Monday, November 30, 2009


This over at Online Drummer is one of the best, most succinct, best summary explanations of Latin rhythms that I've heard/seen. It is almost a 30 minute video...but 30 minutes well spent if Latin drumming is important to you (or stumps you, like it does me). I need to remember to return to this again and again.

Nick Mason

I've never been a Pink Floyd fan. I took no notice of them at all until my freshman year of college when my boyfriend was a PF fanatic. He forced me to attend a PF laser show. Since then, I've again slipped into total apathy bordering on dislike.

I've collected most of the drum playalong book/cds from Alfred and Hal Leonard now. Amongst those I've not gotten...Pink Floyd. I was relatively convinced that I'd never want it.

The way I was convinced I'd never want the Rush book (got it now).

On the drive home from the holidays I heard a PF song on the radio. It was actually a cover of PF done by Korn. The drums were kind of interesting. I don't know if the drum part was actually original to PF...or new to Korn. In any case, it brings both bands onto my radar (the cover was Another Brick in the Wall. For comparison here is the Pink Floyd version).

Nick Mason...the only constant original member of Pink Floyd.

Now I find it kind of irritating/odd that none of the stuff online about him says much about his drum style or ability. That's often true of the artists I look up. It particularly bugs me about Drummerworld. Tell me something about the man's abilities! Alas, maybe they figure it is self evident and that everyone knows Pink Floyd's sound. But when I read a bio about a drummer I want to know the following:
1. When did they start playing?
2. What has their training been>? (did they take lessons? play in drum corps? go to music school? self taught?)
3. What is their history playing with bands? And discography.
4. What is their style and/or contribution to the music world? Anything unique or different? Anything iconic about them?

I didn't get much of any of that answered about Mason.

Rarely do I actually care what kind of drums they play, what heads, what sticks, what cymbals, etc. Or what their hobbies are outside of, etc.

One of These Days (loses a stick, though recovering from a stick drop isn't really that hard...but it is fun to see)

Comfortably Numb


I've been away from the drums alot lately and it makes me nervous. It makes me nervous mostly because I've been okay with being away from the drums.

This holiday season will mark four years since I bough my drum kit, which is when I mark the start of learning to play the drums. This holiday season also marks just one year since I got serious about the enterprise, started taking regular lessons, and basically dedicated myself to trying not to suck. It is the first time in my life that I've ever actually TRIED to get good at something. Normally I learn the basics of how to do something...then give up.

I've kept a steady focus for nearly a year now, and that's quite an accomplishment in my little world. I'd like to continue that focus. I'm hoping that, with holiday travel temporarily over (though the end of December will have its own challenges) and with two gigs on the horizon and a new band in the making, I can recommit again and get enthusiastic about the thing again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lessons, Week 43

We went back over the triplet exercises we've been working on for some time now and he added some new ones. I found that it was easier for me to pick up the exercises by watching him than it was by reading the music often. I also told him that I needed to slow things down on a few of them...and later he apologized that he'd probably been starting too fast often (I told him it was okay to push me, and that I'd let him know when I needed to slow down).

Things are coming along with these. My high hat foot is the last thing to come together, but even that is slowly improving. He acknowledged that the triplet high hat thing is not what I'm accustomed to with rock, but that eventually it will become second nature and will go on auto-pilot the way that 8th note high hats do in rock.

I've really been focusing on my hand position since last week. It's kind of throwing me off a little because I'm so obsessed with it, but I can already tell that it is really going to help things overall in the long run. Playing with the fingers instead of the wrists allows me to play with more finesse and less effort. Right now it makes my hands tired, but once I'm used to it I think the old way is going to make my hands MORE tired. Right now I'm in the EVERYTHING is making my hands tired. The finger stuff is definitely going to help with rebound, I think, though...which I've always had a problem with.

I'm leaving town early tomorrow for the holiday weekend in an attempt to try and avoid the snow and traffice expected late on Wednesday. I think I'll have enough time to stop by Midwest Percussion and to pick up a boom cymbal stand and extra boom adapter that the sweetie has promised me for a birthday present. I've had my right crash on a stand that doesn't stay locked very well for a while now, so that the cymbal is always moving. The new one will replace that one...and I'll move that one to a less key position and put one of the new cymbals on it. As for the extra will just provide options, especially for if and when Pants ever reclaims her kit, which I've now parsed out amongst my setup.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Ocean

Here's the video that I was refering to in the last post. There are ways to post with privacy settings on Youtube, it turns out, but they make it hard to link to the video. So I've made it public, I just have made it hard to find and have turned off all commenting, etc.

Some notes on the song and performance: For a long time I was playing along with the sheet music for this tune. Last week I stopped using the sheet music. So this recording is just by memory, so there are mistakes for that reason. And I'm not what I'd call "done learning" this tune. I'm getting there, but it isn't polished yet. A big part of why I wanted to record this (besides testing recording in general) was to see whether or not I'm actually playing the, I think 32nd notes. I'm trying to play them, but they go by so fast that I can never tell if I get them or not. It looks like I'm getting them sometimes and sometimes not. At 52-53 seconds there seems to be a correct execution.

