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.
A while back reading The Roots of Rock Drumming book, I researched the drummers interviewed in the book. Checking out some performances mentioned in the book, learning and trying to digest their contributions. Not long after that, we started messing with Austin Drummer Magazine, doing interviews with some local greats who gave impressive lists of music they went to school on to get their gigs. Since they were gracious enough to pass on extensive lists of music they learned from, I felt obliged to go at it like I was trying to get their gigs and soak up as much of their music as possible. The results were something I have to recommend you do for yourselves.
A 69-year-old professional jazz drummer had pain, accompanied by numbness and tingling, in both hands and could not bend his fingers. He experienced moderate aching pain and difficulty holding his sticks both while practicing (two to three hours a day) and during two or three gigs a week. The pain was relieved by rest and breaks from drumming, though he sometimes woke up at night with a burning pain in both hands......
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.
There are twenty six very famous drummers profiled in this book who span the twentieth century and the entire history of modern drum set drumming: Chico Hamilton, Phil Seamen, Kenny Clark, Davey Tough, Big Sid Catlett, Papa Jo Jones, Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, shelly Manne, Jake Hanna, Mickey Roker, Billy Higgins, Art Taylor, Elvin Jones, Joe Morello, Paul Motion, Dannie Richmond, Philly Joe Jones, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Ginger Baker, Jerry Allison, Earl Phillips, Al Jackson JR. and Jim Keltner. Thanks for writing such a comprehensive, educational and very entertaining book, Chet.
Everything you need to know about being a professional drummer . . . and a few things you may not want to know. Hosted by Matthew Crouse, co-hosted by Zack Albetta and produced by Mike Jackson: the podcast Working Drummer covers it all in interviews with dynamic pro drummers. WorkingDrummer.net
Nov. 9-12, 2016, Indianapolis Convention Center, Indianapolis, IN. PASIC is the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. If you haven’t been to PASIC, then you should make time to go! It’s a day totally devoted to drums, percussion, the education of percussive arts, and just about anything that can be translated to rhythm. Just imagine – a convention center filled only with drummers! There were many concurrent sessions (making it impossible to see everything) so I elected to attend the drum set clinics primarily, and peruse the exhibitor booths in between. Unfortunately, that meant I missed out on many percussion ensembles, marching exhibitions, electronics, etc… Please check out the 60 pics on the NSMD Facebook site.
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.
When I attended Berklee in the late sixties, I studied with Alan Dawson and couldn't endure his drive for perfection. I wanted to move forward in a quest for new concepts, and he wanted to make sure I dotted every “I” and crossed every “t.” Alan had the patience of a saint, while I was a child that couldn't get his pants up quick enough to get started every day.
Our personalities at the time were, in many ways, at polar ends of the spectrum; yet, his demeanor was easy going and he was easy to like. Alan would say, “Here's your assignment I expect you to put a lot of time into the concepts I give you,” which, in his delivery, might include a passive-aggressive tinge. Alan preferred to imply his core message, rather than just say it out loud. At the time I didn't get it: I couldn't wrap my little young-adult head around such nuance.
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.....
All drummers need to practice their rudiments and the various styles of music in which they are involved. But there is another crucial aspect of music not covered by those efforts. George Marsh's landmark book, “Inner Drumming” gives you the missing ingredient: internal awareness of your body as you are playing.
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.
A ride beat moves itself ever forward, like a bicycle rolling along. And this part of the phrase, like the circle compared to the line, is where both the "hardest" and "easiest" parts lie. When played with fluidity it is rolling; a beautiful study of motion, grace and power. When played stiffly, it's like a mechanical device. Boring. Metallic. Uninteresting.
There is a plethora of ways to hit a drum, especially the snare drum, in most popular music styles. Elvin Jones called the snare "The Frying Pan," referencing the snare’s central role in cooking up, in his case, some very progressive jazz.
Nic Marcy is a world class player and educator. He started a new publication in 2016 called Austin Drummer which is about and for the drummers and drumming and music scene in Austin and beyond. There are some really hip articles to enjoy so we decided to make Nic's Austin Drummer magazine a column here at NSMD.
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.