Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lessons, Week 48

We went over 7 stroke roll exercises out of the sticking book. Then we went over basic rock beats (snare on 2, 4...ride on eighth notes...various basic patterns on bass) and adding in high hat foot on

1) 2 and 4
2) 1, 2, 3, 4
3) and of 1, 2, 3, 4

I totally can't do the third pattern...but the next step would be on the "e" of 1, 2, 3, 4...etc, etc. Main lesson here...need to work on left foot strength and endurance...and independence. But I knew that already.

He played a song with Philly Joe Jones playing and we talked about high hat as time keeper in jazz. He also talked about how those session guys back in the day never got song writing credit even though they wrote the parts...so totally got screwed out of royalties and ended up in poverty even though they played on hundreds or thousands of records.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best of the Year/Decade

As all of the "best of the year/decade" lists come out I'm well aware that I must not pay much attention to popular music. Or any new music that isn't local, really. I have not heard pretty much any of the albums and songs listed on these lists. Many of the groups I've never heard of either. When I posted this observation on facebook I was met with two responses..."yeah, mainstream sucks" and "let me show you how to access music." Both responses are way, way off.

I don't avoid new or mainstream music on purpose. I don't have anything against it. I just don't cross paths with it much. That said, if I felt like I was missing out on something I am fully aware how to rectify the situation.

My firmly favorite period/genre of music is alternative pop/rock from about 1987 to 1994. That was a time when I was aware of all the latest stuff and rushed out to acquire as much of it as possible. Aside from a pre-pubescent fascination with Olivia Newton-John...this is the only time that I've "kept up" with music really.

Music comes to me in its own time, and over the last ten years that has essentially been almost exclusively through playing in local bands or listening to local bands. I get introduced to all kinds of things because I play in a band or because someone I know plays in a band. For a period of time this brought The Replacements, The Pretenders, Davie Bowie, Radiohead, Big Star, John Hiatt, and others to my attention. Then I was turned on to a bunch of new wave I'd missed in the early 80s. Lately it's been bands like The Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols, The Minutemen, Sham 69, X, MOTO, Circle Jerks, The Undertones, and their ilk. And over the last week...the Pixies...who somehow escaped my net back in the day (not unlike how Poi Dog Pondering escaped my net back in the day...only to be caught later and held tight).

The pop music of today...just not on my radar. Not even the hip stuff like The White Stripes and The Decemberists and Bon Iver.

This year the songs that have changed my life haven't even necessarily been the ones my bands have played or the bands that I know locally have played. The songs that have changed my life have been the ones that have opened this or that door for me with the drums....things that I've mostly learned to play after a struggle...stuff like:
The Ocean by Led Zeppelin
The States by The Nod
Radar Love by Golden Earring
Everybody's Happy Nowadays by The Buzzcocks
Having a Blast and She by Green Day
Cool Jerk by The Go Gos

...and a ton that I haven't quite mastered yet, but I'm well on my way, like:
The Immigrant Song by LZ (or When I Come Around by Green Day or Barracuda by Heart...all basically the same song on the drums as far as I can tell)
Beatnik Beach by The Go Gos
Little Wing by Hendrix
Walk This Way by Aerosmith
Smokin in the Boys Room by Motley Crew
Swingtown by Steve Miller Band
We're Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister

...and the ones that I haven't even started to try to master yet, but know I will...like:
Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who
Good Times Bad Times by LZ

Here's to another year of being well behind the times...but just in time just the same.

Xmas Doldrums

Completely distracted by the bass and holiday travel this past week...but I've convinced myself that, if called upon to play bass I will be able to.

And now I should probably get back to mostly drumming, because I'm either on the cusp of a break-through or break-down on the drums. It's starting to piss me off the things that are going wrong. My fills have regressed to shit and my bass drum has forgotten how to play while I'm on the ride. It's all fucked up. And the more that I think about it the worse that it gets.

But if I can work through this it's gonna be a brave new world on the other side.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Bass

For a while in the early 90s and early 00s I pretended like I played bass guitar. I never practiced or took lessons or really even tried to learn to play the thing. I just picked it up and joined a band...the first time around as a way to get around the difficulties of amplifying my cello (which I was playing instead of a bass) and the second time around just for the hell of it.

