One of the sections of our book FUNdamentals of Drumming For Kids introduces students to beats from around the world. This section features our unique drum tabs and is meant to give the student a more well-rounded understanding of the drums and how they can be played in a variety of styles. For more, visit http://www.moderndrummer.com/fundamentalsofdrumming/. (Click images for full size. Watch videos below for examples.)
Here are the associated video chapters that come with the DVD.
In my effort to present some of the lesser-known drummers outside of America, I present to you Michel ‘Away’ Langevin, drummer and artist for the Canadian Prog-Metal band Voivod. Michel has been a constant member of the band since its formation in 1982. He is credited with the creation of the mythology of the post-apocalyptic vampire lord Voivod, about which the band originally coalesced, and is largely responsible for its continuing science fiction themes. Langevin is also a talented graphic design artist who composes all of the imagery used on the band’s albums and promo materials. Michel has created all of Voivod’s artwork, as well as the cover for Dave Grohl’s Probot album. He is also credited with the design for Non Phixion’s album cover artwork. Langevin’s dynamic style is a blend of subtle progressive drumming and hard-hitting metal. One of Voivod’s most popular tracks is their cover version of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine” which shows off Michel’s chops.
I just read that Sandy Nelson credits one of my favorite patterns to loosen up to. He calls it a “Foonadiddle” which is a simple exercise that goes RLLRLLRLL – LRRLRRLRR (repeat). I never knew what to call it but thanks Sandy.
I was very fortunate to attend a school district that had a very robust music program. Over the years in middle school and high school I played in the choir band, stage band, symphonic band, percussion ensemble, and marching band. Marching band was definitely my favorite and as I look back fondly I remember all of the amazing musicians that I had the privilege of playing with. The whole band was exceptional and quite large in comparison with other schools. I was the co-captain of the drum line my senior year and I competed at the National Band Festival in Nashville. I was also one of a few selected to play a halftime show with the University of Pittsburgh Panthers drum line. Over the years we, the Keystone Oaks Golden Eagles, performed at dozens of band festivals and parades. I mainly played snare drum (w/ go-go bells) but I also filled in on quads for a couple occasions during my sophomore year. In addition to learning a variety of songs, cadences and marching formations our line also worked very hard on our rudimental chops. We were fortunate to have an excellent percussion instructor. Perhaps the greatest compliment we were ever paid was when we performed in the Veterans Day Parade in downtown Pittsburgh and were told we were the “tightest white band.”
Here is a video of one of our halftime performances of “On Broadway.” I apologize in advance for the video quality but this was taken from a 30 year-old VHS tape. Regardless the sound is pretty good.
It might surprise you to learn that I’ve never been a big fan of drum solos. I grew up in the 1980’s which was a decade full of gimmicks. Usually the drummer would surround himself with 360 degrees of drums while doing that cliché back and forth with the audience. You know the one; drummer hits a drum, points to the audience, they scream back, repeat. I understand how this sequence instigated audience participation but it has become far too predictable.
The same goes for today. Some drummers lift their kits high into the air on hydraulic pedestals, spinning them around while explosions go off. Others mount their drums on roller coaster tracks and fly dangerously over the crowd. Most of the drummers behind these stunts are hard rock or heavy metal drummers. The solo has become a staple in their performance. Unfortunately more times than not their showmanship distracts from their chops. Perhaps that is why I remain so enamored with pocket players who don’t need solos to get respect. Phil Rudd (AC/DC), Troy Luckketta (Tesla), Stewart Copeland (The Police) and Steven Adler (Guns and Roses) come to mind. Those guys are all about the groove and playing what is appropriate for the song. They don’t need to stroke their egos with self-indulgent solos.
Now I know there are some drummers out there who do amazing solos but is it really necessary? Doesn’t John Bonham and Neil Peart’s playing stand on its own merit? Does a 15-minute drum solo make them any more amazing? I don’t think so. Their true brilliance comes through in their ability to serve the song. I’d much rather hear ‘The Song Remains the Same’ than ‘Moby Dick’ or ‘Subdivisions ‘over ‘De Slagwerker.’
Perhaps I’m just biased because I don’t solo myself. I’ve done one drum solo in my entire life and I was a freshman in high school. I would be terrible if I tried. That said, I want to be clear that I respect drummers who solo; I just find them unnecessary in order to showcase their abilities. It’s all about playing what is appropriate for the music not bragging on the instrument. I look to studio legend Jeff Porcaro who was doing a Q&A at a clinic when someone asked him about soloing. He shook his head and said “I don’t solo. I don’t want to solo. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
Our book FUNdamentals of Drumming for KidsTM features an exclusive age-appropriate analysis of co-author Rich Redmond’s Money BeatsTM. These drum set exercises mimic the “grooves” that every drummer should know in order to play music professionally. (see Video above) As they are the building blocks for developing a vocabulary in music, we are including a brief introduction here. These five FUN beats are the grooves that most popular music is based on.
