Friday, September 4, 2009

Vinnie Colaiuta - Freak...

How many drummers had that "what the heck was that?" effect on you when you first heard them? Vinnie Colaiuta was one of those players for me. Back in the 80's Vinnie kept popping up on wierd recordings. I first heard him on a Zappa album. Next I heard him on a Gino Vinelli album of all places. Then Joni Mitchell and a host of other artists that were not what I would call musically related. I recently heard him kicking the crap out of the big band backing up Paul Anka on his Rock Swings album. The cat can play it all, and in way that seems so effortless.

Vinnie was the first "fusion" drummer I heard that could make the outside things he played sound inside. I would listen to some of the things he played and truly had no earthly idea what he was doing.

We all have heard things on records that we had to figure out. Fills or grooves that drove us nuts that had us needle dropping on the turntable for hours. Vinnie did that to me on a Joni Mitchell album called Wild Things Run Fast. The tune was called Dream Flat Tires. Vinnie played a straight shuffle with bursts of a cool afro-cuban 6/8 feel. Towards the end of the tune he played a cool fill that really grabbed my ear.

I have attached a 5 minute lesson video that breaks it down. Check it out:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Linear Grooves

I love Steve Gadd's playing. As a teenage drummer in the late 70's I burned the grooves off of several copies of Steely Dan's Aja album trying to learn Gadd's solo sections on Aja. It was a gift when Modern Drummer published a transcription of his solo. No computers and software back then to slow things down. No DVD video instruction by the artist to explain the sticking. Just listening over and over working on different possible combinations and stickings. The Aja album led to the pursuit of other Gadd performances on vinyl which helped introduce me to artists like Chick Corea, Tom Scott, Ben Sidran, and the band Stuff.

Many of his performances contain examples of linear drumming. Gary Chaffee developed the school of linear drumming with his book Linear Time Keeping. It is a great book that helped explain a lot of what Gadd was playing.

I decided to share a little of what I know about linear drumming with a short instructional video that breaks down one of Steve Gadd's grooves. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And now, for more on triplets...

In looking through the blog the other day I noticed a major hole in the content: We're running a blog about drumming and we haven't touched on any practical or technical playing advice! Well the blog is about the journey of learning the drums, and last night I came up with an exercise that I realized I needed to improve my own playing, so I decided to share it with the world.

As you may have guessed by virtue of reading the title of this post, I'm talking triplets. As every drummer should, I've thought a lot about triplets; timing and coordination, placement and voicing, accents and patterns. Once you get the timing of a triplet as it falls against the quarter note, you start moving them around the toms and incorporating the kick drum. These are things I've been working on for years. When it comes to triplet patterns and incorporating the kick drum, I start to get creatively excited. Here's what I do:

For purposes of this post, K=Kick drum, R=Right hand, and L=Left hand (we'll leave that left foot out of it for the time being). My standard 'triplet pattern with a kick' practice involved essentially 3 combinations: KRL, RKL, and RLK. So I've learned to put the kick drum at the front, in the middle, and at the back of the triplet. I've even gotten fairly quick at fills and patterns where the Kick drum placement changes in the scheme of the triplet through a fill.

Then Aaron Spears (I'm sure he wasn't the first. Here's a video of him playing and talking a little bit about this concept) came along and talked about 'flipping triplets'. Here's the basic triplet flip idea: KRL KLR (or RLK LRK). The kick drum is first both times, but the last two notes are reversed. Try this with your left hand on the snare and your right on a floor tom and you get some pretty cool sounds. This is what I was working on last night when I realized there was a glitch. If I did it fast and several times in a row I started to get off. I pulled that a part a little and found where the problem was happening. It should come as no surprise: It was where the sticking was reversed and I led with my left hand.

I've practiced different kick and sticking patterns, but those patterns never involved leading with the left hand, so here's what I came up with to simplify the lick and work out the problem. The easiest and most basic exercise is this: KLR. Try it. But don't just try it twice, pick a tempo that just slightly pushes your comfort level, and do that pattern for a full minute. Once that starts to feel comfortable, do the same thing with LKR and LRK. You may as well knock some of the dust off of that metronome while you're at it. Once you've got these 3 patterns down you can start to incorporate these 'left lead' patterns into some of those other triplet patters and come up with some really cool feeling phrases.

