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.
Nasty Lick #59 explores a simple paradiddle idea that has interesting and powerful results.
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to play 32nd notes on the drum kit. I want to play them with interesting phrasing and dynamics. Incorporating double strokes and/or paradiddles into such ideas can be an important way to accomplish this.
Paradiddles, when played well, are interesting drumming “words” that have dynamics built in. Playing paradiddles well means that the chosen accented notes are loud and the unaccented notes are quiet—almost ghosted.
But just playing single paradiddles as 32nd notes doesn’t do the trick. If I start with two paradiddles and then add two bass drum notes, also as 32nd notes, the resulting ten note lick, when repeated, will move the accents around the bar line a bit. A-ha! Now we have something.
Frankly, I did not dream this up while sitting at home on the couch. Rather, like most of this stuff, I stumbled upon the phrase while working on something else in the practice room.
The result is a lick that I think has real potential to be a keeper. That is why I am happy to present it to you, my fellow drummers, as Nasty Lick #59.
The worksheet included here has 9 exercises: three versions of the lick as one bar ideas, two versions as two bar ideas, and four examples as two beat ideas. The two beat ideas deviate from the “formula” a bit (including paradiddle-diddles), but I think the results are useful.
Here is the PDF for you to download:
I don’t usually use the BANG! Drumming Blog to make announcements but we’re growing and we’re looking for teachers. I am happy to have some of the best drummers in NYC helping us and I have my eye out for a few more. I’ve been meeting with people over the past few weeks, and would like to continue the process. We’re looking for people who are amazing drummers. All of our teachers live, eat and breath drumming. They are also fantastic teachers and they’ve got significant experience as both teachers and players. Most of our teachers have been educated at the world’s top music institutions.
Beyond that, the BANG! attitude is extremely important.
The BANG! The Drum School attitude is one of openness, honesty, integrity, excitement, enthusiasm, gentle confidence and extreme patience. BANG! teachers are ego-less in their work with students. That is part of our credo. No attitudes, arrogance or egos. Just a simple confident joy for drumming and a desire and ability to impart that joy to others so they can experience it.
The BANG! teacher must also be outgoing, energetic and extremely organized and responsible. A knack for sales is important too.
If you are interested, or know someone who may be interested, please let them know.
Potential candidates should not email or call; the process is to send a resume and hand written cover letter via regular mail to:
Mark Feldman, PO Box #475, 223 West 38th Street, NYC, NY 10018-9998
Please note: This is NOT our studio’s address. It’s just our Post Office Box for business correspondence.
We began the exploration of this shifting cymbal rhythm with a previous post: Dotted Eighth Cymbal Independence Part One.
After practicing that worksheet, and finding that it did indeed help me develop the desired independence, I decided it was time for more. In Part Two, we continue with common rock beats based on eighth notes, and start moving the snare drum part around just a bit.
Enjoy. I am going to.
Here’s the PDF: dotted eighth independence two