The Talent Code examines the details of exactly how great skill is developed.
There is more science to this than you might imagine. As a matter of full disclosure, I haven’t finished the book yet. But I’ve read enough to be able to tell you that I think it would be worth your time to check it out. You will find out a lot about the topic of developing the skill you seek. And I’m pretty certain that some of the information here will surprise you.
I won’t give all of author Daniel Coyle’s revelations away, but here are a couple of the key findings:
- Skill is not something you are born with. Great athletes are not born with genetics that are superior to you. Great musicians are not born with music in their blood. All of the skill is developed through focused, repetitive work and practice.
- There is real science that has been discovered in the formation of skill. These new discoveries are related to the physiology of what happens in one’s body while practicing. Note that this science has nothing do with born ability.
- The specifics of how you practice is very important.
- Having the right guidance is paramount. Coyle calls this “Master Coaching.”
If you are serious about becoming a great drummer (or becoming a great artist in almost any discipline), you must read this book.
Part of my job with this blog is to be a curator. In that role, I want to share things with you that I think are excellent, inspiring and push the limits of the art form of drumming.
Here is one such example. Dave DiCenso. Do you know him? Perhaps his most well known gig these days is as the drummer with Josh Groban. He also teaches at Berklee School of Music.
When I saw this solo, I thought it had it all: groove, creativity, technique, fireworks, and great musicality.
Have a look and listen and see if it inspires you. It definitely inspires me.
At first, you may look at this and just say, “why?”
I know. I get it. But I have begun to find use for this idea. Bear with me a moment, OK?
We’ve been taught since the day we begin drumming that we should be able to play lots of figures with our limbs while maintaining an eighth note cymbal rhythm. Lots of figures that don’t include eighth note triplets. I have never seen this explored in any drumming literature and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone play this way. Why is that?
As I thought about the “why,” I started to feel that there wasn’t any good reason for this stuff being ignored. I also could imagine this facility yielding some pretty cool sounding stuff.
Good enough. Let’s go.
As I’ve messed with this notion, I’ve discovered that there is some use for it. Mixing eighth note triplets in with other ideas that are more commonly played can actually sound musical if played tastefully.
So, I’ve decided to explore further. This worksheet will give you some ideas on how to begin working on gaining the facility to play this way. It’s just a start, but a significant one.
To get started, you need to work on the essence of three against two, which is the very first exercise on the sheet. It’s presented in the simplest form (quarter notes vs quarter note triplets) so you can start to understand the rhythm of overlapping these figures.
I would suggest working on exercise one for a long time, and then substituting your bass drum and hi hat foot for the snare drum. As you get more used to how this feels and sounds, you can start to speed it up. As you do, you’ll start to get the feeling of eighth notes vs eighth note triplets.
Then, start working on the exercises.
After you’ve messed with the exercises for a while, try improvising with adding a few eighth note triplets here and there as you play the more conventional things you can already play vs the eighth note cymbal pulse.
Here’s the PDF for you to take into the practice room: eighth note cymbal vs eighth note triplets part one
More to come as I get deeper into this…
I’ve always believed that the ultimate achievement for any musician is to have their own voice or sound on their instrument. For many ambitious musicians, that notion represents the Holy Grail of musicianship.
Steve Gadd, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, and Keith Carlock are just a few of the drummers who have reached that apex. Can you listen to a few bars of music and on that basis alone know who a particular drummer is?
Yes? That is the hallmark of a musician who has successfully developed their own unique voice.
The question is: how does one get there?
Passion and Work
One must have a passion for the instrument that is extraordinarily deep. The work involved is too overwhelming for all but the most dedicated. If you speak to musicians who have reached this high level of achievement, they will tell you that they listened to many musicians and delved deeply into those who they felt passionate about. They practiced thousands of hours. But was it chore? Perhaps sometimes. But mostly, no. The passion drove the work.
Part of the work is to explore the vocabulary of great drummers before you. You don’t have to learn what everyone played. That would simply be impossible. Just pick those who inspire you. That is part of what makes this journey fun. You get to pick which drummers will influence your playing.
Exploring in this journey is not cursory. It means transcribing and dissecting. Just listening to a few tracks is not enough. One needs to become deeply immersed. I believe that learning the time playing and soloing of the artists you choose to explore is important. Perhaps you choose the time playing of several drummers and the soloing of others. Pick and choose that which excites you.
Beyond the specific ideas you might have heard your heroes play, there will be concepts that influence you. For example, Billy Cobham was one of the first players to play open handed. That had a great influence conceptually on many other drummers. You can bet that Simon Phillips was heavily influenced by Billy, but he took the concept and did new things with it.
Look for some other big picture drumming concepts that you can build your unique playing voice on.
Then, you’ll have to learn to play these ideas yourself. You’ll get a deep understanding by doing this. You’ll start to hear new things. You’ll keep some of it. You’ll discard some of it.
At some point, you will have to make a conscious decision to go down your own road. If you don’t do this, you will never make it to the unique place of having your own sound. This is crucial.
