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  1. #1
    Junior Member Jaada al Johara's Avatar
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    Default Zills - One rhythm at at time?

    Hi All-

    So several years in to my love affair with bd...I've finally decided to pick up my zills that have been gathering dust in my costume closet.

    I have read some of the previous posts on learning zills and the recommendations on which DVDs are most useful. Unfortunately, getting Killer Ziller from a UK source is a bit of a challenge, so I downloaded Jamila Salimpour's lessons from Suhaila's website until I can sort out getting Michelle's.

    My question is, when practicing zills have any of you found it easier or more typical to just stick to a few of patterns like longa or maybe longa with one or two alternating patterns for a while before moving on?

    Jamila's CD is very comprehensive and I really want to dive in but I'm also feeling a bit overwhelmed by the variety. I am not quite sure if should skip the more complex rhythms for a while or drill them anyway to beat my fingers into submission.

    Everyone keeps telling me zills are just practice practice practice. I'm sensing that I might need a bit more structure than my follow along at random strategy to progress but also don't want to get stuck as a one pattern wonder either if I am to seriously play them in public (in the likely distant future).

    *exhale* Any advice appreciated!

  2. #2
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Not a big zill player/teacher but for what it is worth, we start with and-a-one (ie RLR) moving (usually taking a step) on the one (ie the accented third click). I think it is very important to move (in time) right from the start. We also work on extending the arms and moving them in space all while building skill with the zills.

    Later I introduce a run (nad-one-and-two ie RLRL). Then mixes of teh two patterns.

    The only drum pattern we do is a masmoudi sahir.

    Once skill and timing are there, we start trying to zill with a drum rhythm track. Only then do we tackle "songs".

    So basically, no, we don't learn a bunch of fancy rhythms. As someone once said - "you are a dancer - not a drummer".

  3. #3
    Super Moderator gisela's Avatar
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    aladdin's cave is a UK company and they have killer ziller along with several other zill dvds. I've bought from them several times
    Aladdins Cave Dancing With Props
    immer glimmer

  4. #4
    Junior Member Jaada al Johara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gisela View Post
    aladdin's cave is a UK company and they have killer ziller along with several other zill dvds. I've bought from them several times
    Aladdins Cave Dancing With Props
    Thanks gisela! Here I was looking on amazon all this time!

    Also thanks for the advice Kashmir... I'll try to start simple. I always hear conflicting things about the approach to zills (as a prop vs as an instrument of its own). I did a Suhaila workshop in Jamila format over the summer and she banged on about needing to be able to match the drummers precision with my zills... I promptly put them back in the closet after that workshop and decided I needed to wait until I had more time to dedicate to the learning process!

  5. #5
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    Well, you do need to match the drummer's precision in that you are dead on the beat. Zills that are off-beat do not sound good or enhance your performance. Simple and on the beat is better than trying to be fancy and get off-rhythm.

    Just practicing stopping and starting can be a challenge - e.g. a song with a steady beat that has a singer and instrumental sections. I had my beginners practice playing only during the instrumental sections, stopping zilling during the singing. Added to a simple choreography, it was challenging for them to start and stop precisely.

  6. #6
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaada al Johara View Post
    My question is, when practicing zills have any of you found it easier or more typical to just stick to a few of patterns like longa or maybe longa with one or two alternating patterns for a while before moving on?
    Okay, here's what I did, when I was trying to learn cymbals, and I was doing it from Jamila's book, which is basically a long version of the CD you have:

    1. I made a list of all the traveling movements I knew, and then strung those together into a short "choreography" -- nothing fancy, and only to a drum beat. You're drilling, not dancing at this point.

    2. Then I started with longa, (threes or &-a-1). I danced my little step combination with longa. Nothing but longa. And I would change the speed, so I got used to playing from pretty slow to pretty fast. I would also alternate how I played longa (usually RLRRLR, but then I would switch it up and try LRLLRL or RLRLRL.)

