Perhaps you're teamed with a bass player who doesn't lay down a solid line. Or maybe someone in the band just doesn't connect. In either case my recommendation is to work with the strongest or the weakest player.
Everywhere you turn these days, someone is talking about, writing about or demonstrating something they cheerfully call "Moeller". But here's the thing -- there appears to be a lot of different techniques being presented as Moeller. So I decided to see if I could get to the bottom of the apparent confusion, and here's what I found out about our friend "Gus" and his teachings.
Forget the 'flat foot vs. toe' argument. When it comes to working the bass drum foot pedal, pretty much anything goes. All of the pedal techniques listed below have advantages and limitations. My advice is to try them all, as each one can bring something worthwhile to your bass drum execution. Note that some pedals may not be suitable for certain techniques.
This brings to mind the adage “You don't stop playing because you get old. You get old because you stop playing”. The same might be said of creativity. Maybe we don't stop being creative because we're not very good at it, we're not very good at it because we stopped being creative.
When I was a young professional musician, I had a reputation of being extravagant. It's a bit ironic because I'm a total cheap-skate. While I was making a pretty good living from drums, I still had to live frugally. I also had to allocated funds carefully. The main areas of contention were instruments and transportation. You see, I had very expensive drums and a fairly expensive car, whereas many of my peers made do with lesser equipment. There's a simple reason for that: TCB.
Your job as a drummer is simple: Hit stuff. Usually you'll want/need to hit things in a more-or-less controlled manner. Below are the basic strokes from which all others flow. Note that for each type of stroke, the position of the stick at the end of the stroke is just as important as the start position.
The band was about to play their final number and the leader was introducing the band members one last time. It was a bit redundant because the line-up was a who's who of Canadian jazz players. Finally the MC announced the drummer, adding that he was the glue that held it all together, and all the band members nodded in agreement......That struck me as a bit odd.
Society has rediscovered only in the last few years the importance of mentors. There's always something to be gained from having someone more experienced to look up to. And if that person is hip to the “pay it forward” concept, there will be two of you looking out for your progress and your career. This can be a great morale booster.
We were sitting around discussing our usual topic: drums. When we got around to the topic of tuning, the more senior drummer among us (defined as someone who'd actually had some real gigs) said: "A drum should go Doom."
I'd like to dedicate this post to the memory of Jim Blackley, the man who I will always call “teacher”.
I recently spent a lesson with a youngster listening to a Katie Perry tune. This fellow was just beginning to be interested in music, and the tune really spoke to him. I like to work with real world examples, so we listened to the tune and talked about it. I pointed out things the drummer was doing that were things we'd been working on. For his next lesson, I prepared some exercises that he could play along to the tune. We spent maybe 10 minutes on the drums that day, but it was one of the best lessons ever because he got it, and he got it because it meant something to him.
Well, Phil Collins is back in the news lately. Remember when he was the guy every rock drummer wanted to be? Then he became a front-man, a break-out star, then a pop icon, then the stalwart of the housewives’ hit parade. Even though Phil are I nearly the same age, he was my idol. We all followed his progress from promising young prog-rock drummer with the shy manner and even shyer voice, to the most respected, most wanted, rock/pop drummer ever. I've just finished Phil's autobiography and I heartily recommend it.
Some of the patterns have been around for a thousand years or more. Most of them are a few hundred years old at least. The drum set itself, barely a hundred years old, came along long after the rudiments were laid down. Well, if the rudiments were never intended for drum set use, does it even make sense to drag them into the drum set arena?Some of the patterns have been around for a thousand years or more. Most of them are a few hundred years old at least. The drum set itself, barely a hundred years old, came along long after the rudiments were laid down. Well, if the rudiments were never intended for drum set use, does it even make sense to drag them into the drum set arena?
My doctor put me on a new drug that actually made me a bit stoned for the first few days. I was prepared for this and planned my days accordingly. What I didn't realize was how it would affect my playing. Being a little bit high (from whatever cause) can help you get into the music. Best case is to be high on the music alone. Less desirable is to be in enough of a fog to forget to pay attention to, for example, the guitar player trying to catch my eye because he wants to end the tune.
I had an interesting time playing a “back line” set. It was a high quality set – very complete – but with a few weak points. The main issues were the hi-hat, snare and bass pedal. Wait a minute ... aren't those the most important tools for a drummer? With a part missing from the hi-hat, a jammed snare release and a bass pedal badly in need of some grease, I had to be vigilant just to 'TCB' which, of course, takes away from playing music and my mental health.
