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Showing posts from March, 2014

Deconstructing Your Metronome

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If you're like me, you are not a fan of the tic-tic-tic sound of a metronome. You probably don't like the robotic, mechanical feel either. I'm not against working with a metronome, and have put in plenty of hours working with one. But I've also come up with some great alternatives that often work better for me.

My trusty, well used, 20 year old metronome
One is to use a drum machine or computer program, and have it play some sort of funky drum beat. I much prefer playing my Pratt or Wilcoxen rudimental solos to a funk beat than a metronome. Besides being more interesting, I can also get a bit funky with my rudiments. This is also great for practicing hand drums, shakers, and even drum set. Program some sort of percussion part, with congas, shakers, and bell, to play along to. 

Another thing to do, is play along with recordings, but not play along with the song. What, you say? Find a song/recording at the tempo you want, and then just play along to it with your snare, perc…

Who Do You Want To Be?

As a writer, one of the best pieces of advice I've ever read was, "Write the kind of book you want to read." That statement is freedom in itself. Notice, it doesn't say anything about, "Write the kind of book you think others will buy." No. Not at all.
"Write the kind of book you want to read."
This goes for music too: Play the type of music you want to hear. It sounds so simple, yet is often so difficult to do. Why? Because we're always worrying about acceptance. About making money. About becoming popular/famous. But by doing things you think you should do, based on guessing the market, will you ultimately be happy?
So I finally abandoned that type of thinking and went my own way. It has been an adventure, an adventure of discovery. I have found so much I wouldn't have if I had just tried to create something that would sell. And I keep discovering more.


This is the real secret of life — to be  completely engaged with what you are  doing in the…

With Freedom Comes Responsibility

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The Art of Improvising - Part 2

In the 1st part, I wrote about how improvising is all about listening. That's certainly the main thrust, but to go along with listening would be responsibility. You need to be responsible for each note/sound you make. Even if you are listening, you can't just carelessly toss out notes and think you are improvising. As my friend, Swiss drummer Fredy Studer, once told me, “There's a right way and a wrong way to improvise.” He emphasized that you needed a strong foundation from which to draw on. While improvisation may sometimes look like people are just playing anything, there is a lot of hard work and thought behind what is being played.

In an feature on improvisation that I wrote in 1996 for Modern Drummer magazine, I asked Fredy what sort of things he worked on. He sent me a whole sheet of coordination exercises, designed to help a drummer be flexible and able to execute whatever comes to mind. So as much free playing that Fredy does, it'…

The Art of Interpretation

Music is a living and breathing entity. Remember this.

It's not enough to perform the notes on the page perfectly, or to recreate the recording/arrangement in detail. You need to make the music come alive. Otherwise, we could just have computers play everything. You need to put your soul into a piece of music and find a way to get beyond the notes, because the notes aren't static. The notes live. The notes breathe. And they want to be found, not just glossed over in a matter of fact way. They want to be explored and to yield up their nuances. 

Perfection is a hollow dream, it is a ghost that really doesn't exist. Yes, we want to play the music as best as we can, but not at the sacrifice of the soul of the music. If everyone sought the same perfection and achieved it, then everyone would sound like everyone else, and there would be little point in having different musicians, bands, or orchestras, because they would all sound the same. But life isn't like that, and it offe…