Category Archives: Drums and Drumming

Ludwig Black Beauty

I planned to do an in-depth post on the history of the Ludwig Black Beauty when I came upon a blog post that already did an exceptional job. Check out “What Makes the Ludwig Black Beauty So Great?” by Kevin Osborn.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Quiet down!

It appears that drummers have been irritating people with their practicing since the days of the Revolution…

May 9th, 1778. General Orders

“…the Drummers to practice which will from the future be from five to six in the morning and from four to five in the afternoon, any Drummer that shall be found practicing at any other than the time mentioned above shall be severely punished…The use of Drums are as signals to the Army and if every Drummer is allowed to beat at his pleasure, the Intention is entirely destroy’d, as it will be impossible to distinguished whether they are beating for their own pleasure or for a signal to the Troops.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Talking Shop with David Raouf

Carpenter, Metal Worker, Welder, Electrician, Painter, these are just a few of the skills used to describe David Raouf, aka “rdavidr”. David’s YouTube channel presents DIY projects for everything from building drums to modifying cymbals. I first became aware of David’s work after doing a web search. I have a drum set that was wrapped in a custom wrap that I was anticipating selling. I was immediately taken by his videos and ended up binging through a dozen or so episodes. Over the next few days I spent hours on You Tube and watched them all. David cut down shells to build his own drums, repaired and rescued others, cut holes in cymbals, rebuilt his studio, gave tips for buying used equipment and shared drum hacks that anyone could do.

He is a natural on camera and his videos are professional-quality. David has a workshop that any craftsman would be envious of. That enables him to produce a wide variety of projects requiring a wide variety of tools. His home studio is just as nice and he is not only a craftsman, but a recording drummer and producer. David was kind enough to take some time between projects to answer a few questions.

MA: How did you develop your diverse skillset to accomplish all of these projects?

DR: I have always been into working with my hands. Whether it was playing with Legos as a kid or attempting to build model sets as a teenager I enjoyed the physical process of making. Right out of high school I started to watch woodworking videos on YouTube but never could justify buying expensive tools that I would only use on occasion. I had some basic tools from my parents, but nothing fancy. Fast forward some and I found a used table saw on Craigslist for cheap and thought, “Screw it, it’s only $50.” After learning how much easier it is to do a job with the right tools I was dead set on filling up my mom’s garage with as many tools as I could.

I guess that’s a long, vague way of saying that I learned as I went. For example, I wanted to build a cowbell but I didn’t have a welder. Instead of throwing the idea out, I went and bought a cheap used welder and learned myself. No matter how much I think I know about a subject, read up on that subject, or watch somebody else explain that subject, I found that I learn the best by doing it myself. Even if that means messing up along the way because it’s in those screws up that you truly learn.

MA: What project has been the most challenging for you?

DR: To be honest, I couldn’t tell you haha. Sure each project presents its own set of challenges, but it’s how I overcome those that makes it fun for me. There’s nothing better than the feeling of coming up with a clever solution to a complex problem. Though, with that being said, I will think through a project before I start filming. If I encounter a problem it may be months before I find the answer. And it’s those “light bulb moments” that motivate me to start on that project/video.

When thinking back to some of the bigger projects on my channel I remember how hard it was for me to start on them. Like when I built the drum shelves in my studio or recently when I built my studio desk. I dragged ass on those projects because I knew I would lose motivation halfway through and want to move on to something else. So I guess you could say those were the most challenging.

MA: Do you feel a great sense of pride in the work that you do?

DR: Typically yes, more so in the early days than now. Going back to what I said before about finding clever solutions for complex problems, those are the times I feel most proud. If I’m just doing something simple or a task I’ve done before a million times the feeling definitely diminishes. It turns into a job at that point. However, if I find a more efficient way to do that job or an interesting way to incorporate unique materials then the pride level grows.

Nowadays, when a project is all said and done I’ll stand back and think about how cool the concept is, or how sweet it looks, or how I saved money making it myself. After a few days I seem to not care about it since I’ve moved onto the next thing. That drum that I refinished and brought back to life is now just another instrument and the desk I spend forever designing and thinking through every single detail is now just another piece of furniture.

MA: Why do you think your YouTube channel is so popular?

