Simple, no-frills, in the pocket playing is what is moving my drumming career forward. More and more, when describing successful musical experiences, I hear myself saying things like: “all I did was play simply and in the pocket and everyone loved it.”
I wish I had the maturity to play this way earlier in my life. I have a lot of chops…. But I am not particularly inclined to use them lately, and I think that is a good thing.
Perhaps this seems like trite advice….you’ve heard it all before. But I promise you. It works.
Play simply and think about feel instead of chops. You’ll work more.
This bad boy is based on a five note pattern: Right (snare), Left (hi tom), Right (floor tom), Left (floor tom), Foot (bass drum). Taking those five notes and playing them as continuous 16th notes yields interesting results.
The attached work sheet, which you can download as a PDF here: Nasty Lick PDF, presents three different applications of the lick, two of which are one measure versions, and one which spans two measures.
Try these out and see if you like them. You can also double them and try out some 32nd note versions.
By the way, I heard Vinnie Colaiuta use this idea (RLRLF as 16ths), although orchestrated differently, on a drum solo he did on the track “Indian Time Zones,” on Warren Cuccurullo’s album, “Thanks To Frank.”
Thanks to my friend and BANG! student Brian Petersen for turning me on to this specific orchestration of this idea. I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me.
Why It MattersAll the practicing and skill in the world won’t help you once your reputation is tarnished.
A good reputation spreads. It may not spread like wildfire; but it will radiate outward as you continue your efforts as a musician. It will grow, slowly and steadily, like a tree. But, a bad reputation is like a fire that spreads fast, and it will burn the tree down. Notice how disasters, shootings and accidents spread quickly in the media? Well, a bad reputation moves quickly too.
Guard your reputation. Negative anecdotes about you will spread quickly and shut the door to success in your face.
It shouldn’t be that hard. Get good at your instrument. Do a good job. Learn the songs. Show up on time. Have your equipment situation together. Present yourself as a responsible and diligent team player. Be nice. Have a personality. Make people laugh. And NO drama! Think about your actions and the impact they have on others. Put yourself in the shoes of the other musicians you are playing with. Are you inconveniencing them? Are you making life easier or harder for them? Thinking about these things should help you decide how you want to handle yourself.
Your playing and your behavior are two things you can control. So, make sure you are taking care of both elements equally.
The Story of Rachel The Session AceLet me tell you a story to illustrate. I recently played on a recording session and one of the musicians—let’s call her Rachel—showed up—late–with a beer in a paper bag.
Two strikes right out of the gate. Not a good first impression. But it got worse.
The session players were soon asked to come into the control room so the artist whose album we were being paid to play on could play us a “scratch” track of him playing the song. The point was for us to learn the song we were about to track.
As we gathered into the booth, the producer asked, “where’s Rachel?” She was nowhere to be found.
It turns that she was out in the hallway on the phone. Time was a wastin.’ When you’ve been hired for a recording session, wasting time is not going to endear you to the producer or artist. And that’s an understatement.
If you are a stellar player, then maybe you can get a little slack on these matters. But there are so many good players around that I really think not. But, here’s the thing. Rachel was OK, but she was not such an amazing player that it balanced out the other issues. In fact, Rachel was not as good on her instrument as some of the other players were on theirs.
As a result of my experience on this session, I was already wary of Rachel.
But the story of Rachel continued.
More: Rachel Lames Out On A GigNot long after, Rachel and I both got hired to play on a few gigs with a certain artist.
At the first rehearsal, she showed up, opened up her guitar case, and realized that she had forgotten her guitar strap. Oops! So, she ran out to get a new one. Of course, that little errand caused her to be late.
After several rehearsals and a warm up gig, we took the stage for the show that had been the focus of our musical energy. Rachel was the only musician on the stage that still had her charts. The other hired musicians had memorized the songs by that point. Even with her charts on stage, she still missed a bunch of cues, played some obviously wrong notes (translation in musician speak: clams) and generally did not play at the level of the other hired musicians. In fact, when I listened to the recording of the gig, I got angry.
Playing music is a group effort and a single player who is a weak link brings down the entire level of the band. I resented Rachel for bringing the musical level down by not doing her homework. I did my work! And I sounded worse because she did not do hers.
EpilogueA few days later, I was in a rehearsal with another band, and two of us starting talking about Rachel. I recounted some of the above. A third player in this band heard us and said, “Oh, yeah, man. Rachel. She’s got a rep for being kind of a drunk. I played on the same bill with her one night and the band she was playing in had to cut their set short because she was so wasted.”
Need I say more? Don’t be like Rachel.
We long to hear something new and exciting. Steve Gadd gave us that when he burst onto the scene with Chick Corea.
Vinnie Colaiuta did it again a bit later.
Then came Weckl. Then, later still, came Virgil Donatti.
They all sounded fresh and new because of their innovations. It made them sound different from their contemporaries. It made them stand out.
But before all of these greats, and what inspires and informs much of the greatness and newness of these revolutionary drum set musicians are the jazz drummers who preceded them.
Listen to Gadd talk about who influenced him and he’ll talk about Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones and Tony Williams. But he added his own twist…. He innovated.
Clark Terry, the great jazz trumpeter, summed up the process of becoming a great musician in three short words:
“Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate.”
What a concise and beautiful summary of the creative process.
When I was studying with the great John Riley, he asked me to learn several solos by the jazz greats that inspired me and then mess around with the ideas to come up with new things. The last extra step—the part where one innovates —is crucial.
Copy cats who don’t twist and turn the ideas into new ones are doomed to failure. Why would I care that you can play like Vinnie when I can listen to the real Vinnie?
Sure it takes great skill to accurately copy the masters, but what separates the men from the boys is innovation.
The most dramatic drum set innovator of the last ten years is Keith Carlock. The reason is that he has taken funk and jazz and rolled them up into one absolutely contemporary approach. His sound is based firmly on the past: open tuning, heavy dark cymbals, a proliferation of double stroke rolls. And yet, the way he puts everything together is completely fresh and new sounding.
His sound must be resonating because he’s been hired by Sting, Steely Dan, and James Taylor, just to name a few.
He has taken the ideas inherent in the time keeping methods of jazz and applied them to pop and rock. That is the real key. Keith studied Weckl and Vinnie and then he rejected them. He understood that trying to sound like that was a huge mistake. You will never hear Keith play a linear beat. And why would he? Linear playing is so ’80s….
Instead, he creates wonderful conversations between his bass drum and snare and hi-hat, all while playing straight eighth notes with his cymbal hand.
He has become the Elvin Jones of the new millennium.
Thank god he arrived. We needed something new.
It has been a little over a year since Ludwig announced that Vinnie Colaiuta was an official Ludwig artist. I remember when the rumors began that Vinnie was leaving Gretsch and Zildjian. At the time, a quick look at his website revealed that the links to those companies had been replaced with links to Ludwig and Paiste.
Well, guess what?
The Ludwig logo on Mr. C’s website is now absent. In it’s place? A grey box. And to the right of that grey nothingness where the Ludwig logo used to be is the Paiste logo….still firmly in place.
There has been no official word on Colaiuta leaving Ludwig as being a stone cold fact; and I was tipped off to it by a posting on the Vic’s Drum Shop blog. But based on the evidence apparent on Vinnie’s own site, it appears to be highly likely that Ludwig and Vinnie are no more.
A quick look at the Ludwig website shows no Vinnie on their list of artists, either….hmmmm.
Let’s see what happens next.
I know, it’s gossip. But we’re not talking trash about anyone….just watching interesting things happen in the industry we love, with the drummer we all love.
This lick is based on a five note pattern: three hands and two feet (right, left, right, foot, foot). I’ve used this primarily as a sixteenth note based idea, but recently I started experimenting with applying it as 16th note triplets. I like how this sounds when it’s played fast: ie in the neighborhood of 100 bpms and above. See what you think and let me know.