    3. Then I just went down the list and started the whole process over again with the next pattern.

    (repeat 3 until you've gone through all your patterns and can travel with them all.)


    Jamila's CD is very comprehensive and I really want to dive in but I'm also feeling a bit overwhelmed by the variety. I am not quite sure if should skip the more complex rhythms for a while or drill them anyway to beat my fingers into submission.
    Only YOU know what type of practice session works for you, so you'll probably have to try it different ways and see which is most effective. I would probably skip 4s until you have mastered 3s. (Half of that CD is 3-based patterns that have been replaced by 4s.) But once you have fast 3s, you can try doing any pattern you know what a 4 instead of a 3.

    Again, this is just what I did and may not work for you, but to get the more complicated PATTERNS in my head (and to lose weight) I actually practiced them while I was doing a basic march on a Step Bench (for aerobics.)

    EVENTUALLY those "patterns" just become part of you and you will play and dance without thinking "Oh now I will play 3-3-7 and then some 5-5-3 and Moori." You'll just be making music with your music. The point of the drilling is to get you to internalize playing patterns so that when you're improvising, cool stuff will just come out

    Everyone keeps telling me zills are just practice practice practice. I'm sensing that I might need a bit more structure than my follow along at random strategy to progress but also don't want to get stuck as a one pattern wonder either if I am to seriously play them in public (in the likely distant future).
    I need structure in my practice sessions too, otherwise I just end up wandering around and not accomplishing anything. Try my method above, and feel free to tweak it. For my practice, I didn't include any movements that were just standing still -- like figure 8s in place -- because I was fine at playing patterns while standing in place. It was when I started traveling that it all fell apart. But your mileage may vary so you may need to drill standing movements (or complicated moves like a Jewel or whatever) with the patterns.

    You won't get stuck as a 1-pattern wonder unless that's ALL you ever play If practicing just one is too boring, try practicing two patterns. Maybe pick two that are similar like 1-1-3-1-3 and 3-1-3-1-3. Or 3-1-3-5 and 5-3-1-3.

    Keep us posted on your progress I love talking cymbals !!

  7. #7
    V.I.P. khanjar's Avatar
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    Odd timing , but tonight I had my first sagat and dance lesson, just basic RLR and we got an idea of what is to come once some of us get the hang of the things.

    And it may be practice, practice , practice, but there is something else as well, trying to stop the sodding brain engaging and stuffing it up, that and getting over the fact that one is making a noise.

  8. #8
    Moderator Farasha Hanem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Okay, here's what I did, when I was trying to learn cymbals, and I was doing it from Jamila's book, which is basically a long version of the CD you have:

    1. I made a list of all the traveling movements I knew, and then strung those together into a short "choreography" -- nothing fancy, and only to a drum beat. You're drilling, not dancing at this point.

    2. Then I started with longa, (threes or &-a-1). I danced my little step combination with longa. Nothing but longa. And I would change the speed, so I got used to playing from pretty slow to pretty fast. I would also alternate how I played longa (usually RLRRLR, but then I would switch it up and try LRLLRL or RLRLRL.)

    3. Then I just went down the list and started the whole process over again with the next pattern.

    (repeat 3 until you've gone through all your patterns and can travel with them all.)




    Only YOU know what type of practice session works for you, so you'll probably have to try it different ways and see which is most effective. I would probably skip 4s until you have mastered 3s. (Half of that CD is 3-based patterns that have been replaced by 4s.) But once you have fast 3s, you can try doing any pattern you know what a 4 instead of a 3.

    Again, this is just what I did and may not work for you, but to get the more complicated PATTERNS in my head (and to lose weight) I actually practiced them while I was doing a basic march on a Step Bench (for aerobics.)

