Monthly Archives: October 2018

Snare Spotlight


Our friend Marisa Testa (read interview) has her own signature snare drum out. It was developed by the folks at Queen City Drums. According to their website Marisa decided to build her own snare drum while taking a break on her Summer 2017 Tour backing Corey Feldman. The result was a 5.5×14 with classic beavertail lugs and inverted flange hoops for a vintage styling. Marisa stained the drum herself. According to the website (visit here) while Marisa was staining the drum, the brush started to go dry. As they went to re-dip, she stopped them and let the brush empty on the shell.  Distressed Purple was born. The drum was turned out so well and had such great response Marisa and Queen City partnered to re-create 10 snares with a portion of the proceeds going to the Little Kids Rock Music Education Charity (see here). According to Marisa, “It’s dynamic and versatile! Has a nice low, punchy tone if you want that country style sound, or you can crank it up and it’s great for rock to metal!” She adds, “This drum is great for heavier music.” For more information, visit Marisa online at https://www.marisatesta.com/.

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Well deserved

I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate my friend and co-author Rich Redmond for landing the cover of December’s issue of Modern Drummer. Order the issue online at: https://www.moderndrummer.com/.

You can read my exclusive interview with Rich here. You can learn all about our book (also published by Modern Drummer) here.

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An Epiphany

Today I want to share with you a journey. Some of you may have shared the same experience I did and I venture to guess it’s not that uncommon for those of you who grew up in the same time period that I did. I started playing drums in the early 1980’s when hair metal was just coming on the scene. Drummers at that time went way overboard and were often surrounded by huge double bass drum kits that they couldn’t possibly play. “More” was considered better and it was as if drummers were competing to see who could outdo the other. This excess greatly influenced my opinion of drummers. To me, these were the drummers worth listening to, not those traditional cats who played little four piece sets. That wasn’t cool. Because of that ignorance I automatically passed on the non-metal drummers of the world. At least for some time.

Then one day I was introduced to big band and jazz. What a revelation! Suddenly I didn’t care about hair metal anymore. I found myself listening to some of the most exciting and technically sound drummers I’d ever heard. Unlike hair metal, I couldn’t play it very well, but it sure inspired me to be a better drummer. Instead of wanting to be on stage I wanted to be on a bandstand. I discarded one of my rack toms and even picked up a pair of brushes. I studied these cats, how they accentuated what the band was doing. Their technique and form complimented each song and they crafted their parts around the other instruments. This was what drumming was supposed to be. Not just timekeeping. It had musicality. Vinnie Colaiuta explained it like this: “Anytime you strike the drums, you have to be aware that you’re creating a musical event.”

This music motivated me. I practiced and practiced and got as close as I could to what Vinnie spoke of, a musical approach to drumming. Soon after I found myself playing in the high school jazz band and selected to play at the Mellon Jazz Festival. What an experience! I still don’t consider myself a jazz drummer but I do feel that I broadened my horizons. Today I listen to all kinds of music and I can appreciate all kinds of drumming, but it was that first leap forward that opened up my mind to what is possible with a little inspiration and a pair of drumsticks. Have you experienced anything that changed your approach to drumming? Share your story in the comments below.

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Going acoustic to electronic


You may remember our friend Mike “Woody” Emerson aka “The Gigging Drummer” who we interviewed a while back (Read Here). He’s known nowadays as “Woody Rockinfeller,” drummer for the popular 80’s cover band The Rockinfellerz. We asked Woody about his conversion from acoustic to electronic drums for his latest gig. He gave us his thoughts, experiences, as well as the pros and cons.

Hi Michael! The “gigging drummer” aka “Woody Rockinfeller” is honored and excited again to be part of your Off Beat series. Well first of all…I have a new band (because I can’t stop my passion of playing drums) The Rockinfellerz. Yes with a “Z” at the end. (The other spellings were already taken. Ha!) And yes, I did answer a Craig’s List ad. I showed up at the audition for the band and there was an electronic drum set there (Roland TD-20X drum brain for V-drums). Ok stop! I’ve played on one twice filling in for my friend JR’s band live and of course being an idiot in the drum room at Guitar Center who didn’t like it. It felt weird.

