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When I was researching letters for The Long Roll I didn’t come upon any that depicted the camaraderie that was shared between Drummer Boys on both sides. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to think that having the chance to interact with someone your own age would be a welcome opportunity for these boys among men. It is tragic that the one rare moment of interaction I was able to find took place under heartbreaking circumstances. This letter, written by Union drummer Delavan Miller, shows the empathy that one side could have for the other.
After the fighting at Sailor’s Creek had ended, Delavan Miller and his friends in the drum corps of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery found a Confederate drummer boy, wounded and taken prisoner. “My sympathies were stirred as they had never been before,” Delavan recalled when he wrote his memoirs, “as a boy, scarcely 16 years old, was lifted out of the wagon…. He, too, was a drummer boy and had been wounded two or three days before. We got our surgeon and had his wound dressed and gave him stimulants and a little food, but he was… “all marched out,” he said… We bathed his face and hands with cool water… [and] before leaving “Little Gray”, as we called him, two boys knelt by his side and repeated the Lord’s prayer… In the morning the little Confederate from the Palmetto state was dead and we buried him on the field with his comrades. Twas war- real genuine war.”
It is easy to forget that Drummer Boys were also among the casualties of war and many died of the same wounds as their adult comrades. There is no total that I am aware of for how many Drummer Boys died during the Civil War but there were quite a few who perished either in battle, from disease, or as prisoners of war. Their sacrifice is far too often overlooked. If you are interested in reading more about the wartime experiences of these boys download The Long Roll: DOWNLOAD HERE.
Today I want to briefly look at one of the most distinct and memorable fills in the annals of rock. It’s ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard’s fill in La Grange that introduces Billy Gibbon’s guitar solo. This song is ranked No. 74 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time and is a clinic in the rock shuffle. Beard’s fill fits perfectly within the groove.
From what I’ve read online when breaking this down you need to think of the fill as being constructed of quarter-note triplets: If 4/4 (aka Common Time), you can play two quarter-note triplets. The snare drum accent marks the beginning of each quarter-note triplet. If 4/4 (Common Time), you can play two quarter-note triplets. The snare drum accent marks the beginning of each quarter-note triplet. Now apply a sticking of alternating the right hand and right foot to the triplet.
Now if that sounds complicated it really isn’t. Think of Bonham’s triplets that alternate between the toms, bass and the snare. The fill sounds familiar and yet it is so distinct. I’ve been practicing and it takes time to get it as clean as Beard’s. I’m still working on it. If you watch this video Beard makes it look so easy at around 1:15.
I’ve recently become interested in using my iPhone for more than just a way to update my Facebook page. There are a lot of great drum apps out there from metronomes to tuners. One of the best is called the Drum Guru™. It is one of the most dynamic drum lesson tools I’ve ever seen. According to their website:
Drum Guru™ is an online lesson site and app for Apple’s iPad and iPhone that features lesson “packs” taught by drummers demonstrating great grooves, fills, and sharing other insights and techniques. Each lesson demonstrates various techniques, groove playing, soloing, musical styles, and many other insights. Inside, you’ll find a variety of lessons in many different styles such as rock, jazz, funk and Latin, each presented in lessons specifically tailored for beginner, intermediate and advanced players. Each lesson pack features Lesson Mode and Practice Mode. In Lesson Mode, you will watch a video demonstrating the lesson, just as if you were in a private lesson with the instructor. In Practice Mode, you get to work on the lesson yourself – see the lesson music written out, and hear it played for you. You can pause, loop, and mix the music with metronome while you play-along.
The instructors offered on Drum Guru™ are some of the best in the business. This includes Stanton Moore, Gregg Bissonette and Mark Guiliana. The program in set up so that you can work at your own pace and move onto more complicated lessons as you become more comfortable with the material. They add:
Drum Guru™ is designed to work on the technology you already own. We offer a free app for iOS devices such as Apple’s iPad and iPhone, as well as a web-based lesson player that is compatible with all major web browsers available for Mac and Windows computers such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Edge, as well as all Android devices. An internet connection is required to view lesson content.
For more information, visit https://www.drumguru.com/.
