Monthly Archives: October 2017

Vistalites and Acrolites

Every once in a while I get the chance to sit in and jam with my friends from The Drowning. Based in Pittsburgh, the band includes members who I played with back in high school. We had a few gigs and a battle of the bands. Other members went off to form their own bands and all of them have recorded CDs.

Beyond the sheer pleasure of playing with those guys I also love the fact that I get to play an original set of blue Ludwig Vistalites and an Acrolite snare drum. Introduced in 1972 this style of acrylic drums were produced by the Ludwig Drum Company. Vistalites were developed to be a synthetic alternative to wood shells. You may recall that John Bonham popularized them in “The Song Remains the Same.”

Vistalites were available in clear, green, red, amber, and yellow as well as the blue one I play. Blue and clear were the largest sellers. Beyond Bonham, the drums were popularized by other note-worthy drummers that played them. This included Karen Carpenter, Keith Moon, Nick Mason, Ron Bushy, Barriemore Barlow, Jay Osmond and Billy Cobham.

In addition to revealing the drummer playing behind the kit Vistalites also reflected the lights that shined upon them. The sound of the drums was also different. Many kits came with concert toms (toms without lug holes or a rim on the bottom of the shell) that provided a projected sound similar to Phil Collin’s signature sound.

According to Ludwig “While some acrylic shells have been criticized for their dry, dull tone, others have been raved about for years, such as the shells used by John Bonham. Many drummers, and musicians/recording engineers in general, have a preferred drum sound that they strive to attain when playing and recording, and while some wooden drums have seemed to dominate this recording field throughout recent decades, acrylic shells have still played a keystone role in numerous sought after recordings.”

As one who has played these drums I can account for their unique and powerful tone. They respond well and offer a sound different from any wood shelled kit that I’ve ever played. The Acrolite snare I play with it is also one-of-a-kind. Introduced in the 1960’s as a student model the drum caught the attention of professionals for its distinct and dry tone. It is capable of expressing the subtlety of ghost notes as well as the high-volume crack to hold its own in any setting. I personally like the attack of the drum.

If you ever have the opportunity to play a Vistalite kit or an Acrolite snare drum do it. It will be a unique experience and who knows? You may find yourself purchasing one of the re-issued ones.

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Disney Drumming

One of my favorite places on earth, and probably yours too, is Walt Disney World. My family goes there every year one of our children graduates high school (two down-two to go). As a drummer, there are a lot of performers that catch your eye. There are the traditional Japanese and African drummers, as well as the Colonial Guard and holiday toy drummers. There is also your share of jazz, Dixieland, garbage can groups and rock bands. As one with both a drum set and drumline background, I’ve often fantasized about what it would be like to work at one of Disney’s four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom). I did some searching online. For those of you that are interested, here’s some advice:

Step one: Have the chops. Disney only accepts the most qualified players that can shred a variety of pieces within their respective genre. (I’d practice my ass off if I were you.)

Step two: Entertain. Beyond playing you must be able to perform. There is a big difference. You are there to put on a show. Whatever the theme is, live it. (Smile!)

Step three: Follow the rules. Disney is famous for making their employees stick to a strict rule system. You step out of line, you’re gone no matter how good you play. (Listen to Mickey.)

According to Disney Entertainment Casting:

“Many are surprised to learn that Disney is one of the largest live entertainment companies in the world. We produce thousands of special events around the world and entertain millions of Guests every year in our Theme Parks & Resorts. With such a huge scope of entertainment, there are countless ways to share your talent with our Disney Guests. From professional musical theater actors looking for their next adventure, to aspiring performers looking for a place to hone their talent and learn the business, we have a spot for just about everyone.”

Disney has an online Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Performer Toolkit that shows the audition calendar, requirements and opportunities. There is even a short Drum Audition Video to give you an idea of what to expect. Good luck. May your dreams come true!

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Artist “Away”

You may recall a post from a couple years ago (read here) on Voivod’s drummer Michel “Away” Langevin. In addition to being an exceptional drummer he is also a gifted artist. Michel has created all of Voivod’s artwork, as well as the artwork for other progressive metal bands. His online portfolio  reveals a unique style that is a cross between macabre and science fiction. Over the years Michel has traditionally illustrated and used computer 3D programs to create his images. He has published a book of his artwork titled Worlds Away – The Art of Michel Langevin. The book is difficult to find online but it will be back on Amazon as soon as they are available. According to Michel, he was heavily inspired by the magazine Heavy Metal. In an interview for the website Maximum Metal he talked about his influences. “It was more of a comic book style magazine,” he said. “ That’s where I take my sci-fi influence from but also a lot of movies interest me like Eraserhead, Blade Runner and Mad Max…those are movies that changed my art and I’m still a huge fan of sci-fi art and sci-fi movies.” For more on Michel’s artwork and his band visit: http://www.voivod.com/.

