Monthly Archives: November 2015

Ghost Notes

One of the most challenging expressions in drumming is the effective use of ghost notes. I still struggle with them from time to time but the effect of ghost notes enhancing grooves is undeniable. Much like keeping time on the hi-hat, ghost notes fill in the space between the upbeats and downbeats and add flavor to the phrasing. According to the definition:

In drumming, a ghost note is played at very low volume, and typically on a snare drum. In musical notation, ghost notes are indicated in parenthesis surrounding the note. According to The Drummer’s Bible: How to Play Every Drum Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco, the purpose of a ghost note is to “…be heard under the main sound of the groove. This produces a subtle 16th-note feel around a strong back beat or certain accents.” The term ghost note, then, can have various meanings. The term anti-accent is more specific. Moreover, there exists a set of anti-accent marks to show gradation more specifically. Percussion music in particular makes use of anti-accent marks, as follows:

  • slightly softer than surrounding notes: u (breve)
  • significantly softer than surrounding notes: ( ) (note head in parentheses)
  • much softer than surrounding notes: [ ] (note head in brackets)

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Listen Here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f7/Ghost_note_drumming.mid

Some recognizable examples of this technique are Clyde Stubblefield’s beat in “Cold Sweat” by James Brown and Jeff Porcaro playing the opening beat for the Toto hit “Rosanna.” Our pal Brandon Scott has posted a great video on developing ghost note chops:

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Alexander Howard Johnson

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In keeping with my recent Civil War posts…The New York Times featured an excellent article on Alexander Howard Johnson, the drummer boy of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry made famous by the film Glory. Johnson was said to be a talented drummer who served with distinction and later became a sought after instructor. I couldn’t do any more justice to the story than what has already been written. You can read the article here.

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The Long Roll

Throughout the course of the American Civil War young boys from around the country left the safety of their homes and firesides to serve their respective cause. Drummers boys often attended the Schools of Practice at Governor’s Island, New York Harbor, and Newport Barracks, Kentucky, although the vast majority learned in the field. Some were aided by texts; the most popular by far was Bruce and Emmett’s The Drummers’ and Fifers’ Guide.

According to historian Ron Engleman:

The word rudiments first appeard in a drum book in 1812. On page 3 of A New Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating, Charles Stewart Ashworth wrote, Rudiments for Drum Beating in General. Under this heading he inscribed and named 26 patterns required of drummers by contemporary British and American armies and militias. The word Rudiment was not used again in US drum manuals until 1862. George B. Bruce began page 4 of Bruce and Emmett’s Drummers and Fifers Guide with the words Rudimental Principles.

Beginning with the long roll, Bruce listed 35 patterns concluding with a paragraph titled Recapitulation of the Preceeding Rolls and Beats. On page 7 of his 1869 Drum and Fife Instructor, Gardiner A. Strube wrote, The Rudimental Principles of Drum – Beating, and followed with 25 examples, each named Lesson.

See posts:

Drummer Boy album: http://www.pinstripepress.net/CWDrummerBoys.pdf

Civil War Rudiments: https://maubrecht.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/civil-war-rudiments/

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Give the gift of FUNdamentals

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FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids by Rich Redmond and Michael Aubrecht
Paperback: 96 pages + 1 hour DVD (Available in print and eBook formats) $19.95
Publisher: Modern Drummer Publications; Hal Leonard Distributing
Webpage: http://www.moderndrummer.com/fundamentalsofdrumming/
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FUNdamentalsOfDrumming

One of the biggest challenges facing teachers today is getting children excited about music. As more and more schools cut their budgets for music programs, instructors struggle to develop an interest in the arts. This is especially true for younger children who are at a ripe age to take up an instrument. Learning music accelerates educational benefits that improve comprehension skills such as reading and math. One book that is rising to this challenge by combining elementary school teaching techniques with basic music theory is FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids.

FUNdamentals is a new step-by-step program geared toward introducing drumming to young children ages 5-10 and up. The book won Best in Show at 2014 Summer NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) and has been an Amazon.com Best-Seller in four different countries including the United States, UK, Canada and Spain.

The first thing you will notice about this book is the overall quality of design and presentation. From the cartoon illustrations to the extensive photographs and typography, FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids delivers an easy to follow curriculum that builds upon itself. These exercises present drum theory in a fun and familiar way by using flash cards, counting exercises, clapping, and more.

Students begin by learning the history of drums, types of drums, proper technique, warm-ups, and basic note recognition. Next they execute counting and hand drumming patterns that later progress into sticking exercises. This evolution culminates in a specially designed music tablature that presents traditional music notation and corresponding sticking tables for three- and four-way independence exercises on the drum set. The specially designed activity book keeps the lessons fun and the hour-long DVD provides an intimate one-on-one lesson.

Just in time for the holidays! If you are interested in introducing a child to the drums, look no further than FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Best known for his work with country superstar Jason Aldean, Rich Redmond is a top session and touring drummer who also holds a master’s degree in music education. Michael Aubrecht is a best-selling author and drummer. Seeing a highly neglected audience, they decided to combine their talents to develop the FUNdamentals system. According to Redmond, “Sharing my love of rhythm is what this book is all about.” Aubrecht adds, “As a parent, this book is written for all ages and stages.”