Some notes on the recording: Interestingly, the video was "lighter" on the screen of the camera. Here it seems dark and you can't really see the beater. I would like to experiment with a movie editor and see if I can get a foot view like this on half of a screen and a hands view on the other half and manage to sink them up in time. Ideally, I'd dub the original recording of the tune over the top too. I think that'd be the ultimate drum educational style. It's a project to work on anyway...cause I don't know that I'm ever going to be in a position to pull off performances worthy of educational videos anyway.

UPDATE: Spent some time with Windows Movie Maker and figured out how to synch up overdubbed music with the video and how to do a split screen of two images (which required a hack that doesn't come with the basic software, but the internet was, as always, quite helpful). I also was able to lighten the video. I'm not bothering to repost until I have a finished version, which may involve re-recording after I learn the song better.

Recording Myself

Having trouble getting motivated to practice, ironically, since PASIC. This week won't be much better as I'll be away from the kit for five days for the holiday. The sweetie suggested that I bring the kit with me, but that's just crazy talk. Clearly she doesn't know how lazy I am. I'll bring along the sticks and practice pad, and maybe even a foot pedal...but odds are that I won't touch the things.

I suppose it only stands to figure that my enthusiasm would wax and wane. I've had pretty solid motivation for nearly a year now, and that's a long damn time.

I DID finally manage to video myself playing on Sunday. I've been meaning to do this for some time. Sunday was mostly a test run of locations for the camera, and the results aren't really ready for prime time. I wasn't recording a "finished" song, just recording practice. I was kind of horrified with the results, my tempos are all over the place and the tone is terrible. Some of that may be the camera, but most of it is me. Still, it made me realize what a useful tool recording (sound and/or video) myself could be. Do I really bury the beater like that? Am I really that all over the place with tempos? Huh.

So much work to be done.

I'm going to experiment a bit to see if there is a way to get videos I take of myself hosted on the internet without making them open to the whole world to view on YouTube. I don't need the nasty feedback that happens there ("dude your snare sounds like shit" kind of thing). I WOULD like to be able to post them in this venue for my own edification, though. One solution may be to post them to YouTube with obscure, unsearchable, titles. So that the only way someone would find them is by mistake. And maybe I can turn off comments. Research...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finding a Role, Part 2

Last night someone told me that a friend of theirs was looking for a drummer to record a jazz song with. I thanked him for the heads up, but said that I wasn't a jazz drummer. This seemed to perplex him and the other musicians in the room. I'm not sure why.

The fact of the matter is, jazz is a very certain kind of style. I know a little bit about it, but not much. I never play it and I'm not interested in it. I could certainly fake my way through it if I wanted to...but, and I said this, that would really be a dis-service to the person recording the song. To make his recording the best possible, he probably will want to find a jazz drummer if he can. Or at least someone who can play jazz better than I can.

I got the feeling they thought I was being self deprecating. I wasn't. I wasn't saying I'm a bad drummer...I was just saying that I don't have any experience playing jazz. After going to PASIC I realize more than ever that jazz is very different from the basic rock that I am used to playing. I think that there is a benefit to me learning a bit of jazz, but that's for MY benefit...not to serve the recording needs of this dude.

It strikes me as odd that anyone in my position would react any differently. "I'm not what he's looking for...but here's a referral to someone who I think might be able to do the job." Why say you are proficient at something you aren't? Even if someday I end up being the world's best jazz drummer...I'm not even on that road right now. Why say I am?

I think that people are unaccustomed to honesty.

I think the expected response to the query would have been "oh yeah, sounds good. Maybe I'll look him up" and then to never act on the thing. That just seems like a waste of everyone's time. Why not just admit...I'm not qualified, I'm not interested, and you ought to find someone else. And here's a recommendation.

Crap, ya know, if I had 20 more years of drumming under my belt I'd be a damn good studio musician. Do what you say you are going to do...serve the client's needs...and move on. Juggle a schedule and always be on time. No bullshit. I would have been really good at that. But seeing as I've got a while to catch up in skills to those already doing that work, and that I have no interest in moving to LA or Memphis or New York or Nashville or Salt Lake City (I'm told), I don't think it's in the stars for me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Finding a Role and Being Okay With It

Heart of Glass is totally under control. Starman too.

New band practice went well. It is a kinder, gentler kind of rock and roll. They are easy to follow/lead. Hopefully I meet their needs.

Spent alot of time last night during practice thinking about how I keep getting told that the drummer's role is to keep time, keep the groove going, and to serve the needs of the music/rest of musicians. I think I did an okay job of that last night (especially considering I had no idea what songs we were playing, didn't have charts, etc)...though I didn't do much more.

I've always known these things about the drummer's role, but it is hard to really believe when you read all the Craig's List ads looking for people with "pro chops" or who "hit hard" or whatever. And when people haven't been kind about your lack of chops in the past. And when all of the pro drummers say "I wish I would have known to play less when I was younger" and yet they got where they are today by not playing less.

I do want to build better be able to play faster and more consistently and more complicated parts. To impress people with my skills. But the thing I really want is to understand feel and to have a good internal clock. I want to be never drop the beat. And to be musical. I want to understand what is appropriate to play and what is not and to make good choices. I want to be able to do four different things with four different limbs without thinking about it much. And those are really the things that are most important for the drummer's role in a band.