According to the Harvard Dictionary of Music, a polyrhythm occurs whenever two contrasting rhythms happen at the same time. That doesn't nail things down for us very well, especially given that there are a number of terms used to describe polyrhythms. What adds to the confusion is that the book uses the same bit of notation to illustrate several of these terms. So what gives?Terminology is helpful when it clarifies concepts, and a pain in the butt when it serves only to confuse. So I'd like to offer a few suggestions for interpreting the rather imprecise terms available to describe concurrent rhythms.
I'd only playing for a few years and was about a year into my studies with a world-renown teacher, but at this particular lesson I was bombing. I didn't know why I was bombing. My teacher, who didn't often say much, was pacing the room slowing shaking his head. “Let’s try it again,” he said. That meant another month of the same material. So I knuckled down and did it all again. I was good at knuckling down. I had the discipline and determination to master the material I was assigned. And I HAD mastered it. Or so I thought.
A couple of years ago I had a recurring numbness in my lead hand. My fingers went quite numb and the numbness extended nearly to my elbow. I did a bit of medical research and learned that it was caused by, unfortunately, old age. The problem is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s when the nerve ‘tunnel’ in the wrist becomes chronically inflamed so the nerve can no longer slide along smoothly. Carpal tunnel is a tough one because it often requires surgery. My problem was less severe, and the recommended treatment was to relax. And so.....
Drums are loud. And few if any neighbours would recommend living beside a drummer who practices a lot. So what is a poor, motivated drummer to do? Rent a practice hall? Good idea, but not convenient and not cheap. Just hope the neighbours are OK with it? Ya, I’ve tried that ... pretty risky. Maybe you can fit up a practice room that keeps the sound inside. That would be ideal. It’s also nearly impossible to achieve, but with a bit of time and investment, you can come close enough.
It would be nice if we all could just hear complex rhythms and then play them. Most of us have to find some way of counting them. For example, I learned to play quarter note triplets with 'Pass the gol-durn butter'. I use 'serendipity' to count 5-lets. Doesn't really matter how you count things, as long as it works for you.
"Musical intensity will come from being able to play subdivisions with great specificity and control" - Peter Erskine. Here's an interesting application. We think of funk as being very 8th note or 16th note oriented, but a lot of funk actually gets its groove from relaxing the 'inner inner line'. You may think you hear 16th notes on the snare leading into the down beats, but if you listen carefully you’ll notice that those aren’t 16th notes at all, but are based on a 16th-note triplet shuffle played within the 8th note structure of the rhythm. That’s why those beats are so relaxed and funky -- and a challenge to play properly.
From country to Led Zeppelin to funk, it’s all in the inner line … and the line within the inner line.
I recently watched an interesting and entertaining movie called "The Wrecking Crew". It's the story -- with lots of interviews -- about the coven of ace studio musicians who created almost all of the pop and rock music that came out of California in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
I like to use a billiard analogy. You can just whack the cue ball and hope for the best, but serious pool players put a lot of effort into controlling where the cue ball ends up. It's important to make the shot, but if you're not preparing for the next shot, your game will suffer. Same with your strokes.
One of the most important, interesting and powerful rhythmic tricks available is groupings of three. I don't mean playing 3/4 or 6/8 or quarter-note triplets. Almost every music style uses three-beat figures played in a four-beat environment. In fact, it's rare to hear a tune that doesn't use this concept in some way.
Articulation - Miss Manners would certainly advise that you shouldn't talk with your mouth full. There's the visual aspects, to be sure, but there's also the issue of garbled speech with the attendant lack of actual communication. Better to have your vocal system free of debris if you want to be heard clearly and be understood.
Whenever the discussion turns to click tracks, drummers like to cry foul (usually accompanied by a sour face). For many drummers, the use of a click track is unnatural, cheating, insulting, or all three. I'm afraid I can't agree. A drummer's prime responsibility is to keep time. Unfortunately, keeping steady, unwavering time is hard to do.
Researchers played music for groups of subjects and then asked them how much they ‘liked’ the rhythm. In one group, the drum part was played by a drummer (Jeff Porcaro unbeknowst to the participants): in another test group, the same rhythm was played by a drum machine. Although subjects could not quantify their answers, they somewhat preferred the 'real' drummer.
Shortly after I bought a set of budget tabla, I came across an important bit of advice: Do not buy cheap tabla; it's too hard to get a sound and you will be quickly discouraged. OK, there are other reasons my tabla playing is serious limited, but the sound quality of the cheap drums dampened my enthusiasm. Still, we ought not to blame our tools for a job poorly done.