BEFORE YOU BEGIN: It has come to my attention that WordPress inserts advertisements on their blogs that use the free subscription option. I want to make it clear that I have no control over what ads popup nor do I necessarily endorse what they are advertising. I can only invite you to scroll down past each one and enjoy the blog’s content.
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 (Next up: TBD)
One of the biggest challenges for me as a drummer is holding myself accountable during practice time. I live in a house with five other people so I don’t get a lot of opportunities to sit down behind the kit and play. Therefore I have to maximize the time I do have and get the most out of it. I’ve been keeping what I call a practice diary next to my drums. I got the idea from JP Bouvet. In it I outline what I did over the course of a practice session. I record what works, what didn’t work, and what I need to work on the next time I sit down. This serves two purposes. First, it provides me with a syllabus for my next practice session. Second it allows me to look back and see my growth. There is a saying that goes if you sound good during practice you’re not learning anything. This is true. By maintaining a journal I keep myself focused. Here are some steps I consistently perform each time I practice:
Note: I practice with a metronome
- Spend 25% on the pad going through rudiments
- Spend 25% playing new beats on the kit
- Spend 25% playing familiar beats faster
- Spend 25% playing along to music
- Work out of books periodically
As I type this entry the sad news is spreading around the world of the death of Aretha Franklin. Far too often we miss the impact someone has had on the world around them until they are gone. Aretha’s impact on music is overwhelming.
We can look to those that knew her intimately to get a feel for what it was like to create music with the Queen of Soul. Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (right) served as Franklin’s live drummer and music director from 1970 to 1975. Of his time with Franklin he once commented that “backing her was like floating in seventh heaven.”
Purdie is also the studio drummer behind dozens of Franklin’s hits to include “Rock Steady.”
In an interview for Leigh Valley Music Purdie recalled the night he was lifted off his feet when Aretha and her band were recording their 1971 live album at the Fillmore West in San Francisco.
“I never witnessed anything like that because, I’m telling you, we literally rose off of the floor. When we made that record, we were on another planet. The people could drown you out … There was nothing but pure love in that room and that house, those three nights, there was nothing like it. I don’t think I’ll ever see it again but I’ll never forget it.”
Purdie’s own claim to fame is the triplet rhythm referred to all as the “Purdie Shuffle.” He recalled for NPR how that came about during a recording session with Franklin.
“We were actually recording ‘Rock Steady.’ She’s at the piano. Chuck Rainey on the bass. Cornell Dupree. Hugh McCracken, he was there, too. But the thing that happened is that her music fell off the piano. The red light was on — the red light means you always are recording. Tape was very, very expensive. We kept the music going, and I captured the eight bars that has taken me around the world. Everybody thought it was the most phenomenal drum break in my life — and all I was doing was keeping my time. I just smile, because 98 percent of the people of the world didn’t know my drum break was an accident. I love it.”
Due to an unforeseen circumstance my second appearance on Drumtalk Radio will be postponed. In the meantime, check out https://www.aroundthekit.net/.
UPDATE: 8/16: Here’s an article on Rolling Stone’s website in which Collins says a reunion with Genesis is possible with his son on drums. (Read Here)
Revered as one of the most influential drummers of all time, Phil Collins’ life as a drummer came to a sudden halt and threatened to end his career. In September of 2009, it was reported that Collins could no longer play the drums, due to a recent operation to repair a dislocated vertebrae in his neck.
A statement from Collins said, “I’ll never play the way I used to. Something happened on the Genesis reunion tour. At the end of each show, I had a drumming duel with Chester Thompson, and one night something happened. It just went. I tried everything – bigger drumsticks and so on, but it just never came back. It’s a mystery what happened, I just couldn’t get it back. But I’m 65 and I played drums since I was five. I’d like to have the choice about being able to play, but I’m not going to cry myself to sleep about it.”