DR: That’s tough to say… As niche as my channel is, I try to make it entertaining to watch while still teaching how to do whatever it is I’m doing. Essentially blending education with entertainment. Past that, there are so many copy/paste channels out there that do the same thing as everyone else. When I was thinking about concepts for my channel I didn’t want to be another drum cover channel or a guy that offers lessons. There are so many others that are better at that than me. Plus, it’s a flooded market that’s hard to stand out in. I wanted my channel to be something fresh that has never been done before. Apparently, it’s so niche that, still, no one else makes the same type of content. Therefore, everyone is forced to watch me. Ha!

For more information, visit David online at:

https://www.youtube.com/user/rdavidr

https://www.instagram.com/davidraouf/

https://www.facebook.com/therdavidr

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Bun E. Carlos

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos. He’s one of the first drummers I remember reading about in Modern Drummer and I’ve always respected the music of Cheap Trick when I hear it on the radio. Bun E Carlos is an amazing traditional rock drummer and unfortunately he’s often left off the list of the genre’s best. In case you’re not familiar with Carlos, his style is heart pounding. He is left-handed and plays a right-handed drum kit. He is also ambidextrous. He also has mastered the art of smoking while playing as he’s usually puffing on a butt as he’s splintering his drum set.

Things have not always been perfect in the Cheap Trick camp. On March 19, 2010, the band issued a statement that Carlos had stopped touring with Cheap Trick but that he still remained a band member. Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx was named in the statement as the touring drummer. In 2013, Carlos filed a lawsuit against his former Cheap Trick bandmates. On February 26, 2015, Cheap Trick announced that the lawsuit was over. According to Carlos he still has a 25% stake in the band. He also appeared with Cheap Trick on April 4, 2016 as the band was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Carlos has founded several other bands to include The Bun E. Carlos Experience, the Monday Night Band and Tinted Windows. In 2004 he released Bun E. in a Box, a drum sample CD. He also has one of the most impressive collections of Ludwig drums in the business. Carlos did a clinic presenting the history of some of the most influential drum licks in the history of Rock and Roll:

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Tragic Story of Edward Lee

It’s been a while since I posted something on the Civil War Drummer Boy. Here is the story of Edward Lee. Taken from The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events.

CAMP BENTON, Friday, Dec. 20, 1861.

A few days before our regiment received orders to join Gen. Lyon, on his march to Wilson’s Creek, the drummer of our company was taken sick and conveyed to the hospital, and on the evening preceding the day that we were to march, a negro as arrested within the lines of the camp, and brought before our Captain, who asked him, “what business he had within the lines?” He replied, “I know a drummer that you would like to enlist in your company, and I have come to tell you of it?” He was immediately requested to inform the drummer that if he would enlist for our short term of service, he would be allowed extra pay, and to do this, he must be on the ground early in the morning. The negro was then passed beyond the guard.

On the following morning there appeared before the Captain’s quarters, during the beating of the reveille, a good-looking, middle-aged woman, dressed in deep mourning, leading by the hand a sharp, sprightly-looking boy, apparently about 12 or 13 years of age. Her story was soon told. She was from East Tennessee, where her husband had been killed by the rebels, and all their property destroyed. She had come to St. Louis in search of her sister, but not finding her, and being destitute of money, she thought if she could procure a situation for her boy as a drummer for the short time that we had to remain in the service, she could find employment for herself, and perhaps find her sister by the time we were discharged.

During the rehearsal of her story the little fellow kept his eyes intently fixed upon the countenance of the Captain, who was about to express a determination not to take so small a boy, when he spoke out, “Don’t be afraid, Captain, I can drum.” This was spoken with so much confidence, that the Captain immediately observed, with a smile. “Well, well, Sergeant, bring the drum, and order our fifer to come forward.” In a few moments the drum was produced, and our fifer, a tall, round-shouldered, good-natured fellow, from the Dubuque mines, who stood, when erect, something over six feet in height, soon made his appearance.

Upon being introduced to his new comrade, he stooped down, with his hands resting upon his knees, that were thrown forward into an acute angle, and after peering into the little fellow’s face a moment, he observed, “My little man, can you drum?” “Yes, Sir,” he replied, “I drummed for Cant. Hill in Tennessee.” Our fifer immediately commenced straightening himself upward until all the angles in his person had disappeared, when he placed his fife in his mouth and played the “Flowers of Edenborough,” one of the most difficult things to follow with the drum that could have been selected, and nobly did the little fellow follow him, showing himself to be a master of the drum. When the music ceased, our Captain turned to the mother and observed, “Madam, I will take your boy. What is his name?” “Edward Lee,” she replied; then placing her hand upon the Captain’s arm, she continued: “Captain, if he is not killed — ” here her maternal feelings overcame her utterances, and she bent down over her boy and Kissed him upon the forehead. As she arose, she observed, “Captain, you will bring him back with you, won’t you?” “Yes, yes,” he replied, “We will be certain to bring him back with us. We shall be discharged in six weeks.”

