Category Archives: Drums and Drumming

Why Do You Play?

Welcome to 2022. Let’s start off the new year with an exercise…Today I was inspired to post something a little more intimate than usual. In order for this post to be successful it will require feedback on your part and I look forward to reading your comments. The solicited response to the question I am posing is this: “What does playing the drums mean to you?” To help get you started I will go first. Playing the drums to me represents several benefits… 

First, it allows me to sharpen my creativity. Whether playing along to a recording, jamming with other musicians, or composing my own drum parts, creativity is a requirement to explore all of these situations. Drummers, in my opinion, are inherently creative individuals who are called upon to play patterns that often consist of syncopation, odd-time signatures and/or four-way independence. Doing something with all four of your limbs simultaneously requires a skill set that is rooted in creativity. Sometimes the results are very satisfying while other times it results in frustration. Either consequence forces me to press on with the goal of mastering an instrument that I will never-ever master. Being a musician of any kind is inherently creative. One of my favorite parts of my practice time is coming up with new and creative ideas using some skill set I just learned. The more I create, the more inspired I become to challenge myself. Creativity leads to inspiration which leads to more creativity.

Second, it brings me joy. Playing drums eclipses all other extracurricular activities that I do. It has been a major part of my life from the 7th grade on up. Whether playing in a drum line, on a stage, or in my bedroom, I can’t help but smile when I’m behind the kit or in front of a practice pad. Playing an instrument of any kind requires a lot of hard work and determination. Practice doesn’t always have to feel like work when you are enjoying what you are doing. To be honest, if I didn’t love learning the drums just as much as I do playing them I wouldn’t do it. I certainly would not have co-authored an instructional drum book or blog about it here. Even when I’m not playing I stare at my drum set with a sense of awe. When I’m not staring at them I’m either reading articles about drums in magazines or watching drum videos on YouTube. It dominates my attention span. Drums = happiness, inspiration and gratitude. It is what I do and what I love to do. I cannot imagine my life without the drums.

There you have it, why I play the drums. Now it’s your turn…

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

ATK Returns

Great news! After a brief hiatus, Around the Kit is returning to the Internet airways. Joe Gansas hosts a three-hour weekly Drum-Talk Radio show that features exclusive interviews with some of the biggest drummers in the business. For some reason Joe counts me among them as I’ve had the privilege of appearing on the show three times (*see links to each show under my Links section). Visit the ATK Facebook page for the new show announcement.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Confessions of a Wannabe

Today let’s talk about frustration and perseverance. I started playing the drums as a teen, 13 years-old in fact. As with anything new, it was both exciting and inspirational. But then the work started…Practicing exercises, reading drum notation, and playing rudiments over and over became quite the chore. It wasn’t fun that’s for sure.

The thing is, I wanted it. Bad. I wanted to play the drums so bad I suffered through whatever was necessary to proficiently play the instrument. After months I got comfortable. After years I got pretty good. But none of that would have been possible if I didn’t put in the hours necessary to call myself a drummer.

The drum book that I wrote with Rich Redmond goes beyond teaching the fundamentals of playing and reading. It’s supposed to inspire the reader to want to become a drummer. Our ultimate goal is to “light a fire” in the mind of the reader.

Now I’m experiencing the same situation with the piano. I was blessed with a 117 year-old beauty that sounds amazing. I got the beginner exercise books and Pianote website lessons and I’m slowly working my way through them. Honestly, it’s not going well. I’m struggling and many times my hands won’t cooperate. I must confess…I’ve dropped a few F’bombs.

That said, like drumming, I want it. I’m willing to put in the time as time permits. I go stretches without sitting at the instrument due to life’s commitments but when I do, I work. Am I having fun? I enjoy spending time sitting at the piano but not doing the repetition required to call oneself a “pianist.” I love the idea of playing the piano but I’m not in love with what it takes to get there.

So now I have to fan “that fire” in myself and put in the work necessary to competently play the instrument. I never expect to play the piano as well as I play the drums but being able to sit down and play music, no matter how intermediate, would satisfy me.

So that’s it. Perseverance is the key to nullifying frustration. If you want it bad enough, you’ll be willing to do whatever it takes to reach your goal. I’m a good drummer but a lousy pianist. I really hope to change that.

Will it always be enjoyable?

Absolutely not.

Will it be worth it?

