Friday, January 29, 2010

Practice This Week

I'm trying to rededicate myself to practice. Early this week I got kind of depressed about the lack of time I've been putting in...and promptly took a mental health day off of work and spent the better part of Wednesday sleeping or practicing. I still only got in about two hours on the drums and an hour on the bass...but it was good solid practice time. Thursday night rehearsal got cancelled and I hit a solid hour on the drums and a solid hour on the bass. On Wednesday I worked out the order and parts for the 5 songs the new band is going to rehearse next Monday plus trying to polish up 2 new tunes that the SSW are supposed to play for the Feb 14th gig. Then on Thursday I remembered a 3rd song we're supposed to play for that gig (They Might Be Giants, Why Does the Sun Shine?), and worked it up from scratch...even though it is a little tricky. By the end of the night on Thursday I felt like I had all 8 of the aforementioned songs in decent playing condition. There are future embellishments to be made for sure, but they are solid frameworks now. I feel alot better about Monday's pending rehearsal now.

On Wednesday on the bass I played some through the new Rock and Pop playalong book/cd I got. Put the disc on the Amazing Slow Downer and started to learn some of the songs. First song is "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen:

The part in this video is way better than in the book I bought...all these unneccessary shifts in the book:

Thursday night I played through the Pixies greatest hits disc complete with the couple of extra tunes RS said his band is working on. Need to decifer part on Break my Body more. It isn't hard, it's just got an unexpected rhythm and some tough quick shifts.

Anyway, I'm feeling better about things now. Getting the TMBG song was particularly rewarding because it has some tricky parts to it and I got it with just a few tries.

I just have to remember to keep plugging away. Every day. Put the time in. No pain, no gain. Improvement is directly proportional to the amount of time spent practicing. Progress will be quicker the more time I take to practice. Like magic.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lessons, Week 52

That's it...a year of lessons under my belt.

We went over a one page drum solo trying to work it up to 96 bpm. It had some off beat bass hits and some 3 against 2 things which were kind of cool.

He also showed me a simple exercise where you set your metronome and play single strokes...first 1 beat per click, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5, then 6, then 7, then 8, then 9, then 10...etc. At 10 he kinda broke down. I could only do up to 6. He said this will help with getting the feel for odd meters and for switching between them.

I mentioned to him that the latest edition of Turn It Up Lay It Down is about odd meters. I think I'm gonna get it cause it is a good chance to hear that stuff.

New Rose

We're adding New Rose by The Damned to the set list. It's been giving me fits. I think the trouble is that I watched a video of some kid playing it wrong (can't find it now) at the start. Just watched several live versions of The Damned playing it and it isn't as hard as the kid was making it at all.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Playing Slowly

I always read in drum magazines how playing slowly and with spaces can be harder than playing fast. I've never really bought this. But during yesterday's rehearsal with the new band I felt that very strongly. It's hard to hold back.

New Band

Something from Craig's List actually seems to be coming together...which is a shocker. Still too soon to tell, but the first rehearsal of the pop-rock cover band went pretty well. I actually didn't prepare that well and regretted it...but it was hard to know if we'd every actually meet up. Now I know what I need to accomplish before our next rehearsal on Feb 1st. Basically, I need to memorize song structures and listen and get down the parts a bit more accurately. The others seem solid in their playing. Maybe too soon to get the personality dynamic down. I couldn't tell what they thought of my playing (like I said, I wasn't as well prepared as I typically like to be, but hopefully they didn't think that means I suck). We'll see how it goes.

Mickey's 1/22/09 w/ Underculture

I'm not sure why, but it has been a busy winter for my band. Basically, I started trying to book shows last spring...and wasn't very successful. Then everything came in at once. So we basically have had a show every two weeks...from Dec 12th to Feb 14th. My usual goal is one show per this is more than expected or hoped for. The only down side has been that it has meant that we haven't had time to learn many new songs. We'll start on new tunes this week (the Feb 14th show is not much of a concern). Usually so many shows in such a short time means poor attendance too...but our fans (read friends) have been solid in turning out.

The show stretch started Deb 12th at Mickey's with what was possibly my worst performance on drums in public ever. That show basically led me into a month of solid depression (mostly due to work concerns or lack thereof in the dead of government winter). It was just horrible. Of course I'm the only person who really noticed how bad that night was. I didn't drop beats of everyone else was happy. In particular, the bass drum was a mess that night...and my fills.

