Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How to Read Rhythm Charts


So I had a question come in the other day that I thought would be a good discussion...or post...or whatever. Someone messaged me on FB wondering about a rhythm chart for "Fly Me To The Moon". They had been reading music their whole life, but this chart made no sense...and it shouldn't have in the way that they were approaching it. They were trying to read all of the notated hits and what not as an actual drum chart...which doesn't work...but if you've never seen a jazz/big band rhythm chart, that would be a totally sensible way to read through it...below is the conversation...

Email Message:

"Hey...so i'm looking at this chart. It doesn't make much sense to me.. it looks like hi hat, toms, and cymbals.. THATS IT!! so can you please take a look and let me know if i'm going crazy that there is no kick, no snare, and its just hi-hat cymbals and toms?!"

Link to the chart: Fly Me To The Moon

And my long winded, and hopefully not to confusing response:

"Ok...rhythm charts...

If you're coming from a drum notation view, this would be confusing. That being said, if there were chords above the measures (which there oftentimes are), this would make more sense to you. This is a chart you'll see in a small jazz setting or a big band setting. Since alot of that music is "freer" and they leave parts up to the player to allow for creative expression, they essentially just notate the basics...that way, if the chords are there, the piano, bass, guitar, drums, and horn (if they know the melody) can play off of one chart...and if there's a specific part that they want you to play, they'll notate that as well. "Fly Me To The Moon" is a jazz standard, btw.

We'll start at the top...

"bass solo"...the reason they notated quarters on the HH is simple...if the acoustic bass is taking a solo, you need to be quiet but still keep time...so you just play swing quarters on the HH...it stays out of the way and keeps time. In the 4th measure, you see a note on the upbeat of 4. This is where the whole band comes in. If the notes are ABOVE the staff, it usually indicates the melody, or parts of the melody. In this chart, it follows the melody and words almost exactly for the first few bars (If you know the words to "Fly Me To The Moon", you can sing them with the rhythms that are written on those first few measures.) Typically, you would be swinging on the ride cymbal, and making "chatter" with the snare. In standard jazz tunes, you're there to support the melody and song until the solo section. So the notes above the staff are optional to hit...I usually refer to them with my snare and kick work, but I don't play all of them...just the ones I feel need emphasis.

If you look at measure 10, you'll see notes written in the actual staff. These ARE important...they represent ensemble hits, or parts that the arranger means to be accented by the whole band. These hits also require what jazzers call a "setup" by the drummer...essentially, it's a small fill that comes right before the hit ( sidenote...It's NOT a solo!). I always thought of it as my role to remind the horns that they needed to come in...so it's like the drummer kicking them in the backside...and when they "yell", it's the notated hits...that's how I think about it anyways.

Let me explain what I would do...I would start my setup on beat 3 of measure 9 (try to follow me here)...I would hit 1 on the crash, 2 on the snare, the "&" of 2 on the crash ,small fill on 3, hit 4 and the "&" of 4 on the snare...I'd then do a "bomb drop" (fall on the toms followed by a kick drum hit) on 1, and hit 2, 3, then fill 4 and smash the "&" of 4...etc.

All of that sounds drawn out and confusing, but I'm just accenting the ensemble hits...there's no notated drums b/c the arranger wanted to leave the interpretation up to the players. And sometimes the ensemble hits don't need to be huge...after I sightread a piece, I immediately go back through and mark the areas that need the most emphasis, and then other areas where accenting on the snare or kick would do.

So...in summary of this long drawn out explanation of a simple rhythm chart...

1. Notes above the chart represent a melody that you should be aware of and reference occasionally.

2. Notes ON the staff are very important to the structure of the song and should be set up by the drummer.

3. None of these notes represent actual "drums" unless the arranger leaves a note that says "HH only", etc.

Does that make sense? Let me know if there's other parts of it you don't understand."

-S

Anyone else have anything to add to this?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Typical Nashville Rehearsal...

I can't tell you how many times I've been involved in a rehearsal like this one...they work if everyone involved is a professional, but they're really funny to watch from the outside!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Roll Lessons

I had alot of questions about a couple of the rolls I did in a cover that I put up not to long ago...after going back and forth w/ peeps, I decided to just make a couple of lessons on the concept and how I worked on it while in college. These exercises will help you incorporate your cymbals and toms into your rolls (i.e. 4 stroke, 5 stroke, 6 stroke, 7 stroke, etc.) If you ever have any questions or video lesson requests, please just shoot me a line and let me know...that's why I'm here!




Studio Video Tour-aka "My Own Slice of Paradise"

Earlier this year I did a few posts on my studio (What it looked like before here...the process update here...and some of the acoustical treatment I did here) so here's an official (sorta) tour of the finished place and the gear that I use.

Latin Styles Drum Lesson Series

I've been putting out a bunch of "Latin" (which is a really wide and generic term) drum lessons lately. I wanted to explain the basics of alot of the styles. I thought I'd just lump them all here for easy reference. There will be follow ups, especially on the Mambo and Samba lessons, that will go a bit deeper.











Led Zeppelin Drum Lesson Series...aka, "John Bonham is such a beast it makes me wanna puke!"

I recently got a request to explain the groove for Led Zeppelins "Poor Tom"...and then another...and another...and it's turned into something of a series. I still have a couple of more I'm working on, but here's the ones that are up so far..."Poor Tom", "The Ocean", and "Fool In The Rain"...Hope you dig 'em!

P.S. All of my videos should be in HD from here on out...Who's your daddy?!