There's a lot of ways to nuance your be musical...but at the end of the day, most pop/rock/country songs don't require a whole lot of crazy chops. Things end up being more simple that you'd expect...and leaving open space becomes as important as filling the space up. Maybe more so.

These things I know to be true.

But it's kind of like how we all know that it is more important to be a good person than to be pretty. More important to be smart than thin. More important to be happy than to make alot of money. We know these things to be true...and yet the world revolves around pretty, thin people with lots of money.

And I still feel lame playing simple drum parts.

Maybe someday I'll grow up and get over that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stop Motion Drum Video

New Hand Position and Thoughts on Playing Music with Others

I practiced last night trying to get the new hand position thing. It made my hands tired. What I can't quite tell is, were my hands also tired because I haven't been playing much this past week (ironically because of being gone at the drum convention)...or is the new position the whole thing? I definitely haven't been playing enough. I'm out of shape.

I will probably revert to my old position for tonight's rehearsal. I'm (hopefully) getting together with some folks to try out a new project. We've been trying to hook up for a few weeks now, but illness and other things have gotten in the way. I don't really have any idea what to expect. It's two folks that I know through musical friends and a third that I've never met. I don't really know what style they play.

It's always nerve wracking to get together with new people, though in this case less so since I know most of them and their personalities and style. The Craig's List thing, though it served me well at the start of my drum career, has been a total wash for over a year now. Strike out. Craps. Who would have thought it would be so hard to find people to sit in a room with and play music?

I say that, but the truth is, it is easier now than ever to find those people. I remember desperately wanting to play with people in the early 1990s and just not knowing how to find them. This was before everyone had the internet. I'd throw music playing parties and no one would jam. I'd sit in with friends who played and it never lasted more than one session. I've long thought that being in a band was like dating multiple people at once...and that's true from the very beginning. It's hard being a single person in the world and finding people to date.

I am grateful to have the boys and I'm very happy with our little band. But I'm greedy enough to want more. I want to gather as much and as varied experience as I can, because I want to improve as quickly as part so that it won't be so hard in the future to find people to play with.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lessons, Week 42

We reviewed the flam and the flam tap and the flam-a-diddle. Then we spent a good long time working on my left hand. And then we worked on the triplet exercises he gave me a month or so ago that I'd abandoned because I couldn't get my bass drum and high hat foot working. When we picked up those exercises last night my bass and high hat worked like a charm (I've been working on that alot) and I was able to do the triplet exercises on top of that after a little work. The next step, he said, would be to change the pattern to play the bass on the "let" of the triplet instead of on 1, 2, 3, 4. That is going to mess with my head. We talked a little about pulling back...feel I guess. Playing the bass and snare a little quieter and having everything at the same level. I was banging away on those triplets on the snare prior to that. These triplet exercises are great for 4 way now that I've conquered some problems I was having with them, I'm going to try to work on them in earnest.

I've been feeling for a while that my left hand technique was messed up, but didn't really know how to fix it. We talked about the difference in using your fingers versus using your wrist. I tend to clamp down so that there's no space between my thumb and fingers. I need to relax that so that there is a bit of a "C" shaped space. The other key is lining up my index and thumb. If the index is way higher on the stick than the thumb, there's no bounce. By lining them up even...or even with the thumb a little higher than the index, the bounce comes. And the bounce is from the middle, ring, and/or pinky pushing...not from the wrist (at least when playing with your fingers). When playing with the wrist, try to let the rebound take the stick all the way back. To do that, you have to clear away the middle, ring, and pinky so that they don't stop the stick. Playing with the fingers felt REALLY different than what I'm used to, but if I can just remember how I did it and practice it, I think it is going to be really helpful.

Above: WRONG-hand is clamped up too tight

Above: RIGHT-"C" shaped opening between thumb and hand

Above: WRONG-index finger is too high

Above: RIGHT-index finger and thumb are even (or thumb slightly higher)

The whole idea that playing quietly is okay was good too. I think I've been so rock music paranoid that I wasn't being heard that I've been banging away really hard to the detriment of my technique. I think if I can get good technique, then I can build volume. That...and maybe realize that volume isn't always so important.

"It's not just the's the how."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clem Burke and Heart of Glass

On the ride home from PASIC I heard Blonde's Heart of Glass on the radio and thought I'd try to learn it when I got home,

Clem Burke was the drummer for Blondie.

Listening to the Blondie greatest hits cd that I picked up cheap at a garage sale recently, I noticed that he's playing 4 on the floor most of the time (on all of the tunes) with an off beat high hat (on the "ands). It's almost a reggae...rock steady I guess...feel. It isn't that hard, but it's stuff that I suck at, so it's actually good stuff for me to work on.

The embedding on the videos seem to have been disabled for every version of the original video, but you can see it here. Here's a live version from 1982:

And in 1998 (on Jules Holland's show):

And with bad audio from the 30th anniversary tour:

Basically, what I make out, is that it is 4 bass on the floor, snare on 2 and 4, and high hats on the ands of 1, 2, 3, 4. On the ands of 1 and 3 the high hat is open in the first measure of the phrase...and open on the 1, 2, 3 of the second measure of the phrase. Then in the chorus the high hat (or ride) goes to 1 2+ 3 4+...sometimes with an open high hat and sometimes not (not sure if it is always the high hat, or if he switches to the ride sometimes...from the 1998 video it looks like he stays on the high hat but in the 30th anniversary tape he goes to the ride). There are some simple snare fills or crashes in the logical places. And there's a place where the crash anticipates a bit early in the instrumental portion. There's a little bridge kind of thing where she sings "Oooo" that has open hats on every "and."

