Monthly Archives: August 2016

Next Interview

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I just got off the phone with his publicist and I am very pleased to announce that I have booked an exclusive interview with one of my favorite drummers, Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger. You may recall his superb drumming and singing on the 80’s hit “Sister Christian.” I am not sure if the interview will be published in print or online but either way I am thrilled and will present it with my usual style and format. Stay tuned for more on this announcement. Until then, here is a video of Kelly performing his signature song during a concert in Japan in 1983:

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Get your FUNdamentals

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One of my proudest achievements as a writer and a drummer is the development of the FUNdamentals program. Co-authoring a best-selling book has surpassed my own expectations. Our award-winning program targets young students by introducing them to the instrument with a variety of teaching techniques. Our exercises mimic familiar elementary school curriculum. Each step-by-step lesson builds upon itself to provide practical knowledge for reading and playing music. Most importantly the program is designed to be FUN! Get your print/DVD or eBook/video at http://www.moderndrummer.com/fundamentalsofdrumming/.

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African Drums and Drumming

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As a published historian I have a great interest in the history of drums and drumming. In the past, I’ve written extensively on drummer boys from both the Revolution and Civil War. I have also posted about the reference of drums in the Bible and transposed an 1812 snare drum order. One aspect of historical drumming that is overlooked is the musical experiences of slaves in America. African-Americans used drums to entertain, celebrate and communicate. As in their homeland, drums were constructed in a variety of ways incorporating pottery and logs draped in animal skins. Many of the techniques used to create and play drums were brought over to America from their native lands.

Unfortunately when slave masters realized that drums could be used to communicate over long distances they outright banned them from their plantations. According to a South Carolina slave code: “It is absolutely necessary to the safety of this Province, that all due care be taken to restrain Negroes from using or keeping of drums, which may call together or give sign or notice to one another of their wicked designs and purposes.” — Slave Code of South Carolina, Article 36 (1740).

In some places drums continued to be used without interference. Slaves on these plantations played drums of all shapes and sizes in the tradition of both eastern and western Africans. The drumbeat not only accompanied chants and dances, but was also used to send messages. By striking and holding the drum in certain ways, drummers could replicate tones of speech almost exactly.

Regardless of their intent the rhythms of Africa could not be suppressed in their entirety. Often in place of traditional drums, slaves resorted to clapping and stomping in polyrhythmic cadences to reproduce the complex rhythms of their ancestors. These were used to mimic traditional drumming found in Africa. There are three different types of African drumming. Firstly, a rhythm can represent an idea (or signal). Secondly it can repeat the accentual profile of a spoken utterance or thirdly it can simply be subject to musical laws. According to a narrative published by DJ Zhao for This is Africa, “…because the drums were taken away, the forms of West African music which were either purely vocal or featured the voice prominently, traditionally played without drums, using simple instruments…this took root in a big way and gained wide popularity in the deep South.”

One of the most popular drums to survive the sufferings of slavery was the Akan Drum which was made in West Africa and later found in the Colony of Virginia. It is believed that an artifact of this drum, on display in the British Museum, is the oldest instrument of its kind. The drum was created in Ghana between 1700 and 1745 and it is presumed to have traveled to America aboard a slave ship. As slaves were typically left with no possessions historians assume that the drum was brought by a member of the ship’s crew or possibly the son of an African chief who had sold his native people for transportation. To exercise their captives, the slave traders would “dance the slaves” above decks. It is supposed that this is the purpose of why the drum was brought along.

Another popular drum that is used extensively today is the Djembe drum. It dates back to 500 A.D. and was used as a sacred drum for religious and healing ceremonies. According to an article for Africa Imports titled “The Importance of Drums in African Traditions” the rhythm of the Djembe is performed in the evening for most celebrations, especially during full moon, spring, summer and winter harvesting time, weddings, baptisms, honoring of mothers, and immediately after Ramadan. Other noteworthy African drums include the Udu, Conga, Bougarabou and the Sabar.

A post titled “Hand Drums and the African Experience” on the Drum Doctor website sums up the importance of African and slave drumming. “Drums have been such a large part of Africans’ daily experience for so long that drumming pulses throughout their unconscious. It’s in their genes. Drums are inseparable from the African culture – they help define it. So much so, that when the slave trade scattered Africans throughout the world, the love of drumming they took with them irrevocably altered the world of music.”

