Category Archives: Drums and Drumming

Pros and cons of technology on music…

Today I want to discuss the effects of technology on music. No doubt the Internet has changed the way musicians communicate with one another. Nowadays, fans can email their idols, students can study with teachers abroad, and bands can audition new members from anywhere in the world. Thanks to the World Wide Web, musicians never have to be in the same place at the same time and the possibilities for collaborating are endless. Social media sites, to include Facebook, YouTube and Skype, have enabled musicians to connect to an infinite audience by posting videos or sound bites. Anyone can showcase their music, anywhere, at any time, to anybody. This capability can be a double-edged sword. I read an article lately that said that Google, despite being a great tool, has had a harmful effect on the learning process. The theory is that many people no longer feel the need to learn things as they can just look them up on the Internet using a search engine. I am guilty of that.

According to a Braathe Enterprise article titled Is Technology Ruining your Education? “Our generation’s experience with ever-developing technology is nothing short of mesmerizing; it is a process that simply cannot be ignored. Today, a four-year-old child is just as likely to play games on a portable tablet (navigating it with ease), as they are to pick up a set of Mega Blocks. As time goes on, the trends of using and heavily relying on technology for entertainment and education are becoming increasingly popular. Even though the advances in technology are truly amazing, many people worry that it is not only altering the educational experience, but hindering it as well.”

When I co-authored my first drum book I knew the print audience was our target demographic but once the book was released as an eBook the digital format opened up a whole new world. Readers could now download the book and corresponding videos instantly and view them on any device they wished. It is the speed in which we can acquire and discern information that makes the ‘Net incredibly powerful and scary all at the same time. We must remember that the foundation of music is the musician’s connection to their instrument. We must still learn how to play, cultivate our skill level, and practice. We must never let technology trump musicianship. Remember that learning is the foundation of all that we do and not all answers can be found on the Internet.

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New Album

Off Beat would like to congratulate our friend Daniel Glass on the release of The David Glass Trio’s new album BAM! The Trio is made up of exceptional musicians Daniel Glass on drums, Sean Harkness on guitar and Michael O’Brien on bass.

According to Glass the trio has been playing together off and on for more than six years. It took the pandemic to create the impetus for the band to capture their “musical mission” in a studio setting. The end result is BAM!.  

Daniel has been a close confidant of this blog appearing as our interviewee in DRUMHEAD magazine twice and as the writer of the Foreword in our book The Long Roll

Since 2010, Daniel has been the Monday night house drummer at the legendary Birdland Jazz Club in NYC. For 19 years, Daniel was a member of the powerhouse swing septet Royal Crown Revue, who are credited with pioneering the swing resurgence of the 1990s-2000s. 

BAM! captures Daniel’s gift as both a drummer and composer. According to the band’s website This album showcases the trio’s high-powered, freewheeling approach to group improvisation. Features an enticing blend of originals and some truly unique covers (including a wicked take on “Smoke On The Water”).

For more information, or to download the album visit: https://www.drumminginmotion.com/dg-trio

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RIP Taylor Hawkins

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sudden and tragic loss of Taylor Hawkins, beloved drummer of the Foo Fighters and a number of side projects including Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders and The Birds of Satan. Hawkins was not only known as one of the most talented drummers in rock, but also as one of the most genuine people to reach his level of stardom. The day of his passing, and for days after, tributes to Hawkins filled the internet from musicians and celebrities alike. It seemed that no one ever had an unkind word to say about the drummer and everyone who came in contact with him felt like a better person for doing so.

From June 1995 until March 1997, Hawkins was Alanis Morissette’s drummer on the tour supporting Jagged Little Pill and her Can’t Not tour. He appeared in the videos for “You Oughta Know”, “All I Really Want”, and “You Learn”. He also appeared on Morissette’s VHS/DVD Jagged Little Pill, Live (1997). In 1997 Hawkins joined the Foo Fighters, a role he would fill for over two decades while recording 9 albums. In addition to his drumming, Hawkins also provided vocals, guitar, and piano to various recordings. His final performance with the Foo Fighters before his death was at the Lollapalooza Argentina festival on March 20, 2022.

Hawkins’s first two major inspirations were Roger Taylor and Stewart Copeland. He reported that listening to these two drummers’ different styles showed him a wide spectrum of drumming. He also mentioned that he would play along with songs on the radio or records, like Queen’s News of the World, to enhance his skills when he was young. He also added Phil Collins of Genesis, Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, Ringo Starr of The Beatles, and Neil Peart of Rush as additional drum influences.

Dave Grohl, founder and frontman of the Foo Fighters and thought of as one of the best drummers of all time (Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, and Them Crooked Vultures) thought the world of his drummer and best friend. In an interview with 60 Minutes he said, “When you have a drummer like Taylor Hawkins in your band, I don’t necessarily miss being the drummer — because I have the greatest drummer in the world.” He added “He is a much more technically minded drummer than I am.”

Following his death, Roger Taylor, the drummer of Queen who Hawkins said had inspired him to get behind the drum set released a statement that said, “He was a kind, brilliant man and an inspirational mentor to my son Rufus, and the best friend one could ever have. His death was like losing a younger favorite brother.” Hawkins would have been thrilled for such a touching tribute from his childhood hero.