Thursday, October 7, 2010

Best Resources For Brush Playing

Email question...

Do you know of any good brush dvd/books?

YES!!! Clayton Cameron has a FANTASTIC book out on the subject. I love his b/c it goes into the nitty gritty of the brushstrokes, he has some rudiments for the brushes that he's created to help with the sweeping motions...it's called "Brushworks: The New Language For Playing Brushes"...it's a more modern approach...He also has a dvd called "Brushworks" that is a great view.

For a more "traditional" approach where you'll be learning the strokes of past jazz greats, check out these books...

"Mastering the Art of Brushes" (Not 100% on who the author is on that one)...cd and book together...shows alot of the jazz greats brushstrokes (Philly Jo Jones, Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich)

"The Sound of Brushes" by Ed Thigpen...cd, illustrated diagrams, and book examples.

Here's a free downloadable pdf of several brush patterns... www.prologixpercussion.com/JDW_February_2008.pdf...and check out Miles Davis' album "Kind of Blue"... absolutely classic brush playing on that one!

I hope that helps man!

-S

Monday, October 4, 2010

DRUM LESSON "How To Play The Soca"



I LOVE playing the Soca...so I thought I'd do a short lesson on a brief history and then the "how to" of the soca. If you want to skip the historical dissertation and get right to the nitty gritty, go to 3:05 in the video.

As a disclaimer...I'm a frickin' idiot...while filming this I didn't realize I was calling it everything but a soca...I called it a samba...I called it a songo...and I called it a soca...I went back to remedial drummer school and wrote on the blackboard 300 times "I will NEVER insult the soca again"...and then I had a cup of pudding...because I like pudding...

So pardon the edits, and anywhere I screwed up I tried to put a bubble in and correct it for ya.

Friday, September 24, 2010

DRUM LESSON: Starting a Fill On Different Beats So It Sounds Dope



Another lesson on drum fills...how to start them on different parts of the beat as well as how to come out of them correctly...Sheet music link here,or in the comments section of the video. Cheers!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Drum Vlog: How To Keep Time While Playing



Had a question come in on "How to keep time while playing"...They didn't elaborate, so I'm assuming they meant internally, or some methods to help them keep consistent time...Decided to do a vlog on this one. I knew everyone wanted to see my face anyways...

Monday, September 13, 2010

One Minute Drum Lessons...Great Drum "Snack"!

So through Facebook I've run across some really talented musicians...Mathieu Lescuyer is one of them. He puts out these sick, one minute drum lessons...let me just go ahead and say...if you're looking for a 10-20 minute drum lesson, this is not it! However, if you're looking for a great drum "snack" that you can watch and understand in less than a minutes time, well, this is for you. Really talented guy with a great idea...Check him out on Facebook at Mathieu Lescuyer Drummer or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/drummermathieu ...Cheers and happy drum snacking!

DRUM LESSON: A Different Samba Groove To Try




Here's a samba that I've been playing for a few years now...it's served me well when I wanted to add a little spice. If you're interested in the sheet music for the lesson, you can find a link to it in the comments section below the video!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

DRUM LESSON: Playing with Four Sticks- A Breakdown of Steve Gadd's Groove For "Late In The Evening"



Steve Gadd played a killer Mozambique inspired groove over Paul Simon's smash song "Late In The Evening"...and he played it with four sticks! So I thought I'd break it down and show you how he did it...Cheers!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Technical Practice vs. Musical Practice













Another question...musical practice vs technical practice...how to balance them...this is by no means a complete answer, but I ran out of time...Please don't hesitate to send your questions to me via email @ littlesteviedrums@yahoo.com or stephen@LoversandLiars.com...or through Twitter @ http://twitter.com/drummeretc ...or on my YouTube channel @ www.youtube.com/DrummerEtc ...or on Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/#!/StephenTaylor81 ...I think that's all of them ;^)


Question:

For the longest time, I only practiced technical stuff, and about a year ago I just stopped playing technical stuff and just played music. and now i cant do technical stuff, but just musical stuff. What do you suggest I do to have a good balance?

Answer:

Ah, the age old question...technicality vs musicality...accommodating the music while satisfying your need to play a 32 note roll at 180 bpm...nice question...I can only answer things from my viewpoint and experience, and they say advice is worth what you pay for it...that being said...

I think every drummer (or musician for that matter) worth their weight struggles with this very question...how much time do I need to spend focusing on expanding my technical skills as a player and how much time should be allotted to practical and musically applicable skills. As much as we'd all love to play in a band that allows us to stretch like Mike Portnoy does in Dream Theatre (or should I say DID...in case you missed that memo, he left the band...), that's just not the reality of it. We as drummers tend to alot a large majority of our practice time to attaining what we view as impressive skills but what everyone else views as annoying occurrences. I think the whole discussion boils down to how you view your playing and music and simple prioritization.

Let's start with the prioritization part...If you want to play professionally as a drummer, you'll need to make money...to do that, you'll need a certain set of skills that allow you to survive on a gig...i.e. you need to play musically, know a wide range of material, understand what an appropriate fill for that chosen genre would sound like, etc. Basically, the nuts and bolts of what we do. So I actually try and keep a practice log...If I have 2 hours to practice, it might look something like this...

30 minutes of groove studies (practical groove studies...like Gary Chesters book, or playing along to "Brick House" until it feels danceable).

30 minutes of rudiments and trying to apply them to the drumkit.

30 minutes of coordination and facility on the drumkit work.