From their native tribes, to the bounds of slavery, African-Americans rose above their circumstances to preserve their musical culture. Today, African-Americans keep the traditions of their ancestors alive by authentically constructing drums and exhibiting their rhythms. Their proud efforts are a testament to keeping their history alive for future generations. (For a tribal breakdown and overview on how to play these drums visit: http://www.african-drumming.com/african_drums.htm.)

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Health Tips

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Today’s blog is a guest post from drummer and author Dominic Jay. Dominic has been playing on the live scene for over 20 years. He is the author of the Drums on Stage blog and the book “Live Drummer Secrets”.

Drumming into my thirties, I’ve begun to experience the wear and tear this instrument produces on our bodies. My wrists would hurt every day. I would wake up in the morning with a kind of tingling and swollen sensation in my knuckles. My back was starting to give me trouble too.

Earlier on in my career, I had adopted a brief warm up routine be for my gigs. I used to grab the sticks and twist my wrist back and forth, use the stick to stretch my wrists and fingers; I even purchased a forearm rehab toy from the pharmacy. It was an egg made of a hard gel, and you had to place it in your palm and squeeze. Unfortunately, nothing worked! I had the same pains and they were only getting worse. So it got me thinking of how I was approaching the situation. It took many years and thousands of hours of drumming to actually create those aches and pains. And yet I was trying to solve them with a three minute warm up routine.

Lucky for me, I realized the flaw in my approach, and I set off on a journey to discover how I could alter my current playing and my lifestyle, to minimize my issues. What follows is the questions I asked, the answers I found and the way I now approach my goal of “drumming for the long haul”.

At the Drum Kit

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When we sit down to drum, are we comfortable? I used to think I was, but upon reexamining my stool position, I realized I had a lot of weight on my feet. And what I discovered is that every time I would lift my foot to perform a kick, I would now come crashing down with a significant amount of force. All because my body weight was on my feet. This was bad for my ankles, my knees and my back.

The solution was to pull my stool a little closer but sit further back on the stool. So I am at the exact same distance to the kit as I was before, but the stool is closer. And this allows me to place more of my bodyweight on the stool, and less on my feet. Apart from helping me play with a softer technique, as a bonus my double and triple kicks have gotten way easier.

Reach

So how far are we reaching for everything? Overextending is a surefire way to lead to injury or at the very least some kind of strain. If we are constantly stretching our ligaments and tendons to reach our drums, just because they “look cool” like that, then we are not doing our bodies any good at all.

I noticed my crash cymbals were too far away. And my ride was also making have to reach too much. So I brought them all closer. Now I can play my ride without having my elbows leave my side, and the crashes are much easier to reach too.

Technique

My fingers and hands took the biggest beating and suffered the most. Changing (improving) my technique made a huge difference. I worked on relaxing my hands and fingers, improving my rebound and playing softer. Changing my sticks to a larger one really helped this. I used to use 5A but switched to 2B. The extra weight allows me to hit softer but still retain the tone, and the extra girth allows me to relax my grip, but still have a firm grasp of the stick. The thinner the stick, the more you have to squeeze your hand in order to keep control of the stick.

With my feet, moving my stool closer as I mentioned before was key. And also, playing barefoot but with socks. The lack of shoes allows me to feel the feedback from the pedals and the socks give me the slip I need for really easy double and triple kicks.

Away from the Kit

These were the largest revelations by far. I realized that I had to make changes away from the kit if I really wanted to affect my body.

To deal with the back pain, I stopped sitting so much. I changed my computer desk to a stand up one. So whenever I’m doing any writing, web browsing or gaming, I’m standing up. I also worked on exercising and strengthening my back. These two things basically eliminated my back issues. I only spend an average of three hours a day on my drum stool. But that plus all the time I would spend at my desk or on the sofa was causing the problem. So by eliminating the two largest contributors, I solved the issue away from the kit.

Diet

The second one is the wrist and knuckle pain. I would never have thought that the solution was the one I found. It was diet! And by diet, I don’t mean eating less or losing weight. I mean the type of food we put in our body on a daily basis. Certain foods can cause an inflammatory response, and that inflammation targets our weakest areas and joints. As a drummer, my wrists and knuckles were pretty beaten up, and the inflammatory diet I consumed was manifesting itself there.

Now I didn’t actually change my diet to help my wrist pain. I changed it for other reasons, but I soon discovered that my pain going away was a very nice side-effect.

