Monthly Archives: June 2015

Charlie Watts’ 2 and 4

In keeping with our recent theme of legendary British drummers, I wanted to briefly discuss the unusual style of the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts. For many years I had watched him intently and the recurring pattern that I noticed again and again was that he rarely hit the hi-hat and snare at the same time. I never could figure out why he did it although I guessed that he was projecting the snare over the 2 and 4. It always looked odd to me. In fact, this is how new drummers who are struggling to learn 3-way independence play before they can synchronize their limbs.  In a February 1990 issue of Modern Drummer it was explained like this:

One thing [Jim] Keltner pointed out to Charlie was his habit of coming off the hi-hat with his right hand whenever he would hit a backbeat with his left. “I was never conscious of it until Jim mentioned it,” Charlie comments. “But I do it a lot. I’ve noticed it on videos, and it actually annoys me to see myself doing it. It really comes, I think, from coming down heavy on the backbeat. I don’t use that [matched] grip that Ringo uses. I did for a few years, because I thought it was popular. But then I was told to go back to the other way by Ian Stewart, who used to set up my drums. He virtually ordered me to go back to what he called ‘the proper way of playing'” Charlie laughs. “So I went back to the military grip, and I really do prefer it, but because of the amount you ride on the hi-hat, I suppose I got into the habit of pulling the other stick out of the way to get a louder sound. “I’ve never consciously done it, but a lot of times when we make a record I am consciously _not_ doing it, because sometimes you hear the beat go ‘di-dit, di-dit'” Charlie says, tapping out notes that are slightly squeezed together. “That works on some things, but other times you need it perfectly even because the mic records everything in such a nit-picky way”.

Like most of my favorite drummers, Watts has a solid groove and plays with a minimalistic attitude that always serves the song. His timekeeping in second to none and his unusual style of play seems to suite him well. Like Ringo I only started to realize the contribution of Watts in recent years and I can’t see the Rolling Stones with anybody else behind the kit. His sound is that signature to the band’s sound. Here’s a live video that clearly shows Watts’ separated snare and hi-hat

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Overdue Props for Ringo

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I have to make a confession. It’s been a long time coming and I will understand those of you who are disappointed in me. Ok, here it goes…up until very recently (as in yesterday) I had absolutely zero respect for Ringo Starr, not as a person but as a drummer. Today I had an epiphany and have come to the realization that Ringo really was a pioneer. He was one of the first drummers who truly served the song and used the drums as an extension of the song’s structure. Ringo also brought the drums to the forefront as an equal member of the group and his left-hand lead fills are still revered by some of instrument’s most respected players. Why didn’t I see this? It’s inexcusable. Perhaps it was due to the comedy aspect of The Beatles whether it was one of their madcap movies or that groovy cartoon that featured the Fab Four. By not taking The Beatles antics seriously how could I respect their goofiest member? I was way wrong.

Today I spent some time listening to bits of The Beatles catalog that featured Ringo’s drumming. This included “Ticket to Ride,” “Get Back,” “Come Together” and “Don’t Pass Me By.” By listening with an open mind my perspective of the man was totally changed. Ringo was (and is) great. Steve Smith knew Ringo was the man. He said “One of Ringo’s great qualities were that he composed unique, stylistic drum parts for The Beatles songs. His parts are so signature to the songs that you can listen to a Ringo drum part without the rest of the music and still identify the song.” Most amazing is that at the age of 74, he is still out there touring. My pal Daniel Glass is one of the most respected drum historians in the business and he has always carried the Ringo banner. I now see what he was talking about and will spend some time revisiting the one named Richard Starkey. What I once felt was mediocre I have come to see as brilliant. What I once disrespected is now revered.

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Fills that will get you fired

A while back I shot a series of formal lessons titled “Fills that will get you fired” which featured three unusual fills that don’t necessarily have common applications but are still good to have in your tool bag. One presented a series of flutter fills between the hi-hat and toms, one mimicked the Mission Impossible theme, and one alternated between the snare/hi-hat and bass. Unfortunately these lessons were all posted in a Facebook album and are not easily accessible to upload to YouTube. Although I don’t have the full lesson available I do have a 40-second black and white video shot on my iPhone that I’m able to share with you here. Please forgive the quality. Nothing fancy, just a quickie that I used for testing the camera frame. This fill represents a neat little foot-hand combo that I use from time to time. It sounds more complicated than it is. The overall sequence is a mix of flams between the hands (hi-hat/snare) and feet (double bass). It almost feels like doing a quad fill.

The key to making this fill effective is speed and maintaining a consistent dynamic throughout. This fill also relies on the wrists as opposed to the arms. Stay loose and let the wrists do all the work. You should get a nice rebound which will help smooth things out. Here is a simplified variation. It is meant to be played fairly fast in order to get the desired effect within the confines of a 4-bar groove. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and feel free to share your own combinations with your fellow readers. Look at this as merely a starting point and make it your own!