30 minutes of impressive, melt your face, grow 3 extra arms type of drumming.

The problem we often feel is that we're not improving enough in one area quickly enough...but I'd rather improve slowly and evenly in all areas than be able to play 5 over 4 and get fired from a gig for not knowing "Ain't To Proud To Beg"...

Which leads directly into the next discussion of how you view your playing...

I used to segment all of my playing and practicing...I had my work stuff, my technical stuff and never should the two meet. It wasn't until I realized WHY I was working on the technical stuff that things began to come into focus...

All of the time you put into advancing your technical proficiency is for one purpose and one purpose only...to serve the music. I had to stop viewing them separately. Here's how I do it nowadays...

I work on something extremely technical just for fun...after I have it down, I start to search for areas I can use this particular skill within the musical confines of the situation I'm playing in. Tony Williams was the master at doing this...some of the Miles Davis stuff sounds so smooth and musical...but once you dissect what Tony was actually doing, you begin to realize that the things he was playing were frickin' hard! He had taken the time to look into the music and see where he could use his vast vocabulary in the most musical manner possible. Vinnie does the same thing...so does Steve Smith...and so many others...

So I guess the simple answer is, prioritize your practice time to include technical as well as musical items...and begin to view your playing not as technical vs musical...but just drumming. One leads to the other and the other leads to the one...

DRUM LESSON: Jeff Porcaro Implied Half-Time Shuffle



This one's all about the syncopation and then the permutation...to come later...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Preparing For College Auditions


Ok, yet another question (yes, people DO actually ask these!)...This one is on college auditions and how to prepare for them...

Question:
"Are the college auditions for music courses usually very difficult? how much practice am i supposed to do a day in order to pass with flying colours? i am asking this because i am now currently very busy with school because of football season and i am having a hard time to balance my social life,having good grades and devoting my time to the drums. i usually have about an hour to practice a day, or none for some crucially busy days. is there a way to make the best use of this one hour? my practice schedule is usually just warming up with rudiments for 10-15 minutes, and working through exercises from books, and since i am reall into jazz drumming now, i just practice exercises from jazz books. is this the right way to go ? or am i supposed to balance out the genres while practicing?"


The college audition conundrum...here's the skinny from my viewpoint...

You need to find out EXACTLY what they'll be wanting to hear from you. Track the professors down and talk to them, get the sheet that they should be giving out on audition guidelines and criteria, talk to other students within the program and ask them what theirs was like...anything you can do to get as much info about the audition as possible.

Once you have that info, then you can devise a plan. I know what it's like to be impossibly busy and still have preparations that need to be made for a show or audition. Sit down with your accumulated list of what they'll want and begin to make your own list...

List 1:
Everything they're wanting you to know

List 2:
Everything they're wanting you to know in order from hardest to easiest.

List 3:
All the things you don't know that you'll need to work on for the audition.

List 4:
Al of the things you're not worried about for the audition.

Once you have those written down (yes, WRITE them down) you can start to knock them out. The thing I would always get hung up with was I would practice like I always do, just work on getting better in general...not what you need to do for this one. You need to decide on how much time you'll have to practice and then prioritize that practice time...in other words, here's a sample criteria list...

AUDITION CRITERIA:
-Know all 28 rudiments
-Have one prepared piece
-sight reading
-trade fours over a standard jazz tune of your choice.

This is a very short list...here's how I would knock it out...

Day 1: 2 hours...

-half an hour on first 2 rudiments
-first 10 measures of prepared piece learned
-sight read for 15 minutes
-all remainder of time spent on ideas for trading fours

Day 2: 1 and a half hours

-Half an hour on next two rudiments, 15 minutes reviewing old rudiments
-memorize first 10 measures of prepared piece, learn next 10 measures.
-sight read same pieces as yesterday, noting any improvements...move on to new sight reading material.
-trade fours using only the melody of the song as a guide.

So you begin to see how you're working on NOTHING but the audition material and you're being VERY specific with how and what you spend your time on. This is exactly how I prepared for my senior recital...I spent a whole semester doing exactly what I did above. And I'm happy to say that I KILLED the recital...people talked about it for weeks! I'm not tooting my own horn, I'm just saying that all of my work paid off!

Be sure and plan out your time so that you have all of the material learned a couple of weeks before hand so that by the time the auditions get there, you'll be playing the stuff in your sleep. DO NOT go into the audition and try things you're not 100% comfortable with...nerves usually get the best of you in those situations and you freeze up...I'd rather play something easier and play it well than to mess up something more complicated.

Hope this helps...if you need some more ideas, don't hesitate to let me know!

Cheers,
Stephen T.

DRUM LESSON: Breakdown of Steve Gadd's Groove for "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover"




Just because I LOVE this groove and the way he decided to execute it...when I looked back I realized that I accented the snare a bit much...I'm an idiot...dually noted...hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To Major In Music Or Not?


Before I even get into this post, let me address something that I get accused of alot...THIS IS NOT A NEGATIVE POST!

When I answer questions, I answer them from my viewpoint and from my life experiences...so if I include something in an answer, it's because I wish that I had...

A) Learned that "something" sooner than I did and hope to help someone else avoid my mistakes.
B) I actually know from experience that this "something" isn't practical or applicable in the real world.
C) I feel that the person asking the question has an unrealistic view of the professional working musical world, and I feel it's my duty to throw them a bucket of ice cold reality.

