Monthly Archives: November 2017

Learning (Again)

Today’s post is about mental atrophy. It is the theory that if you don’t use it you lose it. I have found this to be true. One issue in particular for me is reading music. Back in school I read music all the time. This included marching cadences, symphonic parts etc. Out of school I occasionally read transcriptions of songs that interested me. Then I took a decade off from reading. When it came time to read or write music again I was at a disadvantage. When it came time to author our book I wrote all of the narrative and Rich wrote the music for our exercises. I understand the exercises using our tablature system but I never could have composed them.

Every week I am inspired by the Mike and Mike Modern Drummer Podcast. The advice that I hear over and over is learn to read music. In my situation it’s re-learn to read music. It’s like knowing another language and then forgetting how to speak it. In order to get my mind back in shape I’m going back to the basics. The first book that comes to mind is Ted Reed’s Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer.

This book presents a concise lesson on reading drum notation and applying it. It was voted second on Modern Drummer’s list of 25 Greatest Drum Books in 1993. Modern Drummer’s Teachers Forum has a great lesson posted on implementing Reed’s theories of syncopation. (Read here)

I’m a subscriber to Modern Drummer and Drumhead magazines. (I’ve also written for both). Each month there are exercises included in the back. To me it’s all gibberish and I would love to be able to use these notations to improve my drumming. I have to learn how to walk again before I can run. I’m excited about this process as it will also help keep my mind sharp. This is not easy stuff. In fact, it will be pretty hard. I suffered a serious concussion that severely affected my memory. My neurologist suggested I learn a new language and this fits the bill. I’ll share my experiences here from time to time as I progress.

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A great present

It’s Christmastime. That means the shopping season has begun. Why not give your child or beginning drummer a copy of FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids? It’s an award-winning program guaranteed to introduce them to the instrument in a fun and inspiring way. It’s available in print or electronic formats and is perfect for students and teachers. Go to our FUNdamentals Modern Drummer page and order your copy today!

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Bonham and Jones

Is Papa Jo Jones responsible for John Bonham’s “tricks?” I say yes. I read once that Bonham was heavily influenced by jazz drummers like Joe Morello, Max Roach and Elvin Jones. You can see their influence in his style of play. Bonham made the band swing like a jazz drummer but with incredible power. He even quoted these drummers from time to time. This included comping riffs like Elvin’s innovative use of triplets. Where did he get the inspiration for his showmanship antics like using crisscross patterns and playing with his hands? These were gimmicks that Jones was doing years before Led Zeppelin was formed. It’s obvious that Bonham ripped some of his ideas off of Papa Jo’s solos. He then incorporated them into his own solo Moby Dick. Below are videos of both drummer’s solos. You can definitely see the similarities.

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I am starting a new feature here at the Off Beat blog: Reader Questions! This is your opportunity to ask me anything and everything related to drums and drumming. I’ll do my best to answer your question or research the answer and get back to you ASAP. If I don’t have, or can’t find the answer, I’ll point you in the right direction. Email your questions to

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Black Confederate Drummer?

The topic of Black Confederates continues to be one of the most controversial subjects in Civil War scholarship. As I have written extensively on the life and times of Civil War drummer boys it seems fitting that I share this story here.

Throughout the course of the war, Confederate officers routinely brought their slaves with them to act as camp servants and mess cooks. This was done as both a reflection of the officers’ social status and for the domestic services provided by the slaves. In some cases, these African Americans would be issued uniforms, and their typical responsibilities included cooking, washing clothes and cleaning quarters. In addition, those slaves with a musical talent were often called upon to sing, dance and play tunes to entertain their masters’ staff or messmates. The sincere nature of these relationships is required to be judged on an individual basis, but it is fair to say that the overwhelming majority of blacks in Confederate camps were acting in the role of servants rather than soldiers. This topic has been aggressively debated to this very day. Historians routinely differ with those who have propagated what they consider to be a myth. Newfound information continues to support their theory of mythical historical memory.

