The Importance Of Connecting With Non-Drummers

As drummers, we can often be an insular bunch. We tend to hang out with other drummers, sharing stories, sharing licks, sharing ideas. While this is good to a point, we often end up sharing the same stories, licks, and ideas over and over. 
Drummers are a tight group. We speak the same language, we share an unspoken brotherhood. Attend a typical drum clinic, and you will find a room full of fanatics, ready to applaud at every beat played. Attend 10 or more drum clinics, and you will also tend to hear the same questions asked over and over:
What type of head do you use on your snare?Can you explain the beat you played on X?How can I play faster double bass/snare rudiments/jazz ride?What's it like to work with X?etc, etc, etc.
And that can be a problem. If our world consists of only drums & drummers, we're not exposed to other opinions, ideas, or thoughts that reside outside of the drumming box.

Workshop at Cal Arts
A recent example for me was as a visiting artist to Cal Arts, in…

How To Work With A Click/Metronome

The time to get acquainted with using a click track is not in the recording studio. For many drummers, that's their 1st time having to play along to a click. It's a recipe for disaster, and for an inexperienced drummer, it will be a futile waste of time (and money).

I've met way too many drummers who do not practice to a metronome, let alone even own one! This is not good. Whether you play rock, pop, country, classical, hip hop, marching, etc., you need to be able to play in time. Working with a metronome, drum machine, or click track can help you develop a solid sense of time. For the unsure, or uninitiated, let's take a look at how to play along to a click.

Ear to Brain to Arm and Foot

The most important thing to realize is that most drummers try to follow the click. This just doesn't work, because by the time you hear the click, and react to it, you are already behind.

From my experience teaching, I find that most students wait for the click. They wait to hear it be…

Velcro™ And Paper Clips Are Your Friends

Just a thought that came up this week, as I'm busy recording a new album for release in early 2017. Over the years I've used a lot of Velcro™/hook & eye fastener tape. I think it's one of the greatest inventions. 

Most of you are probably familiar with using it on the bottoms of your foot pedals so they grab on to carpeting under your drums. A lot of my snares and toms have a strip of Velcro™ on the outside of the top rim, or even on the top drum head itself. This allows me to attach various noise makers, like tambourine jingles, small bells, or bit's & pieces of mostly metal stuff to my drum head to act as an additional noisemaker when I play. 

Tambourine jingles attached with Velcro™
I also have strips of Velcro™ across some bass drum heads so I can attach various sound makers. It's easy to attach and remove them in an instant. This is such a great thing for experimental/improv percussionists (and even regular drummers wanting to add sounds to their snare dr…

A Conversation About 'Pitch Pairing' Drum Sticks

Drum sticks. Not a lot has changed over the years. They are still basically a lathed piece of wood with a taper and a tip on one end. Not really controversial in any way. But sticks are very essential to drummers, as they are direct extensions of our hands. The right stick can make all the difference in a performance.

This leads me up to a recent Facebook question and discussion about pairing and pitch matching sticks. I remember as a youth buying a new pair of sticks in a sealed plastic bag. Basically, what you bought was what you got. There was nothing done at the factory other than taking 2 sticks of the same size/designation, and putting them in the bag. I noticed back then that sometimes one stick would be heavier than the other. Or that one would be slightly warped. That was just the way things were, so you learned to live with it and got on to drumming.

Today's drumsticks: nice and neat
Today, sticks are usually in a cardboard sleeve, so you can take them out, inspect them, an…

A Bit of a History Lesson

OK, I'm going to show my age here, but for those of you who always seem to complain about finding the right gear (I read a lot of drum forums), I just say, “Shut up already!” Really. If you are in your 20s or 30s (even 40s), you probably have no idea about how good you have it today when it comes to the availability and quality of new instruments. 
Looking Back In TimeBack when I 1st started playing drums 50(!) years ago, your drum & percussion selection was limited. Unless you lived in NYC, LA, or Chicago (where the major TV, radio, and recording studios were), there was no such thing as a drum store with a big selection of gear to look at and buy. It was mostly mom & pop music stores, with maybe 5 drum sets, a few snare kits, a few cymbals, and some accessories (like wood blocks, tambourines,  & cow bells) in stock. If they did a lot of school business, they might also have a xylophone, timpani, and other related small percussion. That was it! 

And the selection was us…

It's Still Always About The Groove

In my life/career, I've played so many different types of music: pop. rock, hard rock, prog rock, country, latin, fusion, dixieland, swing, jazz, classical, and on and on. One thing they all have had in common is the groove. 

It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)(Composition by Duke Ellington, lyrics by Irving Mills)
Yeah, jazz (and related musics) have swing - ding-ding-a-ding-ding-a-ding on the ride cymbal. But swing is just another name for groove. Other styles might call it something else. The music changes, the label changes, the swing/groove goes on. Even classical music has it. Mozart and Beethoven knew, they made their music groove in its own way.

Nowadays, I work mostly in improvised music. I hesitate to call it jazz, although many people do, because it lacks that distinguishing swing rhythm. Sometimes it's played along to some sort of rhythm, other times it's what people call free improvisation. The thing is, when I'm playing, I'm always…

Less Really Is More

As musicians, we are always working on our craft (we should be), always practicing, always improving. That's important. The minute you stop, you start to degrade. You lose your edge, your facility. And as music evolves and changes, so should you. The way you played 10 or 20 years ago is not necessarily the way you should be playing today. Look at artists like Bowie and Prince, they played much of the same music over their long careers, but the music often changed to stay fresh, stay relevant. 

But let's look at technique. It's great to practice playing faster, better, in weird time signatures, etc. But how relevant is that in the real world, to the gig/s you play right now? Hey, I'm all for practicing everything, but the problem a lot of musicians have is building up all this technique, and an arsenal of licks to go along with it, and then thinking they can use it any and everywhere!

One thing I constantly tell my students is:

The song will tell you what to play.
Really, i…