Report on PASIC

PASIC was good, though I don't know if I'll ever feel the need to go again. It was interesting to see lots of different drummers and hear their approaches, but it's mostly the same thing over and over again.

The vendor area was fun, but full of more marimba and mallet stuff than I'd expected. Some cymbal companies were absent all together (I don't think I saw Istabul there, for instance). I over heard someone say that there were more retail vendors and less industry folks than usual.
Neil Peart Snakes and Arrows kit with legless stands.
I bought a Wuhan 12 inch splash for $19 that turned out to be exactly what I've been looking for. I also bought a Meinl 8 inch bell for $44...jury still out on that one. I also got the Nirvana and the Hard Rock playalong books and Turn It Up, Lay It Down Rock Edition on the recommendation of Ed Shaughnessy.

Chris Pennie, Drumset Clinic
His advice "The most important thing is to get together and play with other people." He also said to continue to learn and stay open to new ideas. Talked about how placing stickings and accents can change the feel of time. Suggested learning slow: then add feet slow, add hands w/o accents, then accents. Be creative. Try different setups, surfaces, depths.

Sergio Bellotti, Drumset Clinic

His clinic had a heavy emphasis on rudiments. Had a handout. Showed single tap, unison, buzz roll, doubles/diddles, flam, drag/ruff. Suggested that playing on the kit is more important than on a practice pad or pillow. Suggested practicing weak side lead twice as much as strong side lead. Said superimposing rudiments over recordings can be a way to stay interested in practicing. He said you should take one rudiment and work on for 2 weeks straight...eventually working to applying it to kit musically. 26 rudiments will take a year to finish. Showed a "Dr Beat" exercise of quarter note bass, triplet, 16th note, 8th note on each of other limbs. INverted doubles...2nd note is on downbeat. Linear drumming: one note at a time with no unisons.

Zoro and Daniel Glass, Drumset Clinic
I didn't take notes from their talk. It was well set up and more entertaining than some others. They traded playing a moment or two from major tunes that influenced R&B. Mostly grooves. All this in support of their book together. Zoro yells into mic too much.

Free Hearing Tests
I checked out okay, though my right ear was a little weak on the lowest test frequency.

Steve Fidyk, Drumset Master Class
This was a class on transcription. He recommended the Amazing Slow Downer or Transcribe as good software. Recommended trying to learn something from every drummer that you listen to. Funny highlight...the "Pat Boone Debbie Boone" fill.

Felix Pollard, Drumset Clinic
I remember nothing about this guy.

Tobias Ralph, Drumset Clinic
Dude played a 24 minute solo. Mentioned "broken double": a double split between two different drums. High hat fills ala Steve Gadd. Inverted paradiddles with foot substitution.

Benny Greb, Drumset Clinic
He's a funny German guy. I don't remember much about his clinic, but it was good.

Akira Jimbo, Drumset Clinic
Played a Michael Jackson medley and then a jazz medley. He plays melodically with electronic triggers in real time. A one man band kind of thing. A neat trick, but kind of boring after a while.

Ed Shaughnessy, Drumset FUNdamentals
Probably the best of the convention. Dude played in Tonight Show band forever. Had suggestions for young jazz players. Nice handout. Told some funny stories about Buddy Rich and about how he got started back in the day. Showed feathered bass and counter clockwise ride beat. Also showed how to drop parts of ride beat when speed is really fast (ding ding a ding ding and variations). "Making time versus playing along to time...more how than what." Showed how to raise brush and not just swish.

Joel Stevenett, Drumset Clinic
This guy plays music for video games. Had a huge presentation video that he played along to. Talked alot about getting work and being "the squeaky wheel".

Dean Butterworth, Drumset Clinic
I liked this guy best of the drummers I saw. He's in Good Charlotte amongst other things (plays on New Adventures of Old Christine, for instance). He was all about groove and just supporting the band. All of the drummers SAID this was the most important thing...but then they'd play a 30 minute solo that showed off everything in their toolkit. This guy walked the talk. He played 4 or 5 tunes...with no crazy solo crap. He's the kind of drummer I strive to be. Good time, good feel...interesting, but always in support of the song...not to show off.

Skip Hadden, Drumset Master Class
Was about fusion. He showed cut from Ken Burns' "Jazz". After that I got bored because he wasn't saying anything of substance, just making little jokes about the audience, so I left.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cissy Strut

A few weeks ago in lessons EN went over The Meters Cissy Strut. It is also on the list of tunes for the upcoming "recital", which I may or may not try to participate in.

While checking out the Drummer Cafe I found an article on the tune (complete with video lesson).

The Meters playing it live:

Standard issue dudes on YouTube playing the drum part:

Drummer Talk

The internet, like my life, is a place that I enjoy more when it is familiar. I like reading regular blogs, instead of broadly looking hither and yond. I like a blogger that posts every day, preferrably only a paragraph or two, but every day. I've been trying to find some regular drum reads and find, much to my dismay, that lots of the pages that are out there are updated infrequently...or not at all anymore.