I've thought about getting more serious about playing the bass in the past, but it never really went anywhere. Then the drums came along and seemed like an easier pathway into what I wanted to do at the time, which was play in more bands. Also...I like hiding in the back of a band...the bass is good for that...but the drums are even better.

I'm fully committed to the drums at this point...the first time in my entire life that I've been fully committed to any endeavor. I've tried not to play other instruments much over the last year so as not to distract myself from the drums. But the truth is...I've just got too much damn time on my hands and need something else to do. I can only focus on drums a few hours a day at most before I get tired or discouraged or just lose focus. I need something to fill more hours of the day. I know, I know...this is not a problem most people have...the problem of too much free time. But it is a problem I have...in large part because...if I don't keep busy I get crazy and implode.

Anyway...the bass has been creeping back into my world. Enough so that I made a little fantasy proposal to join a band...which might or might not pan out...but which has lit a fire under me to get back in the swing of the thing...and to actually get a little more serious about it. Like learning how the instrument is actually supposed to be played and actually practicing. There are a few little tricks of the trade that I never really learned...like playing in the box and using pentatonic scales...but they are easier concepts to pick up now...after years of exposure to music theory and playing instruments and playing in bands and learning by ear, etc, etc...than they once were. My main barrier currently is redeveloping the hand strength that I once had to push down the thicker strings on frets that are further apart than on a regular guitar.

I don't actually think working on the bass a little bit is in conflict at all with drumming. They are complimentary activities so long as I don't stop practicing drums in favor of bass. More than anything else in a rock band, the bass and drums work as a unit. Understanding both ends is a benefit to my drumming, not a distraction.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lessons, Week 47

Continued to work on sticking exercises...chop busters as he says. Mostly worked on flams. Talked alot about my left hand and about my form. Some thoughts:

-put snare higher and flatter
-throw THROUGH drum
-make big motions
-keep hand open
-don't hit legs...keep left arm above leg, not resting on it
-video tape and observe form
-relax...watch tension in shoulders and back

I've been coming down flat and stiff with my left hand. The left hand should work pretty much the same way as the right. More bounce. Don't choke it.

All of this he thinks will help with speed and with my chronic reversion to the "wrong" patterns on my fills.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tad Hutchison

One day in college I heard some tunes a friend was playing on his car stereo. They were infectious and tasty. Jangly yet rockin'.

They were The Young Fresh Fellows. And their drummer is Tad Huchinson (brief music wiki here).

My series on drummers has largely had three categories: drummers I've listened to for years but didn't know who they were, drummers I've just begun to listen to, and drummers that I haven't listened to at all but figure I ought to look into. Tad falls into a fourth category: drummers I've listened to for a long time and knew who they were all along. And so his style is burned deep into my subconscious whether or not I've ever thought much about it overtly.

His style is to play lots of fast fills on the snare drum. That's about it.

And so he comes in handy at the moment...this moment in time for me being that in which I begin to try to get my speed and control in hand for fast fills.

I will note here that none of the videos below do their music justice. They are messy and poorly recorded. The original recordings are much better.

Rock and Roll Pest Control

Still There's Hope

How Much About Last Night Do You Remember

Taco Wagon (with drum solo)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Good Times Bad Times

Since Radar Love was on my list of "really hard songs" and it is getting into hand...it's got me thinking about the other "really hard songs" I never thought I'd be able to play.

Here's a nice lesson on Good Times, Bad Times by Led Zeppelin:

And a nice take

And another that I think I've posted before

Lessons: Week 46

He was about to launch into more Led Zepplin, but I stopped him and told him I wanted to work on speed and accuracy of 16th note and triplet fills. So he took out the stick exercises book and picked out about ten exercises. He told me to work then slow to fast until the breaking point. Then stay at just below the breaking point until I get past it. And he showed me some ways to apply it to the kit.

I'm going to really try to develop a regular sticking practice...like 30 minutes a day or so. I'd like to go for an hour...but I don't want to shoot too high and end up giving up. It's way past time for me to get this under control.

Monday, December 14, 2009

John Maher

There's been too much musing and navel gazing and self promotion in this venue over the last week...back to the drums.