Don't forget: The quarter note is king, and equal spacing is essential. To play with other musicians and keep these 'left-lead' triplets clean, the timing has to be second nature. Let us know how the practicing goes, and if you find any fun new ways to use this!

Until next time...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Max Roach - Right under my nose...

I grew up studying jazz drummers in the 70's. While my buddys were copping Bonham licks and discovering Neal Peart I was cloning Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson. Moving past these big band greats on to other forms of jazz I discovered players like Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones and Jack Dejohnette. Max and Philly Joe were easy enough to understand but Elvin and Jack were definitely acquired tastes. Once I got it though, I was hooked.

I live in a small town about an hour and half from Nashville. About the last thing I expected to see on the front page of the local paper was an article about how the complete collection of Max Roach's drums were found the other day at a local moving and storage company. It was an unbelievable story about how Max's drums were stored in a barn in a town even smaller than mine about 50 min to the north. I was dumbfounded when I read the article. How could all of the instruments of one of the most important drummers of the last century be stored in barn in some tiny Tennessee town?

The story reported that the family claimed that only about half of the collection was still in the barn when they found it. That conjured up frightening images of some rural teenager bashing out rock grooves on priceless old K Zildjians that he bought for $50 from some guy in a barn.

I am going down to the storage company tomorrow to see if I can catch a glimpse of some of the gear. I will report on the outcome. I will be interested to find out if there are others as interested as I am to get a look at Max's gear. Stay tuned...

To read the newspaper article, follow this link:

Well, I went down to the storage company and talked to one of the guys that worked there. He said the drums had already been shipped back to the Roach family in New Jersey. I asked a little more about how the drums had ended up in a barn in Byrdstown and he said that the drums were stolen and the guy that stole them had a friend in Byrdstown that stored the drums for him. He said only about half of the equipment was there when the moving company picked them up for the family. He also said the kit that Max played was not among the stolen property.

Pretty crazy...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Steve Gorman: Jealous Again

Without a doubt, I will probably be forever jealous of Steve Gorman of the Black Crowes. The list of what makes this guy an unbelievably pocket-oriented rock drummer is lengthy. Before I get into it, I must confess I have a nasty habit of looking backwards in music rather than forwards. Unexplicably I continually listen to records released long ago, rather than those most current. So, its understandable that I recently got into the Crowes, and not so much Lady Gaga.

Fast forward to getting a copy of WARPAINT after watching their excellent UNPLUGGED on MHD. And there it was, "Walk Believer Walk", track two of the album. I was floored with Steve Gorman's filthy, dirty groove. It wasn't just the forcefullness of the second 8th note heavy accented bass drum. It wasn't the way he matched the accents with the hi-hat either; laying off the first 8th note on the bass, and pushing it harder on the second 8th and rim shot. Nope, it was the whole heavy groove that felt dirtier than a Waffle House toilet seat.

Next comes "Oh Josephine" which "is my jam" on the record. Gorman quiets the verses with a barely noticeable snare, and follows the teaching of Bonham with a forceful foot matching the band on the bass notes. Also, see 1:58 for the way Gorman adds texture with a snare accent that I am now proud to steal all the time.

I could go on and on about his playing, and if he ever happens to read this, I am sure both of us will be embarrassed enough, but only one of us will know what they're talking about. In any case, I think Steve Gorman is a classic example of a musician who never forgets the 2 and the 4, and lets the groove get deep and decadent, without sacrificing the song. So maybe bypass "Hard to Handle", and give "Sometimes Salvation" or "There's Gold in Them Hills" a listen. Any thoughts?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Give Your Left Foot a Chance!

It's been a couple months now since I decided I wanted to change the tension on my hi-hat pedal. It's been the exact same amout of time since I realized my hi-hat stand was probably the worst piece of gear I owned. My tension adjustment seemed to have 3 settings: Sluggish, too weak to do much of anything, and completely locked up. I wandered into Fork's a couple days later and put my foot on a few of the pedals. I was astonished at how far these things had come since the last time I shopped for one. I had been left behind and I suspect I'm not alone. After all, hardware is easily the least exciting part of a drumset. I had the hi-hat stand lumped into the 'hardware' category in my head and neglected the device that controls everything that one of my 4 limbs does on the kit.

