Showing posts from 2019

When Good Ideas Go Awry

I was recently at PASIC in Indianapolis. Besides all the artist concerts and clinics, one of the great things is being able to go to the gear expo and see all the latest things, and most importantly, try them out.  This year I had the chance to once again see and test MAPEX's MAATS (Magnetic Air Adjustment Tom Suspension) mounts, and it's still as overblown and unwieldy as its name. Check out the MAPEX page here . MAATS Mount As you can see in the photo above, this thing is a monster. Designed by drum hardware guru, Randall May, it's a thing of beauty and efficiency. Yes, it works well, but it's so freaking big and ugly. The mount uses magnets and is adjustable for the amount of sustain on your toms. Sweet, but did I mention that it's  so freaking big and ugly ? I admire most of May's hardware designs. His marching carriers have become the standard for most corps and bands. But sometimes he can fall victim to over engineering a solution to what reall

Learning to Play 'Free Jazz'

This statement was posted on a Facebook music group the other day: 
“I wish there were more resources on learning free jazz drumming techniques or finding your style... Even the less skilled free jazz drummers make some of the most technical rock drummers look like they don't know shit...” 
I found this statement fascinating, as I play mostly free jazz/improvised music. There is a lot of misunderstanding and mystery surrounding this type of playing. And yes, many free jazz drummers have technique that would frighten away most drummers in other music genres. Playing free jazz with fellow drummer Paul Westfahl Defining Free Jazz I always found the term free jazz to be a bit bewildering. To me, jazz implies the swing cymbal pattern— ding-ding-a ding -ding-a ding — behind the music. If you are truly playing free , then there should be no repeating swing pattern. I prefer the term improvised music , because that is what it really is: music improvised in the moment. It

So Long Mr. Baker…

So here we are and famed drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. He lived a hard life, fraught with drug abuse and health issues, so it's amazing that he made it this far. There have been various times in the past that it was announced that he had died, only to turn out to be false news. Sadly, today it is true. I remember seeing Ginger & Cream on the Smother's Brothers TV show back in, I think, 1967. I was a very impressionable, young drummer and this was my Beatles  moment (I was too young to get into the Beatles on Ed Sullivan thing), propelling me to become a rock drummer. Over the years I devoured his drumming, buying and studying every recording of his I could find. He was one of the first drummers to really combine the white European military style drumming (straight 8th notes) with the black African style (triplets). He played like no one else. I was able to interview him back in the early 90s. I was fortunate to catch Ginger on a good day, and the

Sometimes You Just Have To Make The Best Of Things

It's October 1st tomorrow. Where has the summer gone? There were lots of gigs and lots of travel. And in between both of those there were new projects. Like upgrading my studio with almost all new gear, which is mostly still in boxes because the whole house is in disarray as we finally tackled some remodeling projects. I also bought a lot of new percussion gear, half of it still sitting in boxes, because, well, the studio has become a storage space until things around here are finished. But I figured it was time to get back to this blog. You Can't Always Get What You Want So what's a percussionist to do? You just keep working as best as you can. I am mixing a recording for my son, and had to rig up a mixing set up. So my new monitors are on 2 percussion trap tables, while I'm using the top of a short bookshelf for a desk to hold my MacBook and interface. It's not ideal, but it works. Sometimes you just have to make the best of things. Like with rented

Life Goes On

It's been a difficult 3 months for me since April. Besides a very intense schedule of both gigging and teaching, my 89 year old father's health took a rapid decline and he died. Between gigs, we were visiting him as much as we could. Since he died, it's been a lot of work to just deal with his passing and trying to settle his estate. Of course my blogs all fell by the wayside.  Next week (July 1-5) I will be in Chester, CT as part of the 1st Gong Summit . I will be presenting a master class and be a part of 3 panel discussions. I will also be hanging out all week and hope to have time to talk with everyone attending. I plan to blog daily about the whole event starting June 30 and going to July 6. Hopefully I will have the time and energy to at least post a wrap up of each day. If I can't post in detail, I'll do something later in July when I have the time. Watch for this on The Way of The Gong ™. After the Summit my wife and I will be taking a much needed bit of

Percussion As A Way Of Life

Percussion. It affects all aspects of my life, because I see/hear everything as sound and rhythm. I'm always listening to the world for inspiration: birds, traffic, children playing, the wind in the trees, rain, trains, water, machinery, driving, walking, sitting—these are all things that I find rhythms and life in. Silence. I drive an amazing amount of miles to and from gigs. While I do listen to music or podcasts, more often than not, I listen to the silence. I listen to the sounds around me and feel the motion of the journey. I find this a sort of driving meditation . I get some of my best ideas driving. The activity of driving occupies one part of my brain and frees the rest for thinking. I play things over in my head, work on various scenarios, debate ideas, and listen to the music of my mind.  Performing. I improvise a lot and think of it as a living laboratory , where I try things out, following different sounds and rhythms to see where they lead me. I record every pe

Don't Lose Sight of the Music

I look at a lot of the younger drummers and percussionists out there and marvel at their technical ability. They are doing things that we never even thought of when I was their age. In the past 50 years the level of sheer technique and ability among percussionists has grown at an astounding rate. I watch a lot of different drummers and drum videos. While I am amazed by many of them, and what they can do, I'm also bored by a lot of them. Technical ability is a great thing to have, but it needs to be balanced with musicianship. Raw, unbridled technique is interesting for a short time, but after the wow factor wears off, I find myself longing for some actual music. Many people, including drummers, knock both Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts for their lack of technical mastery. But there's a reason those 2 drummers have had such long and successful careers, and even now in their 70s, they keep going: they make music . Both drummers are masters of the groove. The Beatles or the