On Saturday we opened for B'dum B'dum, which is a Buzzcocks tribute band in town. So here's my post on Buzzcocks drummer John Maher.

Maher was the Buzzcocks drummer from July 1976 until 1990, with a brief return in 1992. Other Buzzcocks drummers include Mick Singleton, Steve Garvey, Steve Gibson, Phil Barker, and Danny Farrant.

I don't know much what to say about Maher. I think I like his playing, but I really haven't listened very closely to anything but Everybody's Happy Nowadays. Here's a blog post about him, which seems to imply he's not very consistent. Hmmm. I'm not finding much else out there about his style, etc.

For your consideration:

Everybody's Happy Nowadays 1979

Ever Fallen in Love 1978


What Do I Get (I THINK this is Maher)

Why Can't I Touch It (I THINK this is Maher)

You Just Try

Some mildly annoying questions and comments on Saturday night. People were just being nice, but sometimes stuff just gets to me. Okay...stuff ALWAYS gets to me.

The annoying question was a very earnest "why did I choose drums?" The question itself isn't as annoying as the way it was asked. It reminded me of this one time in college when I was interviewing for a job as a resident assistant and someone on the committee, a student, asked me what my passion was. At the time, I did not have a passion. I was just muddling through school and putting anything that might develop into a passion on hold. And essentially this is what I said...that school was my passion at the moment. "No....but REALLY???? What's your PASSION???" An adult on the committee finally had to ask the guy to drop it. And so it was with the question on Saturday...its tone implied that there ought to be some grand reason why I picked the drums. It also implied I'd picked them drums at some distant point in the past. Or even that I'd picked THE drums...like I didn't play anything else.

The truth is, while about a year ago I decided to FOCUS on the drums...and that I feel that this decision is leading to the drums saving my life in some small or not so small way...I don't think I ever "picked" the drums. I was not that kid running around banging on pots and pans or constantly air drumming with pens. The truth is that where music is concerned I've long had attention deficit disorder, and have basically bounced from one instrument to another. Drums just happened to be where I landed four years ago. And I soon figured out that bands need drummers more than guitar players...and that you didn't have to be as good a drummer as a bass player to get gigs.

I didn't tell him any of this because he interupted me with a second question before I could answer the first...which was how did I learn to play the drums. Which is a pretty simple answer. I went to Experience Music Project and played a couple of songs there (and then practiced, took lessons, etc...but the main thing was that day at the museum). He wanted to know which songs I played that day. Like there was some magic in which songs they were. Crap...I don't remember which songs they were.

The upshot of all this is that the guy wants to play drums. To which I say...then play drums. It isn't some kind of magic...there's no trick. There's no key to unlock the mystery. You just play.

Which leads to the second annoying thing of the night...a comment by someone that they wish THEY could play in a band. To this I say the same thing...then play in a band. Quit whining and try. You may suck...or you may not be able to find people to play with. But unless you try you can shut the hell up with your whining about how you wish you could.

It isn't magic...you just try.

These things annoy me, I think, because people act like they are magic and that I'm just lucky. But I've worked my ass off. Don't get me wrong...I haven't worked my ass off as much as I could have or should have...but I have worked. More than anything...I've put myself "out there." I've answered hundreds, literally, of Craig's List ads for bands. I've thrown live music parties. I've really, really, really TRIED to get into bands. And it hasn't all been fun...I've been kicked out of bands, had bands move on without me (without kicking me out), had bands fold, and had my interest in auditioning ignored or ridiculed. I have felt pain...but I tried anyway and kept at it. And in the case of playing the drums...I bought em and I played em. I did all that. So don't whine to me about how "you wish".

The lesson for me is not about trying...it is about practicing. The magic key that I need to unlock the next step for me is as simple as sitting down each day for a couple of hours and practicing. Not just playing...but practicing. This is the painful truth. And if I start whining about how I suck and aren't getting any better...someone should hit me in the face with a big raw "you just have to practice" fish.

Footnote: Auxillary annoyance...don't tell me how you think I look cool and you wish you looked like me. I do NOT look cool. Never have...never will. That's just bullshit ass kissing pure and simple. This is why I don't trust 99% of what people say to me and can't accept a proper compliment.

