First things first: If you're here for the transcription, get it here.
A five year old can play "fast".
But the difference between that five-year-old, and the great players, is the subject of this week's lesson.
It's not just speed, but clarity.
That thing that makes you purse your lips whenever you listen to a Vinnie/Mark/Marcus solo.
Let's call that the "x factor".
But what would happen if you took away the fast, and kept only the x-factor. What would that look like?
It's just that concept I was experimenting with last week. To back-up, I've been spending a lot of time just practicing playing on the drums, with no cymbals.
I felt I was a little to "hat reliant", and I didn't like that I was facing the hats so much, instead of in the center of the kit.
So I'd work on phrases, of the type in my course (continually sharpening the saw), around the drums, only allowing myself to play the hats with LH and LF.
At the same time, I was checking out Taron Lockett's instagram, (@taroney) digging several clips of Taron playing with his band. There's a tune that sounds like a Scofield record with the Chambers/Beard/Granger band, and I was practicing playing over the top.
140 bpm on the metronome, but I found ideas were really repetitive, and I was "hiccuping" a lot. What to do?
Slow it DOOOOOOWN. 70bpm. "Same" tempo, but half the frequency. Sure enough, my ideas opened up, and I was making better phrases.
Along the way, I invented a couple of slick phrases in 16ths that allowed me to "break up" the time, and create the "illusion" of playing faster than I was.
And it's these licks that are the subject of this week's lesson.
You know me: lately, I've been making lessons about pretty practical stuff...
How to take the ho-hum sextuplet and play something more interesting than a six-stroke roll.
Cool ways to take easy-to-play fills and make them sound cooler.
Cool ways to have your hands going a million-miles-an-hour, but your brain at a strolling pace.
So, in my own mind, I've earned some leeway. Just like Stephen Soderberg making the Ocean's Eleven/12/13 movies so he can bankroll The Girlfriend Experience.
Today, we're going to abstract-land. This lick will...
Get you fired.
If you play it in the wrong spot that is.
So where did it come from? Marcus Gilmore and Spanky. Where else?
Both Marcus and Spanky take the quarter note triplet to the state-of-the-art. Soon, I'm going to delve more into Spanky.
But this week's lesson lives most comfortably in Marcus-land. He of the using-the-ride-cymbal-instead-of-tom.
Lately I've become fascinated by Marcus' dialogs with Gilad Hekselman, who loves to dish quarter-triplet-based implied metric modulations, and uses the quarter triplet as the basis for many of his phrases. (Check out This Just In to hear what I mean.)
Marcus has a particular way of "commenting", and while this week's lesson isn't directly transcribed from him, it's inspired by years of listening and playing along.
Check it out here.
And, yes - be mindful of pulling this out on gigs. Jazz only, with players who can hang, and make sure you give them a fat "one" if anybody gets confused.
With those cautionary words, go forth!
No, you're not hallucinating.
As summer turns to fall in New York, and as I start to fantasize again about my January pilgrimage to NAMM, I've been thinking about sextuplets. Have you?
You should be.
Here's the problem with sextuplets, though. It's tough to get past six-stroke rolls. Ugggh - PTSD flashback of me in college, stupid grin on my face, demeaning the whole drumkit with six-stroke rolls during a solo.
It's not like we can blame Philly Joe, either. At least he did interesting things with them.
Nope. I blame the hair-metal era. Boogada boogada. China crashes. Low, unmuffled snares. Coke, (the SODA - let's not get crazy), women (in a purely PLATONIC sense - gawd, would you reLAX?), and six-stroke rolls.
As tastes evolved, we weren't trying to sound like Neil or Simon anymore, and the maligned sextuplet got pushed backstage, like an unemployed older brother nobody mentions in polite company.
Until two things changed.
First, was the invention of the second triplet. Chris Dave. A new era. It was like we could breathe again.
Second was Thomas Pridgen's generation, and their recombobulation (spell check tells me that's not even a word - I think I'm gonna double down tho) of so many Wecklisms into something...cool.
(Vinnie's the paradox. Vinnie was never out-of-fashion.)
Oh, and I haven't fully traced the etymology of the hi-hat fanciness that gave rise to young'uns like Joel Tercotte (for me it was probably DeJohnette, then Thomas)...
...but in this lesson I've got a lick that draws from all three.
It's just one sextuplet lick you can probably learn in a few minutes, but maybe it'll open up some idea-flow and lead to other stuff.
Till then, be good,
"I'm saying, when you're ready, you won't need to..."
Aaaaaaah Morpheus analogies.