In an hour after, our company led the Iowa First of our camp, our drum and fife playing “The girl I left behind me.” Eddie, as we called him, soon became a great favorite with all the men in the company. When any of the boys had returned from a horticultural excursion, Eddie’s share of the peaches and melons was the first apportioned out. During our heavy and fatiguing march from Rolla to Springfield, it was often amusing to see our long-legged filer wading through the mud with our little drummer mounted upon his back — and always in that position when fording streams.

During the fight at Wilson’s Creek, I was stationed with a part of our company on the right of Totton’s Battery, while the balance of our company, with a part of the Illinois Regiment, was ordered down into a deep ravine upon our left, in which it was known a portion of the enemy was concealed, with whom they were soon engaged. The contest in the ravine continuing some time, Totton suddenly wheeled his battery upon the enemy in that quarter, when they soon retreated to the high ground behind their lines. In less than twenty minutes after Totton had driven the enemy from the ravine, the word passed from man to man throughout the array, “Lyon is killed,” and soon after, hostilities having ceased upon both sides, the order came for our main forces to fall back upon Springfield, while a part of the Iowa First and two companies of the Missouri Regiment were to camp upon the ground and cover the retreat next morning. That night I was detailed for guard duty, my turn of guard closing with the morning call. When I went out with the officer as a relief, I found that my post was upon a high eminence that overlooked the deep ravine in which our men had engaged the enemy, until Totton’s Battery came to their assistance. It was a dreary, lonesome beat. The moon had gone down in the early part of the night, while the stars twinkled dimly through a hazy atmosphere, lighting up imperfectly the surrounding objects.

Occasionally I would place my ear near the ground and listen for the sound of footsteps, but all was silent save the far-off howling of the wolf, that seemed to scent upon the evening air the banquet that we had been preparing for him. The hours passed slowly away, when at length the morning light began to streak along the eastern sky, making surrounding objects more plainly visible. Presently I heard a drum beat up the morning call. At first I thought it came from the camp of the enemy across the creek; but as I listened I found that it came up from the deep ravine; for a few minutes it was silent, and then as it became more light I heard it again. I listened — the sound of the drum was familiar to me — and I knew that it was our drummer-boy from Tennessee beating for help the reveille.

I was about to desert my post to go to his assistance, when I discovered the officer of the guard approaching with two men. We all listened to the sound, and were satisfied that it was Eddy’s drum. I asked permission to go to his assistance. The officer hesitated, saying that the orders were to march in twenty minutes. I promised to be back in that time, and he consented, I immediately started down the hill through the thick undergrowth, and upon reaching the valley, I followed the sound of the drum, and soon found him seated upon the ground, his buck leaning against the trunk of a fallen tree, while his drum hung upon a bush in front of him, reaching nearly to the ground. As soon as he discovered me, he dropped his drumsticks and exclaimed, “O, Corporal, I am so glad to see you! Give me a drink,” reaching out his hand for my canteen, which was empty. I immediately turned to bring him some water from the brook that I could hear rippling through the bushes nearby, when, thinking that I was about to leave him, he commenced crying, saying, “Don’t leave me, Corporal — I can’t walk.” I was soon back with the water, when I discovered Unit both of his feet had been shot away by a cannon ball.

After satisfying his thirst, he looked up into my face and said: “You don’t think I will die, Corporal, do you? This man said I would not — he said the surgeon could cure my feet.” I now discovered a man lying in the grass near him. By his dress I recognized him as belonging to the enemy. It appeared that he had been shot through the bowels, and had fallen near where Eddy lay. Knowing that he could not live, and seeing the condition of the boy, he had crawled to him, taken off his buckskin suspenders, and corded the little fellow’s legs below the knee, and then lay down and died. While he was telling me these particulars, I heard the tramp of cavalry coming down the ravine, and in a moment a scout of the enemy was upon us, and I was taken prisoner. I requested the officer to take Eddy up in front of him, and he did so, carrying him with great tenderness and care. When we reached the camp of the enemy the little fellow was dead.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Passing the Time

I trust you are enjoying your time under self-quarantine. Someday we will look back on this experience and hopefully we will be able to say that we used our time wisely. Of course one of the benefits of having so much free time is the extra hours we have to practice. I have been spending time in the drum room working on exercises that I might not have otherwise spent time on. Displacement has been one of the exercises I have been spending time on. I enjoy the challenge it brings as you can apply it to any pattern. The key is to be able to apply proper coordination and independence. Here are the two videos I am using (Mike Johnston & Brandon Scott). I started out slowly and I am progressing slowly but surely.