I uncovered this one today, and it seems to be relatively active. I prefer blogs written by single persons, but a good site with multiple writers is okay too. This one seems to be part blog, part podcast talk show. Not ideal as I don't do podcasts, but at least it is active. They are even going to PASIC.

I'm not bringing my laptop to PASIC (mostly due to security concerns and not liking to have to haul it around), so I won't be able to live blog the event. I do plan to take copious notes, though, which will undoubtedly turn into postings here at some point.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


So PASIC starts tomorrow. I'll arrive mid-day Thursday. Aside from walking around and looking at products, my plan is to attend the following sessions if they are still open and if my head doesn't explode:

Thursday, November 12
10:00 a.m.
Maria Martinez, Drumset Master Class

1:00 p.m.
Chris Pennie, Drumset Clinic

3:00 p.m.
Sergio Bellotti, Drumset Clinic

5:00 p.m.
Zoro and Daniel Glass, Drumset Clinic

Friday, November 13
9:00 a.m.
Free Hearing Tests

10:00 a.m.
Steve Fidyk, Drumset Master Class

11:00 a.m.
Felix Pollard, Drumset Clinic

1:00 p.m.
Tobias Ralph, Drumset Clinic

3:00 p.m.
Benny Greb, Drumset Clinic

5:00 p.m.
Akira Jimbo, Drumset Clinic

6:00 p.m.
Hall of Fame Celebration

Saturday, November 14
9:00 a.m.
Ed Shaughnessy, Drumset FUNdamentals

11:00 a.m.
Joel Stevenett, Drumset Clinic

1:00 p.m.
Dean Butterworth, Drumset Clinic

2:00 p.m.
Skip Hadden, Drumset Master Class

3:00 p.m.
Jack DeJohnette, Drumset Clinic

5:00 p.m.
Virgil Donati, Drumset Clinic

Lessons, Week 41

We spent a long time playing a String Cheese Incident tune (not sure what it was called but it had ride on 1, 2, 3, 4 and an off beat kind of cross sticking pattern) and then played Bob Marley's Stir It Up and talked about One Drop Reggae. He had taught One Drop to me a long time ago (though I can't find record of this in my lesson notes), but I didn't quite get it. I also learned it at the Experience Music Project, but again it slipped my mind. I think I've got it now, but probably won't really have it until I play it lots and lots, which I doubt will be happening anytime soon.

We also spent a long time talking about his trips to Jamaica on behalf of a music charity that repairs people's homes. And we discussed whether or not I want to play in the student recitals Dec 12/19. Not sure yet. You only play one song, which is kind of a pain to show up for.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Revisiting Travis Barker

So speaking of second looks...

I finally dug into the Hal Leonard playalong book for Blink 182. The first time I looked at this book I didn't buy it because the drum parts looked too easy, and I said I was unimpressed with Travis Barker.

Following the charts along while listening to the tunes, though, I gotta say that I misjudged Barker. Yeah, there are parts that aren't that hard, but there are parts that are kind of complicated too. Lots of kind of complicated parts. Lots of parts that I certainly couldn't get right away.

So I'll be spending more time with Mr. Barker. I think that Blink 182's music is right up my alley too. I really don't know (like Green Day) why I never listened to them before. Chalk it up to old age.

Revisiting Dave Hower

I was tired yesterday from running an ill-prepared for 5K and from a couple of hours of drum practice (like real practice, on actual exercises), so I decided to just play something for fun. I've been bored lately with most of the stuff that I usually play for fun, so I pulled out three Nields records and decided to play along to one of my favorite drummers, Dave Hower.

I haven't listened to or played any Nields stuff in a good long while. I always liked Hower's style and I always thought it was many notches above my own abilities.

Playing along last night I wasn't trying to copy the parts verbatim by any means, I was just having fun, but I was surprised by how easy the songs came. His parts are much more restrained than I remember (though that WAS one of the things that I always liked about him). They were heavily based in simple eighth note bass patterns and lots of ghost notes on the snare. A modified funk pattern really, which has come to be something that I have a predisposition towards. So his parts ended up being things that I'd play if I wasn't thinking too hard.

One odd thing that I noticed, that I would not have been able to identify just a few months ago, is that he plays with a ton of rim shots. A great example is the song May Day Cafe. It's crazy! Maybe it isn't actually rim shots but some metallic type snare that I don't know much about, like timbales. Whatever it is, I didn't notice it at all before, and last night it was all I could hear.

Rimshots aren't ever something that I've tried to do, but for some reason, I tend to hit them alot. It's something about the way that I have my snare set up and my technique. Anyway, once I heard them on May Day Cafe I started noticing that he does it a fair amount.

I actually got a little bored and stopped playing. I noticed how prominent that the vocals/guitars are in these songs and what a back seat the drums take. The fact that this would bore me represents a huge evolution in my musical tastes:from the singer/songwriter/acoustic guitar player to drummer. It is strange to see it so starkly displayed.

I still like The Nields and I still think Dave Hower is a great drummer. He'll always be on the short list of drummers that made me want to pick up the instrument. But it might be awhile before I can come to appreciate him as much as I once did.