It’s been a while since I posted anything and I wanted to stop by and let you know that I’m in the middle of transitioning into a new house and my time to blog has been few and far between. The exciting news is that we are moving into a six bedroom which means I’ll finally have a drum room all to myself. I have some posts lined up including product reviews and interviews and as soon as I am all settled in I’ll be back to my old blogging schedule. That may not be until later in the month. Thanks for your patience and continued support. Until then here’s Dr. Gadd laying down one of the sweetest grooves you’ll find on the net.
Just before he died, Keith Moon had signed a contract to play a different set of British drums and move away from Premier. Staccato drums are made from fiberglass and are horn-loaded with a sort of trumpet end coming from their bottoms and at right angles to their heads; rather like the North drums built during the ‘70s in America. Unfortunately, the Staccato deal was suddenly nullified by the news of Moon’s tragic death. Today Staccato drums are still being manufactured. According to their website the drums work on something called the “kadency” principle, in which “a volume of air projected through a controlled expanding space will have a great effect on tonal resonance, distribution and power.” In drummers’ terms, clarity with loads of volume. The drums are custom made to order and are constructed in either glass fiber or carbon fiber.
Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience) was the first drummer to ever play Staccatos live at the Golden Lion in Fulham, London in 1977. Simon Phillips (world-renowned session drummer) did a lot of studio work with his Staccato kit. John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) played them at Paul McCartney’s super sessions at Abbey Road Studios in the late 1970’s. Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden) played them with the French band Trust and did a great deal of testing in the recording studio. Bands that recorded music in the 1970’s and 80’s using Staccato drums include: Uriah Heep, Gary Numan, Bow Wow Wow, Yazz, Roxy Music, The Guess Who, Eurythmics, Malcolm McLaren Band and Spliff. Perhaps most interesting is that they appeared in the film “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”
For more information, visit the official Staccato website at https://www.staccatodrums.com/
There is even a German Staccato fan site that pays homage to the drums from around the world.
I got some good feedback on this one so I’m running it again but this time with the complete PDF. “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 over do 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.
Below is an example of Pea Soup. Here is a PDF with a breakdown of each bar using our FUNdamentals notation. (Click image for full-size.)
When you look back at the most influential drummers of the late-sixties and seventies there are three that stand out from the rest. They are John Bonham, Keith Moon and Ginger Baker. The latter was different than the previous two as he had a distinct style that was clearly influenced by jazz. Ginger Baker had a one-of-a-kind approach to drumming that was influenced by the likes of Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones and Baby Dodds. Playing with musicality and showmanship mixed with a flamboyant attitude toward the instrument Baker became a drum god during his time with Cream. Although fans would consider him to fit in the rock category Baker himself preferred to be respected as a jazz drummer playing a rock gig. He was considered to be one of the pioneers of double bass drumming as he utilized them starting in 1966. Along with Moon his drum set was larger than what drummers had been using at the time. In his online bio he recalled:
Every drummer that ever played for Duke Ellington played a double bass drum kit. I went to a Duke Ellington concert in 1966 and Sam Woodyard was playing with Duke and he played some incredible tom tom and two bass drum things, some of which I still use today and I just knew I had to get a two bass drum kit. Keith Moon was with me at that concert and we were discussing it and he went straight round to Premier and bought two kits which he stuck together. I had to wait for Ludwig to make a kit up for me, which they did – to my own specifications. So Moonie had the two bass drum kit some months before I did.
According to Geoff Nicholls: “From 1966 and throughout Cream, Ginger played a Sparkling Silver Pearl American-made Ludwig double bass-drum kit, a special order with unusual sizes. The kicks had 11” deep shells, not the usual 14”: 22”x11” (l), 20”x11” (r), 12”x8”, 13”x9” (Rogers Swiv-O-Matic mounts), 14”x14”, 16”x16”. He specifically wanted a different tonality from each of his bass drums. Always looking for multiple tonalities he double-tiered his cymbals – a lower cymbal placed on the section join below the top section so he could mount four cymbals on his two right stands and two on his single left stand. He had a lower 20” ride, 13”, 14”, 16”, 17” and 18” crashes, 8” splash and cowbell.”