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Ten Questions

[A few months back I did an interview for a new drum blog called DrumCentral. The interview was conducted by a very cool dude named Troy Savis. This was their way of paying me back for offering some insights on how to start and maintain a blog. Unfortunately the funding behind the project did not come to fruition. DrumCentral was supposed to be a subscription-based site that required some backend technology in order for it to run. Troy was nice enough to give me the interview to post here. I hope this project will eventually see the light of day and wish the folks at DrumCentral the best of luck in their endeavor. There is talk of them setting up a GoFundMe page in which case I will provide the link here.]

DrumCentral: Blogger Beat

By Troy Savis

Michael Aubrecht is a fellow blogger with a background as diverse as his playing. Drummer, author, historian and filmmaker are among the titles he holds. Michael was kind enough to offer his experiences and insights when DrumCentral was in its infancy stage and our appreciation for his help has manifested in this interview. In our effort to interview drum bloggers off the beaten path, Michael’s “Off Beat” blog seems like a perfect place to start. Michael was kind enough to participate in this Q&A that represents DrumCentral’s inaugural blogger interview.

DC: Tell us a little about your background. When did you start playing drums and when did you start blogging about it?

MA: I started playing drums in the 7th grade. I was very lucky to have supportive parents who paid for lessons, drove me to practices, and bought me my first drum kit. They also put up with all the noise that comes with a budding drummer. My school had a robust music program so in addition to taking private lessons I played in the school’s Marching Band, Choir Band, Stage Band, Symphonic Band, and Percussion Ensemble. When I started writing about drumming for our book [FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids] and for drum magazines [Drumhead and Modern Drummer] I realized that I could start a blog and publish whatever topics came to my mind. The feedback has been great and I really enjoy the interaction. I usually cross-post on my Facebook page in order to drive traffic to the blog. Slowly but surely the hits are increasing on a weekly basis. I even link to other blogs as I feel there is enough room for everyone. It’s not at all competitive to me.

DC: We certainly do appreciate your help in sharing your lessons learned and getting the word out.

MA: My pleasure. DrumCentral sounds like it’s going to be a great resource and I thank you for this opportunity.

DC: We are following your lead by promoting fellow bloggers like you through Blogger Beat. That crossover helps everyone and gives us both an opportunity to share content.

DC: You have written extensively about practice techniques but what kind of music do you enjoy playing when you’re just having fun?

MA: My list is quite diverse. I like to put on the headphones and jam to a wide variety of artists like Justin Timberlake, REM, AC/DC, INXS and Simple Minds. I love the individual styles and grooves of the drummers who play with these artists. I also like songs that have a simple driving force like “You Wreck Me” by Tom Petty, or “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. Just snare, hi-hat, and straight time. Of course my favorite fill of all time comes from Simple Mind’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” so I’ve gotta give props to Mel Gaynor.

DC: On that note, who are your favorite drummers?

MA:  I love pocket players like Phil Rudd (AC/DC) as well as guys like Jon Farris (INXS), Chris Daddy Dave (Drumhedz) and Alan Meyers (DEVO). The most influential player that has directly affected my style is Steven Adler (GnR). I grew up playing his music and copped a lot of my fill structure off of him. His drumming on “Appetite for Destruction” was flawless. Of course he’s had his share of troubles over the years but it looks like he’s back on track and I hope he stays sober.

DC: Tell us about your book. I understand it won “Best In Show” at Summer NAMM and is an Amazon Best-Seller.

MA: That project has been an amazing experience. A few years ago I contacted Rich Redmond (Jason Aldean) to see if he knew of any quality teaching aids for little kids. I saw a YouTube video online of him presenting a clinic and was immediately impressed. To be honest, I had no idea who Jason Aldean was although I was familiar with some of his songs on the radio. Rich and I hit it off immediately and set out to create a book that would present drum theory in a fun and easy way. We targeted young kids ages 5-10. Rich has a Masters in Music Education and I had 6 published books to date so we made a great partnership. We wrote 4 drafts and Rich recorded the DVD at Drum Channel Studios. After months of work and vetting we got a contract with Modern Drummer to publish the book and distribute it though Hal Leonard. We couldn’t ask for a better team. Mike Dawson, the editor at Modern Drummer championed this project and was instrumental in bringing it to fruition. Today Rich and I are incredibly close and text almost every day. We’ve drafted our second book too although I can’t talk about that one yet. We are both surprised and grateful for the reaction and amazed that people of all ages are using the book, even some adults who are just starting out or returning to the instrument from their youth.

*You can purchase the book on Amazon and at: http://www.moderndrummer.com/fundamentalsofdrumming/.

DC: You extensively use social media though your website, blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel. Do you think this is the way of the future for musicians?

MA: I think that time is already here. The Internet has opened up a whole new world. Artists can record and publish their own music, promote and market it themselves and maintain interaction with their audience. It has also enabled people around the world to connect with their favorite stars. Can you imagine if we could have emailed Led Zeppelin and chatted with John Bonham? The losers in this scenario are the record companies who have worked themselves out of the business. Artists can represent themselves quite effectively if they exercise social media and the Net. I have a YouTube video that has surpassed 70,000 views. That baffles me.