Absolutely.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Be Thankful

During the holidays remember to be thankful to those who supported and encouraged your music.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Why Practice Never Ends

When I was studying world history a few years ago, specifically Egyptian history, I read about the thousands of slaves and indentured servants who helped to construct the pyramids. The Great Pyramid at Giza was built over the course of 20 years by 100,000 workers and was meant to be a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu. Many of the people who started the initial foundation of this massive pyramid did not live long enough to witness the finished structure

The same goes for research scientists who spend their entire career working on findings that will likely be passed down to the next generation of doctors who will then take the baton of knowledge and continue the search for a cure. Neither of these individuals gets to experience the conclusion of their labor. In other words both groups afford all their time and energy with zero closure. They do however witness the evolution of their efforts. This is what drives them toward the unattainable goal.

The drummer is much like the slave or scientist. Instead of construction or medicine, he or she pursues the mastery of their instrument. Glances of closure are experienced by learning a new rudiment or a difficult fill pattern but they are immediately stifled by the desire to learn more. The routine of practice requires a great deal of time and effort. Much like the pyramid or research findings a drummer’s skill level is in a continuous state of evolution.

It is said that “practice makes perfect” but most musicians know this statement is untrue. Practice makes you better but it will never make you perfect. Even the greatest drummers of all time struggled to reach the inaccessible level of perfection. It has also been said that it takes 10,000 hours of effort to master anything. The truth is it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be exceptionally good at something but that doesn’t mean one stops learning.

Just as the slave looked toward the sky envisioning the finished pyramid, the drummer must look ahead and understand the critical evolution of practice. To use the pyramid adage, practice is the building blocks of any skill set and one must build on that foundation for as long as they play the instrument knowing that they will never place that final stone. That is the essence of the philosophy of practice.

There is no end, only evolution.

Practice is a process. Here are some steps toward effective practice:

  1. Create an atmosphere. You may prefer to practice in a quiet room or someplace with more stimulation. Whatever environment you prefer, be sure that it doesn’t interfere with your mindset. Be comfortable physically and mentally.
  2. Warm-up: Like a pregame workout, warming-up is essential. A warm-up isn’t just about getting your muscles moving, it’s also about getting in the right frame of mind. Be sure to regulate your breathing.
  3. Set a Goal: Going through music and exercises that you are already proficient at is not practicing. Decide what steps you want to accomplish and work toward that result. After you achieve that milestone, move onto the next one.
  4. Be Realistic: It’s about quality, not quantity. If you aim to practice smarter, not longer, you will find yourself with a lot more inspiration to draw upon. By setting realistic goals, you will find you can overcome challenging areas much easier.
  5. Identify and Overcome Problems: Identify where you are stumbling or continuously using the wrong approach. Work out why it’s going wrong. Then decide how you are going to fix it.
  6. Being a Musician Is More Than Just Playing: It is important to understand your instrument, its repertoire, the history of it and why the music is written a certain way. Spend some time listening to great artists and recordings of the instrument you are playing and try to analyse what makes the artist or particular performance so great.
  7. Don’t Be Afraid to Write On Your Music: Don’t be afraid to scribble on your sheet music. Obviously some music does have to be treasured, but photocopy your pages and do whatever it takes to make it easier to interpret the notation. If you miss something once, make a mental note. Any more, write it in.
  8. Record Yourself: By recording your practice sessions you can listen back and spot things you may want to consider doing differently. Even consider filming yourself as well. You may notice tension that you were unaware of.
  9. Be In the Right Frame of Mind: It’s OK to take a day off or simply keep your fingers moving by spending 10-20 minutes playing something you really enjoy. It can be easy to get frustrated and forget to have fun.
  10. Reward Yourself: At the end of each session, remind yourself how special you are to be playing an instrument and treat yourself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Liberation thru Minimalism: One Drummer’s Journey to Self-Discovery

I started playing drums in middle school during the 1980’s, right at the onset of the heavy metal movement, when spandex-clad musicians with hair that defied gravity dominated MTV and the radio. I can still recall the outlandish drummers of that time, neck-deep in gimmicks that ranged from gigantic wrap-around sets to the use of chains in place of cymbal stands. Pyrotechnics trumped technique and drum solos became death-defying circus performances that seemed to go on forever. Overkill was the norm. The introduction of the drum rack empowered these players, who competed against one another to see who could amass the largest collection of toys. Like most fads it started out cool – and ended up comical. One can only speculate on how much scrap metal came out of this era.