Is there any complex-learning or flow-state phenomenon we haven't resorted to The Matrix to explain?
Today, I was rolling with a purple belt from Marcelo Garcia's academy. (Can anybody else say "bad idea"? 😉) And suddenly, I was Neo, on the mats with Morpheus.
The dude was countering things I hadn't even thought to do yet.
In the military, they call it the OODA loop. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.
Wondering what it feels like when somebody's got a faster OODA loop than you? Try shedding with Dan Weiss. Or Nate Wood. Or Andy Prado. Or Maison Guidry.
Time is clearly not moving at the same rate for these guys as it is for us. (Will it move slower for Conor McGregor or Floyd Mayweather?)
I've long taken the controversial position that the way to stack up better in sheds is not to spend countless hours making your hands faster. It's to make time slower. As Morpheus puts it, "do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles? In this place?"
In Juijitsu it's utterly uncontroversial that the way to win is not to increase your brute strength (though, as in drums, that will help), but to shorten your OODA loop. The beer-bellied account black belt who taps a younger, bigger, stronger opponent handily, simply because he knows what the opponent's going to do before the opponent knows is so mundane as to be a day-to-day occurrence.
Soooo, besides just "grinding it out", how do you shorten your OODA loop with the drums? Luckily, an idiosyncrasy of the human brain helps: chunking.
Quick illustration: you used to think of a paradiddle as eight discreet strokes. Now you think of it as a unit.
Now that you've got that unit, you can orchestrate it, vary it, change its rate, etc.
So, when Devon Taylor seems to reorient gravity to a right-angle in a solo over Knower's What's In Your Heart, he's actually applying a learnable "chunk", albeit at a super high level.
And it's this chunk I'm going to teach you in this week's lesson.
It won't be second-nature until you shed it a while. You'll know you've got it when you start "hearing" ideas without thinking consciously about them.
Check that lesson out.
Now, if only I could do that with juijitsu...
Check you next weezy,
It's been a little over a week since I shot this latest lesson, but I keep returning to the beat, even without consciously trying.
I've been working on inverted ride stuff. As in, instead of "one, and-a two, and-a-three", it's "...and-two-and, ...and-three-and". It makes sense, because it you're doing the Keith Carlock/Jojo/Spaven beats, there are a lot of implied beat shifts.
But instead of keeping a common "one", you can shift the implied ride pattern along with the beat.
None-of-which, it should be noted, is a particularly good way of keeping a gig.
But let's get to the larger point. I'm thinking about the Guitar Center Drumoff for this fall. And it's most inconsequential whether I participate or not, but it's focussed my practice once-again, around a single thought:
I don't want to sound like a second-rate version of somebody else.
What if Spanky had tried to sound exactly like Aaron Spears?
Or Nasheet Waits like Tain?
It's crystal clear in martial arts. If you've got reach, you've got to play a game that plays to your advantages. Ditto if you've got power.
So how come there's not more of this type of thinking with the drums?
What does this all have to do with the drumoff? Everything I'm practicing, I'm thinking "does this sound like me, or a second-rate imitation of somebody else." Gradually, I think I'm starting to become "known for" some things.
I'll come right out and say it...
My hair does not look good in this lesson.
Imagine a muskrat sleeping off a hangover, strapped to my head like a fur helmet. And not at a flattering angle.
Want to hear my excuse? I haven't even gotten to the best part yet...
Between the hair, my sunken-in, bloodshot eyes, and my cancer-survivor wanness, I figured I'd better just lead with it, like the one armed guy who preemptively nicknames himself Tony One-Arm.
The rest of the story later, but first let me at least acknowledge the pretense that I have a drum channel;)
Tears for Fears. Everybody Wants to Rule The World. Right? The classic 80s rock shuffle. The default when the metronome's at circa 120, and you're thinking triplets or 12/8.
[keyboard lick] "Welcome to your life..."
Anyway, if you got that gig, it would be strictly pocket.
For, like, 99% of the tune.
But if you know the tune, you know there's one perfect spot for a Nick Smith fill. One spot to just shellac it, then go back to quietly dealing pocket, with a "who me" look on your face.
And it's for this spot, friend, that I've created a little fill. A little tasty one. But just slightly blistering. Like Jason-Borne-disarming-two-dudes-then-picking-up-his-coffee tasty.
For more, click here.
I first heard If I Ever Lose My Faith at the gym.
"Is this the police guy?"
Later, I was at a local drum shop, and a DVD of the Buddy Rich Memorial Concert was playing.