So what did I do? I eliminated most inflammatory foods. Mainly sugar and gluten. Yes, I went gluten-free. Just like those trendy celebrities on the magazine covers! I went gluten-free for an entire year and I never had any trouble with any joint pain whatsoever. Currently, I eat gluten once a month and when I do, I can feel that tingling sensation I used to get in my knuckles the very next morning.

So there we have it. My master plan for long term drumming and avoiding the aches and pains that comes along with the job. Of course, it’s still a work in progress, but this is the framework I use to make decisions about my drumming health. You can take these ideas and adapt them to your own playing and you too will be drumming for the long haul.

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103rd Ohio Preserved Drum

It is rare to come upon a perfectly preserved drum from the Civil War era. It is VERY rare to have photographs of these artifacts with their keeper. Here is a musician from the 103rd Ohio. The 103rd Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry was a three-year’ infantry regiment from northeastern Ohio that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It participated in many of the campaigns and battles of the Army of the Ohio in the Western Theater. According to the regiment’s written history it was organized at Cleveland in August of 1862. It was ordered to Kentucky on September 3, 1862, and attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Army of Kentucky, and Department of the Ohio. The regiment saw action in Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Below are period photos of one of the regiment’s drummer boys and a nearly exact preserved drum as it appears today. The drum is in remarkable shape and is part of the collection at the 103rd Museum. The name of the individual is currently unknown. *For additional posts on drums and drumming during the Civil War search keywords “Civil War.”

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drumeo sets the bar

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There is an old adage that goes “Those who can – do, those who can’t – teach”. Never before has a saying been so wrong. Teachers, in any capacity, are custodians of wisdom, experience and insights. Many musicians rely on their instructors or mentors to teach them how to play and create on their instrument. From school music programs to private lessons teaching is fundamental to learning one’s craft. With the establishment of the Internet, students are no longer slave to their immediate location. Schools, whether institutes or universities, can now teach countless students located thousands of miles away from their campus. As with any instrument, many students cannot study with an actual teacher due to their remote location or limited income. For them the Internet provides the perfect solution.

One training porthole that is changing the way drummers learn is the award-winning website drumeo. Their slogan “Learn Anything on the Drums with the World’s Best Teachers” speaks the truth. Co-founded by Jared Falk, voted the best drum educator in 2016 by Rhythm magazine, drumeo provides a wealth of information. Posting live or on-demand lessons using any internet-ready computer, tablet, or smartphone, drumeo offers more than 80 world-class educators for beginner, intermediate and advanced students for every technique, style and topic. This includes 70 step-by-step courses and 1200 topic-specific video lessons.

drumeo is set-up to exploit technology incorporating video, chat rooms, electronic sheet music and name-brand guest instructors. The website also offers a collection of stand-alone video products covering a wide variety of topics. “Successful Drumming” offers 18 hours of meticulously organized step-by-step video lessons and 15 unique play-along songs. “The Drumming System” features 20 modules, 100+ songs, and 5 instructional workbooks. “The Cobus Method” is inspired by the unorthodox style of learning of YouTube phenom Cobus Potgieter. “Maximum Metal” contains step-by-step lessons from Meytal Cohen to establish a foundation, master essential techniques and improve creativity.

Working out of a charming location in Abbotsford, BC, Canada drumeo is run like a family business. Jared Falk explained his vision for the company and website: “Drumeo has really changed the way drummers learn to play drums, and we’re very happy that so many people have let us into their practice room and allowed us to help them take their drumming to the next level. We’ve built some incredible life-long relationships and can’t wait to meet all the future students.”

Students from all over the world have testified to the effectiveness of the drumeo curriculum. Many are motivated to take their skills outside the practice room and onto the stage or into the studio. Many others find satisfaction simply playing for themselves. Either way, drumeo students feel an immediate benefit from using the website. drumeo’s many awards also affirm their quality. Voted as the “Best Educational Website” in the 2014 and 2015 Drummie Awards, drumeo clearly offers a one-of-a-kind experience. They are so confident that drumeo members can get a full 90-day 100% money back guarantee. This allows members to try it risk-free for three full months. No other website I am aware of offers that length of testing time.

Whether you are a beginner or master, drumeo offers something for everyone.

Visit drumeo online: https://www.drumeo.com/.
View videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/freedrumlessons.

Here’s a sample video featuring my friend and co-author Rich Redmond:

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