Saturday's Show at Mickey's

The band played at Mickey's on Saturday.

About one day a week, pretty consistently, I sit down to play the drums and feel like I've never done it before. Total limb retardation. Unfortunately, Saturday was one of these times.

I had some things working against me. Since Wednesday I've walked the length of this town in deep snow or on ice 3 or 4 times. Sometimes wearing shoes with no support...sometimes wearing shoes with too much support. What this leads to is...tired feet. This was bad news for my right foot. I felt like my control was for shit. Imagine lifting weights and then trying to use your arms for fine motor skills. They feel weak and they shake and your control is for shit. That's how my foot felt.

Compounding this problem was that I was using a borrowed kit. It was a really nice borrowed kit, but foriegn just the same. The throne was way too high and I thought I could get away playing like that, but essentially I played the first two songs on my tip toes. I thought I play mostly heel up...but it turns out that I still rest my heel on the ground alot more than I thought. So my tired foot got even more tired. It was shaking pretty bad. So after the second song I adjusted the throne. Things were better after that, but the damage was done...both to my leg and to my psyche.

And then my fills were for shit. I don't understand this. I play these songs once or twice a week and most of the time the fills are fine. And then sometimes they totally suck.

Lessons learned:
1. Get plenty of sleep the night before a gig
2. Get plenty of physical rest the day or so before a gig
3. Make sure your throne height is right
4. Practice your fucking rudiments, dumbass

We cleared an amazing $144 ($190 from % of bar sales, $83 from tip jar, $17 from $$$ thrown at B'dum, B'dum...who were kind enough to split the kitty evenly between the bands). This was a huge suprise take for a "free" show at Mickey's.

Set list:

MMF Jam Session

So Saturday was the Madison Music Foundry Jam Session that I was learning Radar Love and Cissy Strut for. It was entertaining and educational.

It really highlighted for me how important communication amongst musicians is. I often feel like the communication in my bands is not as good as it should be...but the truth is that there is this base level of understanding and listening that goes on even if people seem like they aren't paying attention. Not so with 12 year olds who have never played with others. I'm not faulting them...they did great. It was more educational for me...just highlighting how much happens in a band that I'm not super conscious of...and reminding me how important listening and looking is.

The whole program is a really great experience for these kids. I don't know if they take that away or not. Maybe they are too focused on the song they learning and on being nervous to absorb everything that is going on around them. But all of it is great stuff...playing on a stage with a PA, playing with monitors, playing with other musicians. Really great stuff.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Videos: Intro Post

After yesterday's walk down memory lane it got me to wondering how many videos are out there. I count 42 that I'm aware of in which I am playing drums with a band.

Wow. That's alot of wasted ether.

Just imagine 6 billion people with 50 videos each.

Anyway...I downloaded them all to my local disk for posterity. And now I will subject my non-existent audience to massive video embedding...

Videos: Seven Stone Weaklings

4/4/09 at Glass Nickel
Maniac 4/4/09 at Glass Nickel
Our first show. GP Kevo on guitar/vocals. Sound quality poor, as to be expected at Glass Nickel. Performance good for most part aside from GP Kevo not knowing his lyrics. My drumming went well. We opened for Aniv de la Rev. Set list MIA.

Boscobel Breakout 4/4/09 at Glass Nickel

SFL 4/4/09 at Glass Nickel

5/14/2009 at The Frequency
Our second show. GP Kevo on guitar/vocals. This show was, in my opinion, a little rough around the edges in large part due to GP Kevo being distracted, starting songs in the wrong key, and generally playing way too loud. My drumming went well. We played with Modern Creatures, a gothic/punk/glam band from Vancover, and the Twin Crystals. Screaming in crowd courtesy of Educational Davis, who was quite drunk. Set List:
1. We are the One – The Avengers
2. Warsaw - Joy Division
3. You Stupid Fucking Liberals - Jim
4. Boscobel Breakout - Sham 69
5. Dance (4x) to the Radio - M.O.T.O.
6. Helicopter - XTC
7. Teenage Kicks - The Undertones
8. This Side of Paradise - Jim
9. Suspect Device - Stiff Little Fingers
10. Don’t Give Me No Lip Child – Sex Pistols
11. Part Time Punks - Television Personalities
12. Maniac - Peter & The Test Tube Babies
13. Fucked Up & Wasted - Anti-nowhere League