I remember the first time I kissed a girl in public that it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. I thought it was true love. My much more jaded partner in crime told me that it had nothing to do with love (nor, did she suspect, with my sexual orientation)...that it was all about newness and taboo. Looking back just about 18 years later I think she was only part right. It wasn't "true love" or even "real love" was "young love". It was all new and fresh and I was the first one to discover everything that there was to discover in the world.

I think that I have to go through the paces of young love...the love of a new drummer discovering everything for the first time...getting obsessed with John Bonham or Tre Cool or Neil Peart or "namethedrummeroftheweek." Someday, if I keep up with this madness long term, I'll have settled down from the excitement of all of those first kisses I will actually redevelop my own taste and come to appreciate music again for reasons other than hearing the most recent, most exciting, weird or complicated new drum thing. Someday I'll be able to hear the song again, the music again, instead of only being able to hear the drum part. I think when it is all said and done there will be a place for Dave Hower again, not as a hero per se, but as a well respected fellow musician whose music I will greatly enjoy. Hopefully I'll get there without any shortcuts. Young love is worth every pointless painful minute and I wouldn't trade the ride for the world.

Great example of the modified funk beat, and a song about falling down in love, Jennifer Falling Down (more Nields tunes here for the uninitiated)

Pink Houses vs Clovis Mann

I haven't been out to see live music in some time. Part of this is blatant laziness and my desire to be in bed by 10pm every night. Most shows in these parts don't even start until 9 or 10pm. And I've been on the wagon for a little while now, so staying away from show venues (read: bars) has just seemed easier. Nothing cures the boredom of waiting for your favorite band to take the stage like getting shit-faced drunk...and that's something I'm trying to avoid these days.

But Saturday night I decided I needed to not be such a lame-o, so I went out. Two shows peaked my interest, Pink Houses at The Badger Bowl, and Clovis Mann at the Lazy Oaf Lounge. The reason for my interest in both was the same, also being the reason that this post qualifies for this blog, that being that I wanted to watch the drummers.

Pink Houses, to my pre-show understanding, is a John Cougar Mellencamp tribute band. I'm not a rabid JCM/JC/JM fan, but I do enjoy the man's music more than average. He's had several drummers over the years, but one of the more steady ones has been Kenny Aronoff, who plays a kind of no nonsense rock and roll. Not very fancy, but well done. I wanted to see how the Pink Houses drummer pulled off Aronoff.

It was a bizarre experience to say the least. The show was at Badger Bowl, which is, well, a bowling alley. The room was packed, perhaps with about 125 folks, all ages 45 to 65. Plenty of them dancing. I have rarely seen these people at live music shows in all the years I've been attending them in Madison. I wonder if they just hang out at Badger Bowl all the time. I was suddenly aware of a vast cultural divide in this town...between places like the High Noon Saloon/Frequency/etc and places like The Badger Bowl.

And then there was the band.

Pink Houses is a ten piece band. Two guitars, bass, keys, drums, percussion, fiddle, mandolin, and two backup singers. The percussion guy occasionally pulls out a sax. The mandolin player sometimes adds a third guitar. And everyone...and I mean everyone...plays tamborine. In addition to these ten members, there were 3, perhaps 4, crew members. CREW MEMBERS! Yes, they had a sound guy, a light guy, and a guitar tech (the 4th person seemed like they might actually be the Badger Bowl sound person). I'm not sure how a band at the level of Pink Houses can afford to pay such an entourage (at 6 bucks a head). The economics makes no sense to me. And the capper...they all were using in ear monitors. The concept of in ear monitors at a bowling alley gig is just so funny I can't stand it.

The first couple of songs were just fine. JCM/JC/JM tunes. The lead singer belted them out from behind an acoustic guitar through a headset microphone. Jeans, cowboy boots, bald spot, and plenty of attitude. And god bless him. The drummer, my reason for being there, was servicable, but not remarkable. The parts were simple and not anything that I couldn't play. They were recognizable, but not the parts that Aronoff probably plays. I also didn't care for the sound of his snare, but that's personal preference. The bass player too wasn't doing much above and beyond the standard rock playbook. But together, the ten of them pulled off what they were trying to accomplish. They were a JCM/JC/JM tribute band that sounded reasonably like the real thing. And they were rocking the house.

And then things went terribly wrong. They morphed into a generic mainstream rock cover band. They played some vaguely Christian music...and then went full steam into schlock. The backup singers took turns at the lead. Half way through We Will Rock you I had to leave. I'm not sure why they didn't stick with JCM/JC/JM...lord knows the man has enough tunes to fill a 2 or 3 set show. For what it is worth, I doubt that the crowd cared. They may have, in fact, loved the schlock. I don't think of myself as a musical elitest, but I also find it shocking when people sink so deeply and so unironically into stereotype.

Counterpoint...Clovis Mann.

I left Badger Bowl and drove straight across town to the Lazy Oaf Lounge, a bizarre little venue that used to be a Mexican restaurant. The geometry of the room is kind of odd, with a full third of the space hidden behind the bar, which is in the middle of the room. There were, perhaps, 12 people there watching Clovis Mann. Rather, there were, perhaps, 12 people in the entire bar. Probably only five of them were watching the show.

