Local Drummer is One of My Favorites

So I co-host a cool little jam session on Tuesdays at the Owl and Thistle in Seattle.  A few weeks ago Royce Shorter showed up and sat in. This kid’s amazing. He won the Modern Drummer competition in 2004 and is a graduate of Garfield High.

It’s not just that Royce has serious ability and chops. It’s really about his creativity, ideas and freedom of expression.  He sat in for one tune, I forgot which. Some tune that was of AABA form and just tore it up.

He’s got amazing touch and speed. He really generates time. It’s almost like he plays without resolution. There’s simply forward flow and momentum. His concept of time and phrasing, along with his playfulness, really draws you in. He can come up with spontaneous linear ideas while he is comping or soloing. It’s really cool when they are not licks too.

If you get a chance, check him out. He is based in Seattle and he plays with some local R&B groups.

Check out the footage from a few years ago at the Owl:

This Guy Is Inspiring

So I was browsing You Tube searching for some cool drum solos and vintage Dennis Chambers and then I happened to run into this young guy from New Zealand named Dylan Elise.  Aparently he is a busker in the streets of Wellington. This video is a drum solo performance in a Jazz Festival. At first I thought “look at that gigantic drumset, another poser” and then I listened further and my jaw dropped.

I’m a sucker for amazing technique, and this guy’s hands are unbelievable. He’s a solo performer no doubt, a one man show. His feet are as quick as his hands too.

Enjoy!

Also, don’t  forget to also go to Drummerworld.Com for short videos of the world’s greatest drummers!

How To Hit The Drum

It really is the simplest act, but there is so much subtlety to it!

To me there are really only 2 basic rudiments in drumming: the single stroke and the double stroke. The single stroke is basically one stroke per hand.  You can play alternating single strokes as 8ths,  sixteenths, triplets, sixtuplets, or 32nd notes. It is one hit per hand, hand to hand. The double stroke is just that: two hits on the drum per hand. If you are playing a set of 16th notes in 4/4 time, every beat would have the combination of right, right, left, left. Simple and straight forward.

All the other rudiments in the lists that are out there (the 26 basic rudiments) are unique combinations of single strokes and double strokes. Of course some of the rudiments on the basic 26 require grace notes which we will discuss later.

Single Strokes and Hand Motion

There are so many ways your hands can move when hitting the drum once. You can isolate the wrist motion and hit the drum by grabbing the stick, bending your wrist up while grabbing the stick and then stroking down. You can also do a single stroke by simply using your fingers to hit the drum. You can also include hitting the drum using only your arm from the shoulder like the Tyco drummers. I believe correct technique comes from the balanced motions of the fingers, wrists, and arm when striking the drum. The volume and type of sound you require at the time will also determine how you hit the drum.

We are not linear machines like robots with simple motions. I mean, look at your hand. It has so many curves and is capable of so many subtle and complex motions and gestures. Our human bodies are natural machines designed with a variety of non-linear organic subtleties in how they move. That is why, although seemingly simple, a single stroke on the drum can be comprised of a combination of all these different anatomical factors.

As the single strokes get faster, the use of stronger finger motion will be required for efficiency. We then learn how to bounce the stick on the head, which is another way to play single strokes.

Below there will soon be an example of single strokes with different hand, wrist finger motions:

Next post we will discuss the double stroke motion and the 32nd note roll.

The First Step:Drumsticks

This article is for the beginning drumset student.

The following are just tips that worked for me when I started out.

First off it’s important to buy the right sticks. Make sure they are not too big for your hands. Even if you do have large hands, to start out, a good size stick is 5A. The 5A is a very “middle of the road” size stick. If the stick is too heavy in the beginning, you will have a hard time controlling it when it comes time to play. The same goes if it is too light.

The popular brands are Promark, Vic Firth, and Calato. Each of these makers design different drumsticks with different feels. The Vic Firth 5a, wooden tip has a nice balance and a nice feel. These are made out of hickory and are a bit light. If you want something more front heavy, I would suggest the Promark 5A oak sticks. By front heavy I mean the stick has more weight closer to the tip.

You can also choose wooden tips or nylon tips. I prefer the wooden tips myself. The tips don’t last as long, but I prefer the tone of wood on the cymbals. Nylon tips tend to pop off after a while too.

Anecdote:

When I first started playing drums, I didn’t have a kit yet, so at the time (I was 12), I would play in my bed with different pillows as the different drums, and I would jam to Rush playing from my little record player. Eventually my folks provided me with a drum kit, but I learned a lot playing on the pillows. I still exercise on pillows to this day. Playing singles on pillows is great for strengthening your wrists and fingers.

You now have your sticks, so how do you learn to play the drum kit without one? If you are a beginner and want to start playing the kit, here’s the first beat you should learn on drum kit, even if you don’t have one. Just follow the link.

A Short Story of My Journey in Drumming

I have loved watching great drummers play ever since I was in Junior High. At that time it was John Bonham and Neil Peart. I remember getting turned on to the live video of Led Zeppelin called “The Song Remains the Same”. In it, there is the famous Moby Dick drum solo that Bonham just kills. He plays for over 15 minutes, in and out of time. Even today, twenty years after I first heard the solo I am still mesmerized. And that was the beginning for me. It was not so much what he played, but how he played. Any 12 year old interested in the drums is going to be impressed by such a display of chops, energy and rawness, and so I was.

My other influence at the same time was Neil Peart from Rush. My friends in school turned me on to the music and once you hear the music, the drumming is a big part of it.  He was and is still a very technical drummer, but little did I know that it was just the beginning, and that Bonham and Peart were only two of a list of amazing drummers during the 80’s.  I started my list of amazing drummers in the eighties as I was first beginning my adventure into playing music and drums. As I was exposed to new music such as Jazz and the then-emerging fusion genre, I got more inspired and my ears opened up to the possibilities of approaches, combinations, beats, and “licks” that the drums presented. It was the beginning of the evolution of linear drumming for me.

Rock drumming can have linear attributes depending on who plays the drums, but in essence, rock drumming is not about the “line” but about the groove and the pocket. There is where the magic lies in rock. How deep can you lay the back beat in time? How can you conjure up the magic from such a simple beat? Rock is primal and driving and it connects with everyone. This beat is present in today’s pop and funk music also but obviously in modified forms. Have you noticed that ever since Elvis and then the Beatles that the rock beat really hasn’t changed in its basic structure? Even the drummers in the bands of today play the beat the same way. They make it their own and add some stuff, but it’s basically the same.  I guess it’s the metaphorical relationship between the 1 and 3 and the 2 and 4 in 4/4 time. It’s the down and the up, the earth and the sky, the moon and the sun, the yin and yang. I mean even the polka beat is like a sped up rock beat with less syncopation; boom chick, boom chick! That relationship between 1, 3 and 2, 4 in rock and funk makes you dance and feel the beat.  So in essence, I see rock drumming as non-linear. But what is linear?

Later on during high school, there was a former student who used to come in and work with the drumline guys (yes I marched and played snare drum). He introduced me to an album I had never heard before from an artist I had never heard named Chick Corea. This album is actually quite obscure and really different. It was recorded in  1976  and the drummer Chick used was none other than Steve Gadd. I had never heard of this guy or of his playing at the time. All I knew was about John Bonham and Rush. The album is called “Leprechaun” and the first cut I heard from this album was Nitesprite.  This little song totally blew my world wide open at the time. I had never ever heard drumming like that in my life. This was my introduction to linear drumming in a nutshell. The song has these incredible syncopated beats that are based on snare-bass-ride combinations of 16th notes. The beats are so melodic and intricate, like a constant line that weaves in time. Throw away the back beat, throw away the rock, the up and down, and hello linear drumming.

A simple explanation for linear drumming would be: come up with intricate combinations of patterns between all of your limbs in a given time signature and grid within the time signature. When I say grid, I mean 16th notes, 8th notes, or triplets. The pattern encompasses every 16th, 8th or triplet partial you choose. This becomes your grid. On a map we call the staff sheet that is what it is. But these are only notes on a piece of paper. The drummer must then make the notes come alive with ghost notes and accents. If you listen to Steve Gadd on Nitesprite, you can feel the groove even through the linear drumming. It is amazing!!

Today my mind is always on the possibilities. Linear drumming possibilities are endless. An then, when you combine the melodies with the vertical components of ostinatos all going on at the same time and related to the same tempo, you’ve reached what I consider to be the edge of drumming. Imagine overlapping and intertwining melodies between all your limbs in time. This aspect of drumming, the craft of it is but a part of the total package. The rest of the package has to do with serving the music, and sometimes that means less complexity and more simplicity. But I believe as a life long student of the drumset, one has to deepen both the artistic and the mechanical. And that’s where I am now.