Part Time Punks 5/14/2009 at The Frequency

Helicopter 5/14/2009 at The Frequency

Boscobel Breakout 5/14/2009 at The Frequency

Suspect Device 5/14/2009 at The Frequency

Dance to the Radio 5/14/2009 at The Frequency

Don't Give Me No Lip Child 5/14/2009 at The Frequency

9/6/2009 at Slack Fest
This was our 4th show (also played a house party at my house in July, which went well). This was Rick's second show with us (who replaced GP Kevo on guitar/vocals). We were the only band that played. Performance quality pretty good despite high level of THC in air. My drumming went well. Set List (we took a set break somewhere in there):

Maniac and Suspect Device 9/6/2009 at Slack Fest

Everybody's Happy Nowadays 9/6/2009 at Slack Fest

Dance to the Radio 9/6/2009 at Slack Fest

Warsaw and This Side of Paradise 9/6/2009 at Slack Fest

Fable 9/6/2009 at Slack Fest

Part Time Punks 9/6/2009 at Slack Fest

We Are the Ones 9/6/2009 at Slack Fest

Videos: Shanghai Party Boss

There's alot here. I've even left out a couple.

Where Did The Time Go, 9/9/07 rehearsal

9/16/07 at The Klinic
This Time I'm Going to Do It Right, 9/16/07 at The Klinic
This was our first show together as a trio

Blitzkerg Bop, 9/16/07 at The Klinic

Punk Rock Superfly, 9/16/07 at The Klinic

10/11/07 at The Klinic
Punk Rock Superfly, 10/11/07 at The Klinic

12/22/2007 at Escape Java Joint
Tumblin' Down 12/22/2007 at Escape Java Joint

Truckin Out the Stops 12/22/2007 at Escape Java Joint

Where Did the Time Go? 12/22/2007 at Escape Java Joint

O Christmas 12/22/2007 at Escape Java Joint

Christmas Day Song 12/22/2007 at Escape Java Joint

Panic 12/22/2007 at Escape Java Joint

4/19/2008 at Glass Nickel
1 2 U Lose 2 4/19/2008 at Glass Nickel
I think this was Gunn's first show

7/4/2008 at The Frequency
O Christmas 7/4/2008 at The Frequency

Truckin Out the Stops 7/4/2008 at The Frequency

Tumblin' Down 7/4/2008 at The Frequency

Dangerous 7/4/2008 at The Frequency

This Time I'm Going to Do It Right 7/4/2008 at The Frequency

8/4/2008 at The High Noon Saloon
Looking Through My Telescope, 8/4/2008 at The High Noon Saloon

8/16/2008 at The Annex
Unnamed Tune, 8/16/2008 at The Annex
My last show with the boys

Videos: The Lollards

My formative years on the throne:

Ballad of Anna K, in rehearsal, Oct 12, 2006

Promises Nov 11, 2006

Cross the River Nov 11, 2006

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Four Years Drumming

This holiday season marks the end of my 4th year as a drummer. I think I've started this reflection a few times now, but I can't find where. So much for tags and organization. So here it goes again, my apologies if I'm blatantly repeating myself.

I bought my house in Sept/Oct of 2005. On my trip to Indiana for Christmas of that year, I stopped by Drums and Moore "just to look". There was a full used kit with hardwear and cymbals for less than $400 and I couldn't help myself. And so it began.

That summer after a couple of intro lessongs and many months spent alone in my basement with the Wings greatest hits and the first MP disk, I answered a Craig's List ad and joined a band which I have nicknamed "The Sea Turtles" because we didn't actually have a name. We didn't last long either. It was three guys from Milwaukee. Serious stoners. We had two or three rehearsals I think. And then they just stopped showing up and never contacted me again.

In August I answered another ad and started getting together once a week with JA at his place. We'd soon added MFthe7th and became The Lollards. We played together until summer 2007, mostly originals (22 songs at the end of the run, only 6 of which were covers). We recorded a 5 song (was supposed to be 6 but the 6th got eaten) EP and played out about once a month. JA decided to move away and broke up the group.