As much as I enjoyed watching those types of drummers and their apocalyptic drum solos, that kind of showmanship was never “my thing.” I always favored the standard 5-piece kit (trimmed down to a 4 piece after Steven Adler made it cool to dump a rack tom) with just enough cymbals to get the job done. OK, maybe the occasional splash or china was thrown in for effect and everybody had a set of roto-toms and a cowbell, but for the most part, I wasn’t immersed in an avalanche of wood shells and compressed metal.

This “mainstream” approach served me fairly well for many years until one day I felt as though I had hit a wall. Suddenly, I had no creativity, no desire to practice and no excitement about exploring my instrument. I’m not sure if it was middle-age or boredom, but whatever it was, the feeling of discontent almost drove me away from the instrument for good. My stark realization was that I had invested years of practicing and performing, yet I never quite felt like I knew who I was when I sat down on the drum stool. I was lost and even worse, I was fake. My style was a hodge-podge of tricks stolen from drummers who I liked at the time.

I always had a solid groove, but my fills were never really “my own.” If it wasn’t cool, I probably didn’t do it. Frankly, I was trying too hard to be someone else instead of trying to be me. It took quite some time for me to figure that out and in the course of that revelation I began to strip away the very conventions that had become my mainstay. First and foremost was the need to redefine my kit. First, I dumped both rack toms, then the double bass pedal. The floor tom followed along with the majority of cymbals. This is where I began to make the distinction between ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ The more stuff I discarded, the more my voice began to emerge. It became a challenge of sorts to see if I could get by without something that I had depended on for decades.

Although something positive was obviously happening, I didn’t quite make the full commitment. I still had doubts about myself which were really fears…fear of trying something new, fear of failing at something I thought I was good at, and fear of what other drummers would think. This required me to push myself and go even further. I looked to the examples of minimalist players that were practicing a “use it or lose it” approach to their playing. These guys had guts and clearly did not cater to anyone else’s perception of what a drummer should be. I found myself becoming inspired by these unconventional drummers who stood in stark contrast to the drummers who I had looked up to in my youth. It was the polar opposite of the overkill approach that had defined my early years.

Eventually I decided to just go for it. The process required me to take an honest and sometime painful look at myself as a musician. What was I truthfully good at and what did I just think I could do. This led me to recognize my own strengths, weaknesses and passions for playing. That resulted in a renewed and even brazen attitude toward drumming. Soon after I found myself scoffing at all convention and tradition and committing fully to going my own way no matter how odd it may have seemed.

This “drummer’s block” I was experiencing had manifested in my adult years as I had lost my focus. I was distracted and in order to refocus I had to get rid of the extraneous things that had ultimately made me a poser. The result was an uber-minimalistic kit consisting of a bass drum, a snare, a sample pad and a hi-hat. That’s it. No toms, no cymbals, no distractions. Looking at my sparse setup I felt pride for the first time in a very long time.

What had initially felt weird, now felt invigorating. My playing immediately took on a new flavor and I was inspired. My pals who are pros had already figured this stuff out. Each one of them had already defined their own niche in the industry by being true to themselves. (That’s what sets them apart from the rest of us and makes them professionals.) Although I never tried to be like any of the drummer’s I had relationships with because it felt strange to me, I totally impersonated the drummers who had influenced my past. And since I was obviously not as good as those guys, I came off as a hack. At least that’s the way I felt.

After years of uncertainty, I finally found a configuration that truly worked for me and I could make it sing. Finding the right drum setup was key to finding the right drummer. For me, less is more and the philosophy behind that mindset is that more creativity is found within less opportunity.  Today, my fills are actually mine. My compositions are original and my chops have never been better. This is because I constantly strive for improvement and practice is fun again, yes even rudiments. I’m no longer trying to learn how to play like ‘so-and-so,” I’m trying to learn how to play like me. Other musicians who I am playing with are responding positively and they actually want me behind the kit, not someone who sounds like [insert famous drummer here]. 

My work as a drum journalist has enabled me to build relationships with many professional and amateur drummers from all genres. Many of these musicians are renowned players that I looked up to as a kid. Some even call me a friend which still amazes me. The wisdom that I have gleaned from these players has been incredible. They have taught me is that drumming is as personal as your signature and your drum kit is as individual as your fingerprint. In order to truly grow as a musician you must acknowledge that fact and embrace it. The journey starts there.

Find yourself. Find your style. Find your kit, no matter how unconventional or strange it may appear to other people. I haven’t been this excited about drumming or playing this well in years as I feel like I’m rediscovering the instrument by finally discovering myself. My conclusion in all of this is simple…It’s OK to look up to other drummers, but don’t lose sight of yourself in the process.

Be yourself! That’s where the REAL music is made.