On the Genesis website he wrote, “After a successful operation on my neck, my hands still can’t function normally. Maybe in a year or so it will change, but for now it is impossible for me to play drums or piano. I am not in any distressed state; stuff happens in life.” In 2010 Collins alluded to feelings of depression and low self-esteem in recent years, stating in an interview that he had contemplated suicide, but he resisted for the sake of his children.
In October of 2014, Collins told John Wilson on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row that he still could not play the drums as he was suffering from an undiagnosed nerve problem that left him unable to grip the sticks. He confirmed in a 2016 interview that he was still unable to drum with the left hand; however, he has also said that after a major back surgery, his doctor advised him that if he wanted to play the drums again, all he needed to do was practice as long as he took it step by step.
By 2016, Collins had made incredible strides with rehabilitation and he anxiously returned to the road. The majority of his drumming assignments were handled by his son, but Collins was able to play the encore “In the Air Tonight” which featured one of the most recognized drum fills in music history. He continued his “Not Dead Yet Tour” in 2017-2018 gaining strength and becoming more comfortable behind the kit. Perhaps he will play more drums in the future. For now he is satisfied performing music for his fans.
Time for a quick lesson… “Pea Soup” is a term used by some drummers to describe the sound that results from playing the hi-hat with lots of attitude in order to add “flavor” to the beat. The playing style affectionately described as “pea soup” can be achieved in a variety of ways. Some drummers get this result by playing an open hi-hat sound, followed by a quick closed hi-hat sound. They may also strike the hi-hat cymbal with lots of attitude and focus on accenting the open sound to make the hi-hat “bark.” This can create different “colors” which means that a drummer can get a variety of different sounds out of the same drum or cymbal by simply striking it differently.
You can use the pea soup approach to create two different colors by playing the open sound with the shank (or side) of the drumstick and the closed sound with the tip (or end) of the drumstick. You could also play the open sound on the edge of the hi-hat or strike the cymbal closer to the bell (or middle) of the hi-hat to achieve different sounds.
While the concept of pea soup is simple, the level of difficulty can increase depending on how much flavor you want to add your beats. The most important thing to remember is not to overdo it. A drummer must always maintain good time and meter. Too much extra flavor can interfere with the beat. Just like cooking a favorite recipe, you must use the right amount of ingredients. Practice with a metronome and find the right balance. I’m working on finding just the right amount of attitude. (Click image for full-size)
Nazi propaganda was incredibly strong for imparting ideology in people’s minds through the thought-provoking images and symbols they used. The Hitler Youth were instrumental in this effort. The role of the drummer boy became a position of honor and they often participated in rallies held to invigorate the German people. We can speculate on their innocence as being indoctrinated by a higher power but that must be presumed on an individual basis. Regardless of their intentions, their contributions strictly as drummers are noteworthy. Appearing in large numbers, the Nazi drummer’s pulse echoed throughout the venues they played in. In addition to their performances as musicians, their coordinated movements were striking. It is unfortunate that their drumming was in support of such an evil theology.
Wow! I can’t believe we’ve reached 400 posts. When I started this blog back in March of 2015 I thought I’d post something of interest every couple weeks or so. I ended up writing 14 posts in the first month. Since then I’ve posted exclusive interviews, technique and exercises, equipment reviews, historical studies, music notation, endorsement videos and more. The blog averages thousands of hits a week and is read in over 30 countries. The stats continue to amaze me and I am humbled to say the least. My book is now in its fourth printing and I believe the blog has helped to promote and continue its success. I’m surprised I have not lost interest in maintaining Off Beat as this is my fourth blog. This time around I’d really like to hear more from you. Feel free to send me an email or drop a comment and let me know what you think. Share your ideas or criticisms and let’s work together to make this blog even better. I have some really great posts lined up for the coming months and I look forward to posting a hundred more. Until then…
We would love it if you would consider writing a review of the book over on our Amazon page. We really value your opinions. Got to: FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids. Thank you in advance.