So anyways, I got the job and I played on the “electric thing of a jig” for rehearsal. It was already set to a mixer at low volume with guitar, bass, keyboard and vocals so learning songs was easy to hear. We booked our first show and I was excited to bring out “The Beast” my Ludwig seven piece with Roto Toms cowbells, blocks, lots of cymbals and a bunch of other percussion fun. The show was in a couple weeks. I was still playing on the electronic “thing” but as I was playing on it my keyboardist Phil Rockinfeller showed me that the rims and pads can be programmed to do anything I want. So we started putting in cowbells, tambourines, clap sounds ect.

Yes it was a little fun (shhhh did I say that?) because a lot of the songs that we cover are from the 80’s (my favorite genre) which had a lot of double track studio magic and electronic drums in them that my acoustic drum set can’t do live. So I agreed to use them for the first show. And I’m sorry to the “The Great Almighty Drum God” they worked out well and yes, that’s why I’m still playing them now.

The difference between playing my acoustic drums and the electronic ones live is the “big drum sound” response time is gone! If my monitors in the mix on the Rolands are too low it sounds like I’m hitting practice pads. I go through the motions, but I don’t know what it sounds like coming out of the P.A. system. Meanwhile my Ludwigs, when mic’d, sound great to me. Still, when the mix out front is too loud I can’t tell. It’s misery for the audience if they can’t talk to each other or order drinks at the bar which is why we get paid!

When I’m on stage with the Rolands I can have a conversation with my band while playing live. There is no ringing cymbals or drums so we can talk about the next song we’re playing or if my tempo is too fast or slow. But with my Ludwigs, I miss the power and the intensity which is the reason I started playing drums in the first place.

I have a few pros and cons between electronic vs. acoustic. First off, since the Roland’s cymbals are rubber, or whatever it is made of, I don’t brake drum sticks or have huge chips in them, plus I love this one, my wrists don’t hurt as much after playing a two hour show because I’m not hitting metal rims or heavy crashes. Plus the setup time for the Rolands takes way less time to setup on stage.

The pros on my Ludwig set is that it looks cool on stage when the lights shine on them Ha! It’s easier to hit the drums without triggering a programmed rim (which I do often) and I can hear them without a monitor. Of course, the big sound is there when you just tuned them to your liking. Oh what a feeling! The cons I pretty much just described in the differences. You have to decide for yourself what you like. I’m just happy to still be playing out live and I don’t care if it’s on an electric or acoustic drum set. Like Sonny & Cher sang “The beat goes on.”

Visit The Rockinfellerz on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TheRockinfellerz/

 

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Inspirational Kids

One of the goals of our book FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids was to inspire our readers by introducing them to their peers. Here’s two obvious choices that we highlight in the book’s history section (click image for full-size):

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The Paradiddle

We all have our favorite rudiment. My personal favorite is the paradiddle. I just love the feeling and flexibility of it. A paradiddle consists of two single strokes followed by a double stroke, i.e., RLRR or LRLL. When multiple paradiddles are played in succession, the first note always alternates between right and left. Therefore, a single paradiddle is often used to switch the “lead hand” in drumming music. It is also common to accent the first stroke of each diddle (Rlrr Lrll).

For a little history, the word “paradiddle” is probably of an imitative origin. The history of these words (if taken apart) is: “para” (which means “beside” or “beyond”). It was spoken by people of Greece starting about 1000 B.C. and “diddle” (which means to “move with short rapid motions”) and is of unknown origin. In percussion, a “diddle” consists of two consecutive notes played by the same hand (either RR or LL).

Some songs that prominently feature the paradiddle are “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly, “Vaseline” by Stone Temple Pilots, “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane and “You Fool No One” by Deep Purple.

Mark Feldman over at Big Bang Drum School has generously posted a 100-page PDF of Advanced Paradiddle Exercises by Dave Tough. Tough was a drummer who was active from the 20’s through the 40’s. He played with swing bands including those of Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. You can read Tough’s bio over at Drummerworld. Tough’s approach to teaching the paradiddle is outlined in the Foreword of his book:

“I have designed this book for the advanced student who has a knowledge of the rudiments of drumming. The book deals with the three forms of paradiddles – single, double and triple, each form represented and mixed in each of the two hundred exercises. This will assure him of improved coordination, technical development and fluency of sticking in his practical day to day playing. It will be invaluable to the individual, while practicing these exercises, to play two or four foot beats to the bar. To my knowledge, this is the only book published that is devoted entirely to varied paradiddle exercises. In conclusion, I have found that too little time is devoted to the practicing of varied combinations of paradiddles, and it is my sincere hope that this book will prove to be an aid in acquiring a well-rounded system of drumming.”

