Rhythmic Control Part 3

rhythmic control three illustration There is a great technique book called “Savage Rudimental Workout,” that I think is a bit overlooked. I don’t hear much about this book in any of the usual channels–chat rooms, magazines, social media etc. I’ve been using the book with advanced beginners to help with technique. The other day, I was working on the first piece in the book with a student.

The piece is called “Relax and Roll with it,” and is designed to help develop the single stroke roll. The very last line of the piece sequentially simulates the hands speeding up by moving through figures that get more and more dense.

One of the things that makes this so tricky is the inclusion of quintuplets (“fives”) and septuplets (“sevens”) in the progression.   These are “artificial groupings” that are helpful to know but they are not part of the usual beginner’s repertoire. So, inspired by one student’s difficulty with “Relax and Roll with It,” the PDF of exercises included here was created.

The PDF below will take you through the following rhythmic metrics:

  • quarter notes
  • eighth notes
  • eighth note triplets
  • sixteenth notes
  • quintuplets
  • sixteenth note triplets
  • septuplets
  • thirty-second notes

Not surprisingly, many students have trouble navigating through this metric minefield.   Here, then, is the answer to said navigation. Use the attached PDF, “Rhythmic Control Part 3,”  as a beginning framework for working on moving in and out of these different subdivisions.

Start slowly, use a metronome, and go for even strokes at the different rates. For those rhythms that are unfamiliar, simply work until you can even play the required number of notes evenly with the click, and count out loud. For fives, just say: “one, two, three, four, five” while striking each note. Use a similar method for sevens. Work towards feeling equally comfortable with how each rhythm sounds and feels. Eventually, you will be able to move through the exercises with ease.  This exercise is also a great way to help you work on your single stroke roll.

Have at it by downloading the PDF:  rhythmic control three

Embrace The New Digital Age

UnknownI’ve been reading a lot about the new digital age. I’ve been thinking about it and acting on it too. Despite the fact that many lament the downfall of the traditional music business because their royalty streams have dried up, I on the other hand celebrate it. No, I am not celebrating the fact that many people who were earning a living in particular ways are no longer able to do so. I agree that sucks.

However, the new world has opened up other doors. I am one of the people who has embraced those new ways of doing things. There are many others like me who are using the possibilities of the new digital age to do things that were not possible previously. As an example, please read this article, published recently in The New York Times: The New Making It

These six are just the tip of the iceberg. The bottom line is that the world has changed. I understand wanting to hold onto the past because of the money once being made from royalties or selling CDs. I do. I understand why it would piss people off. But, things are different now and they’re not going back to the way they used to be. Embrace it and benefit. There are new ways to make money. I am an example of it….BANG! The Drum School has broken through the clutter of the hundreds of drummers trying to sell their drum lessons here in NYC. And guess what made this possible? The New Digital Age.

Educate yourself on how to use the possibilities of this new world to your advantage. If you do so, you might prosper.

I found this NY Times article via Bob Lefsetz. If you are a musician, you should probably be reading his blog. Educate and prosper.

Variations on the Foot-Right-Left Drum Lick as 32nd Notes

Welcome to Nasty Lick #69.

The more comfortable I get with a drumming pattern or idea, the more variations occur to me. This simple three note pattern is one of my favorites. If you are a regular reader of the blog, you probably know that the paradiddle-diddle is another favorite of mine.

Foot-Right-Left as triplets is the more common metric in which to use this lick, but I’ve been finding that using it as 32nd notes sounds amazing. Once I add paradiddle-diddles to the mix, things get even more interesting. Check it out and see if you agree.

The PDF of these new combinations is here: nasty lick 69

Let me know what you think.

A Paradiddle-diddle 32nd Note Drum Lick

Nasty-Lick-68-illustrationPresenting Nasty Lick #68–another interesting and cool sounding way to use paradiddle-diddles as 32nd notes. In this case, the idea also includes two bass drum notes, but not in the usual place. At least, it doesn’t sound “usual” to my ears. And I like that.

Another nuance is that the two bass drum notes are notated as RF (right foot) and LF (left foot), implying the use of a double pedal or two bass drums. You don’t have to play this that way, but I just pulled my double pedal out of the closet again, and I am realizing that there are certain applications (like this one) that may merit the use of the two foot approach. It’s up to you which way you want to try it, but it’s notated here as a double bass application.

The idea is presented on the worksheet/PDF in several ways–different phrasings. Have a look at the PDF, and if it seems interesting to you, download it and try it out.

Here is the PDF: Nasty Lick 68

King Cadence: A Philly Joe Jones Inspired Eight Bar Break

Philly_Joe2Back when I was shedding a lot of Philly Joe Jones and Vinnie Ruggiero stuff, I started writing out some cadences that came to me while practicing. What strikes me as I look over this material again is how musical it is. The phrases have space and are syncopated in that traditional jazz type of way. And that makes them sound great. I wrote a few of these, so I will look for the rest of them. In the meantime, this should do as a start.