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Sample Rich Redmond


A few weeks ago I posted a blog about an amazing product from our friends at the Nashville Sampling Company (read here). NSC’s new sampling package was released on October 8 and features our best friend Rich Redmond. This 37 GB library includes Rich’s best DW drum kits, as well as an array of microphone positions, dynamic layers and mixing controls to achieve a Class-A drum sound for music productions in Country, Rock, Pop, Metal and any other genre requiring high quality, dynamic drum sounds. Headlining this one-of-a-kind package Rich took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to discuss his contribution.

MA: How did you become involved in this project?

RR: I initially got involved through my friend Garrett Goodwin, the drummer behind Carrie Underwood. He introduced me to Justin Miller the executive producer of the Nashville Sampling Company. Of course both of these guys have great reputations. I immediately saw the opportunity to be a part of a great project. My friend and talented drum tech Jon Hull was also an important part of the process too. He was there assisting me 18 hours a day and he was responsible for the meticulous tuning of all the drums. Everyone involved in this project brought their A-game and it shows in the final result.

MA: Tell us about the product?

RR: I’m so excited about this! I’ve wanted to sample my drums for some time and I finally have that opportunity. There are 18 hours of meticulous recordings and I’m proud of them all. Users will love the attention to detail and the control over the drum and cymbal sounds. We took the time to get it right. I really feel like my purpose in life is to help people. That mindset influences my work. This sampling package will help drummers and producers get that perfect sound they’ve been looking for. It will also help composers, songwriters, engineers and band members. All of the demos and loops on this project were created by Justin who captured and created these state of the art sounds. All of the video demos were performed by Garrett. The massive library we came up with includes 50,000 samples that were recorded by 23 microphones. There are tons of velocity layers and round robins.

MA: What sets this product apart?

RR: You would have to ask Justin what makes it technically different from other products out there but I can tell you that these sounds are the drums that I’ve used on hit records in Nashville for the last 10 years. I am literally giving away my signature drum sound to the user. Of course nobody sounds like me so it’s an intimate connection between the sample and recording. It can be used in a variety of recording situations by a variety of users and genres. It allows me to be a part of their projects, in spirit, not in the flesh. I’m very proud to be a part of this product. It’s me in a box. It does it all!

For more information visit: https://www.nashvillesamplingco.com/richredmond.

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Live Chat Coming Soon

I’m thinking about that Live Facebook Chat I’m looking to do. I want it to be a two-way conversation so I’m going to petition what future topics you would like to see covered on the Off Beat blog. Our discussion will determine what upcoming topics are covered. Anything drum-related goes. I’m looking at what days and times work best with my schedule so I will let you know as soon as I firm things up. I’m thinking a Tuesday or Thursday late afternoon. Until then, think about what you would like to see posted. I’m looking forward to chatting with you.

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Remembering Karen

Off Beat has been around since 2015 and in all that time the subject of Karen Carpenter has not come up once. I find that disappointing but at the same time not surprising. Today, Karen is often forgotten when discussing drummers, let alone female ones. Her remembrance as an ambitious singer-songwriter overshadows her contributions to music as a drummer. Karen did receive credit at the height of her career. In a 1975 Playboy magazine reader’s poll, Karen was voted the best rock drummer of the year—beating out Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. This made Bonzo furious.

Karen first took up the drums at the age of fifteen and immediately showed an aptitude for them. Listening to jazz for most of her life she was primarily influenced by a mix of Joe Morello and Ringo Starr. This gave her a foundation for both jazz and rock and resulted in a diverse style of play. Karen joined the marching band at school. She started out on the glockenspiel but later moved to the snare drum. Karen only took lessons for about a year before moving beyond the practice room and onto the stage. She drummed in various projects that also featured her brother, including the Richard Carpenter Trio. Karen’s ability to compose drum parts and play odd time signatures was impressive to all who worked with her. Considered to have perfect time, she was able to seamlessly mix grace notes, accents, hand/foot combos, and double- and single-stroke fills.