Also…My friend and co-author Rich Redmond has generously released the transcriptions to the drum parts he performed on eight Jason Aldean records. These usually run for $15.99 a pop. You can download all of them for FREE to help pass the time. Go to: https://richredmond.com/shop/.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Bridging the Gap

Those of you that frequent this blog know my affinity for the mixing of electronic and acoustic drums. I spend time going between both kinds of kits and have worked with triggers and sample pads in the past. I recently came upon someone who is bridging the gap between electronic and acoustic sounds. His name is Ran Levari and his YouTube channel is titled Breakbeat Meditations. Ran’s creativity shines through in his experimental compositions that truly exhibit what can be done. Through the use of electronic devices, sample pads, and a simple kit Ran incorporates unique beats that he accentuates within creative drum sounds. I had the pleasure of asking Ran a few questions about his drumming:

MA: When did you start incorporating acoustic drums and electronic instruments?

RL: I’ve been using electronic equipment in my setup since 2003, although by that time I was already heavily into electronic and sample based music. I grew up listening to Metal and Punk-Rock. The natural progression from there was hard Hip-Hop and Electronic music – that was in the mid 90’s. I used to go to lots of Jungle Raves and absorbed those sounds and all the Chillout tracks that were played after the party was done. Back then I played a lot of that music live, trying to get the same sounds and feel of the electronic beats from my acoustic kit.

During that time I also got into playing indigenous percussion instruments and studying the different rhythms and techniques. I played Congas, Bongos, Frame drums, Djembe and Djun-Djun in various ensembles and my kit was packed with bells, hand drums and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. (Literally…)  I was so concentrated on my percussion studies that another discipline seemed too much and I let the initial DAW craze pass me by.

It was while living in NYC in early 2000’s that I realized I can’t depend on anyone else to write my musical ideas for me and I bought some basic electronic equipment – just a laptop, a sound card and some software. From there to implementing those sounds directly into my kit was an obvious step but it took me a while to figure out how to do it well enough that it felt like a single unit.

I started out with the Roland pads – the SPD-S and the Handsonic. Both I still love and use quite a lot. After that came the Korg Kaoss pad and the Elektron Octatrack which turned out to be the hub for my live setup. I used some more controllers over the years, but most I left in favor of a simpler setup.

I try to treat electronic equipment the same way I treat other instruments. I’m a percussionist, I’ll press down on a drum head to muffle the sound of a stroke or turn a knob on a filter to cut off a high frequency – it’s the same thing to me. (At least conceptually.)

MA: What challenges are there using acoustic drums and electronic instruments?

RL: The technical side of things is definitely a challenge. It can be hard enough to be on top of a drum kit. Add to that a multi-effect sequencer, triggers, mics, midi splitters, a laptop and a sound card – each with their own eccentric behavior and a 15 minute change-over before your festival slot can be quite stressful…But that becomes easier with experience.

For me the greater challenge is musical in nature – it’s trying to meld the acoustic and electronic pieces of gear to one organic set and not get too technical about the instrument as a whole – to keep it playful and interesting for myself and hopefully for my audience. It’s very easy to lose yourself in a sea of endless possibilities when augmenting your kit with electronics. That creates situations where too many options are paralyzing and you find yourself having to ‘work’ for your gear instead of having it work for you. Too many samples, too many knobs to turn, it gets messy. That’s why I tend to favor hardware to laptops – it keeps me focused on less options and that in turn makes me more creative.

Going back to my percussion background – that’s exactly what some of my heroes excel at – master like Zakir Hussain and Giovanni Hidalgo can keep you mesmerized for a very long time by playing just one or two drums. I try to adopt some principals from the older drum traditions and adapt them to my needs – mainly the idea of the drummer as a story-teller.

MA: Can you give us a rundown of your acoustic drums and electronic instruments?