4 Comments

Filed under Drums and Drumming

In the Pocket

In the 1980’s no band personified the pop rock genre better than The Hooters. With hits like And We Danced, All You Zombies and Day By Day, The Hooters were in regular rotation on the radio and MTV. Laying down the backbeat was David Uosikkinen, who sat at the right side of the stage up front with his fellow musicians. Sitting behind a bright yellow drum set, Uosikkinen’s hard-hitting style helped to personify the band’s unique sound.

In 1980, Uosikkinen joined a group of Philadelphia musicians to create The Hooters. The band was fresh compared to their contemporaries and combined multiple genres, reggae, ska, and rock and roll. After releasing six albums, The Hooters obtained a large following of loyal fans throughout the 1980s and 1990s. This led to headlining successful European summer tours in 2003, 2004 and 2005. In 2010, Uosikkinen began his own project, In The Pocket: Essential Songs of Philadelphia creating a fund raising campaign for the Settlement Music School.

Dave shared his excitement with Off Beat: “I’m thrilled to be talking drums at this point in my life. ITP has a show planned promoting, “The Philly Special” and The Hooters are gearing up for a busy fall. We will tour Europe in 2022. Our long awaited 40th anniversary tour will now be our 42nd anniversary. I feel lucky to be back at it again!” 

On September 25th, Uosikkinen’s vision will be celebrating their latest release. Press Release follows:

ARDMORE, PA – (August 27, 2021) – David Uosikkinen’s In The Pocket will celebrate the release of their new album, The Philly Special on Saturday, September 25th at the Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Ave; 610-649-8389). Doors open at 8:00pm. Showtime is 9:00pm. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 day of show. There are a limited number of VIP tickets (preferred seating) available. Tickets can be purchased at ardmoremusic.com

The 11 song vinyl and digital release is a celebration of some of Philly’s special songs, that David recorded between 2014 and 2021, with the help of members of The Hooters, The A’s, Tommy Conwell, The Dead Milkmen, Soul Survivors, Patty Smyth, Beru Revue and more! These are the songs that have impacted Uosikkinen while growing up in Philadelphia, a city rich with musical history. Join David and his band of all-stars as they cover some of Philly’s very special songs! 

David Uosikkinen’s In The Pocket will premiere the latest track, Young American’s at Ardmore Music Hall, along with a video documentary of the making of the song, by Steve Acito of BlueWire Media.  The Young Americans music video can be viewed hereThe Philly Special on vinyl will be available for purchase at the Ardmore Music Hall on September 25th. It can also be pre-ordered now at songsinthepocket.org, and can be downloaded on Apple MusicAmazon and streamed on all of your favorite streaming platforms. 

Visit Dave at his official website at: https://www.daveudrums.com/.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Man In Motion

Daniel Glass is one of the most respected teachers in the drum community. From his Jazz Intensive Weekend, to his clinics and private instruction Daniel has a reputation for providing his students with a first-class education. Daniel is also the drum community’s most respected historian and has a number of books and DVDs that tell the story of man’s first instrument. Daniel’s latest project is perhaps his most ambitious and unique. Focusing on the motion of the drummer Daniel is reconstructing the movements that the musician makes when he plays. This aids the drummer in his independence and flow around the drum set. By mastering one’s motion, they greatly improve their playing. Daniel is taking reservations for his new course “Finding Your Golden Groove” and has made a video series available prior to the class. He explains it here:

“People can sign-up HERE to receive a free six-part video series about groove, in which I share a lot of perspective about groove, the history of groove, and why it makes more sense to focus on MOTIONS when developing your groove than it does to focus on patterns (the typical way that drums have been taught forever). Signing up for the series means being added to the early-bird list for the launch of my new course “Finding Your Golden Groove,” which will drop September 20th (early birds will be able to sign up one day beforehand). The course will take the most basic rock groove that we all learned the very first time we sat down at a kit and re-teach it from a completely new perspective that I call the “Motion-Based System.” The idea is that when we focus on motions instead of patterns, our groove will be more in the pocket, and have a natural and authentic feel that follows the same principles used by the greatest groovers of the last 100+ years. What’s cool about the motion based system is that it work universally – it can be applied to any style of drumming, and any drummer can benefit from it, no matter what style they play.

To begin this conversation about the Motion Based System, I’m creating a YouTube series called “What Makes This Groove Great,” where I analyze the playing of great groovers across the spectrum, focusing not on what they’re playing, but on how they’re MOVING. The first video in the series features a deconstruction of Ash Soan’s playing. You can watch it HERE.”