In his early days with Cream, he developed what would later become the standard rock drum solo, with the best known example being the five-minute-long epic titled “Toad.” Baker was also one of the first drummers to alternate his left foot between his bass drum pedal and hi-hat pedal to create numerous groupings. This also became a standard. Baker’s setup is unusual in that he positions his drums flat as opposed to on an angle making them more difficult to play. Visit https://www.gingerbaker.com/.
Now you can listen to an excellent text to speech version of my exclusive interview with Pearl Jam’s David Abbruzzese over on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deseanlowezoll/videos/696796427444563/?fref=mentions
Lately I have been obsessed with watching YouTube videos of The Little River Band. I forgot how great hits like “Lady,” “The Lonesome Loser” and “Reminiscing” are. I’m really impressed with the tasteful drumming of Derek Pellicci. One thing that stood out to me was the electronic drums he mounted on the right side of his kit. According to Modern Drummer:
Pellicci was one of the first people to use Joe Pollard’s Syndrum synthesizer drums. He’s tried other electronic drums, but says, “Nothing felt like a drum. A lot of the drums I tried were solid, hard rubber pads and that’s so diverse to the kit you play. You’re playing on a set of acoustic, combustible drums with an air resonating factor. Then, all of a sudden, you come off those drums and hit a piece of hard, solid rubber. It’s just not natural. That’s why Syndrums were such an innovative thing. You can tune them to the feel of the kit and it doesn’t affect the sound of them. “There’s a way of using Syndrums, a way of adopting them. A guy will play a really fast single stroke roll down them and they break up all over the place. They have a very short delayed signal in them. There’s a real art in getting used to them. The more you lay off them, the better they sound. I use them to fatten things up. I usually like to double my snare with them.”
Joe Pollard was a drummer for the Beach Boys and a studio drummer. He had been seeking someone to build him a set of electronic drums for over ten years. He met Mark Barton who was an engineer at the Tycobrahe Sound company. Joe’s theory was that guitarists had pedals and effects, keyboard players had synthesizers, but drummers were still limited to beating on skins. Mark engineered some working prototypes which were previewed to some prominent drummers. They were received well. Mark and Donald Stone incorporated Pollard Industries and starting selling Syndrums. The company released two models (single drum 177 and four drum 477) but they were a financial failure.
Pollard, Inc. wound up selling its assets to Research Development Systems, Inc. which manufactured the Syndrum CM and a couple of other slightly updated models. There were 3 major types: The Syndrum 1, the Syndrum TwinDrum, and the Syndrum Quad. These were used by many prominent drummers like Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jeff Porcaro, Roger Taylor and of course Pellicci. Although the Syndrum was capable of many different sounds, the one that caught on was that descending “dooooooom”. That sound is still sampled by DJs today. There is a Syndrum patch available in almost every synthesizer sold today.
Today I want to introduce you to one of the most insightful drum blogs on the internet today. This week I was thrilled to get a comment from Scott K. Fish, former managing editor of Modern Drummer magazine (1980-1983) and drum blogger extraordinaire. Scott’s unique blog “Life Beyond the Cymbals” (https://scottkfish.com/) features his collection of taped interviews for Modern Drummer featuring some of the most renowned drummers in the history of the instrument. He also features audio performances of equally famous drummers that make you think about what the instrument is capable of.
I particularly like the comments that Scott adds to every post that provides the reader with insights into each individual. He began blogging in 2014 and has maintained fresh content on a regular basis. I particularly enjoy Scott’s interviews with drummers who didn’t do a lot of press. Somehow he was able to convince them to spend some time sharing their intimate experiences for the most well-respected drum magazine on the newsstand, in fact…the only drum magazine on the newsstand at the time. Scott started freelance writing for MD in 1976. When he left the magazine in October of 1983 he had written almost half MD‘s feature articles.
According to his bio Scott fell in love with music and the drums after hearing Gene Krupa’s rendition of “China Boy.” He spent the first half of this life playing, teaching, studying and writing about music. Drummers were his main subject. Nowadays Scott is back to sharing his love of the drums with an online audience. If you’re looking for a blog that introduces you to all kinds of drummers and drumming from days gone by visit “Life Beyond the Cymbals” (https://scottkfish.com/)