Right about the time I saw that The Lollards was ending, I answered yet another Craig's List ad and joined what was then called Champion Brunch in summer 2007. We were soon Shanghai Party Boss and played together through August of 2008. We also played out about once a month, played nearly all originals, and we recorded a 12 song album. They kicked me out and moved on under the moniker The No and Maybe Game.

A few months later I got the bright idea to audition for Aniv de la Rev, then realized it was not to be. On a drunken whim, JG invented a new band, I suspect just so we could play together. And so the Seven Stone Weaklings were born. We flipped the trend of playing originals...and play mostly covers.

There's been a rehearsal or two of a few other things that never got off the ground...and just a month ago I started playing with a aforeto-unnamed project with two of the surviving members of The MF7 and another.

Today I realized that I have a great deal of video documentation on the progression of my public drumming(I found more than 20 videos online today of me playing with SPB for instance and nearly that many already of SSW). And there's something nearly every year at this time. Here's the last four years of my life in drums via crappy music videos:

November 2006: The Lollards first show

December 2007: Christmas with Shanghai Party Boss (playing the only song I wrote for the band, Tumblin' Down)

Fall/Winter 2008:
This space left intentionally blank

September 2009: Labor Day with Seven Stone Weaklings (we have Christmas time shows planned, but don't suspect the playing will be any better than it is here...and don't know if they'll be video evidence). Witty bantor, me singing Warsaw, plus a JG original.

Progress on Radar Love

I mastered the very basics of Radar Love...and made a video this weekend. It is really weird because there's no music. My stereo died, so I'm listening via headphones on a portable. The performance is uneven, no doubt about it, but getting a little better every day. Video to come if I can get it to upload.

The solo section is mostly ready (though not accurate to the original) and I've begun to focus on building and cleaning up the fills...as well as adding back in some of the bass drum stuff I'd dropped.

I'm ready for Saturday, but I want to push on with this tune and try to get it closer to the recording.

I've also added Cissy Strut to Saturday's song list...and have the basics down. I'm skipping most of the bass drum and greatly simplifying the fills, but it still recognizable.

Lessons, Week 45

Went over Radar Love and Cissy Strut for this week's recital. He also mentioned he had uncovered his collection of Led Zepplin cds and recommended Whole Lotta Love and Heartbreaker.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bev Bevan

After listening to Radar Love four or five times this morning on the "first snow" bus ride to work, I switched to ELO Out of the Blue.

The "album" is the one and only one that I ever owned on 8 track tape. I got it for a couple of bucks at Sears in a sale bucket in probably 1983 or 1984. The purchase was inspired by my love of the Xanadu soundtrack, which was inspired by my love of Olivia Newton-John...which was inspired 99% by the hormones of a tween lesbian. I also owned a concert program from an ELO concert that I bought at Texas Tapes and Records (the greatest record store EVER), also on the cheap. I got it cause I played cello at the time...and thought the pictures of the cello players in a rock band were cool. Ironically and totally not by design, ten years later I would be playing cello in a rock band...but I digress.

I bought an ELO greatest hits "album" (on cd this time...which is the format that I also replaced Out of the Blue with a few years ago) recently and have been playing a bit of drums along with it. The parts aren't hard. I'm sure that, for many years, I assumed they were done with a drum machine.

But no. They were done by Bev Bevan.

Lately his name seems to pop up as having been witness to every great party in rock and roll. He is quoted alot in stories about rock stars who OD'ed. I kind of wonder if some of his stories aren't made up. Lately, he has a radio show and blog...which I've checked out a few times and found to be increadibly boring (not unlike THIS blog in that respect, I suspect).

Drummerworld is fairly silent on Bevan, though there is a bio here. As seems to so often be the case, not much is said about his playing style, though given that he filled in for Black Sabbath and also played in ELO, he must have a bit of range.

10538 (with a little more going on with the drums that much of their stuff) and Do Ya? live:

Turn to Stone live:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Da Last Show

A large portion of my band's show from 9/6/09 is now online, much to my surprise, here under Seven Stone Weaklings

Micro drum solo here.