A little bit of attention to what the market has to offer now was enough to convince me to upgrade. I liked what Yamaha had out, but DW and Pearl stood out to me, much like they do in the realm of kick pedals. They're both really responsive and the DW had a slightly lighter feel. Pearl had a few more customization options and felt a little heavier, which I like so I ended up with the H2000. This thing has really improved my playing and my options with my left foot. I'm not suggesting that everyone run out and buy a new pedal, I'm saying that the Hi-Hat stand is easy to neglect and forget. Take a stroll through your local shop and put your feet on a few of them and see if you notice any major differences from what your foot is used to.

For me, it wasn't just the hardware either, it was great inspiration to put some real work into the precision and independence of my left foot (which also tends to get neglected). Coincidently, I saw John 'JR' Robinson do a clinic in Nashville last week which was a fantastic display of the kind of precision I'm talking about. Take a listen to JR on the chorus of 'Ain't Nobody' by Rufus and Chaka Kahn and you'll hear what I'm talking about in the Hi-Hat department (You can look it up and hear the whole song free on Grooveshark). Now that's some clean left foot-work!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Know your Late Show Drummers: Anton Fig

Anton is the guy that I hear the most late at night, because Letterman is my go-to late show. That said, I didn't know as much about him as I should have and I've found out some pretty cool things in researching him. What I do know is that he's an ultra-precise rock drummer and has the touch of a jazz drummer when he needs to, and that's what I've always enjoyed about him. I learned that he has a signature snare drum which I haven't heard, but the specs sure look good. He was born in South Africa and has been playing with Paul Schaffer for David Letterman since 1986, which makes me think that late night drumming really is as cool a gig as I suspected. Not only that, Anton put out a "Late Night Drumming" video in 1996 for any of you who aspire to be a late show drummer and still have a VHS player. More recently, he put out a record that he put more than 3 years of work into, cleverly titled 'Figments' which, upon previewing it in itunes, sounds pretty good! I bring up these things, not just to make Anton's work accessible, but also to say that he is prolific; A drummers drummer who's serious about his craft, education, and playing every chance he gets.

And then there's the video on Fig's Vic Firth Artist Page. Kurt and I are working to give you some insight into the drummers of late night, but nothing we can say will come close to the information in this video. Anton talks about moving to New York, subbing for Steve Jordan (more on him later) on Letterman, getting the gig, and working for Paul Shaffer. He says the band has a backlog of 100s of songs and that they practice for 15 or 20 minutes a day to learn theme music for the show's guests for that night. Other than that they rarely have an outside practice but occasionally get together to learn a group of new songs. One of the cooler parts of the gig and the interview is that they often back up the show's guests, such as Bon Jovi, James Taylor, and Miles Davis just to name a few. Anton talks about backing these great artists and the musicianship involved in making it sound like they're the band that's been on the road backing the artists for months. Quite a challenge if you ask me. Most of these things are found in chapter 3 of the video (all 4 are about 20 or 30 minutes total). The whole thing is a really insightful look at the life of a drummer with one of the most coveted gigs in the industry. I highly recommend checking it out!

At the very end of the video Anton gives some simple yet insightful advice on practicing. He mentions that a large part of practice is finding confidence. If you know you can practice and sound good and you get your own energy feeling good behind the drums, you can transfer that to the stage. He also mentions that improvements in your playing happen in very small increments during practice. This can be frustrating for me at times and it's good to hear those words from somebody like Anton. One small coincidental side note on the guy: I noticed him playing red drums the other night, and they've been green for years. Looks like he got a new kit. If new gear is as inspiring to him as it is to me, it seems like a great time to tune in and check out his playing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Choosing a Bass Drum Head: EMAD vs Powerstroke 3

Choosing drum heads has always been a trying issue for me. You can walk into a drum shop and play a bunch of different drums and cymbals, pick up different sticks, and put your feet on different pedals. Choosing heads is different because you can't hear how they'll sound on your drums until you pay for them and get home. Bass drum heads are no exception and you'll spend almost $50 just to try out a new one. I recently switched heads and took time to listen to the differences between 2 of today's most popular models: The Remo Powerstroke 3 and the Evans Emad. Here's what I found.
Keep in mind that these 2 heads were made to do different things and this is more than just a brand comparison. The Evans Emad has an external dampening system and the Remo PS3 has a thin second ply around the outside of the head. Evans makes a comparable head to the PS3 (the EQ4) and Remo makes a head with external dampening (the Powersonic) but these two are the real deal in my book.