Here’s the PDF: Nasty Lick 51
Any of you who have been following the story of Bon Jovi’s long-time drummer Tico Torres and his unfortunate medical issues may know about Rich Scanella. But it bears repeating because Rich is just another example that anything is possible for anyone who puts in the work and persists. The bottom line: Tico was sick, and Rich got the call. Read on, drummers, and get inspired!
And Tico…we hope you feel better soon and make a full recovery.
Ewing Drummer Lives Rock and Roll Fantasy After Bon Jovi’s Regular Drummer is Hospitalized
From The Times of Trenton, originally published on October 3rd, 2013, written by Michele Angermiller
Like many high school students growing up in the ‘80s, Rich Scannella journeyed into Philadelphia to see plenty of rock shows. Sadly, he missed one of the era’s biggest acts: Bon Jovi.
“I saw tons of shows at the Spectrum, but I missed them,” Scannella, a Lawrence resident, said in an e-mail from Mexico last week.
But in a twist of fate, he is now living out the ultimate rock and roll fantasy as he was plucked from relative obscurity to be a fill-in drummer for one of the biggest bands in the world.
Scannella got the call on Sept. 10, after regular Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres underwent an emergency appendectomy right before a show in Mexico City.
“I got the call the day after they had to cancel Mexico City when Tico went to the hospital,” he said.
That gave Scannella about one week to learn the entire Bon Jovi repertoire so that he could be ready to join the band on a moment’s notice for concert dates that included the famed Rock in Rio festival in Brazil.
“We flew down on Wednesday the 18th and Rock in Rio was Friday the 20th,” he said. “I had to chart out — literally write — the music so I could study it accurately and play along.”
One week later, on Sept. 20, Torres once more experienced excruciating pain, and was rushed back into the hospital. Scannella was thrust into the hot seat, taking the stage in front of 80,000 screaming fans at the Rock in Rio festival. In his words, it was a “huge adrenaline rush.”
“Nothing like a low-key first gig,” he quipped in an e-mail. “Eighty thousand people in attendance, with another million watching via TV in Brazil, and live stream in the U.S.”
It’s not like Scannella hadn’t been preparing for a moment like this his whole life. The former Ewing High School and Rider University student (“I made the dean’s list one year!”) first picked up a pair of sticks at the age of 9. The son of Joseph and Mary Scannella, Rich is the youngest of five siblings. His father is a musician, and the younger Scannella simply followed in his pop’s footsteps.
“My dad, being a music school teacher, bought a drum kit so he could brush up to teach his students, and sure enough I found the kit in the basement, where I instantly began banging away,” he recalled. “A short time later my dad said, if you’re going to keep playing we have to get you a proper teacher, so I started.”
“I didn’t really study seriously at first until my dad took me to see legendary drummer Buddy Rich. As we walked out of the show, I said that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life. I knew at that moment. So it’s all Buddy’s fault!” he said.
As he grew in his musicianship, Scannella joined Local 62 of the American Federation of Musicians in Trenton. Through the union he began to pick up work at weddings and other events, and eventually toured with seasoned acts like The Tokens and Gary “U.S.” Bonds, he said. Scannella now boasts an impressive resume, having played with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga and scores of other names he lists on his website.
“My dad was president of Local 62. Since he had a successful band at the time I joined with a built-in gig. I played every hotel, wedding, bar mitzvah, and corporate event for governors and you name it,” he said. “It gave me not only a knowledge of jazz and standards I would never have been exposed to, but also my dad was such a professional that I really learned the work ethic of playing out, too.”
Among his many gigs, Scannella performed on a cruise ship, where he performed with singer John Eddie and met passengers like Chris Kirkpatrick of N’Sync, who would come up and sing with the group, he said.