"Soooo many mullets" was my first thought.
"Who's this completely dominant guy who plays traditional grip?" was my second.
"Oh," said my friend. "That's Vinnie. He plays with Sting."
"If I Ever Lose My Faith guy?" I thought?
Sidebar - if we didn't know who those guys were, doesn't that sound like a line out of Westside Story? Or maybe The Untouchables?
Then Vinnie's solo album dropped. Attack of the 10-Pound Pizza. Bruce Lee. Chauncy. John's Blues.
"What the entire fuck just happened?"
But I liked it.
And not until very recently did any of it start making sense. For instance, check the John's Blues solo. Hot. Damn.
Here's the other funny thing about Vinnie...
He's the only drummer from that era who doesn't sound like...that era.
Even the guys who kept shedding - and they're few - sound like a throwback. They'll play on the sides of the snare instead of the center. They'll play a china, when everybody's moved onto the stack. Their backbeats are pre-Chris-Dave.
Not Vinnie. He still sounds scary.
As I believe I said in a Facebook post, he sounds better and fresher than 98% of the young guys coming up.
But goddamn it with that mullet and wifebeater, man. You can get a haircut. It won't hurt your drumming. I promise.
Anyway, today's lesson is a throwback. Back to my slack-jawed afternoon in that drum shop watching Vinnie play with the Buddy Rich band.
Today, I bring you part of that solo...
Good on Matt Garstka.
I first discovered Matt in the Berklee chops video series from a channel whose name I shan't mention;)
It's the lesson everybody talks about. The one where he believes in "concepts" instead of "chops".
Matt earned his bonafides at Berklee, of course, alongside the likes of Darion Ja'von, Sean Wright, and JP Bouvet. (The "murderer's row"? The "usual suspects"?;
Fast forward a few years and he was the kitman (if that isn't a thing I just made it one) for Animals as Leaders, inspiring half-a-decade of metalhead drum covers.
And now he's on the cover of Modern Drummer. So good-on-you, Matt.
I've been told there's no Matt without Vinnie. Which is true. Of course there's no anybody without Vinnie, and there's also no Matt without Aaron Spears and Chris Coleman. But let's give Matt his due. He's proven himself his own player sevenfold (that sounds metal, right?;), equally comfortable behind a metal band or in a gospel/fusion context.
And he doesn't play traditional grip. Which means he's a practical sort. (I'm mentally adding up all the controversy I'm stirring up in this post and smiling to myself.)
Anyway, I wanted to give you something characteristically Matt, but also easy-to-learn, so I chose this "bite-sized" lick from he Meinl festival last year.
I also talk about playing in six.
So Forrest's back.
And of course that means it's Jedi-lick time. But first, a story...
It's the last night of my LA trip in January. I'm sitting in a coffee shop somewhere between echo park and south beach (my west coast geography needs some work), having coffee with my business buddy neel, when my phone lights up.
Fuuuuuck, I mutter.
Forrest and I had talked a few days ago about shedding this evening, but I haven't heard from him since.
I've been assuming he forgot, or got busy.
Now I'm sitting at a taco restaurant (we got hungry), looking at my phone, and forrest's like "I'm setting it up! When can you get here."
I'm thinking 6am flight, which means I need to wake up at 4, haven't packed, don't have any food for tomorrow, and Whole Foods in downtown la closes at 10. (Cause they're SOFT;)
But I'm also thinking something else: Fuck It.
So I hop in the rental car and hump toward Rancho Kukamunga (which I'm probably misspelling).
Burn rubber getting there, then guess how long I made Forrest wait?
The answer is negative 50 minutes, because that's how long I waited, in the lobby of a weird practice studio in the middle of nowhere - which somehow mysteriously smelled like skunk - for Forrest to show
But show he did, and we shed...ed(?).
Then he showed me this lick...
So I've got a minor bone to pick when people ask me how to play "open".
I know what they mean:
They're talking about Sput Searight...
...or Dana Hawkins...
But I think they're confusing Left Hand Lead with playing "open".
You can play open-handed, and still play right-hand lead.
There's a whole vocabulary that opens up when you commit to only playing rimshots with the right hand while playing on the hats.
First, there's the disco beat...
...then you start to leave some stuff out...
...then you rephrase some of your linear stuff.
Finally, you realize that, when your right hand isn't committed to the hats all the time, it's pretty to incorporate other surfaces.
Toms, cymbal bells, the ride, etc.
And, to my mind, that's what Sput and Dana are doing.