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His Royal Purpleness

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I’ve posted before about my fascination with Prince. My iPhone is full of Prince albums and each day I listen to at least one song from Purple Rain while waiting for my train. I’m also a fan of his original drummer ‘Bobby Z’ from The Revolution (see post Props for Bobby Z). Most people know that Prince is an amazing composer, producer, performer and multi-instrumentalist. He also plays most of the instruments on his songs, leaving his live musicians to mimic most of what he has recorded. This includes drummers such as Bobby Z, Shelia E, Michael Bland, John Blackwell, Cora Coleman-Dunham and Hannah Ford. Each of these players are talented in their own right but all of them are following in the footsteps of their band leader. Here is one of the rare videos in existence of Prince taking over the drummer’s chair during a live performance.

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Mike Johnston

I’m a big fan of Mike Johnston. Nobody else in my opinion has revolutionized the way we take drum lessons as much as him. From his state-of-the-art teaching facility, to his online lessons, drum camps and clinic tours, no individual is putting out as much effort towards enhancing drum education as Mike. He’s also a likeable guy. Although he has tremendous chops and teaching skills he remains humble and seems very approachable. One of his most noteworthy contributions to the online drumming scene was his open call for individuals to post positive reinforcement in the comments sections of drum videos in order to combat the negative comments that so often plague YouTube. (see video below)

In an interview on mikedolbear.com Johnston outlined his intent. “I ask everyone that’s in attendance to go online and find a video of anyone playing drums, whether bad or good, and say one positive thing. If they’re the worst drummer in the world say, ‘Your hi-hats sound great!’ but that one comment might be what keeps them from quitting. We can’t stop the negative comments; that comes from insecurity and I understand that. But what we could do is have so many positive comments on every video that’s out there that if you were going to write something negative you’d look out of place so there’s pressure the other way to say something nice.”

Another eye-opening theory put forth by Johnston is the idea that no drummer is better or worse than the next. It’s simply where they are in their journey with the instrument. Drummers thought to be “better” are simply further along than the “worse” drummer who has the same opportunity to catch up and even pass them. In his eyes the drum community as a whole is a brotherhood (and sisterhood) who share a deep desire to improve on an instrument they can’t fully master. He also preaches equality from the professional player in a band to the hobbyist who simply enjoys playing in their basement.

If you are interested in upping your game, check out Mike Johnston who will inspire and encourage you. Visit his website at www.mikeslessons.com.

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History Books

Off the subject of drums but…Some people have inquired about my books after viewing my Drummer Boy photograph collection (see below). I have published a total of seven books to date with five of them being about the American Civil War. Here are my most critically acclaimed books that represent my best efforts. Both of these are sold at the National Military Park bookstores. You can also find them on Amazon:

The Civil War in Spotsylvania County: Confederate Campfires at the Crossroads

Historic Churches of Fredericksburg: Houses of the Holy

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untitled1Here’s a project I have been researching and working on for quite some time. It is a collection of 100 period photographs of drummer boys during the Civil War. This collection represents a tribute to the courage that these  boys exhibited by going off to war in service to their country.

See here: http://www.pinstripepress.net/CWDrummerBoys.pdf

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Mark Time March!

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Like many of you I participated in a number of music ensembles during my formative years in school. This included the choir band, stage band, symphonic band, choir band, percussion ensemble and my favorite, the marching band. I was fortunate enough to play in a great drum line, for an amazing percussion instructor on top of the line equipment. (My senior year I also had the privilege of being the co-captain and was selected to perform with the University of Pittsburgh drum line as part of their High School Senior Day.) Our cadences were often complimented by other drum lines whether we were performing at a football game, parade, or band festival/competition and our movements and showmanship were always challenging. Our band trips were always memorable as competed in the National Band Festival in Nashville and performed at Walt Disney World. Warm-ups were crucial to our chops and endurance and although they were tedious at times, they definitely improved our playing. I remember most of our cadences in which I played snare and I wish that I had saved the sheet music for them. Sometimes I will sit behind my kit and play marching cadences using the bass drum, hi-hat and snare. There are some great cadences out there for public use and some of them are used by college-level and/or DCI lines. The University of Pittsburgh Marching Panthers have posted downloads of all of their audition material to include cadences, performance pieces, stand beats and warm-ups. They are available at: http://www.pittdrumline.com/Music.

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You Never Forget Your First

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There is an old adage that goes “You Never Forget Your First.” This quote can have any number of connotations but I’m using it here in regards to drums. Every drummer remembers their first drum kit whether it was an old beater or new. In fact, the vast majority of first kits helped to shape us as a drummer and was often responsible for us sticking with the instrument. I fondly remember my first kit, a brand new immaculate 1980’s-something Pearl Export Series kit. It was white and the sizes were a 22” bass, 12” and 13” rack toms, 16” floor tom and 14” snare. It sounded as good as it looked and I constantly cleaned and polished the chrome. I had six cymbals that were a mix between Paiste and Zildjain. Over the years I moved back and forth between a four and five piece and I used this kit for nine years before selling it (a decision I regret to this day). I would love to hear about your first kit so feel free to comment here…

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