It was his connection to Eddie that led him to the gig with Bon Jovi. Through a circuitous route, Scannella ended up playing with Jon Bon Jovi at several charity events that did not include the other members of the band.
“I played with John Eddie in the late ’00s, and through him I made some connections that led to Bob Bandiera, who now plays guitar in Bon Jovi,” he said. “Through playing with Bob, the first time I played with Jon Bon Jovi was a benefit show at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank in ’08. From there he started to use me when JBJ did solo gigs, which we’ve done the last couple years.”
All those roads led eventually to Rock in Rio and his current job in Bon Jovi. Scannella is now with the band on the Canadian leg of their “Because We Can” tour until there is further news of Torres’ condition.
“The experience really has been amazing,” he said. “Jon and (keyboardist) David Bryan have been great. They realize the task at hand for me, and everyone has been super supportive. On top of that it is a first class-run operation, very impressive.”
“Coming up the way I did learning all facets of the business — and playing all types if gigs — makes me really understand and appreciate what I’m doing now. I’m very fortunate,” he said
When Scannella returns home, he plans to continue teaching area kids the art of drumming, he said.
“It’s so important to leave something for the next generation, and I’m old enough now to be so proud when a student of mine does something big,” he said in an e-mail. “The biggest full circle was when one of my students graduated from Juilliard. One, it’s a massive accomplishment, but it’s where my dad graduated from, too — so cool!”
Though he’s travelled the world, Scannella said he will never venture far from Mercer County,
“I loved growing up in Ewing. The places, my best friends — many of whom are from high school whom I still talk to and see — and experiences. I wouldn’t change one thing,” he said. “I never had a burning desire to ‘get away’ or leave. I really do love coming home. Playing is awesome, but it’s family, friends, and good times that make a great life.”
Here is a clip of one of my favorite Tony Williams drum solos. The solo begins at around 25:20 into this clip.
Here are some thoughts on the ideas Tony employs.
First of all, the snares are off for the duration of the solo….in essence, this turns the snare drum into the highest pitched Tom Tom on the drum kit. There is something about doing this that smooths over the entire sound of the kit; it makes the sonics of the drum set more soothing somehow.
Tony plays very melodically, using single stroke rolls to create long notes around the kit. His use of dynamics within these rolls is notable and effective. Listen to the melody he creates and then listen to the melodic and rhythmic themes of the tune. You’ll notice that Tony is playing around with ideas that come from the composition itself.
His use of Swiss Triplets broken up between his hands is a classic Tony Williams idea, and it sounds marvelous here.
Another idea he uses near the beginning of the solo is to take a pattern and play it at different rates of speed. This is another classic idea that Tony uses frequently and it sounds great here, as usual.
This is a masterful and beautiful drum solo. I plan on studying it more deeply and using the ideas in my playing.
He shared many insights with me upon his return; one of which is the following pithy quote from Mr Lang:
“Never practice when you play and never play when you practice.”
I LOVE this! I have long believed this notion and have expressed it to many students, but I have never heard it put in such a succinct way. There are really two major concepts here, and both are tremendously important.
1) “Never practice when you play”
When performing, you are serving the music and playing to support the other musicians. That means that this is absolutely NOT the time to work on that new pattern or lick you’ve been experimenting with. If you wonder whether or not that new nasty nugget of drumming goodness will work in song “X” with band “Y,” the time to figure that out is in the practice room and at band rehearsal, NOT on the bandstand. Disobeying this Golden Rule will lose you gigs.
2) “Never play when you practice”
In the practice room, you are at WORK. You are trying to get new skills together. It’s OK if you don’t sound good in the practice room. Eventually, the thing you are focusing on will get worked out. Eventually, it will sound good. But only if you keep at it. I hear countless stories from students who tell me that they just jam along with their favorite songs and play stuff they know because it’s fun. Guess what? That’s not practicing. That’s just having fun, or as Lang put it, that’s “playing when you practice.” Don’t do it unless you’ve already gotten your hard work done and out of the way.