Guitar Center Drum Off

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Your host (right) judging at the Fredericksburg, VA Guitar Center

This year my schedule wouldn’t permit me to participate as a judge for the 2016 Guitar Center Drum Off. It’s always nice to be asked but my kid’s after school activities take precedent. Last year I had a great time sitting in and evaluating all of the talented players that participated. It takes a lot of guts to get up in front of a room full of strangers, not to mention three judges, and show off your chops.

There were some current themes that ran throughout all three of the rounds I judged. Some were good and some were not-so-good. The vast majority of participants brought their own double bass pedals and tended to over use them. In their effort to play mind-numbingly fast they often lost the groove.

It was refreshing to see players that stuck with a single pedal and went for a simpler and locked in approach. I often scored those players higher because they composed a solo that was structured with a beginning, middle and end. The other participants went blazing through their turn with no discernable arrangements. I’m not rejecting double bass altogether but it should fit within the solo’s structure. My advice to those participating in future Drum Offs is this:

  1. Be prepared. Improvisation often betrays you. Appear to be comfortable.
  2. Plan your adjustments to the kit in advance. You only get five minutes.
  3. Try to incorporate a variety of groove, chops and showmanship.
  4. Do not be dependent on any single aspect of your solo.
  5. Find your pocket and groove. Then incorporate the wild stuff.
  6. Be yourself. Originality is what makes the Drum Off special.
  7. Use your feet sparingly. Let them complement the performance.
  8. Speed isn’t everything. Feel free to blaze but do so appropriately.
  9. Ask the judges for feedback. They are happy to give advice.
  10. Be proud of yourself. Win or lose take pride in what you’ve done.
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