Pro Drummer Interview: Joe Crabtree

  • Posted on: 6 December 2011
  • By: Sheldon Kreger

With over 20 years of playing experience, Joe Crabtree isn’t just a professional drummer. He’s one of those hyper-obsessed, fanatical nerds who truly lives his art. Whether he’s transcribing a Dave Weckl fill, touring with Wishbone Ash, or designing software to analyze polyrhythmic, multi-limb orchestrations, Joe eats, sleeps and breathes the drums.

I had the great opportunity to speak with Joe Crabtree after finding him on Youtube. Looking through his channel, I was shocked. “Could this guy be REAL? It’s like we have EXACTLY the same taste in music!” It was a very pleasant surprise.

So, I decided to send Joe an email explaining our similarity in taste. I also gave him a few recommendations - especially the Lyle Workman album “Harmonic Crusader.” A few days later, I got a response back from Joe. But, not just an email message. Joe decided to transcribe the entire Gary Novak solo from the Lyle Workman song “Nothing Left Unsaid.”

This. Was. Awesome.

TableDrum: Drum with Your iPhone

  • Posted on: 17 October 2011
  • By: Sheldon Kreger

I recently recieved a message from Emanuel Dohi, a reader whose company - Dohi Sweden - has created a fantastic iPhone application called TableDrum. So, we decided to publish an interview about the software. The idea is that you play any variety of surfaces with your hands, your iPhone "hears them," and then awesome drum sounds are triggered! Check out the video:

If you are looking for a way to jam out on the go, TableDrum is DEFINITELY for you. I find myself tapping, pumping, and jiving all over the place. I usually just get confused looks as people flee away from my madness. However, with TableDrum, I can show them that I'm a real musician! Awesome!

Here is the question/answer session with Emaneul Dohi, Creative Director at Dohi Sweden.

What inspired TableDrum?

Double Stroke Roll Techniques

  • Posted on: 4 September 2011
  • By: sheldonkreger

Double strokes are a fundamental movement used on the drum set. By playing two strokes with a hand, we open opportunity to move the opposite hand to another part of the kit. However,there are many ways to play doubles on the drum set.

The first way to play doubles is by using simple rebound to force a second hit. As the stick bounces up, we restrict the motion and actively squeeze and push the stick back into the surface of the drum. Although this is probably the easiest way to get doubles, there are many shortcomings to this technique. The second stroke does not come through as clearly as the first, which can give a roll a strange lope. Things sound uneven and often sloppy. Another problem is that there is no way to force this motion on a soft surface. I almost never use this technique because there are much better ways to play doubles if you spend some time developing the skill.

Drummer of the Event: Jaki Liebezeit

  • Posted on: 23 August 2011
  • By: Sheldon Kreger

I will begin my Artist of the Event series with a German drummer named Jaki Liebezeit. This series will feature drummers who are extrapolating true, revolutionary artistic expression on the modern drum set. Later, I will also be posting an introduction to the work of Alain Badiou, whose philosophical effort has maintained the possibility for truly new forms of art to emerge. Check for this content in the next few weeks.

Drum Practice Pad Rudiments: Using Two Pads to Hear Patterns

  • Posted on: 8 August 2011
  • By: Sheldon Kreger

For a few years now, I've been doing all of my drum practice pad work on two pads at a time. This opens up a whole new world of practice away from the drum set. By simply using two different kinds practice pads, different sounds are created. This allows the brain to better adapt to the phrasing that each motion produces. In other words, you train your mind to hear the sounds that are possible with the use of any pattern you desire to play. It is easy to layer ostinatos for grooves, or to simply take a paradiddle and split it between the pads.

Although I do not maintain many rudiments as part of my playing vocabulary, I have personally benefited greatly from practicing the ostinato patterns on two separate practice pads. Claus Hessler's book with Dom Famularo - "Open Handed Playing Volume 1" - contains several sections which require coordination with the hands before the feet are inserted. These kinds of exercises lend themselves very well to the two-pad practice work.