Since then I've been trying to dissect what happened and how to fix it...and generally I've been trying not to pysch myself out (which is easy to do).

Last Friday we played the 4th of the 5 show series...back at Mickey's again. It was a nice checking in point. The show went really well. Underculture provided the PA and they mic'ed the bass drum...which made me nervous...but turned out fine. It's actually a good practice to mic the bass drum. I played really well.

I used my own throne, snare, snare stand, and cymbals and shared the rest of the kit. I had 1.5 pints of Futhermore Proper before playing and finished off the other half of the pint and a whole pint of water during the show. It was about 35 degrees outside...I wore jeans, Keens, and a short sleeve t-shirt and sweated my ass off during the show. I had a 4 hour nap 5pm to 9pm. Left house at 9:30pm and we took stage about 10:45pm. I stayed through bar time and got to bed about 3:30am. We brought down $40 for SSW ($10 a person). Not sure if that was bar or tips or both. We played dress rehearsal the night before the show. I was pretty active the week of the show (went to gym twice and played basketball), but tried not to do alot of walking in snow. Stayed up until about 11pm the night before the show and probably had more beer that night than prudent, but was still able to sleep. The nap on Friday helped.

Setlist: I didn't think I would, but I liked this set list. It built and ebbed and flowed well for my playing. Playing the last two one after the other was a pretty big workout...had to reserve energy during FU&W for SD.

Drummer Connection

Drummer Connection sent me an email that they ran out of cash and are moving to "autopilot/hobby/community maintained" mode. Apparently they have been paying people to runt the thing...and run on grants and ran out. A tiny part of me thought..."shit, I could run that thing for free" and then I immediately beat that part of me to a bloody pulp.

What I've learned about life is that all of the worthwhile stuff gets done for free. And that as soon as you turn your passion into a career it destroys your passion. Better to hate your job and be able to escape to your passion. Just my experience.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rick Allen

Hard to believe I haven't touched on Rick Allen yet. He is the one-armed drummer in Def Leppard.

Born 1963, started drums 1968, joined band 1978, lost left arm 1984. That's the summary. He now uses custom drums that are a combo of acoustic and electric.

Def Leppard has a special place in my heart. In, I believe, December of 1987 I was invited, at the last minute to a Def Leppard/Tesla concert by the girl I was in love with (she was not in love with me) and three of her male friends. That night I got a little crush on one of the three boys...mainly because he acted responsible. We held hands at the concert. Not long after the concert he and his buddy left for the army. I led a pretty sheltered life as a child, and this show was one of only three that I went to in high school. It was certainly the wildest of the three as well. It was a night to go down in infamy.

After that I bought Hysteria and Telsa's Mechanical Resonance and became a soft-core metal-head poser for a while.

Don't know that I've got much to say about Allen's style.

Pour Some Sugar on Me

Pop Rock...Not So Hard

Been absentmindedly learning some covers for a "maybe but probably not" project the Craig's List gods have thrown me. The list so far:

Drive, Incubus (2000)
Dissident, Pearl Jam (1993)
Slither, Velvet Revolver (2004)
Tush and LaGrange, ZZ Top
East Jesus Nowhere and 21 Guns, Green Day (2009)
Plush and Interstate Love Song, Stone Temple Pilots (2003)

With the exception of the ZZ Top stuff (guess LaGrange is going to be required learning as it seems to be on everyone's list), this stuff all feels like the same genre. Oddly, the band was originally billed as "classic rock." If 1993 is classic rock we're all in alot of trouble...never mind 2009. Oh well, labels are bullshit.

I didn't know any of these songs, though I'd heard a few on the radio. I was shocked by how similiar the drum beats are. They feel pretty boilerplate.

Don't know if this group is going to pan out or not, but I'm not feeling too worried about getting this stuff down. It's not fast and it's not loud and it's not intricate. If this is pop music I'm not sure why I'm not a millionaire.

It will be interesting to see what the ages and attitudes of these guys end up being. I've got a long way to go on the drums, but I'm starting to feel like I can handle myself in these situations. I can foresee a time in the future...perhaps not so distant...where my experience will surpass most. In five years, if I keep up the hard work, I'll be a "veteran". It will be hard to put up with bullshit once that time comes (not that it isn't already hard).