I've been using the Remo PS3 for years now. As you can see in the picture, I use the big Remo Falam patch to dampen it a little. This has always been a great head but I've often wanted a little more punch and a little less slap. Recently I heard that punch come out of a few very different drums and the common variable was the Emad, so I decided to give it a try. I put it on and noticed a few things. First and foremost, I heard the punch I was looking for. It almost sounded lower than it did with the PS3 and there was that little added 'kick you in the chest' thump to it. So far so good. I played around for a little bit and it sounded great but strangely quiet. Once I put my in ears in and ran my ipod it was noticeably quieter than the PS3. It does make sense that to have a dampening system on the batter side head will make the drum sound quieter to the drummer, and this is indeed the case. I lost some of that attack that I relied on hearing straight from the drums while I play and I'm sure it's lost on the audience as well. The next step was to play out with it, which I did this past weekend. We were on a big stage with a great sound system and The Emad was at its best in this setting and really thumped through the monitors. I was thrilled.

I'm playing a little club in Nashville without the big sound system next week and I already know I'm going to miss the PS3 and the volume I could hear straight off the drum. I also play in a more mellow indie rock Radiohead/Flaming lips type of band (the Golden Sounds) where I want my kick drum to sound more open, and I don't think the Emad will do that particularly well. The extra underlay around the PS3 sounds great, leaves the drum sounding open, and mutes out the weird undertones of a 1 ply head without the ring. The Emad head is really made to have that foam ring in it and you can take it out to open the drum sound, but it just doesn't sound nearly as good as the PS3. One more positive thing about the Emad is that it can make a cheap drum sound good. It mutes quite a bit of the drums natural tone and sometimes that can be a good thing. If you're rocking a budget kit, the Emad will make it punch harder than you ever thought it could.

In conclusion, I'll say that these are both great drum heads and the deciding factor should really be what type of gear you're using, what type of gig you're playing, and what sound you're going for. If you want the attack and a warm but more open sound, the PS3 is the clear choice. If you want that thumpy low-end sub-kick sound, the Emad is waiting for you. As for me, I'm thrilled to finally have 2 great options and will be keeping both of them around for the future.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Late Night TV Drummers - Ed Shaughnessy

It is so cool to see ?uest Love joining the ranks of the late show drummers. I think back to when I was a teenager in the 70's playing drums and trying to clone guys like Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson. I had a serious love for big band drumming and the Tonight Show band was always a staple. Watching Ed Shaughnessy drive that band was always a treat. I would scan the TV Guide every Sunday to see if Carson had any guest musicians being featured. No cable guide to que up back then. If a jazz artist like Dizzy Gillespie was going to appear I would make sure to catch it. Every once in a while they would feature the band and it was always cool. It was frustrating to just hear a few seconds of the tunes they were playing in and out of commercial breaks. It wasn't until I was a working player that I realized that he had the greatest gig in the world. Playing with great players every night, backing up other famous musicians, playing the gig around 6pm and home at a decent hour and living a normal life.

When I was 14 I saved every bit of my lawn cutting $$ and attended the Ludwig Drum Symposium at East Carolina University. It was a week of immersing oneself in the drums. I attended classes taught by rock great Carmine Appice to drum corps legend Dennis Delucia. Max Roach was slated to teach but bailed out due to a gig in Europe. I remember meeting William F. Ludwig Jr. while I was there and watching him go off about Roach "blowing off the kids" for a gig. He spent the rest of the afternoon calling Max a "cockroach". Ed Shaughnessy was kind enough to fill in for the classes. He was a very gracious man and very matter of fact about how he developed his playing. Not much mystery, just a lot of listening and practicing. He was very much influenced by Gene Krupa and explained how he developed his chops by taking medium swing jazz standards and playing them in double time.

