Showing posts from April, 2011

Expand Your Horizons - Part 2

Do any of you find musical inspiration outside of drumming? Outside of music in general? It’s a big Universe out there, with so many things to get our synapses firing. For me, I draw a lot of inspiration from reading, both science fiction, and science fact. I love reading Sci-Fi for it’s speculative nature. I find a lot of stimulation for the old brain box and imagination. I find reading Sci-Fi helps stretch my imagination & concepts. Transferring that to music, I am able to see beyond the box and look for new territory to explore. Reading science fact keeps me grounded. I read a lot on physics and the Universe. I find connections between things, patterns that exist in the natural world. These types of things have a direct relationship to drumming, as all things in the Universe are made up of vibrations . The current explorations in physics takes me deeper into the reality of our Universe and how we both, relate to it, and react to it. A good example of this is my just rele

On Being a Solo Percussionist

An expanded version of a blog originally posted on Tuesday, August 4, 2009. In the past 2 years I’ve written 3 books of drum & percussion solos. I’ve been working with my students on these various solos, and they have responded admirably. I’ve worked hard at getting them to see beyond the drum set, and think in a more broad percussion perspective. This is good. Lines have been crossed and they (my students) will hopefully never be the same again.  As drummers (read as drum set players ), we are creatures of habit existing in a realm of repetition, playing the same beats over and over again. We are also very dependent on the other musicians in our bands. They give us musical cues, melodies, chord progressions, points of reference…so playing solo is akin to being in a small rowboat in the middle of a very big sea. I remember the first time I played a complete solo performance of more than just a few pieces—it was terrifying—I couldn’t fall back on any clichés, or just groove along.

Expand Your Horizons - Part 1

As drummers we can often be very drummer centric. We watch and listen to other drummers, forgetting the rest of the musicians out there. It’s great to watch drum videos and shed all day long, but that’s such a narrow focus. If anything, I’ve learned more about being a drummer from paying attention to non-drummers. I listen to a lot of singers—listen to how they phrase, how they take the melody, how they move the song forward. I listen to bass players, guitarists, keyboardists, horn players, anyone. I also read the guitar magazines, the bass magazines, the keyboard magazines, the school band magazines—anything I can get my hands on. I want to know how other musicians think, how they feel, how they experience the music. That way I can be a better drummer by knowing what their needs & expectations for the music are. If all I know and think about is drum stuff, then how can I effectively play with other musicians? I also listen to all different types of music, not just rock or jazz

Listen To The Still Voice Inside (The Art Of Listening)

Expanded from a blog post on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 on my old blog. Sometimes it’s not enough to just play your instruments. You need to move beyond them, beyond their physical realm. When I play my instruments, I’m listening for the unusual, straining to hear the limits of their sound, and even looking past those limits. I want to know them intimately, to know what they can do, and how I can recreate those sounds. It’s important to me to be able to reproduce sounds in a consistent way. The very nature of percussion is open to so many nuances—the type of mallet, the type of stroke, the force used, the touch—so many variables, and all of them combine to form a multitude of sounds. Note: The other night I found myself just sitting in a chair in my studio, sitting in the middle of all my Gongs & Metals, just listening. I could hear them all speaking to me. I didn’t need to play them because I know their sounds intimately—I could just play them in my mind. While performing

The Sound of Silence

As drummers, we come up against a very different set of circumstances than other instrumentalists. For one, let’s look at the actual sounds we make. Other than the vibes, bells/cymbals/gongs, and perhaps timpani, we deal with extremely short sounds. Take a look at a quarter note played on a snare drum or a xylophone: on each note we are actually playing just the very front of the note. Now a string or horn player will play through the note, giving it the full time value, connecting to the next note. But as percussionists, our notes are almost always separated from each other. In percussion, if we look at successive quarter notes, there is, in fact, more space/silence than actual sound. Now let’s divide the quarter note into 4-16th notes. When we play, we really only play sound for the first 16th note. The other three 16ths are all space/silence. Thus ¾ of what we are playing is silence! So as a percussionist, we need to be very aware of the space between the notes.  How can we become

Copyright vs Copywrong

The author of this article below states that there should be no copyright (based on another blog he read), so I'm copying his article verbatim here for you to read: If You're Arguing That Someone 'Deserves' Copyright, Your Argument Is Wrong from the it's-not-about-what-anyone-deserves dept by Mike Masnick    Fri, Apr 8th 2011 For many years, we've explained why the debate about copyright is not a moral issue at all. Yet, whenever we get into discussions on it, sooner or later, someone makes an argument about how this or that creator "deserves to make a living" from their art. There are two things wrong with this statement. First, it assumes, incorrectly, that the way you make a living is from copyright. It is not. In fact, much of what we discuss on this blog are ways in which artists might be better off by not enforcing all of the privileges copyright grants them. But, more importantly, the use of the word "deserves" is especially probl