Money Beat #1: Boom – Smack: Play straight quarter or eighth notes on the hi-hat with the bass drum hitting on 1 and 3, and the snare drum hitting on 2 and 4. Examples: AC/DC “Back In Black,” John Mellencamp “Cherry Bomb,” The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop”
Money Beat #2: The Heartbeat: This is just like Money Beat #1, but with a second bass drum hit added on the & of 2. Think of the rhythm of your heartbeat. Examples: John Waite “Missing You,” The Pretenders “Middle Of The Road,” Green Day “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
Money Beat #3: Classic Rock Beat: Boom – Smack – Boom Boom – Smack: Similar to Money Beat #2, but with the second bass drum hit shifted to the & of 3. Examples: CCR “Proud Mary,” Rod Stewart “Maggie May,” The Who “Baba O’ Riley”
Money Beat #4:We Will Rock Ya’: Boom Boom – Smack – Boom Boom – Smack: This familiar beat puts two bass drum hits before the snare on the &’s of 1 and 3, with the snare staying put on 2 and 4. Examples: The Cars “Let The Good Times Roll,” Queen “We Will Rock You,” Bad Company “Movin’ On”
Money Beat #5: Four On The Floor: This pattern plays the bass drum on ALL four beats, with the snare hitting on 2 and 4. Examples: The Killers “Somebody Told Me”, Jason Aldean “Tattoos On This Town,” Miranda Lambert “What About Georgia?”
Here are the same patterns notated (click for larger view):
Today I spent my entire practice session working on dynamics. It might seem easy to alternate between playing loud (forte) and soft (piano) but it’s not. The challenge is maintaining a smooth transition between the two. Like everything else I look to the masters to see how they approach this process. Papa Jo Jones and Steve Gadd are masters of dynamics and seamlessly work them into their groove. Jones was exceptional at feathering the bass drum and Gadd’s brush work is flawless. Both styles utilize dynamics in a way that always compliments the piece. This is what separates the amateur from the pro. Amateurs tend to play at the same volume all the time. Professionals use dynamics throughout the composition. Some do this simultaneously between all four limbs.
I have come up with a few exercises of my own. For the first pattern I alternate beats between the bass drum and floor tom while playing off-beats between the snare and hi-hat. I start out as lightly as possible to the point you can barely hear it. Then I gradually build in intensity until I am playing so hard its borderline obnoxious. (boom-bap-BOOM-BAP).
For the second exercise I alternate single beats between each drum in descending order (striking each drum twice), once around softly then once around loudly. I repeat this pattern over and over. The tendency is to speed up but a steady tempo is required. (This exercise could also be played on a drum pad with every two strikes representing a separate crescendo or decrescendo.)
It helps to look at your drum set as a series of different voices. Each voice of your drum kit (hi-hats, snare, kick drum, etc.) can all be played at various levels individually and in relation to each other to create a unique sound. Dynamics drive the emotion of the song. Soft parts can signify a gentle or romantic section while loud dynamics can represent danger or action. Here are some tips for developing dynamics:
Limb Independence and Control: It is crucial that you develop your ability to play independently with control. Each limb has a separate assignment within the beat. Practice playing different patterns simultaneously between your limbs. This may take some time to develop muscle memory but once you grasp it everything else should fall into place. This pattern will help to give you better four-way independence.
Individual Voices: Begin by playing a beat you would normally play fairly loud, and then adjust the volume of each limb individually. For example – continue to play the beat the way you normally would, and then lower the volume of your snare stroke to a ghost note. Bring the volume back up slowly and then do the same with the kick drum, the hi-hats, or the ride (one at a time) – all the while maintaining the original beat with the other limbs. This is challenging but it forms the foundation of applied dynamics.
Drum Fill Control: This is the most difficult practice to master (and remember). Typically you want fills to ascend or descend with the flow of the music. If you are building into a chorus with more energy, use the dynamics of the drum fill to build volume towards that chorus. Likewise, if you are coming out of a chorus, you want the dynamics to bring the volume and energy down slightly.
NOW IN ITS FOURTH PRINTING!
“FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids” uses a variety of fun, unique teaching techniques that mimic the curriculum used in the elementary school classroom. Each step in the program is designed to build upon itself to provide young children with practical and applicable skills for playing the drums. Published by Modern Drummer and distributed by Hal Leonard the book and DVD combo won ‘Best In Show’ at Summer NAMM 2014 and is an Amazon Best-Seller in four countries. It is available on Amazon.com, Modern Drummer.com and MusicDispatch.com.