Unlike other late show drummers, Shaughnessy was defined by his gig. Unlike greats like Steve Jordan, Anton Figg, or Max Weinberg who had their own identity outside the show, Shaughnessy was the "Tonight Show Drummer". Kind of like an actor who gets pigeon holed into a certain genre by a part he played in one movie. You never really saw him on recording dates like other players that made their mark before taking a late night chair. Though I am sure he had other work, I don't recall seeing him in the credits of any album I owned.
All of that aside, Ed Shaughnessy is a great player and I always got the vibe that he knew how special it was that he had that gig. I bet he never took it for granted for a second.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Josh Freese: Drummer gone mad

Josh Freese must be one of the most prolific studio and live rock drummers around today. He's toured with NIN for the past 3 years (but recently resigned) and is a member of The Vandals, Devo, Ween, and A Perfect Circle. I saw him play with APC several years back and he was recovering from a broken right ankle. He played many of his bass drum parts with his left foot and I honestly couldn't hear the difference. If that didn't get you excited, he's also toured with Guns N' Roses and Sting. His studio work is too vast to get into, but he's played on everything from Kelly Clarkson to Rob Zombie records. Suffice to say, the man gets work.

Somehow he has managed to find time to record a second solo record (Titled "Since 1972") and his promotion techniques are quite a ways out of the box. $7 gets you a digital download and a few bonus videos and $15 will fetch a cd/dvd double disc digital download set. No big deal so far, but this is where it gets interesting. $50 adds a T shirt and a 5 minute phone call from Josh and $250 adds a signed drumhead or sticks and a lunch date with him (limited edition of 25...naturally). Things just get crazier from there all the way up to a $75,000 (limited edition of 1) package that includes Freese writing and releasing a 5 song EP about your life story, you taking home one of his drum sets of your choosing, Josh joining your band for a month, something crazy about Tijuana that I probably don't want to have anything to do with, and a flying trapeze lesson. I did the math on this thing and he's selling off 61 dinner or lunch dates. I guess he's taking a bit of a break from all the touring and recording to get this thing out there.

The record comes out March 24th and you can get a free download of one of the tracks from his site right now. I grabbed it and took a listen. It's definitely nowhere near as experimental as his marketing scheme, but it sounds good none the less and he's always a solid player. We'll get right back to our Late Night Drummers series and more importantly, some more practical posts on playing drums (which is really the point), but I couldn't pass up a post about this.

Check out the full 'Price Menu' at
Josh Freese, phenomenal a player as he is, is truly a drummer gone mad!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Know your Late Show Drummers: ?uestlove

Late show bands have always struck me as being the best gig a musician (an old musician?) could possibly have. Think through the gig with me; Steady and presumably great pay, no travel, no set up/tear down, learning a wide variety of musical styles, playing with some of the very best musicians out there, and the nightly TV exposure couldn't be bad for business as far as getting studio work is concerned. Am I missing anything? It's no small wonder that the late show stage is graced by some of the best drummers alive right now, and we get to see and hear them every night (albeit for all of 15 seconds at a time). These guys are worth paying attention to and with the Conan/Leno/Jimmy Fallon switch-up, there is a new drummer on the late night scene that is no exception. It is with no farther ado that I introduce the Music City Drummers' first blog series: Know your Late Show Drummers!