I'm not sure how good drummers who have been playing for 30 years but are still not making a living off music put up with "it" ("it" being people with big egos, those who don't practice, those who are late or no shows, those who noodle between songs, those who want to show off their playing, those who don't listen to the drummer, those who don't play musically). Beginners don't bother's the people who think they are hot shit (but aren't) who are trouble. But then again, I guess that, after 30 years you know who around town you are willing to play with...and you don't troll Craig's List so much any more.

Bands, like most relationships, are really built on communication, humility, mutual-respect, and empathy. And on being prepared...both with your general skills and on the songs at hand. These things are so simple, and yet so few people get them right.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lessons, Week 51

We worked with a metronome on practice pads the entire lesson. First with single strokes, then with paradiddles with accents on the "par".

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I've been answering Craig's List ads steadily for the last year. They don't tend to go anywhere.

One has gotten to the "email sent to more than 2 people to schedule first rehearsal" stage. It was sent to five people, actually...2 guitars, bass, vocal, and me.

If we actually get together I'll be shocked. If we have more than one rehearsal...uber shocked. Actually end up as a way.

My side project seems to be on permanent hiatus due to scheduling problems and disenchantment by the main protagonist.

My hoped for new tribute band is on the back the other three players decide whether they really want to do it our not.

My dreaded "idiot" project with a former bandmate seems unlikely to come to fruition.

Ya know...standard band shit.

On the bright side, there seems to be some gig chances coming up for SSW.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Turn It Up & Lay It Down

At PASIC I bought the rock edition of Turn It Up & Lay It Down after Ed Shaugnessy about creamed himself with a recommendation in a clinic (ooo...there's a image). The cds feature bass with a click track and sometimes guitar. Each cd is a different style of music. You write your own drum part over the top.

The rock edition ("rock it science") features songs in the style of famous bands...but they are original compositions. So it is really up to you to write the drum parts.

Here's someone playing along to the Blink-182-esque track:

I didn't know if I'd like these or not...but they are pretty cool. I like that there's a click on there, cause it gets me used to hearing a click. And I was really surprised how I knew what to play. It just comes out.

Now, that's probably cause I'm used to rock...but it would probably help a person to feel out a new style your own original way without directly copying someone else.

Anyway, pretty cool stuff. Just another tool in the toolbox.

My Basses

So I'm starting to wonder a little bit about my basses, mainly because of the issue with wanting to replace the tuner on one of them.

Here's the details:

Bass #1
Acquired for $100 (including a practice amp) in early 2004 I believe. I had been playing AT's bass since spring of 2003, but when he left the band I needed my own instrument. Bought it off of CS, who bought it off of a mutual friend. It is a Lotus...white body with white pick guard. Rosewood fretboard. there is a "Made in India" sticker on it. The tuners are Fender style 4 to a side and have 20 gears and four screws, two on top and two on bottom. Pretty heavy.

Online concensus seems to be that lots of people had these as their first bass when they were kids and that they are shit, and yet bring around some nostalgia.

Bass #2
Acquired...oh I've forgotten. Probably around like 2005 or 2006. It was $75 for the bass, practice amp, and a Yamaha acoustic guitar (that I traded in at Drums N Moore for a 12 string). AD at work said a friend was leaving town and selling a bass and did I want it. So I went over and bought it that night. The bass is a Yamaha. It has a sea foam green body, white pickguard, and a Maple fretboard. Made in Taiwan with a pink Yamaha "crest". There is a sticker that says "Att Plus M". Serial number MZ17195. The tuners are Fender style 4 to a side and have 22 gears and three screws, two on top and one on bottom. Lighter than the Lotus, but probably still relatively heavy.

According to the Yamaha website, that serial number was used in the following years: 1966, 1976, 1986, 1996, or 2006...with a date of December 17 and a unit number of 195. Hard to say...but mine has got to be either from 86 or 96. Pretty hard to get detailed info. What is the purpose of repeating serial numbers every ten years? Isn't the whole point of a serial number is that it is unique? WTF?

Looking online for info I see this instrument was "modelled after Bill Sheehan's signature Attitude bass." The actual Attitude's seem sought after. I think mine is a cheap knock off or beginner's version of the style.