Todd Sucherman: Methods and Mechanics II Preview

  • Posted on: 8 August 2011
  • By: Sheldon Kreger

Todd Sucherman, touring drummer for STYX, has announced the production of the sequel to the award winning "Methods and Mechanics" drum DVD. I own a copy of Methods and Mechanics, and it is fantastic. There is a fair amount of technical material on the original - double bass fills, rudiments across the drum set, and so on - but the real treasure was in just watching Todd play. He also offered great advice about making a career of drumming.

Here is one of my favorite drum performances of all time from the original Methods and Mechanics DVD.

Returning to the Drum Set

  • Posted on: 31 July 2011
  • By: Sheldon Kreger

Due to the nature of the instrument, drummers do not always have the time or space to practice drums. Many individuals find that returning to the drum set after an extended period of time is a challenge. Things just don't feel right. The sticks feel foreign in the hands. Nothing grooves. Timekeeping? More like time-loosing.

I have just finished a nine month break from drumming to focus on my research as a computer scientist and start my training as a Crossfit athlete. My body has changed significantly since I started training - I've gained 15 lbs and and my hands are used to pull up bars, dumb bells, and dead lifting. It really feels awkward to hold drum sticks at all. My grip is totally different. I tried to practice a few times over the past few months, but everything felt so foreign that I gave up after a few minutes each time. I knew I would get back into it, but I also knew that it would be a process, so I put it off. Now, I'm ready and committed to getting back into the 20 hour per week practice routine - no excuses!

If you haven't been practicing and have lost your groove, here are some ideas to get things moving as soon as possible.

Aquiles Priester - The Ultimate Metal Sound

  • Posted on: 30 July 2011
  • By: Sheldon Kreger

Aquiles Priester has been titled the "Best Heavy Metal Drummer in Brazil" ten years in a row by Roadie Crew Magazine - and that's no accident. The recording below has completely knocked me off of my feet. Aquiles is obviously a monster drummer, but it's the quality of the sound that catches my attention, here.

Amazon Link: Aquiles Priester -The Infallible Reason of My Freak Drumming

Hi-Hat Masters

  • Posted on: 5 July 2011
  • By: Sheldon Kreger

For drumming, one of the primary evolutions which occurred during the pop revolution of the late 70's through the early 90's was the emphasis of the hi-hat as a leading voice. Although the hats were being used as far back as the early 1920's, the development of more sophisticated mic and mixing methods really allowed drummers to dig into these instruments in a new way. Whereas early hi-hat use was primarily for time keeping, modern drummers now use the hats in sophisticated accent patterns as a key component of comping vocabulary.

Timekeeping - either pumping with the left foot on down or up beats - was a common trick even for early jazz drummers. Using the hat as a grounding point of the wild jazz drum set vocabulary allowed the drummer to maintain an external point of reference as songs moved forward. This trend continued in early shuffle music, when the pattern was propelled forward by the right hand on swung eighth notes. As time passed, the music straightened out, allowing the drummer to articulate hi-hat sticking in quarter, eighth, and sixteenth note patterns. This monotonous phrasing again provided a strong reference point in early popular music.

How to Choose Drum Sticks

  • Posted on: 3 July 2011
  • By: Sheldon Kreger

Drum sticks are highly specialized musical instruments. With so many brands making top-quality sticks, selection comes down to personal preference. It's easy to be nit picky when the market is as flooded as it is today. However, there are a few guidelines you can follow to ensure that your sticks are matched to your playing and personality. You need to buy and spend some time with many brands and styles of drum sticks to find your perfect pair.

Does the Brand of Drum Stick Matter?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: There are cheap drum sticks which will harm your sound and playing. However, all professional level sticks - regardless of brand - will be of equal quality. Although many will protest to this statement, I have always been happy with every stick company I have tried.

Professional quality stick brands include:

  1. Vic Firth
  2. ProMark
  3. Vater
  4. Zildjian

What Distinguishes Professional Drum Sticks?

All of the stick brands listed above make sticks with the following standards: