Read Exclusive Interviews written for Drumhead, Modern Drummer and Off Beat: Troy Luccketta – Steve Goold – Daniel Glass – Garrett Goodwin – Steve Smith – Dan Needham – Kelly Keagy – Scott Pellegrom – Brandon Scott – Mike “Woody” Emerson – Ben Barter – Rich Redmond – Sean Fuller – Jason Hartless – Robert Sweet – Keio Stroud – Tommy Taylor – Frankie Banali – Bobby Z – Danny Seraphine – Dino Sex– David Abbruzzese – Marisa Testa – David Thibodeau – Robert Perkins – Sarra Cardile – Bill Stevenson – David Cola – Ran Levari – David Raouf – Eric Selby – More to Come
Today I want to discuss the effects of technology on music. No doubt the Internet has changed the way musicians communicate with one another. Nowadays, fans can email their idols, students can study with teachers abroad, and bands can audition new members from anywhere in the world. Thanks to the World Wide Web, musicians never have to be in the same place at the same time and the possibilities for collaborating are endless. Social media sites, to include Facebook, YouTube and Skype, have enabled musicians to connect to an infinite audience by posting videos or sound bites. Anyone can showcase their music, anywhere, at any time, to anybody. This capability can be a double-edged sword. I read an article lately that said that Google, despite being a great tool, has had a harmful effect on the learning process. The theory is that many people no longer feel the need to learn things as they can just look them up on the Internet using a search engine. I am guilty of that.
According to a Braathe Enterprise article titled Is Technology Ruining your Education? “Our generation’s experience with ever-developing technology is nothing short of mesmerizing; it is a process that simply cannot be ignored. Today, a four-year-old child is just as likely to play games on a portable tablet (navigating it with ease), as they are to pick up a set of Mega Blocks. As time goes on, the trends of using and heavily relying on technology for entertainment and education are becoming increasingly popular. Even though the advances in technology are truly amazing, many people worry that it is not only altering the educational experience, but hindering it as well.”
I have used the ‘Net for quite some time to promote my various projects and publications and the relationships I have gained as a result are priceless. Outside of this blog, the most enjoyable interaction I have is through my videos. Many of these lessons are raw and were shot using an iPhone but recently I upgraded. There is something about teaching someone a new pattern, fill, or warm-up routine that really pleases me. I’m the first to admit that I am far from being an expert and there are multitudes of teachers out there who can play circles around me but in my own small way, I am contributing to the drum community. I, in turn, benefit too by learning from other’s videos. The proverbial drum circle goes round-and-round.
When I co-authored my first drum book I knew the print audience was our target demographic but once the book was released as an eBook the digital format opened up a whole new world. Readers could now download the book and corresponding videos instantly and view them on any device they wished. It is the speed in which we can acquire and discern information that makes the ‘Net incredibly powerful and scary all at the same time. We must remember that the foundation of music is the musician’s connection to their instrument. We must still learn how to play, cultivate our skill level, and practice. We must never let technology trump musicianship. Remember that learning is the foundation of all that we do and not all answers can be found on the Internet.
Here is the video and sheet music of one of the greats, Max Roach, playing one of the most iconic drum solos of all time, “For Big Sid” on his album Drums Unlimited. Notice how Roach tells a story.
Catlett was a huge influence on Roach and a tribute to his hero is expressed here through his drums. This particular solo has become one of Roach’s most popular and has been studied by drummers for decades. At the time, “For Big Sid” was incredibly musical compared to what other drummers were playing and it still stands up today. (Click music and magnify for full size.)
Today I want to take a step back and discuss what attracts me to the instrument. Perhaps you will be able to relate. That’s the purpose of this post.
Whether I am speaking of the drums or the piano there are several factors that have always been prevalent. First is the challenge. Learning how to play an instrument with any kind of competence takes practice which takes tremendous determination. You must put in the work if you want the desired results. The more work you put in the better you will get. That’s just logical. I have spent years, as you probably have, pursuing the instrument to be better each time I sit down on the stool. That is where the challenge lies. Second is the sense of accomplishment. There is no better feeling than to finally get something down after spending countless hours attempting to play it. Pushing past the frustration and getting to the level where you have begun developing muscle memory is divine. Third is for the pure enjoyment. Playing an instrument is fun and at times it can be spiritual. Sitting down behind a drum set, or recently in front of a piano, is an opportunity for me to perform what has been written and also create my own music. What could be better? Playing music is an art form and musicians can appropriately call themselves artists. Here are some examples of my experiences with these three categories.