Nine-year-old Emma Sofia, a young drummer who met Hawkins just days before his death summed up Hawkins lasting effect on musicians and fans alike. “Taylor gave us something to believe in. He was, is, and always will be an inspiration.”

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A 3RDEYEGIRL

In recognition of Women’s History Month I want to take a moment to focus on my favorite female drummer Hannah Ford-Welton. I discovered Hannah as a member of Prince’s 3RDEYEGIRL, the legendary artist’s explosive four-piece rock band consisting of Prince and an all-female backing band. Her ability to play with the intelligence and intensity demanded by Prince, immediately caught my attention.

According to her bio: Formerly the drummer and vocalist of the Chicago based rock trio The Hannah Ford Band, the Milwaukee based crossover Christian band, Bellevue Suite, and her one woman inspirational Peace Love & Drums multi-media show, Welton’s versatile performance history covers all styles of music, from pop and rock to jazz. Launching her professional career at age twelve by joining a blues band with her trumpet playing father in the Windy City, she is the only female to win the Louis Bellson Heritage Days Drums Competition (2006).

Besides reading, rudiments, and technical abilities, Ford’s keen eyes and receptive ears are essential to her reactive drum approach. Much of this skill was forged with her four years of study with noted instructor Paul Wertico at Roosevelt University (she also studied with Wertico privately for two years before enrolling.)

Welton’s other regional accolades include being voted “Outstanding Jazz Musician” at Chicago’s New Trier Jazz Festival (2007) and “Outstanding Musician” at Chicago’s Jazz in the Meadows Festival (2007). Welton was named “Best Drummer/Musician” in Suburban Nightlife Magazine’s “Best of the Burbs” readers’ poll in 2008. She was also cast as “L.A. Coulter,” the onstage drummer in the 2011 Chicago Royal George Theater run of the Whoopi Goldberg produced musical “White Noise.”

Another expression of her love for the drums has been Hannah’s enthusiastic support for young drummers. Hannah spends much of her down-time reaching out to others at school assemblies with her “Peace, Love & Drums” multi-media show and giving back to students at drum clinics and summer music camps.

When asked about her feeling about being a female drummer in a male-dominated business she said, “It used to be that telling someone they hit like a girl was a put-down, but after watching the way women like Karen Carpenter, Gina Schock, Sheila E and Cindy Blackman play the drums, I’ll take it as a compliment. After all, what’s better than playing kick-ass drums in a rock ‘n’ roll band, doing what you love… and getting paid for it?”

Here’s an original track called “Women’s Intuition” that Hannah wrote, arranged, and produced with her husband (Prince producer Joshua Welton) for their band Counterculture:

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Black History Month

A decade before Jackie Robinson broke down baseball’s “color barrier,” the black jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton was making musical, social and cultural history by playing with Benny Goodman, the popular white band leader and clarinetist known as the “King of Swing.” Hampton was a perfect accompanist to drummer Gene Krupa and the two would play together over the years in multiple configurations.

Hampton started out as a seasoned drummer and played the drums for The Chicago Defender Newsboys’ Band, The Dixieland Blues-Blowers, The Quality Serenaders and The Les Hite Band, One of his trademarks was his ability to do stunts with multiple pairs of sticks such as twirling and juggling without missing a beat. During this period, he began teaching himself the vibraphone.

In 1930, trumpet legend Louis Armstrong hired The Les Hite Band for performances and recordings. Armstrong was so impressed with Hampton’s playing after he reproduced Armstrong’s solo on the vibraphone he asked him to play behind him during choruses. That opportunity began Hampton’s career as a vibraphonist, popularizing the use of the instrument in the process.

In 1936, The Benny Goodman Orchestra played the Palomar Ballroom. When John Hammond brought Goodman to see Hampton perform, Goodman invited him to join his trio, which soon became The Benny Goodman Quartet with Teddy Wilson on piano and Gene Krupa on drums. During his nearly four years with Goodman, Hampton became a household name in the swing world.

While Hampton worked for Goodman he recorded with several different small groups known as The Lionel Hampton Orchestra, as well as assorted small groups within the Goodman band. In 1940 Hampton left the Goodman organization under amicable circumstances to form his own big band. Hampton’s orchestra developed a reputation during the 1940s and early 1950s.

Hampton once again performed with Louis Armstrong and Italian singer Lara Saint Paul at the 1968 Sanremo Music Festival in Italy. The performance created a sensation with Italian audiences, as it broke into a real jazz session. That same year, Hampton received a Papal Medal from Pope Paul VI.

During the 1970s, Hampton’s groups were in decline. He was still performing what had succeeded for him earlier in his career and he recorded actively. Beginning in February 1984, Hampton and his band played at the University of Idaho’s annual jazz festival, which was renamed the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival the following year. In 1987 the UI’s school of music was renamed after Hampton, the first university music school named for a jazz musician.

Hampton remained active until a stroke in Paris in 1991 led to a collapse on stage. That incident, combined with years of chronic arthritis, forced him to cut back drastically on performances. However, he did play at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001 shortly before his death. Hampton died from congestive heart failure at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City on August 31, 2002.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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Be Thankful

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

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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.

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