RL:

ACOUSTIC:

  • 1967 Slingerland kit
  • 70’s Premier kit
  • 1965 Slingerland Maple SD  14”x5.5”
  • Early 70’s Ludwig Supraphonic SD 14”x6.5”
  • Assorted found drums – Japanese, East-European etc.
  • Assorted vintage cymbals 60’s – 80’s – Zildjian, Sabian, Paiste

ELECTRONIC:

  • Roland SPD-S
  • Nord Drum 3p
  • Elektron Octatrack
  • Korg Kaosspad 3
  • RME Fireface 400 sound card
  • Bome midi translator
  • Kenton midi splitter
  • Macbook Pro
  • Ableton Live
  • Propellerheads Reason
  • Custom made headphones – Peltor casing with Sony membranes

For more information on Ran and his unique style, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNvg6qpcFi86HG-nBSQosZw/videos

https://www.instagram.com/ran.levari/

https://www.facebook.com/levari.music/

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Half a Decade!

This month marks the five year anniversary of the Off Beat blog. Who knew back in March of 2015 it would still be going strong. Over the last five years I’ve posted over 550 posts to include exclusive interviews, drum history, gear reviews, music transcriptions, and more. I want to thank everyone who visits this blog and keeps it running. I average thousands of hits from hundreds of countries each month and that is what keeps me going. I promise to keep on coming up with new content as long as you keep on reading it. Now I’ll open this virtual bottle of celebratory champagne. Cheers!

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

Practice


Today I’d like to discuss the first (and most often) thing that we do as drummers. That of course is practice. It’s a dirty little schizophrenic word in every musician’s vocabulary that means both agony and ecstasy. Who doesn’t remember sitting at a drum pad for hours on end practicing sticking exercises and rudiments? How about working endlessly at the drum set on three way independence and syncopation? “Practice makes perfect” some say. Wrong! Practice makes you better. No one’s perfect.

That said, practice is perhaps the most important thing that we do. Establishing muscle memory, maintaining consistent time and getting the proper feel is an absolute necessity. Therefore the exercises that we do over-and-over-and-over are critical. Just like an athlete must sharpen their mind and body, so too does the drummer. Many people don’t know that there is a correct and incorrect way to practice. The biggest mistake that drummers make when practicing is trying to sound good. That defeats the whole purpose and stifles any growth or potential.

If you are really trying to get better you should struggle. That means you are learning. Only by challenging yourself, exploring places you’ve never been to and having the courage to take chances can you improve as a player. There is an old saying used by ballerinas that goes “Dance like no one is watching.” What an amazing concept. Practice like no one is watching. Be brave. Go for it. That’s how you learn. That’s how you improve.  If it sounds good you’re not learning anything.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming

The World’s Fastest Drummer


Barrett Deems was known as “the world’s fastest drummer.” With a reputation like that he earned premier billing at Chicago’s Randolph Square in the 1940s and accolades from Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. Beyond speed, it was Deems’s impeccable swing and bandstand drive that enabled him to maintain a career over seven decades. Deems was born in Springfield, Illinois, in 1914. He started out backing famed jazz violinist Joe Venuti from 1937 to 1945. He achieved his greatest acclaim as a member of Louis Armstrong’s prestigious All-Stars band. Between 1953 and 1961, Deems played on classic albums such as Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy and appeared in films like High Society  with Armstrong and Bing Crosby and Satchmo The Great.

Deems travelled the world with Armstrong on tours sponsored by the US State Department. At a concert in Ghana, Deems’s drum feature “Mop Mop” so excited the 100,000 crowd that a riot broke out. After leaving Armstrong, Deems performed with Joe Kelly’s Gaslight Band, and made periodic appearances with The World’s Greatest Jazz Band. In 1976 Deems toured Europe with Benny Goodman, in ’81 he traveled to South America with Bill Davison, and in ’86 he spent six weeks in Europe for the filming of The Wonderful World Of Louis Armstrong.

He continued to remain a big presence in Chicago and continuously fronted his own bands, including the Barrett Deems 18-Piece Big Band. According to an article in the Independent: “Researching for a programme on Armstrong a few years ago, the radio presenter and producer called at Deems’s home. It reflected the drummer’s personality. By now he collected drums and one bedroom was jammed to the ceiling with them. One of the largest was a bass drum that had been used in John Philip Sousa’s original brass band.”

Deems nearly died from a collapsed lung in 1993 but determinedly rose from his bed and continued to lead and play with the band each week until his death. You can hear Deems discuss Jazz Drumming on the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.

Leave a comment

Filed under Drums and Drumming