I'll get the series started off with the newest addition, and one that I'm very much excited about : Amhir '?uestlove' Thompson. That's right, The legendary Roots crew is the new house band for late night with Jimmy Fallon. I've been a fan of The Roots since I was in High School when the song 'You Got Me' came out and blew me away. There are very few bands that I've followed as long as I've followed The Roots and few drummers that play like ?uesto. If you have any interest in hip hop he's the one name that you have to know, however fans of The Roots may be surprised to know of the the breadth of his playing ability. I have a good friend that used to tell me that ?uestlove's playing on D'angelo's record 'Voodoo' changed his life. The soulful feel on that record strays a bit from the Roots studio record drum machine feel and the drumming is so right! Jay-Z's 'MTV Unplugged' is required listening for anyone who is even remotely interested in soul-hip hop drumming. The John Mayer track 'Clarity' is a fun rock/soul version of ?uest, but for a slice of pure inspiration, go to itunes and download 'Not About Love' by Fiona Apple! Any of The Roots albums will do the trick, but there's nothing quite like hearing them live and 'The Roots Come Alive' is probably my top pick for hearing him play. I've seen The Roots live no fewer than 4 times, and the night they played City Hall in Nashville still stands out in my mind as one of the best displays of drumming I've ever seen. They did a tune where every 8 bars or so the whole band slowed to a stop, and then BAM nailed the next downbeat with the crack of the snare and were right back on it. It sounds odd but it was one of the most musical things I believe I've ever heard. I've never been able to find a recording of that tune. ?uestlove combines power, groove, speed, and an unbelievable feel for rhythm that is uncomprably funky. He truly is the band leader for The Roots and is a prolific DJ and producer just to top it off.

Tonight marks The Roots debut as a late night band. Longtime Roots fans, have no fear; they are working on another album and planning to tour when the show is not recording. Tune in tonight and catch them at the start, and if you miss it just tune in the night after, or the next....

Our Deep Roots v2.0

Just a couple pictures of Centurio and I and a few of his other students from the week. Check out the full story in the last blog post if you missed it. We'll be back with something new shortly!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Our Deep Roots

I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours last week with Balikoowa Centurio, a fantastic teacher, artist, and musician from Uganda, Africa. Centurio is a widely respected musician in Uganda and is working with Vanderbilt University to record (for the first time ever in many cases) and archive the music of a long list of tribes and villages in his home country, and make them available on the internet. He came to visit the states for 3 weeks and has spent the past week in Nashville where I met him, heard his stories, heard him play, and even got to play along.

The stories about his culture were fascinating to me. The drums in Uganda are much more than entertainment or hobby, they are a way of life and even a necessity. In years in the not so distant past (Centurio was speaking of his parents and grandparents) his village was surrounded by the bush and as a matter of security each and every home had, and still has 2 things: A spear and a drum. If there was a problem in one of their homes, such as a large threatening animal approaching, they would play a specific rhythm on the drum and the neighbors would show up with their spears to defend them. Different rhythms meant different things including calls for help and the start of a church service. The drum is held in high regard and is always placed with the head facing up. If the drum is placed on the ground with the head facing down it is a symbol of grief and indicates death.

That's not to say that the drum is not used for entertainment or hobby, very much the opposite. Entire villages gather on a daily basis to play together. The rhythmic and musical traditions are passed down from generation to generation and everybody plays. They dig trenches around 3 feet deep and reportedly quite long, lay banana stalk from end to end, and set up tuned planks to form giant multi-player marimbas. The stalks are soft and allow resonance and the trenches act as a giant resonant chamber. Evidently you can feel the bass through the ground if you're anywhere near these pits. They fill-in and re-dig these pits on a regular basis and play drums, marimbas, and a few stringed instruments until all hours of the night. This is what they do with their free time, this is what they love.

These stories gave me a strange sense of pride in, and respect for my instrument. It helped me realize the importance of the drum and the vast and long standing history behind it. I loved Centurio's explanation of his relationship to music: "The drum is there, you are there, so play the drum! How can you feel stress when you play the drum?". I loved that at times we struggled to understand each other, but when he played a rhythm on the drum and nodded at me to join in, we understood each other and communicated fluently.

You can hear Centurio and many others playing from the Global Music Archive web page here:
The song 'Aba Africa Tuboineboine' is a good start and includes drums and xylophone (each tune lists the instruments that were used) and the performance venue is listed as 'Under a Mango tree'! I did an advanced search for Performers: Balikoowa (under 'collections and resources', 'search the digital collection') and found 63 songs that he played on, all of which stream through Real Player free of charge. 'Gurira Omwana Amayombera' is on of my favorites from that list thus far. I encourage you to dig into the history of the drum, the culture of the drum, and the power of the drum and take pride in what you do!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Studio Preperation

A few weeks ago I was handed a cd with 9 new songs on it (mostly just guitar, piano and vocals) and was told to 'dream big' for an upcoming studio project. This is an exciting and overwhelming task, a blank canvas so to speak, and I've put a lot of thought into what I'm going to fill it with. I thought this was a great opportunity to share how I've been working and to take some of your ideas if you'd like to share. This isn't a band setting where we've been writing and practicing together for months in preparation for the studio, but many of the same principles apply.