As with everything Daniel does, this will be a first-class production. I highly recommend it. I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel twice for DRUMHEAD Magazine. You can read those articles HERE and HERE. Daniel was kind enough to write the Foreword to my book The Long Roll. You can read that HERE.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

RIP Charlie Watts

(Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)

Today I got word that Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts passed away at the age of 80. To say Watts was rock and roll royalty would be an understatement. He was the most appreciated and underappreciated drummer of all-time. Those who “got” Watts for what he was, the ultimate timekeeper, playing every beat for the song, accenting his fellow band members and shying away from the spotlight, consider him to be one of the all-time best. Those who didn’t consider him boring.

Watts became part of the Stones’ longtime foursome alongside singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards and bassist Ronnie Wood, anchoring the band’s blues-rock sound from his drum kit for more than 60 years. That’s over half a century with the same band! Always a reluctant rock and roll star, his true love was jazz and it influenced his playing. There was a swing to it. His drumming gave The Rolling Stones rhythm section a unique style. He didn’t care for flashy solos or attention of any kind and knew exactly when and where to drop in a fill.

When he wasn’t playing with The Rolling Stones Watts was an acclaimed jazz bandleader. His first jazz record, the 1986 “Live at Fulham Town Hall,” was recorded by the Charlie Watts Orchestra. Others by the Charlie Watts Quintet followed, and he expanded that group into the Charlie Watts and the Tentet.

In 1989, Watts and The Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the July 2006 issue of Modern Drummer magazine, Watts was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame, joining Ringo Starr, Buddy Rich and other highly esteemed and influential drummers from the history of rock and jazz. In the estimation of music critic Robert Christgau, Watts was “rock’s greatest drummer.”

Watts was also known for his wardrobe: British newspaper The Daily Telegraph named him one of the World’s Best Dressed Men. In 2006, Vanity Fair elected Watts into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame. It seems his influence was both on and off the stage. He will be missed.

Here’s a video of Charlie Watts doing his thing…

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Frank Beard

The sudden death of ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill sent me down a rabbit hole of the band’s catalog. It had been a while since I had focused on the band’s music, but they were one of my favorites back in the day. My parents had recently sold the house that I grew up in. The new owners removed the paneling that my father had put up when we were young. Apparently, he allowed my sister and I to scrawl a message behind the panels on the bare wall. My message? “ZZ Top Rules!” I remember when I got the famous Eliminator cassette. I stared at that cover for hours. And the videos? My god they were the coolest thing on MTV. That purchase was shortly followed by Fandango and Tres Hombres. This was around the time I started to show an interest in the drums, so I probably drummed along to their music on my first drum pad. Of course, like most budding drummers, I’m sure I didn’t appreciate drummer Frank Beard.  

Even until recently, I didn’t fully appreciate the contribution Beard brings to this epic trio. Most drummers say that Bernard Purdie or Jeff Porcaro are the kings of the shuffle but after listening to so many songs by ZZ Top I would put Beard up there.  ZZ Top’s trademark “Texas boogie-blues-rock” style showcases each member’s playing and the drumming clearly stands out. Why? Because Beard plays for the song. He has creativity and incorporates it tastefully but for the most part he’s keeping time and accenting the playing of the rest of the band. This is no better apparent than on the Eliminator album. Each drum part is meticulously crafted to support the song. Beard doesn’t overplay and he doesn’t underplay. His choices are perfect.

Beard has some of the most unique TAMA drum-sets that contribute to his unique sound. He uses Paiste cymbals.

  • 22″x18″ Bass Drum (operated with remote pedals)
  • 22″x18″ Bass Drum
  • 14″x6″ Starclassic Maple Snare
  • 10″x5.5″ Tom Tom
  • 10″x10″ Tom Tom
  • 12″x6″ Tom Tom
  • 14″x14″ Floor Tom
  • 16″x16″ Floor Tom
  • 18″x16″ Floor Tom
  • 12″x5″ Snare Drum
  • 16″ 2002 China
  • 16″ 2002 Crash
  • 14″ 2002 Medium Hi-Hat
  • 19″ 2002 Crash
  • 20″ 2002 Power Ride
  • 18″ 2002 Crash
  • 10″ 2002 Mega Bell
  • 17″ 2002 Crash
  • 15″ 2002 Medium Hi-Hat
  • 18″ 2002 China

Beard also incorporates electronics into his sound on albums like Afterburner. Here are some of Beard’s unique drum sets:

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming