Recently, I wrote about drummers not wanting to learn how to read music and why I urge all drum students to learn rhythmic notation (Yes, Beginning Drummers, You Do Have To Learn To Read Music). Today I want to rant a bit about drummers who refuse to work on technique.
Please don’t tell me that you just want to be a “feel” drummer and therefore you’re not interested in technique.
Technique can only help you.
In “Effortless Mastery,” Kenny Werner, the great jazz pianist, writes about the journey towards successful musicianship. He describes an interview where he was asked about what additional skill he would wish for if he could instantly upgrade something about his playing.
Werner did not hesitate to answer that he would want more technique. In fact, he writes that answering the question was easy because wanting more technique is a “no brainer!”
If one of the best musicians in the world, someone like Kenny Werner, who already has massive amounts of technique, would answer that question in that manner, doesn’t that tell you something?
Technique is important. It provides the musician–on any instrument–the physical means of expression.
The more technique you have, the more options you have to express yourself.
For some reason, it is always drummers who try to escape the difficult work of developing technique. Do you ever hear a guitarist or pianist say they are just a “feel” player?
Of course not!
You know why? Because being a “feel” player is just code for being too lazy to develop technique.
I am also sick of people bashing Ringo Star for not having technique. Guess what? It’s not true! I don’t believe for an instant that Ringo Starr doesn’t have technique. Here’s proof.
Look at his right hand. Do you see how effortlessly he is playing those eighth notes on the hi-hat? The tempo is in the 135 bpm range. What he is doing is not easy.
He’s got technique, and that is why he makes it look so easy. He’s using the Moeller technique to make the hi-hat sound that way. And Moeller is no cake walk to develop. It is a difficult technique that will supercharge your hand facility, and Ringo’s got it locked down here in a video clip filmed over 40 years ago.
- will make every single note you play sound better.
- is the backdoor to creativity. The more you have, the more ideas you can execute.
- gives you options
- will help you prevent injury
- is the only answer to playing with speed, fluidity and precision
So, please work on this stuff. I promise you it will be well worth the effort.
Reading and playing quarter note triplets is a topic that comes up frequently with beginning drum students.
In order to understand how to read, count and play quarter note triplets, you first have to understand how eighth note triplets work, which is fairly easy.
Eighth note triplets are just groups of three notes that fit in the space of one quarter note (the basic pulse of 4/4 music). To count these triplets, you simply say, “One-Trip-Let, Two-Trip-Let, Three-Trip-Let, Four-Trip-Let.”
Each of these syllables corresponds to one note of the triplet, and all twelve of those syllables fill up one bar of 4/4 time with four full eighth note triplets. To understand this more clearly, it will help to look at the attached worksheet. Click on the following link: Understanding Quarter Note Triplets
The worksheet abbreviates the words “One-Trip-Let” as “1 T L,” and you can see how the counting lines up with the both the eighth note triplets (top measure), and the quarter note triplets (bottom measure).
The quarter note triplets, shown on the second measure, line up with every other eighth note triplet, because that is how they are derived.
Quite simply, quarter note triplets are exactly one half of eighth note triplets, and by omitting every other eighth note subdivision across two eighth note triplets, the result will be one single quarter note triplet.
Hopefully, the graphic of the worksheet will allow you to understand how it works.
The first set of quarter note triplets shown is derived from the following actions relative to the first two eighth note triplets:
- playing the “one,”
- omitting the “trip,”
- playing the “let,”
- omitting the “2,”
- playing the “trip” that follows “two,” and
- omitting the “let” that follows “two.
This sounds complex, but looking at the graphics on the worksheet should make it clear…note how the quarter note triplets line up visually with the eighth note triplets and you should have a good sense of how this works.
I hope this is helpful…..as always, questions and comments are welcome.
Many beginners are needlessly intimidated by the idea of reading music, but the truth is that reading rhythmic notation is not particularly difficult.
In fact, reading musical notation for drumming is actually easier than it is for melodic instruments. In drumming, the lines and spaces on the musical staff represent actual physical objects; the parts of the drum set. With other instruments, the same lines and spaces represent melodic tones like “A” “E” “D” etc.
BANG beginning students, once in the flow of learning to read music, are often excited by the many doors of learning that are opened by acquiring this knowledge. We have a substantial library of drum books at our studios covering pretty much every topic: technique, multi limbed independence, playing in different musical styles, reading (of course), soloing, transcriptions of the drumming of great drummers, and more. Without the ability to read music, this wealth of learning is unavailable to you. Why would you limit yourself?
Here is another way to look at the question of whether or not learning to read music is important: Imagine that you wanted to learn a new language that had a completely different alphabet from what you were used to; Japanese, for example.
Would it be reasonable for you to only learn how to speak Japanese without learning to read and write it? Would you debate the wisdom of learning to read and write Japanese with your instructor? No, of course not.
When you learn a new language it makes sense to learn to read and write it. What if you could speak English but you could not read or write it? You’d be illiterate. That is a huge handicap.
The same holds true with reading and writing rhythmic notation. Music is a language, so if you want to learn it, you will be much better off becoming musically literate. The learning process is much more efficient that way, and you open up a world of knowledge along the way.
To get started, go buy a copy of “Syncopation” by Ted Reed (image above), and get a good drum teacher.
At BANG, we insist that our students learn to read. But don’t worry. It’s not as hard as you think.
There was a time when I was obsessed with a Vinnie Colaiuta solo from Zildjian Day, below. Have a look at the video and you may see why. His usual ridiculous chops dazzled me. His rhythmic mastery astounded me. Who would have thought to put the accents there?