The Carter Beauford/Ernesto Simpson thing is bad (in the Miles Davis sense), but it's a different thing. That's left hand lead, played by lefties on a right-handed kit. But those guys put the ride cymbal on the left side.
Can you tell I'm fired up about this?
All of which is to say you don't need to uproot your whole routine and practice New Breed entirely left-hand-lead just to incorporate some Dana/Sput "open" playing into your thing.
You just have to watch this lesson. (OOOOOOooooh SNAP see what I did there?)
Enjoy it guys.
Back next week,
You've been asking me for jazz lessons, and I had one all-but-recorded...
Then, I saw The Real Sticx on Instagram, playing a shout groove with the right hand on the snare.
Shouts aren't something I can pretend to have a ton of experience with - they're the double-time beat in gospel and church music - but they're the root of a ton of vocabulary, including the beats in this lesson.
Check it out here.
I'll keep this one short, as I ramp up for the holidays and the DBK clinic.
What are you guys working on this month? Let me know!
Ahoy folks! I know why you're here. The transcriptions!
While you're here, why not share the video with someone you like?
Thanks guys - until next week!
I know the feeling, when one of my favorite podcasts goes off the air for a few weeks...
Kevin Pereira. Tucker Max. TMBA. David Choe. Rational Funk. (Ok, that's youtube...)
Sure - I went to Asia again. Sure, I was busy. But that's no excuse.
Those guys were like an anchor for my week. Wednesday, there'd be DVDASA. Thursday, TMBA. And I want to be like that for you guys.
Anyway, let me just get this out of the way: unlike Choe (please bro), I'll always make time for you guys. Unless there comes a good reason for me to "hang it up". If that ever happens, I won't just disappear without a word, like Choe did. I'll let you know.
Until then, you can count on the lessons-of-the-week. Weekly, I hope. But I'd rather take a week-or-two off and still be able to shoot lessons than burn out and have none.
Anyway, if you're wondering what I've been up to all this time (and if you follow me on instagram you haven't had to wonder), I've been shedding my tail off. I'm scared. NAMM, and the BDK clinic is just around the corner.
I think I'll be cool...
Track-or-no, just playing, or talking and playing. The looming deadline usually inspires me to get in the game. But I have been shedding.
Oh - this week's lesson: it's a short one I shot in Japan. I've been experimenting a lot lately with the hat/tom crossover stuff, and feel like I'm starting to see the matrix.
Not unrelated, one thing I may speak about at DBK is Nick Smith, Justin Tyson, and the evolution of the "meta-phrase".
Here's why that's relevant: in today's lesson, I took one basic shape, and orchestrated it. Then I changed with the phrase length to make both 5-beat, and 6-beat cycles. You can play those with, or against a meter (e.g. the 5-note cycle against 6).
I was thinking I might deconstruct just 1-2 phrases Nick played over The Rise in 2015 at DBK, then show how you can start with a stupid-simple sticking and apply the same concept.
...if I get my act together. Either way, I promise it will be worthwhile!
Who's planning to be in LA for NAMM week in '17? Shout at me!
Back next week. OOH PS - I'm relaunching the course next week!! (no big deal, just your drum future!)
Talk soon, my dudes.
When I was a wee lad, I used to wonder what to do with straight grooves without backbeats. Swing, I understood. Rock, and halftime work, I had a good grip on. But what about when somebody called Maiden Voyage? Or, later in school, Bright Size Life? I never seemed to have an answer, and it was hard to know what to practice, besides the same "spangalang" as swing, only without the swing.
Sound familiar? Does the time go out the window when you're denied the twin supports of swing and backbeats? Does shit get "floaty".
Then, one day, it kind of clicked. If I had to summarize the revelation, it was that I didn't have to fill up every space. And probably listening to Mark and Keith helped as well.
Now, if I were teaching my younger self, I'd say, much as I did in the Jeff Ballard lesson from last year, "just play backbeats! Just move them around!"
But in this week's lesson I go a little deeper, demonstrating 3 concepts I think will help both open up your straight 8th/16th playing, and make it more solid.
Here's the lesson!
PS anybody in Thailand this week?
This is the first of several lessons I recorded in advance to air while I’m in Asia.
Last year around this time, I did a lesson on cross-sticks, showing you two of my favorites, from Marcus Gilmore and Kendrick Scott.
But what if you’re playing matched grip with the left stick across the snare, “slow dance” style?
Two of the greatest at this are Antonio Sanchez and Art Blakey. While I don’t claim to come close to capturing the nuance of either, I did challenge myself to come up with six useful licks you can start playing today.
