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Monthly Archives: March 2017
In my “other life” I am a Civil War Historian. I have written five Civil War titles to date. I also co-produced and appeared in a half-hour Civil War documentary. I still contribute regularly to the Emerging Civil War blog and copy write for renowned painter Mort Kunstler. I occasionally provide private battlefield tours and speaking engagements. I live within a few miles of four major Civil War battlefields and I am proud to say that two of my books are sanctioned by the National Park Service and carried in their gift shops. I have stepped away from authoring any new Civil War books in order to concentrate on my family but in an effort to promote my work that is not drumming-related; I am providing the synopsis and links below.
The Civil War in Spotsylvania County: Confederate Campfires at the Crossroads BUY HERE
From 1861 to 1865, hundreds of thousands of troops from both sides of the Civil War marched through, battled and camped in the woods and fields of Spotsylvania County, earning it the nickname ‘Crossroads of the Civil War.’ When not engaged with the enemy or drilling, a different kind of battle occupied soldier’s boredom, hunger, disease, homesickness, harsh winters and spirits both broken and swigged. Focusing specifically on the local Confederate encampments, renowned author and historian Michael Aubrecht draws from published memoirs, diaries, letters and testimonials from those who were there to give a fascinating new look into the day-to-day experiences of camp life in the Confederate army. So huddle around the fire and discover the days when the only meal was a scrap of hardtack, temptation was mighty and a new game they called ‘baseball’ passed the time when not playing poker or waging a snowball war on fellow compatriots.
Historic Churches of Fredericksburg: Houses of the Holy BUY HERE
Historic Churches of Fredericksburg: Houses of the Holy recalls stories of rebellion, racism and reconstruction as experienced by Secessionists, Unionists and the African American population in Fredericksburg’s landmark churches during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Using a wide variety of materials compiled from the local National Park archives, author Michael Aubrecht presents multiple perspectives from local believers and nonbelievers who witnessed the country’s Great Divide. Learn about the importance of faith in old Fredericksburg through the recollections of local clergy such as Reverend Tucker Lacy; excerpts from slave narratives as recorded by Joseph F. Walker; impressions of military commanders such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson; and stories of the conflict over African American churches.
The Angel of Marye’s Heights RENT HERE
On December 13th, 1862, Federal forces suffered terrible casualties in assaults against Confederate defenders on the heights behind the city of Fredericksburg. Although this engagement was tactically insignificant to either side during the Civil War, the actions of Confederate Sgt. Richard Kirkland left a lasting legacy and gave birth to the story of “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.”
Onward Christian Soldier: The Spiritual Journey Of Stonewall BUY HERE
This is a story about faith. A story filled with the kinds of heartache and hardships that would leave many of us questioning our own beliefs. It is a love story that is filled with sorrow, testimony, hope and despair. It is a story that reaffirms the power of prayer and that all things in Him are possible. Ultimately, it is the story of a man who suffered greatly, but chose to embrace the Will of his Savior as the foundation for a legendary life. Onward Christian Soldier presents an intimate portrait of Confederate General Thomas Stonewall Jackson. Unlike the countless military studies that have come before, this inspirational book focuses on both the spiritual and historical milestones in the life of this American icon.
I have developed a teaching aid (PDF) to complement our book/DVD FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids. This presentation can be used by instructors and teachers alike in a classroom or one-on-one setting. It has been designed to introduce various topics to the student prior to reading the book. It should also make the book easier to comprehend: Download Here. For more current information, visit our Facebook page.
This collection of 78 tunes notated by Walter D. Sweet contains Civil War selections as well as many other traditional favorites. Each arrangement features harmony, style marks and guitar chords. The music is supplemented with histories of the tunes and drumbeats. Complete Music for Fife and Drum was compiled by a professional fifer and intended for the military fife in B-flat. This book offers tunes from the Revolutionary and Civil War eras with suggested snare and bass drum parts as well as chord progressions. It also contains a wealth of fife and drum history and resources. The author, Walter Sweet, is the son of the well-known American fife maker Ralph Sweet of Connecticut. Civil War-era songs include: Dixie, Marching Through Georgia, The Bonnie Blue Flag and Stonewall Jackson’s Way just to name a few. (Includes access to online audio.) You can order this unique book online at Mel Bay Products.
Here is a sample of the book’s Civil War-era songs:
Audio Sample 1 (Just Before the Battle Mother)
For other posts focusing on Drummer Boys, search the term “Civil War”.
This month marks the two-year anniversary of the Off Beat blog. Over the last two years Off Beat has expanded to present a variety of topics including history, techniques, products and exclusive interviews. During that time I have written over 300 posts that have been read by over 20,000 unique visitors. In an effort to expand Off Beat has also partnered with other media outlets and will continue to grow. Thanks for your support. Here are a few comments from our visitors:
“This blog is outstanding. I love the videos.” – BA Parks
“I visit Off Beat daily. You never fail to deliver.” – J Williams
“Your interviews are very interesting. I learned a lot.” – K Quenell
“Thanks for the history lesson.” – D Simmerson
Today I want to introduce you to the most successful “non-drummer” in modern music history. In 1965 a beloved former child actor named Mickey Dolenz was cast as the drummer and co-lead singer in the television sitcom “The Monkees.” Based on the antics of The Beatle’s “A Hard Days Night” the show followed four hip musicians and their crazy adventures. Dolenz described The Monkees as initially being “…a TV show about an imaginary band that was never successful.”