Now neither of these is a fine instrument...but both play fine for my purposes except for that buzzing tuner on the Lotus. Looks like I can buy a replacement for around $12 online. Not sure, again, if it is worth fixing since I'm pretty sure the Lotus will be a backup for the Yamaha now that the action on the Yamaha is lowered.

Bass This Week

Okay I'm just giving in and creating a "bass" tag. I've had mixed feelings about adding my trials and tribulations with the bass to this blog...but it occurred to me this morning that it is called "Rhythm Movement" and that is totally consistent with the bass. And I'm thinking about the bass alot and I'm not starting a new blog to talk about it. So here it will live.

On Saturday I took my two basses (one white Lotus and one green Yamaha...both Fender knock offs) over to EE's workshop and she showed me how to set them up properly (minus tension rod adjustments, which they didn't need). Her girlfriend did a quick fix on my rattling tuner on the Lotus too. It's better now, but not perfect. If I plan to play that bass much I probably ought to replace that tuner. Not sure yet if it is worth it. The other bass, the Yamaha, is my favorite anyway....because it is lighter. She thought it was a better instrument too. Now that the action is lower, it feels good to play too. My hands aren't falling asleep now.

We talked about amps and cabs a bit. I've been under the impression that a 300 Watt amp head and a 4x10 cab would be the way to go. They challenged this, saying 100 Watts was plenty...and why not a 1 x 15? The truth is, I don't know what I like sound wise, and I don't know what I need because...I don't need anything at the moment. Basically I'd need something to play in a venue like the High Noon...but that wouldn't blow people off the map in a practice space. I need to be able to operate in a mic'ed and non-mic'ed situation. But I only need that if I ever actually play out with anyone...which I'm not convinced at this point I ever will. So I basically just need to cool my jets...continue doing attention to what other people are playing...and save my money. Maybe a year from now if the need arises.

Had a nice long talk with KS on Monday night. We only touched on bass a bit, but I think he'll be a nice mentor.

Thought alot last night about how I really do like Danny Vacation's bass playing. He and I don't get along as people, and I'm still irritated with him...but I can't deny that I like the parts that he writes. I think Educational Davis probably helps write those parts sometimes...and I don't think Danny has much of a grounding in theory. I think he noodles alot and just plays what feels good to him. I think that I'm going to try to learn the bass parts off of our album. I already have a sense of would just be a matter of working out the details. I think it would be a really good exercise. Really rewarding and also super helpful with transcribing and also with thinking about how people structure bass parts...some people anyway. His playing is a little busy and I think a little unorthodox, so there's caveats on the study...but it would be fun.

Last Night's Entertainment

Went to two shows last night...The Drain with No and Maybe Game...and So Dang Yang. I know someone, or multiple someone's, in each of the bands...and have played music with someone from each of the bands. My drum instructor is also in So Dang Yang.

It's nice to be able to talk to musicians that you respect as relative equals and to get advice from them. It was also fun to see my instructor in a performance situation...with all of the little things that preoccupy you. Makes me feel normal.

I think there are some small finesse things going on with Johnny Sucrose that are maybe a few months ahead of my playing level...but overall he's not doing anything crazy with the songs. He's mostly laying back and playing the groove. It's mostly stuff that I can do now...but couldn't do a year and a half ago. The ironic thing is that it was only leaving that band that inspired me to try harder and learn more and practice. It sucks to get kicked out of a band, and I genuinely miss playing that music...but it was the best possible thing to happen to me as a drummer. I probably would never have advanced in my skills as quickly if I was still playing with them.

Lessons, Week 50

Zeroing in on one year.

I thought we were going to do followup on rumba clave and son clave...but instead he had me go through paradiddle exercises with right hand on high hat and left hand on snare.


There were also moving accents...and triplets. He played a recording of Elvin Jones using it in a jazz context...and another recording in a funk context. The accents are hard to is doing the exercises up to speed and keeping the overall volume low except the accents. Not the hardest thing I've tried...but it would take practice to do it well.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Female Drummers

I don't really consider myself gender normative, so the whole idea of existing in the world as a female drummer is bizarre to me. I don't think of myself as female (or male for that matter). But I guess that other people perceive me as female and that's how it is. That Kate Schellenbach interview in the previous post about female drummers got me to thinking about how I'm treated.

Mostly I feel like people get excited and think that I "rock" merely because I am "female" and play the drums. This happens at gigs. Women especially come up to me and make a big deal out of it. This annoys me because it means that I can't trust what they say. They have no idea if I'm a good or bad drummer...but they say I'm awesome. I also worry that the men don't evaluate me objectively...I worry it's more of a "that girl isn't bad" pat on the head the fact that I have the guts to play and don't totally suck means I'm okay. Both are annoying.

I've noticed this wrt to Kim Deal too...people say all the time how much she rocked in the Pixies. But from what I can see...she wasn't much of a bass player. What...just because she's female and picked up a bass she rocks?

There's probably a level of discrimination too...but I'm not sure that I'm aware of it. There are probably guys who wouldn't want to play with me. Certainly I've learned that, because I have a gender neutral name, when I respond to a Craig's List ad the person always assumes I am male. And I kind of like that, because it gets me past the front door...and it shields me from creeps. I know that they aren't planning to rape me and they aren't hoping I'm a hot chick (only to be disappointed that I am fat and masculine)...cause they think I'm a guy.

I think that, once I'm in a band, I assert myself pretty quickly personality wise, so it doesn't seem to be a problem once things fall into place. Usually I forget that I am being perceived as female by the other members once I'm in the band. I feel like one of the guys.

And then there is the concept of the "all girls band." I love the Go Gos...but it is for their music, not their gender. I kind of don't like "all girls bands" and I don't think I'd ever want to be in one...not on purpose anyway. If I happened to start a band with only women in it that's be different. I kind of don't get it.

Kate Schellenbach

Whilst digging through Pixies to The Breeders bass fax I stumbled across the name Kate Schellenbach, who was apparently the original drummer for The Beastie Boys and for Luscious Jackson.

I have not ever really listened to The Beastie Boys OR Luscious Jackson. Just like, until recently, I'd not listened to Pixies or The Breeders. So I don't have much to say about her.

Myspace here.
Fan page here...includes interviews with Drum magazine like this one about female drummers.

Luscious Jackson - Here (1995)

With The Beastie Boys in 1983:

Gig, High Noon, Dec 19th, w/ Underculture

Really nice photos of this show up at You Be the Mouse.

I didn't properly rehash this gig in a post yet (think it was part of another post).

I used my own kit. Rested well before the show. Had 2 PBRs before playing. My performance was better than at Mickey's on Dec 12th, but not as good as at Frequency on Jan 8th. We cleared $53 after paying the door and soundguy. Turnout seemed low to me, so I was suprised that we made as much money as we did...but the High Noon is so big that it is really hard to judge attendance. I had a number of friends there.

Set list:

Gig, Frequency, Jan 8th w/ The Gomers

I haven't been doing a very good job of organizing gig posts. I think that I might have been trying to hide who I am a bit too much. So here's the start of better tracking.

The show on Friday was the best performance that I've had since the Labor Day show. The only glitch was that I was sharing a kit with The Gomers. I thought I'd have time to adjust it to my liking before starting to play. But the set change was quicker than I'd anticipated, and there was a microphone to be dealt with. So essentially I didn't get a chance to move anything. This was possibly for the best from a gig flow standpoint, since we were switching back and forth between bands. That would have meant three sessions of adjustments. I at least had the fore site to bring my own throne, so that I knew how high I'd sit. This was a major problem at Mickey's. I will always bring my own throne from here on out.

As to the setup, basically, he plays with his snare angled away from him (he plays traditional grip) and with his toms essentially flat. I play with my snare and toms angled towards me. I could live with the toms flat...but the snare meant I kept hitting the rim. I don't mind rim shots, but this was all rim and no head. I tried a quick adjustment, but he had the stand turned so that the angle maxed it couldn't be changed quickly.

We played a 15 minute set and then took a break. Right before our second 15 minute set there was a cartoon showed. The Gomers were done for the night. So during the cartoon I crawled up on stage (under where the cartoon was showing) and turned the snare drum around and adjusted the angle. After that I was pretty golden.

His setup was as follows. Pretty old trashed kit. K series crash:

Even with the set up problems, my playing was excellent. I don't know why, but his snare was really easy to play. Fills came off of it super easily. It was weird. After the show I asked him how he tuned...pretty high with a loose snare. 13 " drum. Don't know why it was so nice.

My right foot too was spot on...which I guess they heard in the green room and complimented. I was like a different person from the last two shows.

The throne was one point of success...but other than that I'm not sure what the difference was. I've been practicing, but I've still been totally inconsistent one day to the next. I tried to rest for a few days before the show (no strenuous exercise on my ankles)...but actually forgot to get enough sleep. We had dress rehearsal 8-9pm the night before the show. It was an early show...6-8pm. I had 3 beers before the gig (more than usual) starting at 5pm...and 1 at set break. All PBRs. I also had two glasses of water. I ate a cheeseburger and fries an hour before the show. We cleared $40 after The Gomers met their "reserve" (whatever that was). Turnout was really good...I'd guess in excess of 50 people (@ $5 a do the math on the "reserve"). Celebutards MC'ed and did glam makeovers...prizes, cake, promo on radio. Photos by JW, who was my only guest.

Set list:
Set 2
14. Starman w/ Gomers

Next show Jan 22nd at Mickey's. Also sharing a kit, a really nice one.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shoddy Heart

The jazz-esque hat and ride work on this one gives me fits.

The States

I love the drum part on this song. It is challenging, but doable, like all the great drum parts. The three against two in the bridge is particularly cool (around 2:11 on the video, though it doesn't look like much). Camera man totally dropped the bag on capturing the drummer. Did we really need that many lip closeups of the singer?


Just a little check in on the blog in general...

I've never written blogs particularly to solicit readers. Mostly my intended audience, for my personal blogs, has been myself and a list of less than 10 friends and family. I was never looking to expand my audience.

A couple of years ago I starting contributing entries about bicycling to a collaborative blog. In that case I WAS interested in having a broad audience. But I was shielded by the collaborative nature of the blog and the fact that the entries weren't really much about me personally.

With this blog, Rhythm Movement, my intention from the start was to recreate a kind of anonymity that I had lost in my other blogging (with disastrous results). I also wanted to focus on one topic, drumming, which had started to take over my other blogs. Further, my intention was partially to reach out to others with my same interest. Tentatively, for sure, because the internet seems prone to flaming. And I hate that. I certainly didn't anyone telling me that my playing and/or my opinions sucked...but I did have a small glimmer of making connections with other drummers.

And this is the kind of blog that no one but a drummer or musician would want to read. It isn't interesting unless you have a passion for playing and for learning about someone else's experience navigating learning an instrument.

I gave out the url to a handful of drumming or music friends, but pretty univerally Site Meter tells me that they don't visit. I suspect the topic bored the hell out of them if they checked it out even once.

So, aside from myself...who is the audience becoming?

It seems that most people are coming from Google searches on specific drumming topics. PASIC brought alot of people in. I can't find any regular readers yet. People find the blog because they are looking for something else. They come...they leave...they don't come back. So far anyway.

This doesn't entirely bother me. I'm writing mostly for my own reference. But I think it will be interesting to see if a regular readership develops at some point. I've made no effort to promote, so it will be slow to develop if at all.

I've not made any particular effort to make the entries interesting to anyone but me either. I ramble a bit and give reflections on my own playing and practice. I don't know if this would interest other people or not. I think it would interest me if I was reading someone else's. And the drummer profiles aren't anything new under the sun (already covered in other places)'s just a way for me to catalog my studies. Since reading Drummerworld start to end isn't an option for me...I note who I've looked into as it happens.

We'll see how things progress. I seem to still be pretty low profile and that's okay with me.


So I used to have this shitty metronome that I stole from my high school orchestra. It was a little mini version with the actual arm that went back and forth with the weight on it. Ironically, it didn't work very well. It kind of lumbered. The spaces between beats were uneven. Which is precisely the opposite of the function of a metronome. So I never used it much (with playing stringed instruments).

When I started playing drums I never worried about using a metronome. In the last year I resigned myself to needing one...and the one I had, besides sucking, wasn't loud enough for drums.

I went to a local music store looking for something that cost less than $25 and what I walked away with was kind of inappropriate for my needs. It didn't occur to me that drummers would have special needs in a metronome. It is the style with a dial. There's no volume control. It isn't loud enough to use with drums, though you can plug the headphone jack into a stereo and turn it up. Unfortunately, when you use headphones, though, you can't control the volume. And it is way too loud to use with headphones. And the tone is kind of annoying to broadcast over the stereo. So I'm mostly used it visually. I set it on my drum and watch the lights. The other problems with it only goes to 208 bpm (pretty standard) and it doesn't allow for sub-divided measures. This is a real problem for me because most punk music is in the >175 bpm range...and the stuff that I need the most metronome help can be over 208 bpm. And getting the subdivisions is key too.

I'm cheap and unwilling to pay much for such a device, but luckily I don't have to. I've been scoping out the Korg MA-30 for a while now, but didn't know if it really fit my needs. I didn't want to make the same mistake twice.

Luckily, JoeDrums feels my pain, and posted this helpful video on selecting a metronome for drumming:

After viewing this, I'm fairly certain that the $19.99 Korg MA-30 will suit me just fine. It costs more in stores (I found it at the store I bought my other one at and it is nearly $40 there!), so I've been waiting to buy it until I could assemble a big enough order online to avoid shipping fees if possible. Though, in light of my last post it is probably better to get it sooner rather than later.

Endurance and Consistency

It occurred to me last night that I haven't been playing as much as I should of late. And this is contributing to a general loss of endurance. I used to be able to play for 2-3 hours and not get tired and not start to make mistakes due to fatigue. Not the case at present. I need to build back up.

Being in a punk rock band with songs that only last 2 minutes and a full setlist of only 45 minutes probably doesn't help matters. I need to return to a practice exercises for an hour, play the set for an hour, play along to cds for 1-2 hour regime.

Hopefully it is just the holidays and my pre-holiday coordination spazz out (which I'm still recovering from) that is to blame. And the minor bass distraction of late.

I also think that I'm nailing down that spazz out to (besides the fact that I was tired that night and was playing on a foreign set and my feet were fucked from walking in foot deep snow all that week) a general sudden awareness of my inconsistency. I think that, for a while, I wasn't super aware of what all my limbs were doing. I just played and kind of thought all was well. I think now I've started to think more about consistency...whether I'm hitting every bass drum beat or every bit of a fill...and thinking about it has thrown me off. Ultimately, it is a good thing...because I SHOULD be worried about consistency. But in the short term it has me psyched out. I'm thinking about it too much and at the wrong times. I SHOULD be thinking about it during practice...I should let it go and play during performance.

A real key on the consistency front is playing with a metronome and building independence. The metronome is pretty new to me. I've only really started to use it in the last month. And it is an eye opener. And as to independence...I think I've long taken for granted that I was being consistent on simple beats when I really wasn't. I can play consistently with JUST hands or JUST feet or just this hand or foot or that. But with each layer added the consistency goes out the window.

It's just a hard time right now because I'm kind of having to unlearn some bad habits...poor stick holding technique and inconsistent it is a little frustrating. And I'm frustrated in my life in general at it gets a little depressing and makes me not want to practice. Which is the exact opposite of what needs to happen to work through this rough patch.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lessons, Week 49

An unpleasant (to me) but likely neccessary diversion into Latin grooves. 3-2 and 2-3 Rumba Clave and Son Clave rhythms. Stuff they use in I suck at it. I'm supposed to practice them and be able to do them next week. Bleah.

Also took a bass lesson last night and realized that I don't need bass lessons. Not right now. What I need is to memorize my major and minor scales and learn the fingerboard backwards and forwards. I don't need someone pestering me to do that...I just have to sit down and do it. Until I do, lessons probably won't help me much.

I was reminded during the bass lesson last night how much I hate lessons in general. Always have. Rarely have I lasted beyond a few lessons with any instrument (except cello, which I was forced to take) before getting totally irritated and quitting. The fellow was perfectly nice and qualified last night...but I couldn't help but feel like punching him. Before I'd even left the room I knew I wouldn't be back.