Note the following:
- Vinnie really starts to take off at around 2:30 (this is where I became obsessed!);
- Vinnie plays some really fast triplet paradiddle and paradiddle-diddle combos (the subject of this post) at around 2:56 until around 3:00.
After slowing down this solo on my Marantz cassette deck with tone control (and I mean slowing it way down), I was able to hear that this blazingly fast section beginning at 2:56 was most definitely sixteenth note triplets, and that the phrasing was such that it had to be based on paradiddles and paradiddle-diddles.
It sounded so cool that I began to work out some combinations for myself.
It’s a powerful concept, one that is easy to confuse the listener (and your band mates) with, so please use these ideas with care.
Note that I’ve written these out as eighth note triplets, because I think it is easier to digest that way. You can pick little bits of these out as you see fit. They sound pretty cool, and you don’t have to play them at Buddy Rich tempos (like Vinnie does…I clocked that solo at around 160 bpm!!) because the phrasing is interesting enough that they sound good slower as well.
I’ve worked out some more of these besides what is presented here, but I’ll save that for “part 2.”
By the way, thanks to Todd Bishop who writes one of the very best drum blogs on the web, Cruise Ship Drummer! for posting my initial scribble from some scraps of paper that I had lying around in a folder. You can find that post here: From The Zone: Vinnie’s Paradiddle-Diddles
I’ve tried to make them look a bit nicer this time.
Here’s the PDF: Paradiddle Triplet Combinations Part 1
Quite simply, this is the most important concept to embrace when beginning to learn hand and stick technique for drumming.
This is one of the first things we teach our beginning students who have never touched a stick before. Perhaps more interesting is that many drummers who have played for a long time do not know how to use these ideas.
So, this is a drum lesson for beginners, but many intermediate or even advanced players will benefit from looking into these notions.
Weckl explains his ideas pretty clearly, and you would be hard pressed to find a more credible source on hand technique than Dave Weckl, so please have a look at this video.
Here’s an update to Clave Samba Independence Part 3.
I’ve been working through the original, Part 3, and I found that I would break the page down into two bar exercises that I’d repeat, and then start stringing them together. The original page looked too dense to me so I came up with 3.1, which I give you here.
The content is the same, but it’s broken down into bite sized pieces, and that makes it easier to digest as you practice. For me, that was helpful, because this material is difficult; the easier I can make it for myself, the better. In addition, the original Syncopation summary exercise pages are ten lines top to bottom with four bars on each line. This mimics that lay out, so if you decide to go back to Syncopation and work on this, the translation back and forth is “clean.” Eventually, you should be so good at playing clave with your right hand that you don’t need these exercises written out note for note; you should be able to go to Syncopation and lay the clave on top of the notation, just like you might when practicing other coordination with that book.
Here’s the PDF: Clave Samba Independence Part 3.1
Hope this helps some of you….
I’ve often been asked if I play any other instruments or write songs. My answer is “no, I never wanted to spend time on any musical endeavors other than drumming.” I want to keep getting better at the drums, so working on other instruments doesn’t make sense to me. It’s that simple….it’s about focus.
I’ve stumbled upon a quote from a very wise man, Plato, that echoes my sentiments. Nuff said; read on…
Each man is capable of doing one thing well. If he attempts several, he will fail to achieve distinction in any.
This is a ridiculous groove from Steve Jordan’s DVD, “The Groove Is Here”.
There is a PDF with a transcription of the groove available for you to download at the end of this post. And, yes, it’s free! Do it. Learn it. Burn it. Like Steve.
In the voice over, Steve mentions that what he plays here is similar to the groove he played on “Ramblin,” a track off of the David Sanborn album “Upfront.”
Before you check out Steve playing the groove in the video below, there are a few little nuances I should tell you about.
First, the hi-hat is played with the edge of the stick, all eighth notes, all the same volume. In other words, there is no fancy Moeller accenting going on with the hi-hat.
Second, every note played on the snare drum is ghosted except for the “two’s” and “four’s.”
Third, the groove is slightly swung…..ie…”in between the cracks.”
Fourth, all the snare drum notes are with the left hand EXCEPT for on beat four, when Steve brings his right hand over from the hi-hat for just that one note.
Fifth, notice how simple the bass drum pattern is.
OK, check it out on video:
Now, here’s the PDF with the transcription: Nasty Groove 2 PDF
It’s been a while since I’ve been excited enough about someone’s playing to go to a master class. Probably the last time I did this was when I went to see Dave Weckl at the Collective over twenty years ago.
But I really like Keith Carlock’s playing. The more I dig into it, the more I like it. Despite the fact that I recently posted a transcription of one of Keith’s licks, his playing is less lick based than many successful drummers.
In fact, his notions and uniqueness truly seem to have evolved from an understanding of jazz drumming and the melodic interplay between the snare drum and bass drum that jazz drummers rely on in their time keeping.
Keith is one of the first of a breed of modern drummers who has successfully melded the old and new and applied these traditional jazz concepts to rock and pop directly. That notion excites me tremendously. Steve Gadd was possibly the first drummer to do this….a real jazzer, Gadd kept getting called for big pop gigs….so why would you say “no”? He didn’t. And, of course, neither does Keith.
So I’ve plunked down my one hundred bucks and I’m going to this masterclass. Come join me…as of this writing, there are five spots left.
Dave is probably best known from his playing with Mars Volta, but he is not just a prog guy.
These two quotes from the article peaked my interest, because you don’t hear about this side of things that much. ‘Nuff Said; the quotes tell the tale….
1) “I’ve spent thousands of hours behind the kit trying to be the best, but in reality the most important factor is your social skills.”
2) “You get gigs because people want to hang out with you. If you can play, it’s a bonus.”