As Richard and Karen formed The Carpenters, the act that would propel them to stardom, her drumming became part of their act. Although she didn’t play on the studio tracks, Karen performed live. In a made for TV special, Karen did a 6 minute performance to “Strike up the Band” in which she ran from drum to drum playing a solo at each one (see below). This included drum set, snare drum, concert toms, timpani, glockenspiel, timbale and more. She then traded fours with Cubby O’Brien, the band’s touring drummer who occupied the drum chair when Karen was out front singing. With performances like this it’s not surprising that Karen earned the respect of some of the greatest drummers of the day. Buddy Rich referred to her as “one of my favorite drummers.” Hal Blaine, who played on most of The Carpenters studio tracks, said he considered Karen to be “a great drummer.”

Still many people were unaware that Karen had an impeccable ability to play the drums, in part because the public wanted a singing Karen Carpenter, rather than a drumming Karen Carpenter. Sadly, this amazing talent left us too soon. On February 4, 1983, at the age of thirty-two, Karen suffered a heart attack as a result of her battle with anorexia. Fortunately, The Carpenters left behind a great legacy of music and Karen left behind a great legacy of drumming. Instead of a singer who played the drums, I like to think of her as a drummer who sang. For an excellent article on the life of Karen Carpenter from a drumming perspective, visit Dena Tauriello’s column at ModernDrummer.com.

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My Warm-Up

I’m not what you would call a “natural” drummer. I can’t just walk up behind a drum set and immediately start playing. I get pain in my hands if I don’t properly exercise them and I cramp up. I’ve struggled with carpal tunnel syndrome before and it’s very frustrating during the recovery. I need to warm-up every time I play whether it’s just a practice session or more. Finding the right stick (signature from Rich Sticks) helped tremendously but I still require a proper warm-up. Here is a simple but effective exercise that I developed. You may have seen something like it before. I recall we did a version of this in our drum line. Let me know if you have a warm-up system in the comments below.

You can click on the picture for a full size version you can print out.

 

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Prayers for Vegas

Off Beat is not a news blog. It has not commented on current events before. I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to acknowledge the tragedy that took place in Las Vegas yesterday. Our close friend and co-author Rich Redmond was on stage performing with Jason Aldean when the attack took place. Our friend Jon Hull, Rich’s drum tech, was also on stage attending to Rich during the show. Our friend Keio Stroud, who we interviewed back in April, was also at the festival performing with Big and Rich. Thankfully all were safe. Understandably the performers that were present are still trying to process what they witnessed. My thoughts and prayers go out to the people in the audience that were killed or injured. The number of victims continues to grow and the toll is staggering. At this time a motive has not been determined and as the gunman killed himself it may not be revealed. Moments like these should shift our attention away from the things that divide us. Tragedies such as this are senseless and the only way to get through them is to come together. The focus should be on the victims and their families and trying to prevent further incidents like this from happening. Today is an incredibly sad day. The only post that matters at this time is this one.

UPDATE: As if this day can’t get any worse Tom Petty, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our time has passed away at the age of 66. Steve Ferrone is the drummer for The Heartbreakers. His mastery of the groove and ability to drive the band is especially evident in a live setting. Here is a live performance of my absolute favorite song to play on the drums, “You Wreck Me.”

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Get “Drumming In the Modern World”


Our best friend Rich Redmond has released an amazing educational product that provides over five hours of insightful information. Years in the making “Drumming In the Modern World” features demonstration and deconstruction of drum parts for Jason Aldean’s #1 hits, drum performances with top recording artists like: Doc Walker, John Eddie, Rick Orozco, Rockett Queen, The Stellas, and many others, lessons on playing with click tracks, building loops, cheat chart creation, the Nashville Number System, overdubbing percussion, money beats, styles (rock, country, pop, latin, fusion), rudiments, playing in a rhythm section, drum tuning, insights on touring, interviews with industry leaders and much, much more!

Shot by an award-winning team with multiple camera angles and state-of-the-art production, “Drumming In the Modern World” is changing the way students receive music education. Rich’s passion and infectious energy propel each section and his dedication to the drums is revealed in each lesson. His talent for presenting information makes this product inspiring from beginning to end. Students will feel motivated to move forward from section to section while building their skill set and improving their playing. Their overall knowledge of the instrument and the music industry will also grow exponentially.

According to Rich: “My goal in creating these resources is to share my hard earned lessons and insights with you about the musical, mental and business skills needed to achieve success in today’s music world.” If you are interested in making an investment in your drumming, look no further than “Drumming In the Modern World.” Highly original and well worth the price, this online trainer will change the way you look at and play the drums.

For more information visit: drumminginthemodernworld.com

For a video trailer visit: https://vimeo.com/194359595

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