One African American who is believed to have enlisted in the Confederate army and served as a free man was Henry “Dad” Brown, a Confederate drummer from Darlington South Carolina. Brown was a veteran of the Mexican, Civil, and Spanish-American Wars. He is said to either have been born free or as a slave that was able to purchase his freedom. According to his roadside marker he joined the Confederate army in May of 1861 as a drummer in the Darlington Grays, Co. F, 8th S.C. Infantry. After they disbanded he enlisted as a drummer in Co. H, 21st S.C. Infantry in July 1861 and served in that outfit for the rest of the war. Years later he was made a member of the Darlington Guards where he held a membership from 1878 until his death in 1907.

It was said that Brown “captured” a pair of Yankee drumsticks at the Battle of Second Manassas. (They are on display at the Darlington County Historical Society museum.) Confederate Gen. W.E. James recalled Brown’s valor in a written account of that battle:

…on the 21st of July ‘61 the regiment was stationed at Mitchel’s Ford on the South side of Bull Run. The battle began two miles above and at 12 o’clock the regiment was ordered to go where the battle was raging. As soon as the order came Henry began to beat the long roll. This indicated to a battery on the other side of the Run the position of the regiment and the shells began to fall thick and fast. It was some time before the Colonel could stop him but he was beating all the time regardless of the danger. He followed on to the battlefield and was under fire with the others.

Brown’s service and dedication to the Confederate cause has been debated for decades. That argument has not affected his opportunity for commemoration. In 1907 a grave and monument were erected in his honor. The citizens of Darlington were said to have referred to him as “a man of worth.” A spiraling 20-foot marble obelisk was erected in his honor by both black and white members of the community. In 1990 his monument underwent restoration and was rededicated with a 21-gun salute. The ceremony was attended by a crowd of 200 people. Among those present were Army Gen. William Westmoreland and Army Secretary Michael Stone.

Understandably, the event instigated a public argument. Arthur Stanley, who was then-president emeritus of the Darlington branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wasn’t supportive of the ceremony. He said, “I feel Henry Brown was a handyman for the white man. There are a lot of other blacks who could have been honored who weren’t Uncle Toms.”

Wilhelmina P. Johnson, who is black, is the founder of Cultural, Realism and Charm Complex and director of the Darlington County Museum of Ethnic Culture said, “While the tribute to Dad Brown might offend some African-Americans, especially considering his service in the Confederacy, I feel the tribute is long overdue.”

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Revisiting Krupa and Rich

I spent a few hours over Thanksgiving watching online documentaries about Gene Krupa. Gene remains one of my favorite big band drummers (second only to Papa Jo Jones) and has been the subject of numerous pieces I’ve written including my first article published in Drumhead magazine. Read Here. One aspect of Gene’s career that always grabs my attention is his drum battles with Buddy Rich. I own several recordings of these battles and they are nothing short of amazing. In light of my newfound interest in the subject here is a reprint of a piece I posted a couple years ago:

In the chronicles of drumming history, no two names resonate with more respect than those of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. These two musicians literally redefined their instrument and have inspired generations of drummers who still look upon them with a sense of wonder and worship. During their era, big-bands ruled the airways belting out swing, jazz and bebop numbers. At the time, it was the drummer who towered above all other soloists on the bandstand. Krupa and Rich were at the top of the heap, performing magnificent as individuals and divinely when brought together to “battle” one another.

It was during these “drum battles” that one could clearly see the dazzling similarities and differences in the playing styles of the participants. Krupa, clearly a dancer’s drummer, furiously worked the toms, creating a tribal backbeat that was accented with a brilliant use of the splash and cowbell. Rich, a tremendously technical player, played ridiculous rudiments at a speed that was virtually incalculable and incorporated stick tricks that left his peers shaking their heads in disbelief. To watch Krupa and Rich go at it must have been like watching Babe Ruth pitch to himself.

Unfortunately there are only a few of these epic engagements that have been captured either on audio or film. “The Original Drum Battle,” as it came to be known, took place at the kick-off of what was the 12th National Tour of Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic. That show took place at Carnegie Hall on September 13, 1952 and has become one of the most revered live recordings ever captured. There are also two meetings of Gene and Buddy on film, both from television shows broadcast in 1966 and 1971.  

