrumental prowess and sheer good taste, when it comes to musical choices, collide.

Once I’ve finished the transcription, I intend to learn to play the whole piece as best I can. I’d like to do a YouTube video cover of it, and share it online.

It’s funny for me, as a primarily self-taught drummer, who’s only learned to read drum music ‘on the job’. Stuff that ‘classically trained’ musos might find obvious and easy can sometimes fox me. Transcribing stuff is proving a great way to teach myself written music. Albeit I’m still dealing in timing only, and not pitch/harmony, etc.

A master at work. What became of him?

Here’s a specific example of how I’m learning on the job: there are some quick ‘crushed bounce’ style left hand-doubles – sometimes such stuff is played as a buzz; but oft-times you can clearly hear these as a double – and I initially thought, ok, just turn a single 1/16th into two 1/32nd’s.

But that just sounded so wrong! So instead I turned the ‘&-a’-notes from two 1/16ths (or more [in]accurately one 1/16th and two 1/32nd notes) to a group of three 1/16 note triples. The resultant ‘4-e-&-trip-let’ subdivision sounds and feels sooo much better. And that’s how he plays it. Learning on the job!

* Those tom angles!? They look awful… like a school-kid’s drum set up. Still, the sounds he gets, the feel he achieves, that’s the proof o’th’ puddin’. Just goes to show there’s no single right way. Each to their own!

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