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 www.personality-development.org for this content in the next few weeks.
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, 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- Vic Firth
What Distinguishes Professional Drum Sticks?
All of the stick brands listed above make sticks with the following standards:
Every drummer knows that there are countless ways to play the same grooves. Using a variety of techniques, the same patterns can feel very different for both the drummer and the rest of the band. These differences may seem subtle at first, but the trained ear will recognize the different sounds each technique can produce. Some lend themselves will to articulate, fast playing, and others to slow, legato feels. Fast swing grooves really exemplify this concept clearly.
John Riley's Approach to Uptempo Swing Grooves
Mike Portnoy unexpectedly left from Dream Theater in September of 2010. The remaining musicians held an audition in search of their new drummer. They invited seven of the top percussionists of our time to participate in what is arguably the most high profiile drum audition in the history of mankind. Epic!!!
Who Won the Dream Theater Drum Audition?
Of course, most already know that Mike Mangini won the audition.
The Spirit Carries On
Dream Theater documented the auditions by video. The documentary is called "The Spirit Carries On." It is split into three episodes.
Basics of the Brain - Drumming is a Mental Task
Although often considered a very physical instrument, learning and playing the drums is primarily a mental feat. The complexity of the brain is dumbfounding. As any drummer will tell you, different parts of the brain communicate with the entire body to create a live, streaming flow of consciousness. However, few drummers understand even the most basic biological mechanisms and processes which manifest through this magnificent organ. This is unfortunate, because even a rudimentary understanding of the brain can create new levels of self-awareness which open space for immense self-improvement - both on and off the drum set.