Make Your Own Soundtrack

Learning to improvise is a challenging thing, especially free improvisation. One fun way to learn is to gather up all your percussion and arrange it in front of your TV. Then put on a film (any type), turn off the sound, and create the soundtrack ! Create both the music and the sound effects in real time. Don’t think about what you are doing, just react to the film and the action (or lack of) on the screen in front of you. While this can be fairly easy with an action film—where there are crashes, explosions, etc.—it is really challenging with a slower paced film based on the relationship between the actors. Scenes like a dinner, a walk in a garden, swimming, etc. demand that we be creative in improvising a percussive sound track that isn’t just loud and drumistic. You can also do the same thing with a television show. For a real challenge, just hit a random channel on your remote and create the music for whatever comes up! Change the channel every 10 minutes. Try the same thing with r

The Myth of the Gong Police

I remember when martial artist Bruce Lee died. There were rumors that he was actually killed by some disgruntled monks who were not happy that he was giving away the secrets of kung-fu to the West! Conspiracy Theories aside, there is a similar rift within the Gong community, along the lines of, some people are using the Gongs for the wrongs reasons , or, some people just don’t play the Gongs right. And the self appointed Gong Police have taken it upon themselves to inform those wrong doers of their wrong doing! WTF? So who appointed the Gong Police to their position and what are they guarding the rest of us from?  It all seems so silly to me because, if anything, the Gong is a unifying instrument. And the last time I checked, there was no Gong School giving out diplomas and licensing people to play the Gong. The beauty of the Gong is anyone can play it, with no special skill required! While I do give Gong workshops and lessons, one of the first things I say is that “ this is what

The Continuing Myths about Cymbal Alloys & Hammering - Part 3

Big Companies vs One Man Operations There is a proliferation of cymbal makers out there today. It seems every other week there is a new company coming out of Turkey, saying “we make them the old way.” And now the Chinese companies have invaded, making Western style cymbals that get better every year. It’s a regular cymbal renaissance out there! As drummers, this is great. Never before has there been so many great cymbals to choose from! When I was a budding young drummer, there was just A. Zildjian in the US, K. Zildjian in Turkey, Paiste in Switzerland, and various Italian cymbals coming out of the UFIP consortium. And there weren’t all the different models & sizes either. Yes, these are great times for drummers & percussionists. But to me, the most exciting development is the rise of the individual cymbal maker . These one man operations are doing things the bigger companies could/would never do. The sort of do-it-yourself cymbal revolution was started by Welshman,  Steve Hu

The Continuing Myths about Cymbal Alloys & Hammering - Part 2

It’s not enough to just make a bronze alloy, you have to hammer it into a usable shape. So now we move onto the Myth of hand hammering vs  machine hammering. WARNING: their are fanatics on both sides of this argument.  Traditionally, going back hundreds of years, cymbals have been hammered out from a raw castings into a finished cymbal by hand . The reason it was done this way is because it was the only way available to cymbal makers! It was not until in the last century that various machines were designed that could hammer a bronze alloy. In both instances, the result is the same: hammering not only shapes the metal into a cymbal form, but it also compresses the metal and adds tension, which is important for musical purposes.  So the hand hammered companies and their fans often talk about tradition (which is really another word for nostalgia ). “Our craftsmen have been making cymbals like this for hundreds of years, and this is how the best cymbals are made.” They often

The Continuing Myths about Cymbal Alloys & Hammering - Part 1

Ahhhh, yes, one of my favorite topics. If there’s any topic out there that gets beaten to death as much as that of Tony Williams’ ride cymbal, it is that of cymbals themselves. The whole aura of cymbals is filled with myths, truths, half-truths, lies, and propaganda. And that’s just the good part! *Note of disclosure: Hey, I just happen to be a Paiste endorser, so you might be thinking, “That guy is really biased!” Well, I’ve owned and played cymbals by most of the major (and some minor) cymbal makers out there and liked them all. I’m not afraid to call them as I see them, for whatever company.  So let’s deconstruct some of these ideas: Alloys - The opinions are so varied I could write a book on just this alone—but I’ll try to keep it brief. It’s important to note that all cymbal companies put their own spin on the subject and their truth usually sits squarely with what type of cymbals are their main product. I can’t fault them for promoting what they do and want to sell