Although he was not a drummer when he was first cast, Dolenz took lessons in order to be able to mime convincingly. He eventually became competent enough to actually perform live and periodically record. The vast majority of all Monkees music was performed by studio musicians to include the famous Wrecking Crew featuring Hal Blaine on drums. Since their inception The Monkees have sold more than 75 million records worldwide and had international hits, including “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Daydream Believer,” and “I’m a Believer.” At their peak in 1967, the band outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined.
Dolenz used several drum kits over the course of The Monkees including a standard five piece, four-piece, and a double bass kit that had the words “Drum” written on the front of each bass drum. One of the most noticeable aspects of Dolenz drumming was his unusual set-up. He learned to play right-handed and left-footed because of a leg disease called Perthes making his right leg weaker. This required the toms to be awkwardly mounted to the right with the hi-hat cymbal between them. Tambourines were often mounted on the bass drum in place of a left tom. The first kit used on the show was a Gretsch. On the road, Dolanz played a Rogers kit and also used a Slingerland kit. Since then he has been sponsored by DW and Yamaha.
Dolenz has been routinely ranked in various polls tallying the “Best Singing Drummers of All-Time.” For example, Listen To The Band ranked him #11 out of their Top 20. In 2011, Modern Drummer magazine interviewed Dolenz further solidifying his credibility as a real drummer. Over the years Dolenz has participated in various Monkees reunion tours with on-and-off again members of the original group. This led to a 1980’s hit video on MTV for their song “That Was Then, This Is Now.” Today Dolenz occasionally tours as the last active member of The Monkees.
One of my drum kits illustrating the “less is more” theory
Let me preface this post by stating it is only my opinion. Feel free to disagree in the comments below. I would love to hear your counterpoints. Today I participated in a spirited discussion on Facebook about the size of drum sets and how they are used. One statement that was agreed upon was that every drummer’s preference differed according to their requirements and taste. If one is doing a jazz gig they don’t need the same number of drums as a metal drummer. That is common sense. I take that concept a step further as I have always been a proponent of “less is more.” This alleviates the issue of excess pieces that are not used. Not only does this help minimize the need to haul extra gear, it also prevents distractions.
Some drummers ardently debated that having more options opens up more creativity. This can be true. I countered with the notion that working with less can also spark creativity. Some argued that larger drum sets looked better and made the drummer stand out on stage. I argued that using a particular set-up based on aesthetics versus practicality can be a mistake. In my opinion it is always more important to sound good before looking good. I know of drummers that set-up their gear and then stand back to gage how it looks. They then tweak their drum set until they like what the audience will see. This can lead to an uncomfortable set-up that does not benefit the drummer at all. In that case they are more concerned with appearances and not how they will respond as they play. Higher cymbals can look cool but does the drummer really want to reach that high? This requires more stretching and effort. It can promote fatigue. What about sitting excessively high to be seen better? This can result in poor ergonomics which can be painful both during and after the gig.
Here are some negative issues with using large kits. You must ask yourself “Is it worth it?”
- Much longer load-in, set-up, tear-down, load-out time for gigs
- Tuning can be a nightmare (matching double kicks, lots of toms)
- Sometimes too many options can be confusing, not helpful
- Being accustomed to a large kit can reduce creativity on a small kit
- Finding transportation for this many drum cases can be difficult
- Sound techs may not have the necessary number of mics
Here are some positive benefits of using smaller kits with the bare necessities:
- Significantly faster load-in, set-up, tear-down, load-out time
- Drummers will respect you more for creativity on a small kit
- Great for venues that do not have lots of mics or stage space
- Sound techs will love you for simplifying their job
- They force creativity (which can be a pro or a con)
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of drummers out there with excessive drum sets that justify them. Players like Carter Bueford come to mind. I’m speaking about those players that surround themselves with equipment that they never use. In the 1980’s during the hair metal period many drummers encircled themselves with 360-degree drum sets. Most of the time, this was done more for their visual impact than practicality. During this time drum manufactures sold large drum sets to the public. Many consumers emulated their heroes by purchasing drum sets that mimicked what they had. Often this was done regardless of their needs. Using what is required to accomplish a particular style of music makes more sense.
There is one aspect of my theory that has exceptions. What if a drummer plays or records different kinds of music necessitating the need for excess drums in their arsenal? This makes perfect sense. My comments are based on using them all at once for the wrong reasons. Billy Crystal used to do a skit on Saturday Night Live in which his catch-phrase was “It is better to look good than to feel good.” That doesn’t work for me when it comes to drums.
I’d like to introduce you to the drummer with “no name.” I am talking about the drummer for the multi-award winning Swedish heavy metal band Ghost. Ghost is known for their eccentric on-stage presence in which five of the group’s six members wear virtually identical, face-concealing costumes. These band members’ true identities are kept anonymous, as their actual names have not been publicly disclosed. All six members of Ghost mimic the Roman Catholic Church but have reversed the image to worship Satan instead of the Holy Trinity. They have stated that the blatant reference to the Devil is merely part of their character’s mystique and they are not satanic followers. The Nameless Ghouls each represent one of the five elements; fire, water, wind, earth and ether and wear their respective alchemical symbol on their instruments. The Nameless Ghoul drummer wears the insignia for earth. In an interview, a Nameless Ghoul said they are influenced by “everything ranging from classic rock to the extreme underground metal bands of the ’80s to film scores to the grandeur of emotional harmonic music.” Another member of the band said the Swedish and Scandinavian black metal movement of the early ‘90s plays a major role in their act, and said that each member has come from a heavy metal background. Band members have changed over the years without the knowledge of their audience. Dave Grohl has been rumored to have performed with Ghost on occasion. For more about this highly unusual and original band visit: http://ghost-official.com/. Here is some video of a Nameless Ghoul drummer performing live: