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Here is an new free drum lesson video featuring a West African rhythm. Enjoy, Drumbots!!! (and you as well, Lisa )
Last weekend’s shows were yet another reminder of why being able to play quietly and yet with intent is so important for drummers. I cannot emphasis enough the amount of rooms I constantly have to play in where volume is an issue, and that generally the drums are the offending instrument when it comes to noise problems. Remember, in most small /acoustically challenging rooms the drums will dictate how loud the other instruments need to be, so if you are or want to be a regularly gigging drummer, then it is very important that you spend a good amount of practice time on being able to play quietly. I dare say that by being able to play quietly will probably allow you to retain more gigs than just about any other factor (excluding time keeping and other essential skills, of course). So do yourself a favor and make note to practice grooves and fills at several different dynamic ranges, from extremely soft to loud. You won’t regret it! Until next time, keep creating and have fun!
In continuing the theme of my last post, I thought I would discuss some of the more interesting and challenging musical endeavors from last week’s gigs. The band had to learn several songs last minute, one of which was Jame’s Taylor’s “Sweet Potato Pie”. Having never heard the song, but going off of my knowledge of JT’s music and the title itself, I figured it would be no problem. Boy, was I wrong! The difficulty in the tune rhythm-wise was the feel. To be more precise, it was a groove very similar to the classic “Purdie Shuffle” feel, but with a twist. The drum track, played beautifully by the late, great and under-appreciated Carlos Vega (if you don’t know who he is, look him up, he had the same amazing feel and musicality as another late great, Jeff Porcaro), had some hi-hat barks and doubles with the left hand against the right hand shuffle feel that were very hard to duplicate for me. Of course, Carlos made them smooth as silk on the recording…I guess that is why he was on so many records in the first place! Anyway, check out the track if you have never heard it. I hope to in the near future post an instructional video on how I tried to tackle that particular beast, and what I would suggest as far as practice to become smooth with that type of feel.
Thanks Carlos, for inspiring me and keeping me in the woodshed! Until next time, thanks for reading.
PS: Oh yeah, to make it even more fun, after spending several hrs practicing the song at the correct tempo, the client asked us to slow it down from the original tempo for the evening’s performance…Yeah!
I thought it might be of use to talk about some of the the things that I will be focusing on practice-wise (time permitting) over the next few days based on my playing over the weekend. There were three things that I noticed needed my immediate attention. Let’s take a look at each of them.
1) Right hand playing an uptempo Samba: I noticed that my right hand, when playing a traditional Samba ride cymbal pattern, began to give out quicker than it normally does. Playing these types of grooves definitely takes constant maintenance (at least for me), and if I am not playing them on a regular basis (which I am not), I need to woodshed them.
2) Triplet-based fills between toms at mid-to- slower tempos: I don’t know what it was about this weekend’s shows, but my hands could not stay out of each others way when moving around the kit. Not sure if it was b/c the way the toms were angled, or if it was from being tired, or what, but it was really irritating me as the night progressed! Felt very amateurish….
3) Kick drum placement over a two-beat feel with brushes at slower tempos: We pulled out “Lay Down Sally” during the dinner set, and I have to say that although I have played that song on and off for years, I feel I am just now really hearing what I am doing, and not sure if I am over analyzing or what, but I don’t like what I hear! I feel like the bass drum placement within the beat just doesn’t sit well; I feel a big part of that is because it is played at a tempo that is right in the middle of where I can either play heel up or heel down, and often have trouble deciding which is better for the overall feel…
I have tried to become better at practicing things that I use on my gigs, as opposed to practicing stuff that may be more fancy but much less applicable; hopefully by making mental notes during shows I can stick with that philosophy! Until next time, thanks for stopping by…
One of the things that I am constantly changing (i.e. struggling with) is my foot technique; specifically, the times when it is appropriate to use the heel down technique, and when to use the heel up technique. For me, I have been by-and-large a heel up player, but within slower tempo and certain feels I use heel down. I compare it to using the wrist vs. using the fingers. Playing heel down gives me more control (like using the wrist), whereas playing heel up gives me more speed (like using the fingers). Anyway, one of the things I have been doing with my students (and myself) is playing singles on the bass drum for a set amount of time using only the heel down technique. I have heard that Joe Morello could play singles on his right foot usning the heel down technique at 100 BPM for an extended amount of time. I have seen his foot in action and it is unbelievable what he can do with the heel down technique! So here is a little challenge to all you heel up players: for eight minutes a day for two weeks, do the following- Play sixteenth notes at 40BPM, 50BPM, 60BPM, and 70BPM for two minutes each. If you are like me, and rarely play heel down, you will feel the burn! I believe that it will ultimately help you in your bass drum technique, whether you play heel up or heel down, so give it try! Until next time, thanks for stopping by. -ML
I finally got around to putting together a quick lesson looking at a drum set rhythm transcribed by Royal Hartigan, who has studied the rhythms of the the West African people for years. Great Stuff! Enjoy…
Hello Guys and Gals,
I finally had a chance to throw another drum lesson together for you. It is quick and raw, but hopefully it will give you some ideas when it comes to practice time. Enjoy!
In my last post I mentioned that I was starting piano lessons (again). One of the things that I have tried to do no matter how tired I have been is to practice for at least 45 mins a night. I can tell you by doing so, I have noticed a difference in my playing in just one week. I believe that with any instrument, it is better to practice an hour day every day for for five days than five hrs for one day. Point being, spend some time practicing even when you don’t feel like it; remember, a little is better than none and you will be glad you did it! Until next time…
One of the things I try to do (but don’t do often enough) is videotape myself when playing gigs. I think there are a few reasons I don’t do this more often; one, it is another thing to think of besides the gear and all the other stuff that comes along with a gig, and two, it can be sometimes painful to watch myself! Anyway, I have been performing as a pretty regular sub for a Beatles tribute band, and had the pleasure of performing with them at a well known Atlanta venue last Saturday. One of the members of the audience filmed a large portion of the show and posted it on YouTube. The audio was iffy at best (it was recorded on a phone), but good enough where I could get the overall idea of what I was doing. In listening to the recording, I came away with several thoughts and feelings. Let’s face it, if you are like me and have spent a considerable amount of your time over the last several years practicing certain ideas and concepts (I hate to use the word “licks”), you want to use them whenever possible. HOWEVER (and this is capped for a reason), choosing where and when to use them is the key to musicality and professionalism. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly wasn’t playing my John Bonham bass drum fills or Vinnie licks over “Good Day Sunshine”, but I can tell you that when I did throw something in that served me more than the music, it stuck out. I may have thought it was cool at the time, but did it take away from the music? Yea, maybe a bit.
So here’s the deal: I f you want to play a lot and really “show your stuff”, do it when the music calls for it; otherwise, be mindful of what is happening around you. Remember, music should be like speaking; if someone is talking to you, you don’t talk over them, correct? Also, remember that it is actually easier to play fast with fills all over the place then to play simply and with just the right part. Trust me on this, I have had several students that are really good at playing a lot of fills with double bass onslaughts, but ask them to play a great feeling groove with a click, and forget about it!
Okay, until next time…..