Enjoy this one! Back next week with another.
True, the Drum Off has warped drumming. Can one even prevail without a synth-pad? And there's apparently no room for things like Mark Guiliana's PASIC solo from November 2015, because everybody's playing to tracks. But...two things:
First, the drummers who contort themselves to the shape of the container and prevail - drummers like D Mile - are usually the most creative players in real life. Not even the Octapad can kill true creativity - it usually finds a way through.
Second, the Drum Off is not the last word on sheds. The jam-session-cum-juijitsu-roll of drums would exist and continue to evolve with or without the Drum Off, and that's why even now the Drum Off perches on the razor-edge of relevance, with plenty of the best players just sitting-it-out, and one hardly doubts it would become "over" in a hurry (how many jazz musicians give a shit about New Orleans Jazz Fest?) if it became too ridiculous.
So let's raise a glass to the humble drum shed, which respects both the trap-kit's pugilistic origins (it didn't start in the churches) and its endless capacity to encourage innovation.
In this week's lesson, I detail what I'm doing to improve my own drum shed skills.
Quick PS, I'll be in Japan from the 29th to October 10th. Anyone who wants a lesson or a hang, hit me up - firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm back with part 2 of the Sput lesson. Last week I delved into the off-kilter 5-groove of the tune Can't Get Right, featured in one of the latest Meinl videos. Today, I'm back with the results of my sisyphean experiment: the 4 bars of "solo" at the end of the sax solo, beginning at around the 5-minute mark in the video.
If there's anything I learned about Sput, it's that he's got a penchant for unconventional stickings, and a rock-solid right foot. You'll see what I mean when you get into the material: try to play the loop from the second last bar for 25 minutes. You'll know right away whether your kick-drum technique is serving you or not.
Without further ado, the lesson.
For the comments, would you guys hate me if I made another Benny Greb lesson?
I'm working on the solo. I promise I'll get to that. But for now, the groove.
Let's back up: people have been bugging me to do a lesson on Robert "Sput" Searight for at least the last year. So I was looking for a way in:
Maybe the solo from What About Me at NAMM 2015?
Maybe the Vic Firth video?
But nothing really grabbed my fancy. Sure, he could deal chops. Sure, he constructed unconventional, often "open" beats around the kit. But I needed a hook.
Enter the Meinl Can't Get Right video. In order to have the energy and fire to transcribe something when I could be perfecting my own vocab in the Batcave, it has to make me mad. And Can't Get Right made me mad.
"What's he doing, and why can't I do it?"
Like they keep raising the bar even as we all try to get better.
So I've spent most of this week transcribing the solo Sput plays at the 5-minute mark of Can't Get Right. But first, I wanted to tackle the groove.
"What kind of crazy cyclic five shit are they doing?"
And it's not as easy as it sounds, either. It took me 2 hours to feel comfortable. How long will it take you? Check the lesson...
Quick reminder: I'll be in Japan Sep 30-Oct 10, Bangkok the 10-17, and probably Hong Kong for a few days after that. Want to hang? Lesson? Meetup-followed-by-drinks? (Pay for lesson in drinks? I'm flexible). Get at me!
Alright - that's officially my spammiest lesson title ever. But I think I squeak through on a technicality: this lesson will technically 2x the coolness of your drum solos. Why?
Let's back up. Think about the first drum solo you saw that made you say "dayum".
"I thought I was watching drum solos before this, but this makes all that look like repertory theater."
For me, it was Dennis Chambers. Now, don't get me wrong - this isn't a lesson on Dennis. But when I saw Dennis do the upward crash on the Serious Moves DVD (just as an aside, who gets John Fucking Scofield on his drum DVD? Straight ballin)...
Fast forward 15 years, and now we've got Eric Moore, Aaron Spears, and the generation after. And what do they all have in common? Symmetry.
Nobody wants to watch you right-hand-leading all over the kit. Don't be that guy. Hit the hats with left occasionally. Or go nuts: hit the crash with our left hand.
The true genesis of today's lesson was a simple move I realized my buddy Brandon was deploying in his instagram videos that was making me look like an amateur. The crossover. It seriously only takes 5 minutes to learn, and, technically speaking, your solos will be twice as cool, since you're mirroring everything you were doing with right-hand-lead.
Interest piqued? Let's watch the lesson!
PS I'm not going to stop talking about drum meetups in Asia. Next week I'll be sending out an email to allow people in Japan, Bangkok, and Hong Kong to sign up to hear more about meetups. There. I said it;)