MinusDrums.com - An Interview with Ken Florentino
I recently discovered a great website while looking for drumless backing tracks to practice - MinusDrums.com.
After digging through the impressive collection of drum set play alongs, I was excited to get behind my drum set and make some noise. It's really easy to get caught up in hand technique, speed drills, coordination work, and endless Youtube searching rather than playing music. And, for a lot of musicians, we aren't always in a position to be committed to a band. Drumless tracks are a great way to practice playing music.
And, with over 600 songs on the site, you can practice just about any style of music you want!
After exploring the site, I sent Ken Florentino - who manages MinusDrums.com - a few questions to learn more about him and the company. I quickly realized that Ken is a cool guy, and that he is working hard to expand MinusDrums.com to become an even larger library of drum set play-alongs.
Ken Florentino Interview
Sheldon: When did you start playing drums?
I was pretty young when I first got to play on a kit, probably 9 or 10 years old. I didn't know a thing about it but started playing with it. It wasn't until high school that I actually started playing in jazz band. I didn't read music, and I barely knew how to keep a beat (the whole multi-limb coordination thing), but I watched the other guy in class (he was amazing) and learned from him. I had played piano and keyboards and had sequenced drums, so I did have rhythm, but translating it to drums was challenging. I took a break and ended up picking up guitar and played that for 18 years before starting drums again in 2007.
Sheldon: Where did the idea for MinusDrums.com come from?
In 2007, I bought an electronic drum kit and was excited to finally have my own kit. It didn't long for me to catch back up to where I was, and I focused a lot on metal and double bass. I was immediately frustrated though by the lack of drum play alongs. I purchased a book and only liked maybe 10% of the songs on the CD. I looked around on the internet and couldn't find any good metal drumless songs, so I said to myself, "Self, you've played guitar for 18 years... record your own tracks."
I chatted about the idea with a good friend and together we started the site. I focused on making music (I wrote 30 or so tracks in less than 2 weeks) while he focused on making the site. We launched about a month after we first said "Go!" so we got the site up pretty quick. For me, writing 30 songs so quickly was a challenge, but it was important that we had enough songs up for the launch. We sold quite a few tracks in the first month, which was a great feeling. It's one thing to sell someone else's product, it's another to put your own music up for sale and have people buy it.
Over time, the idea of contributors came up to try and create more genres and styles, and I started reaching out to vendors that only had a handful of songs and suggested that they sell them individually on the site. Then, I started reaching out to some talented folks on YouTube and interestingly enough, people started e-mailing me asking if they could write tracks for minusdrums.com.
At this point, I've not done as much writing, but have been more focused on bringing in more contributors and vendors to help add to the site. I am sitting at just over 600 drumless tracks. I'm eager to hit 1,000!
Sheldon: It's always great to hear about successful projects like yours. It looks like your hard work has been paying off! Now, are there people who make videos from your songs?
Absolutely! We encourage the people who buy our songs to make videos. It's fun to hear how people put drums to your music. People e-mail all the time sharing their videos. I just recently added a "Featured Video" to the front page which has been neat because it has been directing a lot of traffic to those videos that normally don't get as much air time.
In spite of my love of metal, I did write a mellow tune called Impetus that a guy named Dave Goode jammed on. I really enjoy watching him play and the freedom he has on the kit. That's probably one of my favorite all time videos of someone jamming to a track from the site.
Sheldon: Do you have a favorite song on the site?
That's tough. I keep a list of about 100 of them that I load up when I practice and I bounce around and I think my favorite changes all the time. The one I come back to pretty often is one that I wrote called Weathervayne. I think I was inspired by the guy who posted this video (below) that I always go back to it. I like trying to play it like he did. I really dig the hi-hat stuff over the main riff and the cymbal chokes.
Sheldon: Awesome! I bet it's great to see other people playing your music. Thanks for taking the time for the interview!