On November 1, 1956, both drummers went into the studio with a group of JATP All-Stars, recording an LP called “Krupa and Rich.” Strangely, Gene and Buddy only play together on one tune, with the rest of the tracks featuring one drummer or the other. Although there is no recorded documentation, there is evidence that Buddy and Gene continued their drum battles from time-to-time through 1957. In a 1956 radio interview with the Voice of America’s Willis J. Conover, the two drummers spoke of how they felt about the battles, as well as an upcoming JATP show where they were both set to appear. When asked about setting up these challenges, Rich explained the intentional spontaneity of them:

“…they never will be because then it would get kind of stiff, boring kind of thing. I think we get up on the stand every night and we look at each other and you listen to all the comments that come at you from the audience. Naturally, they’re partisan groups and they’re all shouting for their favorites, and we sit down at the drums and we laugh, and some nights Gene’ll start a tempo or other nights I’ll start the tempo. And we just start to play. And some nights it’s great, and other nights it’s laughs, and other nights it’s boring, because that’s what makes-anything that’s spontaneous is a-it’s a free feeling. We get up there and play just exactly what we feel like that particular night. When we play places like Carnegie Hall where the places are sold out we know that the people are listening uh, we play good. We play other places where we don’t think there’s too much interest-rather than listening-I think that people would rather be heard themselves-so we let them scream and we play under them.”

In 1966 Sammy Davis Jr. played host to the mighty two on a broadcast of his ABC television program which saw one of the last battles between Krupa and Rich. The last, on-camera meeting between Krupa and Rich that we know of took place on October 12, 1971. The occasion was a Canadian television special hosted by their friend and fellow percussionist Lionel Hampton. Rich came out at the very end of the program to participate in a four-way drum duel featuring Hampton, Krupa, Rich and Mel Torme’. After Krupa passed away in 1973, Rich continued to battle other drummers off-and-on until his own death in 1987.

Today, over five decades since Krupa and Rich first took the stage to duel, musicians and music lovers alike are still amazed and invigorated by these incredible performances that have not been duplicated or witnessed since. Here is the Krupa-Rich drum battle from the Sammy Davis Jr. television special:


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Happy Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approaches I wanted to share a drum-related post on the subject. We’ve discussed many different kinds of historical and cultural drums in the past. Today, in keeping with the holiday, I want to talk about Native American drums. Those of you that have ever watched a sacred ceremony or attended a pow-wow know that drums are the driving beat behind the dancing.

Different tribes have different traditions about the drum although the construction remains the same. In most of the tribes drums are constructed out of hollowed out logs that have finely tanned buckskin or elkskin stretched across one of the openings. Different sized logs make different kinds of sounds.

Traditionally Native American drums are large, two to three feet in diameter, and they are played communally by groups of men who stand around them in a circle. In addition to large log drums Native Americans also play hand-held drums called tom-toms that are beat with sticks or the hand. Native American drummers often decorate these drums with bright paint and feathers. Surprisingly the term “tom-tom” did not come from the Native American language. It came from an old British word for a child’s drum toy.

There are many different kinds of Native American drums. There are the Skin Drum, Frame Drum, Log Drum, Water Drum and Square Drum. These drums are used for ceremonial purposes and to communicate. Some tribes worship their drums, naming them and treating them like they were alive. This is similar to the ways that musicians around the world bond with their musical instruments, often attributing them with names and personalities.

I’m going to take time away from my instrument and spend some sacred time with my family. I recommend that you do the same. This will be my last post before Thanksgiving. I’ll be back later that week stuffed and ready to go. Until then, I hope that you have a blessed holiday.

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This month FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids went into its third printing. Rich and I are elated. We never expected our book to touch so many educators and students. The philosophy of the FUNdamentals program is rooted in the combined experiences of a pro-player and a player-parent. At the beginning of the book Rich and I outline our thoughts for the reader:


I love rhythm. As a drummer, it means everything to me.