Cold Sweat (Clyde)

From this month's Modern Drummer e-newsletter. A taste of local Madison drummer Clyde Stubbelfield's style (click to make larger):

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This Week

New band is being pretty nice to me. It's a very instinct-driven kind of playing. Very different from copying covers...and even different than trying to write set parts. It is very likely that I'll never play the same thing twice on any of the tunes. And I think that's probably ok. Half the time I don't even know what song we're playing...I just feel my way through and try to pay attention to what everyone else is doing for cues on feel, dynamics, and starts/stops.

After a full day of immersion in Radar Love (listened to it maybe 20 times and played it maybe 5 all the way through, with additional work on smaller sections) things are progressing quite nicely. I can make it through the entire song now, though I trip a little at the start of the tom breakdown. I think either I'm speeding up there or the recording changes tempo. I'm modifying most of the song to simplify it, of course, but I can make it through. It will be doable for Dec 12th and the main concern will be how the interaction with the other musicians goes. I'll still spend every day until then refining the tune, of course...trying to get closer to the recorded part and improving, in particular, the speed on my triplets and the bass drum part (which I'm playing mostly 1 & 3 on now, but it varied from that quite a bit on the recording). This would be a nice tune to master and then video tape.

I'm pleased with the progress so far, and much, much less freaked out about the recital. It'll be fine.

When I focus, things come along fairly quickly. And once they are in hand, they seem easy after that. I have to remember that. Focus.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fake Books

I've been meaning to look into the concept of drum "fake books" for a while now. I remember how you can buy guitar fake books...that distill the basic of a song into a short summary...so you can kind of play all kinds of things. It occurred to me that such a thing for drums would be awesome. So many rock and pop songs use a repetitive groove...you'd only need the basic one to four measure groove plus a note about any fancy sections. Most songs could be summarized in a few lines. And then classic rock cover band here you come...or live karaoke band.

Now granted, not all songs NEED a fakebook...drummers can fake it all by themselves often. But still...I wondered.

A quick web search reveals lots of promising dead ends that lead to fake books for any instrument under the sun aside from the drums.

So no obvious fake books available for drums...drum transcription books of various flavors, but nothing like I had in mind.

I was reminded, though, during my search, of the free drum charts at Gigging Drum Charts...which mostly aren't free at all...but most are pretty cheap even if they aren't free. Taking a look at those that ARE free, I see that theses "charts" are pretty close to what I was thinking of as a drum "fake book"...they just aren't all together in a big book. Here, for instance, is Running Down a Dream by Tom Petty. It seems like they could have reduced this particular song down significantly with short hand and repeat symbols/notation...but oh well. Anyway...I'm gonna do some searches under "drum charts" and add the good links at left.

Radar Love and Playing with Others

I did something stupid last night. Actually it's maybe something that would not have been stupid if I'd done it a month ago, but now it is a bit stupid. A "big mistake" as I like to say.

Big mistakes usually work out for me ok though.

I signed up to play Radar Love at the Madison Music Foundry student recital.

Wait for it...on Dec 12th. That's less than two weeks away.

Radar Love is in the Hal Leonard Classic Rock Playalong Book. It is a tune that I've heard for years, but never took much notice of. When you look at the drum chart, though, as a beginning/intermediate drummer you get blown away pretty quickly. I thought for sure that I'd reviewed the song here before, but I don't find it in the archives. It's one of those songs that I thought, "Now when I can play THAT, I'll be good" immediately followed by "I'll never be able to play that."

In the intervening months (because indeed that first look was less than a year ago...the compression of time really blows me away sometimes with this drum thing...even though it feels like I'm not advancing, I've come a long way in just the last year) I've returned to the song a few times, and it has begun to seem less daunting. A key issue was mastering (well, KIND of mastering) the "train beat" which gave me fits when I first tried it and isn't as big of a deal now. Another daunting portion is the drum breakdown section...which sounds really impressive. It isn't really that hard, though I still haven't quite mastered it. Something about playing the toms sounds more impressive than it is.