- The Challenge: I’ll break this down into both instruments. Drums: Rudiments are the language of the drums. In my opinion they are essential to expressing yourself. Rolls and Paradiddles are the most fundamental and widely used. When someone is starting out drums for the first time chances are they are taught these three rudiments: Single-Stroke Roll, Double-Stroke Roll and Paradiddles. They are very challenging for someone who is just starting out. I worked very hard on learning these and I am still working on refining them to this day. My rolls can get sloppy if I don’t use them in a while. Piano: Scales are the rudiments of the piano. They are the foundation too. The most difficult part of scales is independence. Being able to play scales with both hands at the same time is much harder than it seems. I am still working on this and have a long way to go to be comfortable. I have just started my journey on the piano and it is much more challenging than the drums in my opinion.
- The Accomplishment: There is no better feeling as a musician in my opinion than the feeling of accomplishment after nailing something you have been practicing for a long time. As a drummer, muscle memory is the key to playing the instrument. This counts with rudiments and on the drum kit. Drummers do four different things with their limbs simultaneously. Like a dancer this requires repetition. As I mentioned before, rudiments are accomplished by practicing them over and over. Eventually your mind becomes relaxed, and your hands take over. The same goes for the piano. Eventually your hands know where the keys are. I’m not the kind of person who automatically picks things up. I must struggle and practice to get where I need to be. The sense of accomplishment is what keeps me going.
- The Enjoyment: Playing music is the most enjoyable activity I have ever done. From the time I started playing drums at the age of 13, to today when I head downstairs to my drum room, the smile on my face is always there. The drums are a part of me. They have intruded on my life. I’m a professional writer. On the side I’ve written a book, many articles and a blog on the drums. Taking up the piano at the age of 49 was for fun. I’ll never play piano anywhere outside of my house for any reason. I was given a 117 year-old piano by my church and I jumped at the opportunity to learn how to play. Is it hard? For me, yes. I spend hours watching piano videos on YouTube. Do I suck? Currently, yes, but I’m learning. That’s the key. Loving playing music whether you are good at it or not. I’m a pretty good drummer but as a pianist I’ve got a long way to go. I enjoy playing both instruments. That’s why I do it. Why do you play?
It somehow seems fitting that our 600th post is an announcement that “FUNdamentals of Drumming For Kids” is now being carried by Guitar Center. I am thrilled that this book is now being sold by a national chain. It has opened up a whole new audience of readers. The book is in it’s fifth printing and continues to do well. An updated version was recently released. In place of the DVD, readers access the video content via the web. You can order a copy of the book from Guitar Center here.
Yesterday I received some questions in a Facebook discussion about drum wraps and wanted to share a video about the company that I used for the drum wraps on my old kit. I highly recommend their product.
One of the first rudiments learned by any drummer is the double stroke roll. The double stroke roll works just like the single stroke roll, but it’s played in a sequence of alternating strokes. Instead of having one stroke per hand you’ll have two. When played properly the two strokes can be made to sound identical. This produces a near-continuous sound when the technique is mastered.
Doubles are extremely useful. Isolated double strokes can be played around the drum set. In addition to those obvious applications, being able to play a good-quality double stroke roll will likely improve your drumming in ways you wouldn’t expect. I’m still working on my double stroke roll to this day. I’ve spent countless hours working it out on the pad while trying to produce as consistent a rebound as possible. Below are some exercises to help you improve your double stroke roll (Click image for full size):
I’ve always wanted to learn the piano. There’s something about that instrument that speaks to me. I took keyboarding and music theory in school but it’s like starting all over again. It’s a process. Challenging? Yes, but fun. (At least for me, maybe not so much for my family who have to hear me practice.) We were blessed to be given a beautiful piano by our church.
Being an historian, I did some research on our “new” piano and am amazed at the age of the instrument. The firm of Blasius & Sons built very high quality, well-made instruments on a smaller scale from the 1850s until just before the Great Depression.
Charles Blasius left his native home of Cologne, Germany to come to America at the young age of 25. In Pre-Civil War America, Blasius had the privilege of apprenticing with some of the most important piano men in American history. After mastering the art of fine piano building, Charles Blasius established his own company in 1855 in Trenton, New Jersey.