I never answer a question with the intent of discouraging someone from their dreams, I simply want their dreams to be viewed through realistic lenses. The road to success in the music business (notice I said success, not fame...two completely different things) is littered with uninformed but well intentioned players...I want people to succeed, and the sooner they embrace reality, the sooner they can be on their way to that success...and not just a flash in the pan success, but sustainable success. So before you say "Don't you think your answer is a little jaded, bitter, and angry?!"...No I don't think that...I'm EXTREMELY happy with where I am in life and in my music career, and I want others to experience that same happiness and contentment...so I mince no words, I cushion no points, and I pull all of my punches...because I want you to succeed. I preemptively say this only because the answer I'm fixing to give will fly in the face of the common conception...and I'm ok with that...I have no desire to starve and suffer for my art...I like to live well and enjoy my art. That was a longer disclaimer than I intended, but that's ok...you've probably fallen asleep by now anyways...but if not, a great discussion is below about majoring in music in college...

Email I got from a drummer...

"I am also looking to get a jazz major or a music major when i go 2 college. i am thinking of doing a major in business and maybe a minor degree in music. do you recommend any good colleges which provides these courses? i am not looking to be a full session gigging drummer but i want to teach and gig maybe on few nights. and it is also very sad in my country, that i cannot find a jazz band and get more exposure.
"

Lol...you're one of the smartest musicians I've met! Here's the skinny on a music degree...

An undergrad in music (without an emphasis on music education) allows you to do ZERO (monetarily at least). If you go on to get a masters in music performance, you can teach adjunct at a university part time...and if you get a doctorate, you can teach on the college level. A degree has no value in the gigging world...besides to let the other guys on the gig formulate a preconceived idea of you and your playing (college musicians can tend to overplay alot, and be cocky, and overall hard to work with...not the case with all of them, but with alot of them). A degree in music would be obtained strictly on the basis that you wanted to improve your playing and devote an ungodly amount of time to practice and performance...I would know, I got a degree in Jazz Studies (also equally worthless in the gigging world).

The point is, unless you plan on pursuing your doctorate, spending the time and money to obtain a music degree won't do much for you (again, we're speaking monetarily and in the scope of your career) that a buttload of hard work on your own can't do. That having been said, if you get a degree in music education, that would allow you to teach on the public school level...i.e. high school band. Not a thing in the world wrong with that, I know alot of perfectly happy and excellent players that teach band...they LIVE for it and wouldn't do anything else. A doctorate in composition would allow you to teach on the college level and compose in your spare time, etc and so forth...

"Why are you being so negative?! If a person wants a degree in music, let them get one!"

You're absolutely right, but there are smarter and more effective ways to go about getting an "education" in the musical world (private lessons, dvd's, audit the classes you want...). What you're talking about doing is an EXCELLENT choice. You only get as much out of a music degree as you put in...you can have the best teachers in the world and if you don't practice and apply yourself, you won't learn a thing. Having a degree in business with a minor in music gives you the best of both worlds. Most musicians that make a sustainable and comfortable living are essentially in business for themselves. They own private studios, operate corporate bands, front a popular band, have a large private teaching practice, compose for television and film, songwrite, etc. All of these are businesses in and of themselves, and so many musicians that I know could have benefited from a few business classes. If you really want to become a better musician, you'll do that whether you major in it or not. You're not getting a degree to "fall back on"...you're getting a degree that will help your passion produce a better and more prosperous future for yourself and your family. In other words, it's like two horses pulling the same buggy...your music is the buggy, your commitment and your knowledge of the business world are the two horses...make sense?

There's nothing worse than having to sacrifice your art for the sake of the almighty dollar...but it happens alot...and I think it would happen alot less if musicians in general were a little wiser about their education. What good is a teaching practice if you don't know how to market to get new students? What good is running a killer sounding band if you don't know how to promote and run a profit/loss statement on your gigs and merch?

Is it becoming clearer?

I wish I would have taken a few business classes while in college...because I've had to go back and learn it all on my own, which sucks and takes up alot of my free time. Music is an art, and to make money performing that art, you must monetize your efforts...but musicians don't like to talk about the money...they just want to create, and be passionate, and make beautiful music...

...well so do I...and I also happen to like eating nice foods, living in a comfortable home, and providing adequately for my family...so call me greedy and money hungry if you want...but being proficient in other areas of life has afforded me the luxury to make my music career in the exact shape that I want it to be in...

So kudos to you for having a great plan...just don't forget to practice as much as you study your business classes!!!

Cheers,
Stephen T.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jazz Fills and Trading Fours


I had a question come in that I thought some other drummers might have, so I decided to post the question and the answer (As always, the person will ALWAYS remain anonymous on this site). Feel free to ask anything you'd like, or throw your two cents in on the topic...




Question:

"hey, im a drummer from singapore and have been lovin your videos!

i have a video request, can u make a lesson on how to trade fours or play jazz drum fills? i have only started learning how to do this for the past 2 months and my trouble is that i have a hard time phrasing when i solo myself, and i can only play the things that i hear on videos or written stuff. so do you have any advice or can make a lesson on how to improvise on trading fours?

Thanks"

Reply:

Thanks for droppin' me a line!

I would love to do a lesson on that topic. I actually have a degree in Jazz Studies, so I actually do have alot of knowledge and advice in that area. My wife and I will be having our 2nd child this week, so that may put me out of commission for a couple of weeks as far as new video lessons (I have 6 or 7 taped, but not on that subject...a couple on beginner left hand and right foot jazz comping though). That being said, as soon as I tape my next lessons, this one will be the first I do.