This one is called “King Cadence.” By the way, two of the definitions of “cadence” are:

  • The rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words
  • A rhythmic pattern that is non-metrically structured

Here is the PDF: King Cadence

Vinnie Colaiuta’s Led Boots Drum Intro

imagesI’ve recently been listening to Jeff Beck’s “Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott’s,” featuring Vinnie Colaiuta. I’ve always loved “Led Boots,” from the “Wired” album, and Vinnie doesn’t disappoint on the live version.  “Led Boots (Live)” is a great example of how to approach adding your own voice to a song that fans already really know.  You have to respect the original–you don’t want to disappoint the fans.  But you want to play it your way too.  Vinnie references the original, and keeps some key moments the same, but he adds his own touch.

The studio version of “Led Boots” featured Narada Michael Walden on drums and his original drum intro is one great example of rhythmic displacement, which has become much more popular since.  Vinnie pays homage to this in his version.  Check it out.


Here’s the PDF with the drum intro transcribed: Led Boots Vinnie Drum Intro

The Music Technology Trap

The-Thinking-DrummerThe technology now available is extraordinary. What is possible with just a laptop computer makes very high quality recording available at one’s fingertips. I find these advances inspiring and enabling. It is much easier to create high quality music than ever before. But it is only easier in the realm of TECHNOLOGY. Let me explain.

The new technology allows me to hire a song writer and have him deliver stunningly high quality demo recordings that he created in his living room studio. It allows performers to bring their laptops to a gig and, with the push of a button, play tracks created with unlimited layers of amazing sounds and processing as their backing bands–again, possibly created while sitting in their apartment.

However, there is a paradox. If the songwriter creating the music for me in his living room hasn’t put in the time and work to write a good song, all is lost. In addition, if he hears guitar on the recording, he either needs a skilled musician to come and play for him or he must be an accomplished guitarist himself.

The laptop artist performing live and accompanying his computer tracks still has to be a strong performer and singer, guitarist, or other instrumentalist.

The skill required to sing, write a good song or play any instrument at a world-class level remains the same as ever before. The existence of the new technology doesn’t change this. Actually scratch that. The technology means you have to be better than in the past to compete. That’s right. The level of skill required to perform well as a top musician is actually HIGHER than ever before in the history of recorded music. Why is this?

There are several reasons.

1) The new technology has removed all barriers to entry. This means anyone can make and distribute music. This means that you have to be much better than ever before to stand out from the massive amount of music out there.

It used to require a lot of money to rent a studio and record. No longer. Distribution used to require a record company gate-keeper to anoint you so you could have your music get out into the world. No longer. Distribution is essentially free.

But the problem is that the removal of all the barriers to entry means that everyone thinks they can be a recording artist. Well, in fact, anyone CAN be a recording artist. And because of this, there is a huge amount of new music being made all the time. Much more than ever before. Unfortunately, most of it is crappy.

You know why? Because people learn how to use Ableton Live or Pro Tools and create tracks and sounds. But they don’t spend the time learning how to write a song, sing or play an instrument well.

And those skills are what separate the crap from the fantastic. It’s great that we can make music “more easily.” But in reality, you still have to practice your ass off to be a good pianist, guitarist, drummer, singer or songwriter.

So, the technology won’t save you. And “The Music Technology Trap” creates a situation where many aspiring musicians are forsaking the work needed to become a skilled musician or songwriter and becoming good at the technology end instead. But the trap is that you need BOTH.

2) The technology makes everything sound so good, that if your playing and sound on your instrument isn’t at least as good as the tracks you can create with your computer facility, you’re weaknesses are exposed immediately. This is the second part of “The Music Technology Trap.”

I’ve recently seen a bunch of live music where people relied heavily on their laptops onstage. The double-edged sword of the technology became apparent quickly. I’ve seen some incredible musicians, highly skilled at their craft, use technology to supplement what they do and achieve amazing results. It worked for them because they were already amazing at their instruments. Add to that the power of technology and what can happen is astounding. This is one possible outcome and its the one we hope for.

However, I’ve also seen the reverse. Up and comers will go on stage and have amazing sounding backing tracks. But then they start singing on top of it. Or playing their guitar. Or playing drums. And the skill and sound exhibited with the craft of playing those instruments is not on par with the skill and sounds of the technology.

And then, all is lost. The guitarist who does not have a good guitar tone or stunning technique is exposed as a charlatan because the rest of the music—the computer programmed stuff—sounds so good. But the guitar sound and playing can’t live up to it. It’s a trap. And the musician in question has walked into the trap himself, knowingly and willingly and most likely naively. He just didn’t realize that his weakness would be so easily exposed. More likely, he did not consider or understand that the weakness existed.