Clovis Mann is a blues/rock/jamband on the verge of jazz. They play mostly originals. They are musical. EN, behind the drum kit, had a light touch on his small Gretsch jazz kit that I'm pretty sure wasn't mic'ed (in contrast to the over playing of the Pink Houses guy, made even LOUDER by amplification). His parts were more ornate than I'm used to seeing him play, very jazzy. Tons of ghost notes. He took a full, but tasteful, solo. He was classy, or as classy as a guy in kind of a hippy band can be. At the Lazy Oaf there's no sound guy. No lights other than a red spotlight shining from the floor right into the musician's eyes. Never mind in ear monitors, there's no monitors at all. I didn't stay long. They aren't really my cup of tea, even though I think they do a great job.

It was just about the biggest contrast I could imagine. A totally bizarre night. And I was still in bed by 11:30pm.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I've been pretty conscious of trying to keep the number of tags that I use for this blog to a minimum and to be sure to tag every entry. I also try to keep posts to one topic/tag, or two at most. I'm not sure, but I feel like this will make things easier to find in the future. And it keeps posts somewhat succinct, which I prefer in a blog. One topic...couple of paragraphs. New thought/ post.

This is somewhat new for me as I never used to tag blog entries. It is useful for a resource kind of blog like this. It is good for me (or any one else reading) to be able to find all the posts about drummers...or tunes...easily. It's part of the reason that I started this blog, to be able to organize my drum thoughts beyond just "drum." I had started to notice that I'd try to find certain information and couldn't, because the tags weren't specific enough. Yes...I read my own blog. Alot. No...alot is not a word.

I was noticing that some people really go nuts with tags, though, to the point that they seem pointless. I actually saw a blog post the other day where the list of tags was longer than the actual post. Something to avoid.

Day Off

I took yesterday off. Didn't touch a pair of sticks (though I DID do some research and thinking through beats). Oddly, when I woke up this morning my right wrist was goofed up. I must have slept on it funny. When I hyper-extend it there is a shooting pain. I keep trying to stretch it out but it doesn't seem to be helping. That's what I get for resting.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


There are some songs that the band plays that are just really hard to get the correct starting tempo for. This is why the pros "get on the click." Basically, right before we start a song I sing it to myself in my head to get the tempo...then I count it off, usually with stick clicks. About a measure into the song I can tell whether I was close to the right tempo or way off. If I was way off (too fast or too slow) I try to transition the band to the right tempo over a couple of measures so that it isn't too obvious that we are changing tempo. It isn't always my fault. There are songs that others start, and they screw it up too sometimes...and then it is up to me to get it under control.

It's weird the games your brain can play on you. I can be 100% certain that I've got the right tempo and then realize it's wrong as soon as we start playing. A particular problem has been "Fucked Up and Wasted" and "Everybody's Happy Nowadays." I think I've got "Everybody's Happy" under control now. I know why that song was off. It was because it was really hard for me when I first learned it, so I over practiced and then assumed it was harder than it really I was playing to fast. Now that it doesn't scare me as much (actually, over the last few weeks I've gotten pretty comfortable) I've stopped rushing. But "Fucked Up and Wasted" is a mystery to me. I think I hear it in my head correctly, but it is nearly always wrong. Sometimes too fast, sometimes too slow.

So today I decided to "get on the click" or to do so to the best of my abilities and technical capacity. I tried to figure out the beats per minute for all of our songs.

I started off trying to do it myself with a metronome, but then I found a free download called MixMeister that counts bpm. It didn't work too badly, except I found that it cut the tempo in half. If a song is really 168, the software said it was 84. I understand that for high bpm songs, but don't get why it would do that for under 208 (the max of typical metronomes). Anyway, it gave me a starting point. Of course, there are some songs that we don't play the same as the recording, so those will have to be adjusted.

I think that I've determined that Fucked Up and Wasted is about 168 bpm. If I get it nailed down that that is correct, I think it wouldn't be a terrible thing to have a lighted metronome with the sound off or an ear bud in to check on that song during the song transition. It would save me a big pain in the ass and make us sound better. Especially given that song tends to be our show ender.


The band is learning a new song, an original written by RS. It is one of those hyper fast, over-before-you-know-it, punk tunes. The first part I wrote for it was about all I could manage given the bpm...a boom chick kind of thing. The bass player is doing something that swings a bit, though...or maybe it is slightly behind the beat instead of on top of it. I keep trying to adjust to the bass, but everytime I bring it up, he says he's following me...which clearly is not the case.

The song goes by so fast, and I'm required to hit some key fills, so it is hard to goof with the groove and try different things. And since the motto of the band seems to be "screw it, it's punk rock" I don't anticipate that there is much patience for me to parce this situation, unfortunately.

It definitely feels like a learning moment, though...and the first time that "feel" has been a factor. I'm not sure how to correct it, but I'm certain that I'm not in the pocket, not playing with the other musicians, and generally out of sorts on this tune (though everyone insists it sounds fine). The fact that I can tell something is off is good. Now I just have to figure out how to fix it.

I think we're moving at about 300 bpm (metronomes don't even go that high). The feel of the song is as follows (I think):

Meanwhile, I've been playing this:

So they are swinging a bit and I'm playing straight. That can work, but it isn't what I want to happen.