This isn't interesting in and of itself, because it is typical of me. What's interesting is that I am three lessons away from taking a solid year of drum lessons. And I've never once considered quitting. Not every lesson has been a gem...but I've never felt like punching EN. In honesty, I haven't been very good about following up on the things that we do in lessons. So I could be doing so much better. But the nice thing is that progress of some sort doesn't seem totally dependent on me following up on the lessons. He hangs on to a topic for a lesson or two...and then we move on. Sometimes we come back to things. And usually the second time around, even if I've not worked on the topic, I'm better able to deal with it. There's a mix of what he calls "chop busting" work and just jamming to tunes. A mix of technique and genre. And always, always the constant assumption that I am able and free to learn other things on my own...and that I'm playing in a "working" band on an ongoing basis. It isn't the most structured lessons...but I guess that's kind of what I need. He kind of drifts about to whatever from lesson to lesson...but when I bring a problem or question to him...we drop everything and focus on that. He's pretty great. For the record, he's the third drum instructor I've had in the last four years. I don't know if the time was just right for me (this is a large part of it) or if he just clicks better with me (a pretty big part too, I'm sure)...but it is good. I hope it stays that way. Probably up to me whether or not it will.

Monday, January 4, 2010

David Lovering

I've been learning Pixies songs on bass in a likely unsuccessful bid to join/start a Pixies tribute band. Prior to the idea coming up a few weeks ago, I'd never listened to the Pixies even though they were "popular" around the time that I was really into alternative music. Now that I've been turned on to them, of course, I see them everywhere. Last night, reading Modern Drummer, there was a short interview with their drummer David Lovering (personal website).

The interview was funny because he admitted to no longer being able to play some of the things he played while with the Pixies, and that, for their reunion tours he had to watch videos of himself on Youtube to remember how to play the songs because he couldn't quite tell from the recordings. So we're all in the same boat I guess.

Wiki calls his style "steady and accurate." Apparently he played bass on the song "Silver" on Doolittle. He also drummed with The Martinis, Cracker, Nitzer Ebb and Tanya Donelly. These days he's a magician.

I really like his drumming with the Pixies. It's hard to pin-point why, but I think it is that he makes choices that I would make. I sat down and played along with the Pixies greatest hits album having never heard the songs before. I'm sure I wasn't doign everything he was doing, but the tunes came easily. They made sense in my head and made me happy to play.

Bone Machine (live, back in the day):

The Happening


No luck so far finding any videos of him with Cracker or Nitzer Ebb.

The Mysteries of Music

So I sat down at the kit yesterday for the first time since Dec 30th...which is kind of a long stretch for me. The only practicing I'd done between those two days was some single stroke roll practice pad work on Jan 2nd. I also worked on my stroke techique...getting a good bounce off the pad and making sure my hand position was correct.

For about a month now I've been struggling with both fast single stroke rolls and also with playing eighth notes on the ride while playing double strokes on the bass. Songs that I learned nearly a year ago have been falling apart suddenly due to these issues (i.e. I played them fine for a year and suddenly I couldn't play them anymore). Since then I feel like I've been stuck in my head and my hands and feet have been totally retarded.

Yesterday I sat down to play and everything went perfect. No problems at all. Possibly the best I've ever played the songs in the band's set list. Rolls fine. Bass fine. Coordination fine.

The frustrating thing is...I have no idea what will happen next time I sit down. Could be good...could be bad.

Obviously I have the ability to play the songs the way I want to...because I did it yesterday. But where that ability goes sometimes I just don't know.

Practicing single stroke roll practice and hand technique practice definitely helps...and I should be doing that every day. Leading with the left hand especially. It is shocking how much weaker my left hand is than my right...but I suppose it makes total sense since I'm right handed and since all of the complicated playing happens with my right hand. Until recently my left hand wasn't really doing much. Now, since I'm correcting my techinique, the left hand is "doing more"...that is, the micro muscle movements are increasing. There's some risk of getting into my head too much with the stroke technique can goof me up cause I think about it at odd times and try to correct. I think this is a fine thing to do in practice. But at a show I should probably just try to let it rip. I'm at a weird place right now that neither the new way nor the old way of holding the sticks and playing feels quite it probably will goof me up at shows whether I try for it not to or not.

There's a show on Friday and I have no idea what to expect from my performance. I think I just need to practice this week, relax as much as possible during the show, and rest up well for a day or so before the show. No crazy exercise routines or walking all over town...get plenty of sleep.

Music is such a "one step forward, two steps back" kind of enterprise sometimes. I know that overall I end up making forward progress whether or not it seems like it day to day. It's hard to see the big picture and how far I've come in four years...or especially in the last year....and to know that I'll be really far from where I am in another year if I just keep it up. It's easy to get discouraged.