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Four-on-the-floor

Some of the most underappreciated drumming came out of the disco-era. As a precursor to modern day electronic dance music disco made funk music approachable by the masses. Four-on-the-floor is a rhythm pattern used primarily in disco music. It is a steady, uniformly accented beat in 4/4 time in which the bass drum is hit on every beat (1, 2, 3, 4) in common time. I love locking in to a beat in four-on-the-floor and riding it throughout an entire song.

To make this beat sound clean and powerful you have to make sure there’s no flaming. Flaming is where one strike falls just before or after another. You want the beats to line up perfectly for a nice, fat sound. Practice this with a metronome first. Start really slow so you can train your muscles and your ears. You can do this at speeds as slow as 45 beats per minute (bpm). As you progress, increase your speed by five bpm at a time. When you work your way up to 120 bpm, you’re ready to play this drum pattern with music.

What I like about four-on-the-floor is that you can let the other instruments shine and create the groove. Syncopate heavily with other instruments, especially the bass. The easiest way to create some interest in a four-to-the-floor beat is to get rid of the kick every once in a while. For instance, try removing the first kick every 9th bar of your drop. Here’s a perfect example of four-on-the-floor in a classic disco song:

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Johnny Guerin

Perhaps the most famous drum break in television history came on the opening credits for the television series Hawaii Five-O. Johnny Guerin was the drummer on that session and his performance has been replayed over and over for years thanks to syndication. Appropriately, Guerin was born in Hawaii and raised in San Diego. He was self taught on the drums. Guerin learned by playing along with Court Basie recordings. In the late 1960’s he became a successful session drummer and worked with such notable artists as Frank Sinatra, George Harrison, Frank Zappa and Ella Fitzgerald. From mid-1972 to early 1973 he was the drummer for The Byrds and he also played in Joni Mitchell’s back-up band LA Express on tour during the mid- to late-1970s. He had a brief relationship with Mitchell and she later wrote the song Hejira about leaving him. Guerin had a diverse approach to the drums and was a leading exponent of the jazz-rock style. He was extremely prolific, and played in many different genres, including for film and television. In later years, Guerin worked with Oscar Peterson and Ray Charles. He also worked on the soundtrack to the 1988 film Bird by Clint Eastwood. Guerin died of heart failure on January 5, 2004 leaving behind a long legacy of music. No piece of work is more recognizable than his epic opening for Hawaii Five-O. (The theme song was covered by the Ventures, who took the song all the way to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968.)

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The Banda


Formed in 1506 and often called the “smallest army in the world” or the “Pope’s army”, the Swiss Guard have had a rich and storied history. Their main duty is to protect the pope and ensure his safety. Besides that, they also perform various ceremonial responsibilities: guarding the Apostolic Palace, keeping vigil at various Vatican checkpoints, and taking part in celebratory masses and events. They even have their own musical band called The Banda. Those who are musically inclined join it. The band performs each year at the swearing-in ceremony and other special occasions like Christmas or National Day. The drummers today can be distinguished from other Swiss Guards by their use of a different uniform. Visit Inside the Vatican: Christmas with the Band of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

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Guest Speaker

Back when I was more active in promoting my Civil War books I was a frequent guest speaker. I spoke at museums, churches, libraries, round tables, banquets, film screenings, and even wineries. I recently wrote a 30-40 minute presentation on the history of the Civil War Drummer Boy. In it I cover many subjects that present the history of the drummer boy along with specific stories of those that have left their mark on history. Included are the Drummer Boy of Chickamauga, the Drummer Boy of the Rappahannock and three Medal of Honor winners. I still have yet to rehearse the entire presentation but I may shop it around to see if I can generate any interest. It would be nice to get in front of an audience again. This would be especially enjoyable as it would allow me to combine my interests in the Civil War and drumming. I could promote three of my books to include Historic Churches of Fredericksburg, The Civil War in Spotsylvania and FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids. If you know of anyone that may be interested in this I am looking to possibly present it in person and/or online.

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