I’ve seen this with some frequency over the past few years. I’ve seen a drummer who is just OK play on top of a track that sounds pretty good, but his drums just sound so bad. And that great track behind him magnifies that disparity greatly.

I love new technology. I love what it makes possible. But you still have to be able to play your instrument—-and you must be able to play it even better than before the technology opened up all of these doors. You have to be able to write a better song than ever before. That’s “The Music Technology Trap.”

Can you use technology to make your music sound great? Yes, but you better do the work on your primary ax. Go practice. Then make some music. Then go practice some more and make some better music. Record yourself and criticize your performances, then improve and do it again. If you do this, maybe you’ll get some people excited about what you create.

Just be aware that the technology can potentially expose your weaknesses, so do the work. There are no shortcuts.

A Vinnie Colaiuta Inspired Triplet Lick


Here, in “Nasty Lick #67,” we have a Vinnie inspired idea that sounds different because of the placement of accents in the context of 16th note triplets. Many experienced drummers are used to hearing the placement of accents in a 16th note triplet context based on our use of six stroke rolls or paradiddle-diddles.

What I love about this idea is that it puts the accents in different places than we’re used to; that’s a Vinnie Colaiuta trademark.

Play this the same way you would a six-stroke roll—make the accents loud and all the other notes very quiet/ghosted. You’ll be able to play this idea very fast with some practice. The idea is shown with both right and left hand lead, and you’ll find that the way you can place the accented notes around the drum kit will change with each version.

Here’s the PDF: Nasty Lick 67

Jojo Mayer On Greatness


This quote pretty much nails the big picture of how to conceptualize what a drummer needs in order to be a great player. We’re not talking about skills. Yes, you need to learn to read rhythmic notation and gain technique. Yes, you need to study and gain multi limbed independence. Yes, you have to learn foot technique and study different styles. But those are micro level things. Jojo is great at explaining details but he is also really good at condensing the big picture into understandable concepts. That’s what he does here. He boils it all down to three big picture ideas. Succinct and thought-provoking. Check it out. It’s Yoda-like and heavy.

Do you know the John Bonham logo, the three circles that intersect? Those three circles I see as the physical or technical world, or the body; the conceptual world or the mind—the choices; and the emotional world. There are areas where the three overlap, but you can also separate them.

Now, say there’s a drummer who’s ready to emote and share his feelings but is technically unable to execute his ideas. He’s going to be frustrated. Now let’s say there’s a drummer who has a meticulous understanding of the physics of his instrument and a very good concept, but he cannot emote. He will only be interesting to other drummers. He’s going to be a clinician. He’s going to do incredible things, but your girlfriend is going to go out and grab a coffee and meet you after. Then maybe you have a technical or body understanding and you are ready to emote but you have no concept. You’re going to become a clone of somebody who’s already out there. And you’re going to miss authenticity, which is very important.

So, all of us have to allow ourselves to be honest and aware of our emotions. We want to share these things with someone else, so we have to put them into some sort of structure so people can understand it. And then we need technique to do it. So in the process you make acquisitions of knowledge. You process this, but then you have to let things go, because you cannot be everything. You cannot be Jack DeJohnette and John Bonham and Stewart Copeland and Elvin Jones. But you can simplify and find clarity, and you find clarity when you remove things and you spend time with simple things.

–from Modern Drummer magazine, May 2015 issue

Bill Stewart on Technique

billstewartOne of the purposes of “The Drumming Blog” is to curate. As one who is obsessed with drumming, I’m a big consumer of the drumming media and therefore I stumble upon little tidbits of drumming wisdom all the time. Often, it’s from interviews I read with great drummers either online or in magazines.

In this edition of “DrumSpeak,” Bill Stewart, one of our generation’s most influential jazz drummers, speaks about technique. I found this quote in an interview with Stewart that appeared in the April 2015 issue of Drumhead, a relatively new entry in the drumming magazine world. If you don’t know Drumhead, it’s a magazine worth checking out.

Here is Stewart’s response to the question: “What gives you the desire to work on technique?”

I work on technique every time I practice. I come across things that I’m maybe not doing well enough so I will focus on whatever is bothering me, as far as execution goes. Obviously I work on technique, but it’s in order to play what I want to play musically. I’ve never liked it when musicians play things that seem technical for the sake of showing that; showing fast hands, for example. It’s usually something fast that people associate with that. That’s not really where Im coming from but obviously I do have to work on getting my hands and feet and coordination to all work well. To me, technique is about getting a good sound too; it’s not just about playing a bunch of flashy stuff.