Until then...

Listen, listen, listen...you say you have trouble thinking up your own ideas, or phrasing on your own...the cool thing is, EVERYBODY has trouble with this when they first start. The thing you need to remember is that music is actually a type of LANGUAGE...you need to learn how to phrase what you say, common phrases that other drummers use, how to carry on a conversation with the other soloist when trading fours, etc. The best way to begin to learn this is to LISTEN...Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Philly Jo Jones are a few of my favorites to listen to for a more traditional and structured approach to fills and trading fours. Take some of the phrases that they use and practice them...there's nothing wrong with doing that...it's actually very common and very helpful. When you're learning to speak a new language, you study the language in books, but you also talk with other people that speak that language and see how they use the words, how they put phrases together...and then you practice using those phrases. No one has to know you're using a phrase you learned off of a Steve Smith video. So listen, transcribe the fills and soloing, and then try them yourself...over and over and over. You'll be suprised that eventually you start to add little parts here and there...and before you know it, that Art Blakey lick has turned into your own thing.

The other thing I suggest is singing. Sounds silly, but it works and is also a very common practice. Jazz drumming and playing is all about the music, the melody, and how you present it. So sit at the drums and sing a simple fill..."Bap...Doom...Bap...Doom...bidibadoom crash"...sing it on the first measure, then actually play it in the second measure. Start out very simple...I started with quarter notes (what you DON'T play is every bit as important as how many notes you play)...then progress to eighth notes, then triplets, etc. You want to focus on a melodic fill instead of a fast fill with alot of notes in it. I also listen to other no drummer jazz players and sing their fills...Miles Davis and John Coltrane are two masters of melodic phrasing. Take a short phrase that they use, memorize it, sing it to yourself, and then interpret it on the kit the way you want to. Jazz drumming is different from rock and pop drumming...you're contributing to the song melodically whether you realize it or not.

This is a short answer to an in depth question, but hopefully it'll get you started. I'll get a video shot on the topic just as soon as I can.

I really appreciate you checking the lessons out and working on the stuff...if you ever have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask!

God Bless,
Stephen T.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Advice on Rolls and Fills

So I got a question earlier from a drummer in India (the internet never ceases to amaze me)...typed up a WAY to lengthy response...and decided I would post my answer (for what it's worth) here...

Question:

I've just recently started playing in my church and I need some hints regarding rolls and fills...any ideas?

Answer:

Hints regarding rolls...hmmm...that's kinda've an ambiguous question, but I'll give you a long answer and hopefully it'll hit on something that will help...and if it doesn't, hit me back up w/ a more specific question. First let me say, kudos for playing in church! I started playing in church at 14 and it gave me 3 times a week to perform in front of a live audience...PRICELESS! You're gonna get TONS better just from learning and working through the music and getting that much on stage experience and time. Stoked for ya!

The most common problems I see w/ rolls are as follows:

1. The roll gets out of time with the song or the drummer comes back in incorrectly.

2. The fill rushes/drags.

3. The fill is to "Chopsy" (in other words, it's really flashy and shows off the drummers chops).

4. The fill doesn't fit the style of music being played.

Ok...now that I've diagnosed the majority of problems drummers have w/ fills, here's some quick fixes...

1. The roll gets out of time with the song or the drummer comes back in incorrectly.

This is very common w/ new drummers...lets face it, we didn't start drumming so we could play 30 minutes of groove timekeeping...We like the flashy stuff! And fills can be flashy. Alot of times a young drummer will get excited when they go into a fill, causing them to lose the beat and get "lost" in the fill. And when we're lost, we do the first thing that makes sense...we come back into the groove...and often we come back in on the "and" of 4...or two...or we turn the beat completely around...I did ALL of these when I first started! The cool thing about a church gig (and lots of others) is that you'll get the music beforehand, often up to a couple of weeks beforehand. THIS IS THE BEST GIFT THE BAND LEADER COULD EVER GIVE YOU!!! It not only gives you the chance to learn new music, it gives you the opportunity to PRACTICE to that new music. So pick out a simple fill you've been working on, listen to the song, learn where the transitions are, and then practice playing that same fill throughout the song. Once you get that one down, make up another fill and do the same thing, and another, and another...do this repeatedly. What repitition does is build confidence. When you go to play live in front of people, you're going to be nervous...and if you're not nervous, you're going to have extra adrenaline and endorphins kicking in, so the likelihood of you "screwing up" is higher due to the intensity and excitement being higher...and the way to defeat onstage nerves is to practice the things you'll be playing in front of people until you can do them in your sleep...that and stay away from the Red Bull ;^)

2. The fill rushes/drags.


My answer for the last one comes into play quite a bit with this one as well. That being said, this is where your metronome (Sounds of drummers moaning and cursing) comes in handy...and if you don't have one, please get one. There are several you can find online that will let you use them for free. Pick a groove, pick a fill, and pick a comfortable tempo. Play 4 bars of groove, one bar of fill (In time preferably). Repeat this eight gajillion times.

3. The fill is to "Chopsy" (in other words, it's really flashy and shows off the drummers chops instead of serving the music).

