In this installment of “The Thinking Drummer,” the topic is learning. As in, no matter your level–beginner, intermediate or professional–there are ALWAYS things you can learn that will improve your drumming.
This week I drove about 80 miles or so (each way) in order to take a private one hour lesson with one of the best rock drummers on the planet, Glen Sobel. The location was RVP Studios in West Haven Connecticut. Greg Trabandt, the owner of RVP, had arranged the day with Glen. There was a block of hours set aside for private drum lessons, and then, Glen gave a drum clinic that lasted almost two hours. During the clinic he played along to tracks and answered tons of questions.
It was a great day. Glen has been Alice Cooper’s drummer since 2010 and has recently been touring with Alice as the opener for Motley Crüe. Check out his drum solo in the video, below right. It’s sick.
You see what I’m talking about? This guy can play. I saw this video and thought, “I should try to transcribe this solo and take it to see Glen to see if he would review it with me so I can figure out everything he’s doing.” Logical, right? As long as you find this solo compelling, why wouldn’t you think about trying to figure out how it’s done? With that knowledge you could actually pick and choose from the ideas and incorporate some of this monster playing into your own drumming vocabulary. Now, of course, understanding how it’s done is only part of the battle; you still have to practice the ideas until you can perform them at will and that is no small task. But, knowing what’s going on HAS to come first. The practicing portion of the mission will actually take many many more hours of work, but for me, that is the real fun of all this. You know why? Because I can visualize myself pulling some of these type of ideas out in a solo (ultimately, I’d be looking to put my own spin on them) and that visualization excites me in a major way. Imagine yourself being able to play a solo like that!
So, given the above, imagine my surprise when i told a friend about my lesson and he asked, “Why do you still take lessons?” As if I’d been playing so long (and yes, I’ve been playing for decades) that I would choose to stop learning new things. Why do I still take lessons??? Seriously???
It would be one thing if I was taking lessons and sitting only in the practice room locked away from the world after playing as long as I have. But, no, I’m in bands and recording and playing live; I’m doing it. And the dedicated artist is NEVER satisfied. The artist can always get better. To me, turning down the opportunity to have a lesson with Glen Sobel would have been IDIOTIC! I HAD to go see him.
That conversation with my friend made me want to write this article. I have to shout out to all drummers: “Never Stop Learning!” Learning new things keeps you vibrant, excited, inspired and happy. AND there is real scientific research to support the idea that learning new things contributes to your happiness. But research or not, I am compelled by my passion for drumming to learn new things in the pursuit of becoming the ultimate drumming monster I see in my mind’s eye.
Now, I’m guessing some of you out there, who may be less experienced drummers, are saying, “I am not ready to transcribe that solo! My reading isn’t good enough and I don’t have the technique to play that way.”
That may be true. So, imagine for a minute how you could gain enough drumming skill and knowledge to be able to feel that you could attack a task like transcribing that solo. You would need to be able to read and write rhythmic notation very well, and you’d need to have significant hand and foot technique, including double bass.
All of these skills are learnable. You just need to decide you want to learn them, get the proper guidance and put in the hours of work practicing. So consider doing that. Reading and technique are totally within your reach and I recommend you try to gain that knowledge and skill–it will help you immensely in your drumming.
Learning vocabulary on the drum set is also essential. One of the reasons I feel comfortable enough to approach transcribing a solo like Glen’s is that I’ve learned a lot of vocabulary from my studies and listening to music. The more I’ve learned the more comfortable and confident I’ve become. Transcribing is a very important skill for learning vocabulary and it is a skill that can be learned too. Oh, and here’s a massively important concept for transcribing that for some strange reason some people miss—it’s easy to significantly slow down music so you can transcribe things. And no, it’s not cheating to do so.
Reading, technique and vocabulary are all within your reach; you just have to decide it’s important, and go do it. Please keep learning more and more about drumming. Never stop. It will make you happy.
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Enjoying your articles, glad I found you site.
Wanted to bounce something off you. I’m 64 and play about 120 gigs per year with a local band doing music from 50’s to 80’s. I also still work full time so my time to practice is pretty limited. Still need to spend time with family too.
I’m a realist and At this point just looking to improve on what I am playing now. Maybe better or more interesting fills and build up transitioning from verse to chorus etc. The problem I’m having is making the most out of my limited practice time. I seem to sit behind my practice kit and go blank? Any ideas you could pass my way?
Mark Feldman says
Hi Pete –
Thanks for writing. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog.
So, if you’re going blank when you sit down to practice, it may just be that you don’t have any specific goals….. that’s what it sounds like to me. So, that’s the first question…
What do you want to improve? and also.. is there anything that you HAVE to improve?
When I listen back to myself on a video or recording I’m not always happy with some of my fills and builds going from verse to chorus if that makes any sense?
Mark Feldman says
Hi Pete –
Yes, that makes total sense.
So that’s good….you know what you want to change. The next question is, do you know what you want those fills to sound like? Is it your execution of the fills that you don’t like? In other words, do you like the vocabulary you’re using but are not executing it properly? Or…. do you need to come up with some new vocabulary….? If it’s that latter, just find some vocabulary you want to use and start working on it….. if it is the former, just tighten up your execution…