DC: You have several endorsement deals even though your project Question Everything does not play out. How did you mange those and what are they?

MA: I’ve been very fortunate to have found great companies run by greater people. In many cases I contacted them directly to express my interest in their products. These artist deals were obtained because of my web presence and affiliations with drum magazines. My deals come from Bum Wrap Drum Co, TnR Products, ProLogix, Rich Sticks, Drumkit Accessories.com, Drumtacs, Adam Argullin, and Eco Toms. I firmly believe in every one of these products and use them on a regular basis. I have a far reach due my affiliations in print and on the Internet.

DC: What do you struggle with and what do you do about it?

MA: I struggle all the time. I have a theory that if you sound good practicing you’re probably not learning anything new. Many times I sound terrible, but that is what is required. I’m not one of those people that are so naturally talented they don’t have to practice. With my schedule I don’t have time to practice every day so I need to make the most of my time behind the kit. It’s all about improving every time you sit down to play. Building blocks form the foundation. One of the little tricks I use is keeping a practice diary. I have a notebook that I keep next to the drums. In it I record what worked, what didn’t work and what I need to do to in order to get better. The next time I sit down I look at that book, before I even pick up a pair of sticks. This does two things: 1. It holds me accountable and 2. It provides positive reinforcement. I also love playing rudiments or riffing on my drum pad.

DC: Your setup is quite unique. Tell us about it.

MA: I’ve got an OCD mindset when it comes to my drums. It seems like I am constantly changing the configuration to fit my mood. For me it’s all about playability not aesthetics. Currently I use a four piece kit, an 18” bass, 12” rack, 14” floor tom, and a 14” brass snare. The drums are all PDP and the snare is from the Carmine Appice signature series, sometimes I use a 10” Pearl popcorn snare. My toms are set flat in line with the snare and I also have an Alesis PercPad to my right, sometimes I will add a Sample Pad. My cymbals are perhaps the most unique. I use two hi-hats, a 14” and 16” with one mounted on the bass drum. I have an 18” crash/ride tilted on my left just above the hi-hat which I use as a ride and an 18” crash to my right. They are a mix of Meinl and Sabian. I use REMO clear ambassador heads on the toms, sometimes coated emperors, and an Evans 360 on my snare. I’m not into matching heads as I believe each drum has its own unique sound. I also use a combination of Drumtacs and e-Rings. My finish is a custom pink oyster wrap and I use my own signature series Rich Sticks which are closest to an 16.5” 8A.

DC: What do you like better, playing acoustic or electronic drums?

MA: I have a mix on my kit. It’s a bit of a hybrid. The two Alesis pads are used for auxiliary percussion or sound effects. I also have used ddrum triggers on my toms. I use a MacBook pro with Garage Band and Audacity software for recording and mixing and an extensive library of over 200 sound bytes. I’d like to get a full electronic kit mostly so I can practice at night.

What advice can you give potential drummers and bloggers?

MA: Practice – Practice – Practice to keep your drumming moving forward and constantly seek out new content to share on your blog. Keep in touch with your drums as well as your readers and never take either for granted. Stay humble. Enjoy the instrument and strive to be the best you can be knowing that there will always be someone out there better, or let me say more advanced, than you. Love what you do and work at it. I have a little saying I try to live by: Passion + Percussion = Perspiration.

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Here’s my letter to the readers in FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids explaining the origins and goals of the project. Read Here: http://www.pinstripepress.net/FROM_THE_PARENT.pdf

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Rich Sticks

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One of my proudest achievements (drum-wise) is being selected as a Rich Sticks artist. I struggled for years with painful hand issues and trying to find the right stick to no avail. A few months ago an associate recommended that I check out Rich Sticks. I was not familiar with the brand, but his praises peaked my curiosity. After reading through the product overview I spoke to a few Rich Sticks artists to get their firsthand impressions. Soon after I contacted Joshua Mimms at Rich Sticks and explained my wants and needs. Within a few days a box of prototype drumsticks showed up on my doorstep. It only took a few pairs until I found exactly what I was looking for. My signature stick specs are:  8A-style – .550″ diameter – .260″ neck – Medium taper – 16.5″ length – Ball tip – Bees Wax finish. Not only does Rich Sticks do an outstanding job of creating the perfect stick, they can also add a 15 gram weight in the bottom of each one to enhance your power and velocity. Since I started using my Rich Sticks I no longer suffer from the painful hand swelling that had plagued me for years. I also found myself playing cleaner (especially rudiments) and with less forcefulness. It is a thrill for me to be added to the endorsee list with such names like Brandon Pertzborn from Black Flag. If you are looking for a smaller drumstick company that will provide personal attention and treat you like a member of the family, look no further than https://richsticks.com. My artist Bio:  http://richsticks.com/michael-aubrecht/

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