It’s not an easy gig playing behind the “King of Rock and Roll” but two drummers rose to the challenge. In Elvis’ early years it was DJ Fontana (above) and in his later years it was Ronnie Tutt (below). Both drummers were the perfect complement to Presley’s sound at the time and his music was dependent on their unique groove. Fontana was Elvis’ drummer for the first 14 years of his career and appeared on over 400 recordings. He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame on January 14, 2009, and on April 4, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in the “sidemen category”. Tutt was the backbone of the famous TCB Band (Taking Care of Business) and participated in Elvis’ concerts and recording sessions until the death of Presley in 1977. Tutt went on to become the drummer for Neil Diamond. Both drummers can be heard on dozens of the most popular songs in the history of traditional rock-n-roll.
Not surprisingly, both drummers focused on the singer’s signature movements. Fontana spoke in an interview on how difficult it was to perform behind the singer that drove all the girls crazy. “He always worked us tight. Everybody was right up against each other. It was hard to hear a lot of times. But I know one time we went to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. There was about 45,000 people. And back in those days, that’s a lot of people. And we really couldn’t hear him do a thing. And he took his microphone and went way out to the gate of the fence. And we were like in the middle of the arena on the 50-yard line. So we was probably 75, a hundred foot from the fence and we couldn’t hear a thing – and he couldn’t, I’m sure. We only had three little pieces. But we knew by his movements, his hands, his feet, legs. We knew exactly where he was. So we had to watch him awfully close to find out where he was all the time.”
Tutt spoke about how Elvis’ moves influenced how he played the drums. “I’ve always said it was like working for a stripper in the old days of vaudeville. The drummers and musicians had to watch every move the stripper made to accent it with their instruments. As time went on, he would use more and more karate moves, to cut off songs and during songs, where there’d be musical interludes or solos. Because they’re almost quicker than the eye, those moves, I felt like there was only way for me to really understand them. And that was to study the same form of karate as he did. We’d have lessons and workouts up in his suite. It helped me a great deal to understand how he moved.”
It’s been a while since I posted anything controversial so I’m way overdue. Today I want to instigate some dialogue either here or over on my Facebook page. My topic? How John Bonham’s drum solo “Moby Dick” is a way over-the-top self-indulgent interlude that is twice as long as it needs to be. I’ve posted here before about my lack of enthusiasm for drum solos and this one is at the top of my list. The recorded version on Led Zeppelin’s second album is palatable but the live versions border on the ridiculous. Fifteen to twenty minutes for a solo on any instrument is excruciating to sit through.
According to the song’s history: Live versions of “Moby Dick” are included on the live album How the West Was Won (lasting 19:20, performed at Long Beach Arena in 1972) and on Led Zeppelin’s 1976 concert film, The Song Remains the Same as part of Bonham’s fantasy sequence. It was also included on the film’s accompanying soundtrack. Both of them were cut to a shorter version. The Led Zeppelin DVD also has a 15-minute-long version that was performed and recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970.
I have no idea how an audience can sit through that and retain their enthusiasm. I’d be bored to death after five minutes. Is this entertainment or overkill? I say the latter. Bonham could have showcased his skills more efficiently in a quarter or the time. Wail on the snare for a few bars. Play with your hands for a few bars. Hit the timpani for a few bars. Do that cross arm sequence on the toms for a few bars. Boom! You’re done. Five minutes tops including the intro and outro.
Bonham was not the only one. Other drummers like Ginger Baker played long solos. Both of them took their cues from the big band drummers from back in the day but even their solos never lasted that long. One reason may be so their bandmates could go backstage and take an extended break. That makes sense but doesn’t make me like extended solos any more than I do.
No doubt John Bonham is rightfully considered one of the greatest drummers of all-time but his real contributions come in the form of his accompaniment to great songs as a part of an exceptional band, not as an overwhelming soloist. Many drummers take their cue from Bonham’s style but I don’t know of any whose drum solo’s clock in at a third of an hour. Fans today are impatient and don’t want that. I don’t blame them. “Moby Dick” is from a different era. And if you can sit through the live versions from beginning to end you’re a real fan for sure.