Once you give yourself permission to do this, gates will open. You’ll take ideas that your idols played and alter them. There are many ways to do this. A few are:
- Orchestrate the idea differently on the drum set, using different voices than that of the original.
- Play the idea as a different metric. For example, if the orignal idea is based on triplets, try playing it as sixteenth notes.
- Add or subtract notes. If the idea has two bass drum notes, try it with only one.
- Try a different sticking.
You will find some of these new ways of playing things sound good and some don’t. That’s OK. That’s the process. You’ll keep some stuff and discard other stuff.
Putting it Together Your WayYou’ll also have to figure our how to integrate your ideas into your playing in a way that makes sense. This will take a bunch of work on it’s own. The work to do this is very important. Practice improvising your new ideas. If you can’t improvise them into your practice playing, then they probably won’t come out in your performances when you want them to.
The sound of your instrumentWhat about tuning, drum sizes, cymbal choices, and technique? All of these directly influence how you sound so you have to think about these things too. Are you going to have a massive kit or a small one? Double bass or single? Coated Ambassadors or Pinstripes? Muffling or open? Traditional grip vs matched? Do you rely on doubles or singles? Each of these choices is important.
This is the most exciting journey of all. Embrace it and enjoy it.
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.
-Jim Jarmusch, filmmaker
I know I will get grief about this. And I welcome the debate because what it means is that I (and therefore you) will find out about more great Vinnie solos that rival this one. I have loved this particular solo since I first saw it, which was about 25 years ago. I even have a lot of it transcribed…in various notebooks lying around the apartment. So, readers, if you are interested, let me know and I can try to pull the pieces together and post a transcription.
Here it is….Vinnie Colaiuta at Zildjian Day in New York from 1984. This is the first solo …..not the odd time solo he takes later in the performance. My favorite part begins at 2:32 and ends at 3:13. It’s 45 seconds of pure blistering madness Vinnie style. You’re going to love this.
Following up on last week’s post, I’ve stumbled on another idea that goes a little deeper. Let’s start by showing you a video of me playing the new idea. I play it twice in the clip. By the way, the click is audible during the video with the high pitched beep set as the “1” of each 4/4 measure. The idea goes over the bar line, so the click should help make it clear where the “one” is.
One of the things I love about double stroke rolls is that they make it easy to insert accents where ever you wish. Using that notion, I came up with a variation on the ideas from the last post. The attached worksheet breaks down the lick in three steps:
- the underlying rhythm of the idea is shown
- the sticking of the lick (with out the doubles) is given
- the full lick exactly as played is written
I found it helpful to look at the lick in these three ways as I started working on it. Hopefully these steps will be useful for you as well. Below is the full lick’s rhythmic notation.
Here is a PDF of worksheet with all the details so you can take it into the practice room: Nasty Lick #62A
With Nasty Lick 62, we explore the mixing of two great patterns:the double stroke roll (as 32nd notes) and the “Foot-Right-Left” Triplet (as 16th note triplets).
As it turns out, they work really well together and offer many interesting possibilities. I really like the flowing sound that these combinations, when played well, create.
What do I mean by played well?
The doubles need to be very clean and quiet. The triplets should have power and all the notes need to be even. The most common mistake drummers made when they play hand foot combinations is to play the bass drum notes too loud relative to the hand notes. If the triplet combos are smooth and even in volume, and the double strokes are flowing and quiet relative to the triplets, the result will be a really beautiful Elvin-ish idea.
The sticking of these combinations is such that you should be able to come up with countless other variations on what I’ve presented here. So have at it.
Here is the PDF to take into the practice room: Nasty Lick 62
Here, with Nasty Lick #60, are some great sounding applications of the six stroke roll on the drum set.
If you’re not familiar with this pattern, the six stroke roll, in it’s most useful forms, is as follows:
1) Right Hand Lead
2) Left Hand Lead (“Backward”)
As shown in both 1 and 2 above, a common way to play the six stroke roll is as triplets and with accents on the first and last notes of each group of six. Many players, (myself included) find this to be the most useful version of the rudiment.
If you haven’t spent time with the six stroke roll, here is a PDF so you can shed it in the practice room: The Six Stroke Roll.
I’ve discovered that the “backward” or left hand leading version of the six stroke roll is very useful. The reason? It allows the playing of the upbeat (“let”) accents with the right hand. When playing the six stroke roll this way, those accents, which are arguably more interesting sounding because of their placement rhythmically, are easily played almost anywhere on the drum kit (left handed accents limit you to the left side of the kit).
I’ve found that idea extremely appealing because of the way it sounds. The “5 Variations” that follow will show you what I mean.
The illustration above will give you a taste of what I’m talking about. Nasty Lick #60 involves mixing the backward six stroke roll with a version that substitutes two bass drum notes and moves the accented right hand stroke to the toms.
The “5 Variations” include different phrasings and metrics: sixteenth notes, sixteenth note triplets and thirty second notes.
You’ll find the PDF here: Nasty Lick 60.