Anyway, the song seems doable now, but it still represents a challenge. I've meant to take on that challenge but haven't had a real reason to push it. But having to play it with a live band (with no rehearsal) in front of an audience in less than two weeks is probably a pretty good incentive. Like I said, if I had decided sooner (read: if I had the nads) to sign up, I would have had more practice time and that probably would have been a good thing. That said, as I've written, I've been in a drum lull lately, and this is probably a good fire to light under my ass.

Learning the song is one thing. The venue is another. Basically I will be playing with other students from MMF...all ages and playing levels. Oh...and there will be two drummers. And we will never have met each other or played together before. Get up on stage at the High Noon in front of an audience heavily parent-leaning and play.

This presents its own set of issues. Best case scenario, the kids rock and blow me off the stage and I just ride along. I suspect this will not be the case, however. I'm not saying that they won't be good and that they won't know the tune. Surely they will. And that may be a problem. Most of them will be teens or pre-teens, and eager to show off their "chops." Many of them may have never played with other musicians before.

Last night I heard a few tracks off of the Rock Workshop cd. MMF has a program where you lay out cash and your kid gets to join a rock band for 6 weeks. At the end they record a cd and have a show. The recital I'm playing in is the opening act for the Rock Workshop show. I guess I always assumed that kids that were motivated enough to do such a thing would be really good. And I'm not saying they aren't good...and aren't millions of miles ahead of where I was at their age...or maybe even am now in some respects. What surprised me about the recordings wasn't that they played poorly individually...it was that they played poorly TOGETHER.

I guess this is something that I've taken for granted...learned by osmosis. How to play WITH other musicians. I actually thought that I wasn't very good at it because I don't feel like I listen to the other musicians as well as I should. But I've been playing in ensembles since I was 12...in rock bands since I was 22ish. I guess over that time I've learned to "play nice" with others...though it's never been a focus.

I guess that's what maturity gets you, if not chops. I think this is what all those pro drummers lament wishing they knew then what they know now.

So yeah, the recording was all over the place. Sounded like 4 different songs.

And, I fear, so will sound Radar Love. Only worse...because the Rock Workshop had 6 weeks of playing together with an instructor. We're gonna have nothing. And Radar Love isn't exactly a simple tune. There are lots of odd transitions.

Enter the drummer...or in this case...drummerS. It occurs to me that learning the tune is one thing. Learning it perfectly the way that Golden Earring played it would be awesome. But playing it that way at this recital might be counter-productive. Probably what this performance needs is a rock to hold things together. There are lots of parts in the recording of Radar Love where the time keeping does some kind of non-traditional rock things. For starters, the song swings, so counting time is a little weird...and there are places where there's no bass drum beat and/or no snare. It's a little jazzy. Which sounds cool...but could really fuck with a 12 year old who's never played in a band before.

I'm considering, partially because it would be a little quicker to learn it this way, but also because I think it would make the performance go oh so much smoother, adding a bass on 1 and 3 and a high hat on 2 and 4 throughout most of the tune...whether it is in the original recording or not. There are places this isn't appropriate and I wouldn't do it. But there are long stretches where I think it would help things significantly. Throw my "chops" on the sword for the greater good. It's only parents watching anyway.

Here it is in all its glory...it'll be the main thing I play for the next 12 days.

Just to make me feel really good about this...JoeDrums...who is awesome...says "This was a very difficult drum part" (for the record, he's added some of the time keeping stuff I spoke about too):

Lesson, Week 44

Some lessons don't seem to cover much and some are crazy busy. I really think that he doesn't watch the clock and just goes with it when things are going well, but that could just be my perception.

Monday was jam packed.

We started with sticking exercises in 6/8 and working on double strokes. I talked to him about when playing mostly with fingers is appropriate and when playing mostly with wrists is appropriate. The upshot is that, once I've practiced it awhile, I'll have more control and speed with fingers...more power with wrists. So intricate things or soft things are fingers, loud things or the beginning of strokes (where you need rebound) are more wrists.

Then we moved on to a new sheet of triplet exercises. I did pretty good on these. Four way independence is improving, though it is still really, really hard.

Then we played a Count Basie tune and he recommended that I get Miles Davis's Kind of Blue. The Basie tune was really good for strengthening left foot and ride. It's worth using in a regular practice regime I think. I forgot the name, but it's one of the famous ones. I wrote it down.