This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine...PLAY FOR THE SONG! When you're playing with a group of musicians (especially in a church setting), you're a part of a group, something bigger than your own individual playing. A huge out of place fill does nothing but detract from the song and draw attention to the drummer. Fills can often be one or two notes and fit the moment perfectly. This is very true in a church setting where the purpose is to draw peoples attention towards God rather than towards the musicians. Focus on simple fills that fit the mood and the moment...if you're going to the bridge of a song maybe an eighth note build between the floor tom and snare is all you need to build the moment. If you're going from the verse to the chorus maybe 2 beats of sixteenth notes on the snare will suffice. There are literally MILLIONS of options, just choose one that fits. The longer you do this, the more you'll actually stray away from the chopsy style of playing and aim more for the tasty style of playing...one that serves a purpose bigger than you...and you'll be suprised to find that there are a few places to throw some flash in AND serve the music!

4. The fill doesn't fit the style of music being played.

If you're playing reggae, there are certain fills that are native to that music...if you're playing funk, there are certain fills that are native to funk...if you're playing jazz...and so on and so forth. LISTEN to the style of music and the types of songs you'll be playing...take the time to transcribe and learn note for note some of the recurring fills you here in a certain genre of music. Take the songs that you'll be performing and try playing these transcribed fills over them. Any language has words and phrases that are native to it...and music is just another language...learn it, learn how to connect your phrases...the best thing you can do is listen...in the car, at the gym, while you're falling asleep...listen and learn.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

DRUM LESSON: The Flam

Monday, July 5, 2010

Drum Lesson: Swiss Army Triplet aka "The Dirty Roll"



By request, more rudiments. Let me know if there's anything else you'd like to see a lesson on...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

DRUM LESSON: Drum Fills



I decided to do a few lessons on fill ideas...Enjoy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Drum Lesson: Traditional Grip

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Drum Lesson: Killer Chops...Finger Technique for Faster Hands-Matched Grip



I've been working on my "skills" w/ the video editing, as well as audio recording/editing...so the sound quality should be much clearer on this lesson, along with there being a hi definition option for the video...I shot this one and the next lesson while I was on the road this past week...expect full kit lessons to start coming in the next couple of weeks as I'm off the road and able to get back into my studio...

Monday, June 7, 2010

EPIC FAIL: A gig gone wrong...


So I'm on the third day of a 5 day stint on the road...On hour nine of an eleven hour stretch...and seeing as I've had nothing but time to sit and think, a few of my past “adventures” have come to mind...I actually started laughing out loud thinking about some of these stories while riding last night. And so since I have nothing but time and a laptop, I figured I would throw one out there...

A few years back I had a friend that was making a go of it as a country singer. Her husband and I had randomly met, become friends, and I eventually started drumming for her. She needed a whole band, so she asked me to head the thing up as bandleader. I'll skip all of the details of putting the band together, management miscommunications, and other details...

The gig was simple: A one off fly date to Colorado. Fly down one day and play the show, fly back the next morning...simple, by the book...

What should have gone off without a hitch slowly began to go downhill...when I found out we were flying out of St. Louis...Missouri...??? We lived in Nashville...which has an international airport...why wouldn't we fly out of there? That being said, common sense usually doesn't prevail in situations like this..so ok...whatever...St. Louis it was then... the flight left out at 6 in the morning. Again, common sense kicked in for me and I assumed we'd be leaving the night before...until I spoke with her manager...he thought a 3 am leave time would be just fine...??? I explained to him my logic of not only needing to be a little early for our flight, but actually needing to MAKE the flight...and so we should probably leave around 11 the night before (it actually takes about 5 and a half hours to get to St. Louis from Nashville)...He countered with “Why would we leave at 11 the night before? It's a 2 hour drive!” I assured him it was actually over five hours...and this is the point where any normal person would pull out the phone, or laptop, or roadmap and look this little detail up. Much to my chagrin, I was the only one that ever looked up the travel times...he argued with me about the leave time up until 2 days before the trip...but I was tenacious! Thinking about this right now, I'm still amazed this was even a discussion...

So he humored me...we left at midnight Nashville time...which was hardly enough time but I was tired of this ridiculous discussion. So at 5:50 am we came running into the airport, 10 whole minutes to spare ( I'll skip the I told you so's)...and somehow we miraculously made the plane...this was the last thing that went right with the trip...

We landed a couple of hours later in Greely, Colorado. To save money, and presumably time, they had booked our plane tickets, a shuttle ride to and from the airport, and the hotel as an all in one package...I forget who they booked it through, some travelocity knockoff. The shuttle pulled up to get us on time...with only one problem...the A/C was broken. Perfect. We were in Colorado...it was stiflingly hot...

Calm...stay calm...we'll roll the windows down. Besides, we didn't have time to sweat (pun intended) the trivial details like comfort...we had to check into the hotel before the gig, then get to the venue, set up, and soundcheck.

So we pull up to the hotel...excuse, I must have been mistaken, motel (and yes there's a HUGE difference)...motel was stretching it...brick structure that housed random travellers...and I'm thinking this must be a joke cause this place is a dump. Super manager proceeded into the office to get our rooms as we sat on the curb outside...he was taking a really long time...and then I started to hear raised voices...and then a door slamming, with lots of muttering.

“The rooms don't have A/C,” Manager of the year exclaimed.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“They don't have A/C...I can't believe this...I specified the rooms had to have A/C!” he said while wildly paving back and forth.

Wait a minute...he TOLD them the rooms HAD to have A/C? This was Colorado....the US of frickin' A..I assumed A/C was a given in any modern building structure. He said he'd deal with it, we were way behind schedule...luckily our ride was there to take us to the venue. He'd get the rooms changed while we were at the gig.

We were supposed to be playing a local festival...outside, which is never a fun thing, but I had high hopes. I guess there are different definitions of “festival”...