Naturally, my first step was to listen. Not to listen and tap along with the first thing that crossed my mind, but just to absorb the songs and hear what they have to say without the drums. That should undoubtedly affect what I do with my instrument and I think as drummers we often want to skip this step. I was lucky enough on this project to have been given a second disc of fully produced and released tunes by other artists that are in the same sonic realm of the vision for this record. My second step was to listen to and play through these tunes. I learned some of the rhythms and studied a few of the tunes that I liked and that I wasn't up to speed with. This got me in the right mode and mindset to play through the new tunes for the first time and was an incredibly helpful step.

From here I picked up the new tunes and played through them. I tried not to over think and to just play what I heard and keep in touch with the vibe I picked up from the 'example' tunes. I was surprised at some of the stuff I played. Some of it was exciting and some of it didn't work and at this point that's fine. I rolled through them a couple times and tried not to repeat much. I wanted to try out several different things and take in what happened with the tunes with the different parts I was playing, and make some mental notes about those observations.

Another important step was to go back through a couple previous records by the artist I'm playing for. Some of my friends and guys I really respect have played on them and I want to achieve some degree of consistency across records. I'll undoubtedly put my fingerprints on this thing, but channeling some momentum is rarely a bad thing. I also took the time out to put up a mic and record myself playing with the tunes. When I listen back I always hear things that I love and want to hang onto and, conversely, things that don't work that I didn't realize I was doing. It's much better to notice those things on a cheap one take recording than on the finished album!

The last thing, and perhaps this is the most important of them all, is to come up with several different parts for the tunes and understand where they take the song. The feel will undoubtedly change with the different players in the studio so if I go in to practice with the rest of the band with my parts all figured out, something is not going to work. It's not about me and the coolest drum parts, it's about songs and it's about working together to make something great.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Time to get the ball (the snare?) rolling, and what better way to do it than to talk about one of my favorite topics: Practice. For me practice often means sitting at the kit with a pair of in ears and an ipod. I have playlists of different types of grooves and different genres, often organized by tempo, so that I can sit down and focus on one thing without much searching. A far-too-small percentage of my practice involves working out different fills and grooves with a metrinome at different tempos. In the past year or so I've spent a healthier amout of time working out of a few of my favorite and/or reccommended books and working to expand my rhythm vocabulary and the communication between my hands and feet. In teaching drums to new drummers, the way that people approach the kit for the first time has always been interesting to me. More often than not I have trouble convincing students to sit down with a pair of headphones and just PLAY. When I started that was all I wanted to do and it wasn't until later on that I grew into an appreciation for learning new things that were realy challenging to me. How do you practice? Of the differnt things you do, what do you enjoy the most and what do you gain the most from? This is just the tip of the iceberg when considering this topic, but hopefully a good start to many discussions to come.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Welcome to the Music City Drummers Blog!

I thought I should start off by introducing myself and the idea behind this blog. I'm Jacob, a 4 year resident of Nashville Tennessee. I've been playing drums for a little over 13 years, so since Christmas of this year (and until my birthday in June) I've been playing drums for exactly half of my life. I Love to play. I take lessons, I give lessons, I practice, I play in bands, I read about drums and spend money on gear. If it has to do with drums I'm in. There are plenty of great resources on the web but my friend Kurt and I have been kicking around the idea of a blog for a couple months now. We don't want to do this to promote ourselves and we don't have anything to sell. We just want to help and be helped, to share and to listen to the ideas and stories of the greater online drumming community. We'll be inviting other contributors from time to time and we hope that you'll leave comments and interact with us as well. We've been brainstorming lots of ideas for the blog and we think we have a lot to share, so stay tuned. For now, welcome to the Music City Drummers blog!

Slow Funk

Meet Kurt :