In 1857, Blasius moved his firm to Philadelphia, a hub of major piano manufacturing by many great makers. There he established his firm as “Blasius & Sons” after admitting his two sons Levi and Oscar into partnership.
So that means our piano was built sometime between the 1850’s and 1920’s. Imagine, this piano could have seen the Civil War. Let’s say at the least it was built in 1929, that’s 92 years old. It needs some tuning which I am attending to but other than your normal wear and tear it’s in amazing shape.
Ever since we delivered the piano to our home I’ve been obsessed with watching piano lesson videos on YouTube to learn and piano performances to get inspired. I’ve gone from watching Dave Weckl to Chick Corea. My drums must be jealous.
I plan to take some video to record some of my progress and perhaps I will share some here. Until then I’ll be back to drum posts in my next entry. Now it’s back to the piano. I have practicing to do.
I would be remiss if I let the month of March go by without mentioning our 6th anniversary. Over the last 6 years we have posted 595 posts. Here is post #1:
I know I said I would only post every two weeks but I got a little anxious after going live today. For my first “official” pearl of wisdom I think I will keep it short and sweet. As the inaugural post I believe it is appropriate to discuss the first (and most often) thing that we do as drummers. That of course is practice. It’s a dirty little schizophrenic word in every musician’s vocabulary that means both agony and ecstasy. Who doesn’t remember sitting at a drum pad for hours on end practicing sticking exercises and rudiments? How about working endlessly at the drum set on three way independence and syncopation? “Practice makes perfect” some say. Wrong! Practice makes you better. No one’s perfect.
That said, practice is perhaps the most important thing that we do. Establishing muscle memory, maintaining consistent time and getting the proper feel is an absolute necessity. Therefore the exercises that we do over-and-over-and-over are critical. Just like an athlete must sharpen their mind and body, so too does the drummer. Many people don’t know that there is a correct and incorrect way to practice. The biggest mistake that drummers make when practicing is trying to sound good. That defeats the whole purpose and stifles any growth or potential.
If you are really trying to get better you should struggle. That means you are learning. Only by challenging yourself, exploring places you’ve never been to and having the courage to take chances can you improve as a player. There is an old saying used by ballerinas that goes “Dance like no one is watching.” What an amazing concept. Play, perform and practice like no one is watching. Be brave. Go for it. That’s how you learn. That’s how you improve.
This past weekend I was rummaging through my storage room when I came upon a box of old cassette tapes. Sitting on top were three of my favorites. Two were from the Chick Corea Elektric Band and one was from the Chick Corea Akoustic Band. I remember listening to these tapes a thousand times over and over as I was obsessed with the playing of Dave Weckl. I’ve posted here before about my dislike of long drum solos but honestly, I could watch Dave solo all day. The creativity and precision of his style is amazing, and he is one of the best in his genre.
When I was in high school, I went through a jazz/fusion phase and my friend Jeff Russell (who I have interviewed here before) turned me onto Chick who turned me onto Weckl. I must admit that I spent some time behind my own kit trying to cop sections of the easier songs that he played. No way could I touch the complicated ones. After I dug out these cassettes, I grabbed an old tape player and put it in my drum room. I plan on revisiting that challenge again.
Weckl was, and still is, an inspirational drummer who makes other drummers want to practice. Incredibly, you can now take online lessons with Dave via one-on-one sessions on Zoom. You can work on anything you want. You can have Dave assess your playing and come up with a plan or, tell him what you want to work on. It’s an amazing opportunity to get invaluable insight into improving your playing. For more on that, visit the Dave Weckl Online School at http://www.daveweckl.com/.
This got me thinking. What an amazing time we are living in as drummers. We have access to learning tools like Drumeo, and YouTube and we can take lessons from our heroes. Can you imagine Skyping John Bonham and asking him to help you with your bass drum foot? I recently got a piano and I am learning the instrument. I ordered some instructional books but I’m also looking up videos to help get me started. It’s all on my iPhone. In the palm of my hand! It can blow your mind if you stop and think about it. Musicians today have no excuse. The technology is there. Go practice!
Here is an amazing performance by Carlos Daniel Guevara performing “Groove 84” from the book “Groove Essentials” by Tommy Igoe. According to Carlos he learned this rhythm from Afro Cuban music, sometimes called Naningo or Bembe. He adds, “I think that the main challenge is to keep the groove and make it feel alive. This groove is based on a 6/8 pattern, but to start learning this groove you can start doing a double paradiddle with your metronome set to 6/8 slow.”