New Definition of Festival (I'll post it on Wikipedia later...): A stage set up in a car lot, where they were having a sale on their cars over the weekend....and we were the featured entertainment. Now, nowhere in there do I get “Festival”...nonetheless...at least there was a stage.

We were a 5 piece group...drums, vocals, bass, guitar, and fiddle (always a fiddle...)...backline was provided...was supposed to be provided...and to a point I guess it was...

So I walked on stage and hit my shin on something...what was that? It was a small, square....well, it sort of looked like an amp...but it was less than a foot tall...

and then I realized it was the guitarists amp...

HA! Surely not! It was the mighty Roland Micro Cube amp...weighing in at 9 by 10 inches...the picture is still etched in my memory of the guitarist staring defeatedly down at his feet...almost sobbing...

The bass amp was actually a normal size...he got off the best...and then to the drums...

They were a ragged group of percussive elements...but I managed to put together a semblence of a kit...now for the cymbals...cymbals...hmmm...

I asked the manager about them...he asked the sound guy...I cried in the corner...sound guy gave us the number of the rental company...which informed me when I called them that we had specifically told them NO cymbals...

Super Management strikes again!

And to top it off, they were closing...so no dice.

But wait!!! There was someone running one of the food tables, waving frantically, that said “hey, I think I have some cymbals in my attic!”

Perfect.

This was getting humorous...really humorous...ok, I'll bite...I asked her to go get them, having no clue what kind of cymbals they were, how many there were, sizes...

Motto to live by 20 minutes from showtime: Bad metal is better than no metal...

So the kind cymbal donor arrived back promptly holding what appeared to be dusty, dingy, old cymbals...I grabbed the first cymbal and after I brushed enough dust off to see, I was pleased that the hi-hats were actually an old pair of Zildjian K's. Score. Now on to the next cymbal...it was some sort of factory piece of junk...fail...and now on...to...wait...that was all there were...ok, hi hat and crash, I can work with it.

After we'd “soundchecked”...which consisted of listening to the "sound guy" explain what killer tones he gets out of the cube amp the guitarist was using and making sure all of the equipment at least made some sort of audible sound, we started our set...to all 4 people that showed up...

There was the sister of the bass player (her and her girlfriend had come out)...and an old friend of the guitar players...and two other people that were wondering around...

It was a rip roaring set...the guitarist roared through his solo's, barely audible to the mass of empty chairs in front of us...the fiddle player missed every cue and solo she was supposed to have...it went unnoticed by the rabid crowd...I queried the meaning of all of this...the crowd yawned enthusiastically...and I laughed the whole time...

After the 8 hour set...or was it 30 minutes? I don't know...we had been up for over 30 hours straight at this point...time was pointless...

I think the manager took us for dinner afterwards...it's a blur...there may have been some steak and a cold beer in the mix...

Back at the A/C challenged motel the manager had failed yet again...we had the same rooms...with the same lack of air that we'd had before...

Luckily, while we were standing outside getting our room keys, our guitar player was accosted by a rather drunk Latin thug like figure...demanding to know why he was wearing the blue dew rag he was wearing...which resembled, as in an exact replica...of some common gang colors...fantastic....we were rooming together...so we walked, rather quickly, to our room...with thug guy following us behind...yelling for us to stop and “discuss” the dew rag issue...

I stripped my bed...and my clothes...and spread out, trying to allow as much air as possible to get to my body...the Latin figure remained outside for about half an hour, knocking and hollering irately...

I drifted in and out of a sweating sleep...I heard children screaming...running by the room...it was so hot...and they wouldn't stop screaming...if I could imagine what hell might feel like, this was coming awfully close...sleep deprived, oppressively hot, screaming...

And then the two hours that we had to sleep were up...and I was sitting on the curb outside the front office again, waiting for the shuttle...

Only the shuttle never came...

Awesome...it was a package deal, pay once and they'll take care of the trip to your hotel and back to the airport. They had forgotten the return part.

The manager called every number he had...kicked and screamed...threatened lawsuits...and finally got a ratty looking four seater to show up...so the artist stayed behind, and we squeezed as many of us into the piece of junk that was a car, and flew to make our plane.

She wound up buying another ticket and we took two planes back...

...and I wound up finally getting to sleep...right by the air conditioning vent...and forgot about the whole escapade until last night...

By the way...There's nothing to learn from this...

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Difference A Little Acoustic Treatment Makes To Your Drum Room...



Above is a before and after video of my studio...

It's happened to all of us...you get to a gig, set your drums up, do a sound check...and they sound GREAT! You can't imagine your drums sounding any better...they're warm, inviting, everything you play sounds sonically pleasing...the gig goes off without a hitch and you go home feeling like "Sid the Wonder Kid, Drum Tuner to the Stars"!

Then, on your very next gig...you rush to get there because you can't wait to play your drums again (after all, you're the greatest drum tuner that has ever lived...remember?). You set them up, pick the sticks up with a small cocky grin, and start to play...and...they...sound......like CRAP!!! The worst sounding kit you've ever played...the toms have strange overtones, the bass drum is uncontrollable and boomy, the snare makes you wince every time you hit it...even your cymbals sound horrible! How could this be?! You had just played the night before and they sounded heavenly...and now even your cymbals are out of tune? Say it ain't so...and so you shove your earplugs deeper into your ears, hoping that by some act of God you'll be transported to the end of the gig so you can pack them back up and have a nice bonfire when you get home...