    EVENTUALLY those "patterns" just become part of you and you will play and dance without thinking "Oh now I will play 3-3-7 and then some 5-5-3 and Moori." You'll just be making music with your music. The point of the drilling is to get you to internalize playing patterns so that when you're improvising, cool stuff will just come out



    I need structure in my practice sessions too, otherwise I just end up wandering around and not accomplishing anything. Try my method above, and feel free to tweak it. For my practice, I didn't include any movements that were just standing still -- like figure 8s in place -- because I was fine at playing patterns while standing in place. It was when I started traveling that it all fell apart. But your mileage may vary so you may need to drill standing movements (or complicated moves like a Jewel or whatever) with the patterns.

    You won't get stuck as a 1-pattern wonder unless that's ALL you ever play If practicing just one is too boring, try practicing two patterns. Maybe pick two that are similar like 1-1-3-1-3 and 3-1-3-1-3. Or 3-1-3-5 and 5-3-1-3.

    Keep us posted on your progress I love talking cymbals !!
    You do? YES! YES YES YES!!!

    We have two routines that we use zills in, but both my teachers taught the choreography first, then the zill patterns last (in fact, in one of those routines, we really never got the whole zill pattern down -_-). None of my formal teachers are thrilled zillers. There is only one advanced student who's accomplished at zills, but she's only taught a class or two on them, so I'm pretty much on my own when it comes to learning zills, and that's irritating because I love them so.

    My first go with zills on my own was with one of Dolphina's instructional DVD's (yyyyyyyyyyeah). Pretty much the extent of her instructions were to zill to the "pattern" "I-am-a GOOOOdess/I'm-a-bellyDANcer." No instructions on real Arabic rhythms, zip. So later, I got Ansuya's zill DVD, and although I still use it, I can't help but feel there's something better out there. For now, I have several rhythm CD's, including Uncle Malfoufo's (R.I.P.) 25 rhythms, Nourhan Sharif's "Drums of Lebanon," Solace's "Rhythm Of The Dance," Helm's "Raqset Al Sajat," and the "Full Circle Drums" instructional CD. In the summertime, I go out to the pool area when no one is around to practice patterns, and in the wintertime, I put baby socks on my zills to keep from waking my graveyard-shift daughter.

  9. #9
    Junior Member Jaada al Johara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Okay, here's what I did, when I was trying to learn cymbals, and I was doing it from Jamila's book, which is basically a long version of the CD you have:

    1. I made a list of all the traveling movements I knew, and then strung those together into a short "choreography" -- nothing fancy, and only to a drum beat. You're drilling, not dancing at this point.

    2. Then I started with longa, (threes or &-a-1). I danced my little step combination with longa. Nothing but longa. And I would change the speed, so I got used to playing from pretty slow to pretty fast. I would also alternate how I played longa (usually RLRRLR, but then I would switch it up and try LRLLRL or RLRLRL.)

    3. Then I just went down the list and started the whole process over again with the next pattern.

    (repeat 3 until you've gone through all your patterns and can travel with them all.)
    Thanks Aziyade for the detailed response! I just got back from my Egyptian technique intensive study and tried practicing with my zills today (before I read this). I used the opening of a choreography I already know well as a base and which has fairly simple travelling moves. The beats seem to call for 3's and 5's like at the beginning of Jamila's CD so I thought it would be a good way to start. As for progress... I was hoping using something I have performed several times with simple arm movements would mean I could stop thinking about the moves and just play... Result? Let's just say I'll be practicing again tomorrow! (I also think I might have to get sturdier elastic for my zills as they feel unstable unless I tighten them until my finger tips turn blue!)


    I'll keep you all posted... Hopefully, with something a bit more "breakthrough" worthy soon!

  10. #10
    V.I.P. Greek Bonfire's Avatar
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    It is generally started out with longa then taking on more complicated patterns as you grow more confident. As with beginning, however, you try the newer patterns with the same amount of practice. I use baladi a lot as do most other dancers I know who use zills (which is getting to be less and less) and tsiftitelli, which can be like Michelle's version or on the beat of the drum which is less involved. But it's good to move on from longa as most drummers and Arab audiences refer to that as the coffee cup pattern and it's not necessarily a compliment.

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