Rhythm is the primary source of my inspiration and the driving force behind my self-expression. Sharing my love of rhythm is what this book is all about. In fact, the primary purpose behind the FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids program is to help children discover the same love for rhythm that I have. As a professional musician and educator, I always knew there was a way to break the ice on this subject and to systematically introduce younger students to the language of music making.

This book was inspired by a conversation between my friend, Michael Aubrecht, and me. While many readers may be familiar with Michael’s work as an author and film producer, they may be surprised to know that he is also a drummer. In fact, Michael and I are both products of music education and we share many of the same influences. As a parent, Michael was seeking guidance as to the best way to introduce his youngest son to the drums. After doing some research, we both concluded that there were very few materials available that catered to very young drummers. It was then that the FUNdamentals system was born. By pairing proven drum teaching methods with elementary classroom exercises, we developed an entirely new teaching philosophy.

The FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids program uses a step-by-step process in which each exercise builds upon the previous one. Although being a drummer certainly helps, the lessons in this book are designed in such a way that they can be equally enjoyed by non-drumming parents, who are encouraged to participate alongside their children. This book is also set up in a format that can be easily adapted by general classroom music teachers. The core of the FUNdamentals philosophy is found in the kid-friendly techniques that are used to present music theory.

As an extension of the book, we have developed where additional drumming activities and exercises have been made available. We encourage parents and teachers to share their own success stories by emailing photos, videos and stories of them using the FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids. Selections from those submitted will be posted and shared with our online community.

Michael and I sincerely hope that you enjoy using this book as much as we enjoyed writing it. Here’s to the rhythm of life!

– Rich Redmond


Long before I was anything else, I was a drummer. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that for most of my adolescent life, drums meant everything to me. Following the path of many eager musicians, I took up the instrument in the 7th grade and quickly became the prototypical “band kid,” playing in the choir band, marching band, stage band, symphonic band and percussion ensemble.

A product of public school music education, I practiced hard and was designated the co-captain of my high school drum line. I was selected to participate in the Pitt University High School Senior Ensemble and the Mellon Jazz Festival Student Orchestra. I competed at the national level in marching band and drum line competitions in Nashville and was fortunate to study with some great percussionists. I also jammed with anybody and everybody who would have me.

As a father of four, I was very excited to see my son Jackson (*pictured above with his PDP “Player Kit”) beginning to show an interest in the drums. Unfortunately, I was also very disappointed in the lack of instructional aids available for children that are under the age of ten. Out of frustration, I decided to contact Rich Redmond, who is one of the most respected drummers in the music business. Rich’s reputation as a top clinician and teacher precedes him and my goal was to ask for his guidance and share the successes I had experienced, using simple counting and playing exercises at home.

Somehow I managed to catch Rich’s attention long enough to pitch the need for instructional drum lessons geared toward children. Knowing that I was a writer who played the drums, Rich suggested that we tackle this dilemma together. A few weeks later, we found ourselves sitting together backstage at the Jason Aldean show, drafting an outline that evolved into the system we refer to as FUNdamentals. Today, we are great friends and we are developing an entire drum education program together.

As a parent, I can tell you that this program has something FUN for kids of all ages and stages. No matter what goals they attain, or what skill-levels they achieve, Rich and I simply want to see kids experiencing the joys of drumming. Play on!

– Michael Aubrecht

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New webpage posted

I just posted a new webpage (PDF) at:


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Steve Jordan

Steve Jordan is fast becoming one of my favorite drummers. His sense of time and groove is amazing. Whether playing in the studio, on television, or on tour, Jordan has established himself as a go-to guy. Drumeo has a great bio posted on Jordan: In his instructional DVD The Groove Is Here, Jordan outlined his philosophy for playing: “Simplicity is not stupidity.” he said, “Just because something sounds simple or is easy to play, in your mind, doesn’t mean it is dumb.”

When analyzing Jordan’s playing in this Vic Firth video you might find that you could play any one section of his solo. It’s when he puts them all together that the genius occurs. Notice the baseline groove and how he alternates just behind or in front of the beat seamlessly:

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