I think the simplest remedy is for me to pick up the "and of 2" note. The bass player is essentially playing (again, I THINK):

So if I hit the "and of 2" I will be playing with him and it will stop feeling like we're not together. I think I can do this on the snare. Something like this on the snare:

I think that where my internal conflict was coming from was that they are playing an off-beat pattern and I've been playing an on-beat pattern. It isn't ACTUAL feel (playing ahead or behind beat or swinging) so much as I'm just doing a different rhythm.

It's starting to make sense.


For Slappy Hour in January:

Doesn't look too hard.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lessons, Week 40

EN played a rough cut from Clovis Mann's new recordings and we played along to it. It was a cajun type feel. I couldn't quite get it and he didn't write it down, so it is lost to me now. There was an off-beat ride cymbal and a snare hit only played every other bass and high hat foot work. Then he gave me a written exercise of the same genre. I couldn't get that either. But I'm gonna work on it this week. I think that he expects me to play new things a little too fast's hard to take a new concept that is hard and play it fast (or what is fast for me). The thing is that I'm sight reading or sight "hearing" these parts AND trying to play them. My brain is so busy trying to figure out what is actually going on that I can't get to the part where I am actually working on playing it. It is easier to memorize the pattern FIRST...then work on playing it. I think I just need to be better about admitting to him that I need to slow down. I'm not sure if he's just trying to push me to do more than I think I can do or if he just doesn't realize. Usually I can get these things when I slow them way down at home.

After the exercises we played some The Meters tunes, which were really fun and pretty easy for me. I think I have a real predisposition for playing is easier for me to pick up than other things. I think he tries to pull me out of the depths of dispair with something fun in the lessons.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nicko McBrain

So...counterpoint to Joey Jordison...

Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden

When I was growing up, all the guys in middle school really dug Iron Maiden. I gotta wonder if it didn't half have to do with their evil little cartoon character mascot. Maybe it was the boys' way of transitioning from childhood to manhood.

I read a small quote from Nicko McBrain in a magazine this weekend that said that he doesn't play double bass pedal. It seems pretty clear to me that this is a requirement of metal these days, so it is really interesting to hear that a legend of the genre didn't play double. Neither did John Bonham for that matter.

Where Eagle's Dare (considered "very complex and masterful"):

Alexander the Great (with a 7/8 riff)

Brighter Than a Thousand Suns (with a 7/4 riff)

The Longest Day (with a 14/8 riff)

The Evil That Men Do (fast single bass pedal)

Joey Jordison

So you can't read drum magazines for very long without running across the image of Joey Jordison, the drummer for heavy metal band Slipknot

I know that metal is supposed to be technical and difficult to play...but I just don't get it. Not the heavy death/speed metal stuff anyway. Playing fast and hard and maybe not even together. Guttural screaming. It's funny, cause I used to think Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden...that these were too heavy/loud...but now those seem melodic and musical compared with stuff like Slipknot. To each their own...I don't begrudge anyone their tastes...but it literally doesn't make any sense to me.

This is kind of cool, a soundcheck:

Modern Drummer

I know that drum magazines are really just a vehicle for selling expensive equipment and albums, but I love reading magazines and I love it makes sense that I would enjoy drum magazines. And I have found it really nice to be exposed to all kinds of drummers that I've never heard of and to hear what their process has been. There's cool exercises too.

This summer I decided to subscribe to a drumming magazine. I chose Drum! because:
1. It was cheaper ($19 versus about $36 for MD)
2. It seemed cooler
3. I hate the title "Modern Drummer" and the font they use for their title (note, this seems to have improved)

There are other drum magazines around, but these were the two biggies and the ones that seemed most applicable to my interest in American rock music. Others are Downbeat (jazz), Traps (which I think is defunct), Classic Drummer(formerly Vintage Drummer), Drum Connextions (from NZ), Not So Modern Drummer, Rhythm (from UK), Sick Drummer (metal), and Drum Head. Tiger Bill keeps track of mags here, including some that are only online.

Since my Drum! subscription began I have found that I read them, cover to cover, really quickly...and then start craving more material. So I've been buying Modern Drummer off the newstand for a few months now.

Modern Drummer came out with a screaming $29 deal that includes some digital thing and two last night I caved and subscribed to it too.

Now I wonder how long it will be before I start buying a third magazine off the newstand...(Drum Head the next logical candidate)

Accents and Fills

I worked for a while on Sunday on an accent pattern that the Nod guy does. It is a really simple 16th note pattern, but the accents change everything. It is one of my first forays into accents. It's a more advanced concept, but I think it will make a big difference in my sound.

I also spent some time working on some fills from some Green Day songs. I tend to gloss over these and stick to the groove (like I was doing with The Nod accent pattern too), but it is probably time for me to start tackling these kinds of things.

The Nod

I finally got to see a full Nod show on Saturday night. I confirmed a fair amount of the drum parts and learned a few new things. There was a weird ride and high hat thing that I didn't quite get...not something I've seen people do before (it actually looked like he was hanging onto that by a thread himself). The guy is kind of interesting because he uses a fair amount of jazzy type cymbal stuff, but he also hits really hard pretty constantly. It's an interesting hybrid. I also noticed that he has a double bass pedal. I haven't noticed much crazy bass drum work on the recording, so I wonder if he used it on the recording.

I've been thinking lately that I want to start hitting a bit harder myself (and I've been doing so), but I think it is definitely a balancing act. You can get carried away with being a hard hitter. I don't think it is always a good thing.