This happens to me ALL OF THE TIME...and it's really hard not to get down about not only your drums and your tuning ability, but your playing too. After all, why put all of that practice time in if your going to sound bad no matter how hard you work?

Allow me to explain a little about what is actually going on...You can be the best drummer in the world, you can have the top of the line drums made out of endangered wood that was harvested from the monkey trees of Argentina...all of this won't mean a thing if the venue or room that you're playing in is acoustically off. What do I mean?

There's alot going on that you can't see at a gig...there's countless invisible sound waves that are bouncing around you at all times. If a room is built for live bands to play in, and they don't take the time to sonically treat the room to address the issues of standing waves, flutter echos, modal ringing, and improving stereo imaging, it can lead to disastrous results. Let me go ahead and say, I am no expert on this subject...FAR from it...I also am not going to attempt to explain all of the intricate details of sound waves...and I'm sure you really don't care to know all of those details (that being said, if you really do want to know about the ins and outs of sound waves, go HERE for a much more in depth explanation.)

I'm going to explain what I did, my reasons for doing it, and the cost effective ways I found to achieve my desired results without breaking the bank.

I've recently remodeled my garage and made it into a drum studio. After all of the build out, I was left with the problem of my room sounding like an echo chamber. The room is a rectangle, a horrible shape for acoustics...it's roughly 300 sq ft in size with a 10 foot ceiling...or a large box in other words. So once I finished drywalling and painting I was left with the enormous task of learning about sound treatment and applying it to my room.

So I started to read on the subject...and I read alot...and for my particular room, here's the solutions I came up with...the photo below will let you see somewhat of what the room looks like, although it was taken right after I had finished so none of the recording gear, pictures, or even a full drum kit for that matter, are set up...

HPIM0818


1.) For the wall behind my drumset, I decided to treat it with acoustic foam sound dispersing panels that would eliminate the standing waves. To keep this explanation easy...if you have two parallel walls, you need to treat one of them (and only one) with some type of material that will both absorb some sound and disperse it at the same time. So I took forty-eight 1x1 square panels and hung them on the wall behind my drums...I made four large diamonds in the middle of the wall and placed two rows of 8 panels each on the bottom of my wall. That took care of the standing waves from two of the walls. I would have been out of pocket a little bit of money, but thankfully I had some band members that had the sound panels sitting in their closets not being used...so that treatment was free...BONUS!

2.) I needed to treat the corners of the room with bass traps to control the bass. Pre-fab bass traps can get quite expensive...and so my solution was to make my own. I made four 2'x4' bass traps (using 4"x1" strips of wood, I made a frame, stuffed it with Rockwool insulation, covered the front and the back of it with fabric, and hung it where it would straddle the middle of the corner) and hung one in each of the four corners of the room. I then made four 2'x2' bass traps and hung them at an angle in the four tri-corners of the room (where the ceiling meets both of the walls). Bass traps done...total cost for screws, fabric, insulation, and wood was a little over $100.

3.) I wanted to hang a panel above my drums that would disperse the cymbal bleed and keep the sound from bouncing straight off of the ceiling and back into the microphones. So roughly three feet right above where my drumset is set up I hung a 4'x'6' piece of particle board covered in rigid styrofoam dispersement panels, in no particular pattern. There's roughly a 2-3 foot gap between the ceiling and the panel...I simply found two studs in the ceiling, hung two hooks that are used to hang swings on porches, and then attached some chain...I learned my lesson with my first attemp at hanging it...I didn't bother to find the studs, got the thing hung, got to the bottom of the ladder, and SMASH!!! The whole contraption came down on my head. Painful, but a learning experience...note to self...always find a stud to hang large, heavy items from the ceiling. I already knew this, but apparently I needed this experience to really instill it in my thinking. Again, one of my band mates had the dispersement panels, so all I paid for was the wood, screws, and chain...roughly $25-35.

4.) The other two parallel walls have been taken care of with pictures, a piano, a couch, and a bunch of bookshelves...all of these items eliminated the squareness of the walls and improved the sound.

5.) I have a rug underneath my drumkit, but other than that I have an open concrete floor to maintain the "live" sound and feel of the room...the rug was about $75.

And there you have it...for a couple of hundred dollars I treated a very large room and now have a pleasing area that my drums sound good in. So if you have a practice space that sounds horrible, don't just live with it...do something about it! You'll play so much better just by hearing better tones. You can bring in furniture, curtains, etc...anything to make the room less square and a little "softer". And please, if you get to a gig and your drums sound like you're hitting glass, just ignore it...it has no bearing on the quality of player you are...unless you can't tune...and then we have a whole other set of problems...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

You Tube, Bass Tracks, and other news...


So you may have noticed that I'm fully functioning again...life has been hectic, to say the least, as of late. Here's a brief rundown of what's been happening the past 6 months or so, some having to do with new additions to the blog, and others not so much...

1) My wife is pregnant w/ our second drummer...I mean, um, boy...we're due at the beginning of September and we couldn't be more excited about it!

2) You've probably already read in a past post, but my band Lovers and Liars signed w/ Universal Republic Records (Owl City, 3 Doors Down, Amy Winehouse, Mika, Colbie Caillat, Tori Amos...) a few months ago and we've since been going non-stop to get all of the details that go along w/ that in order...studio time, contracts, rehearsals, pre-production, recording, photos, management, booking...it's been quite exciting, but alot of work at the same time. We finished up recording a few weeks ago and the final mixes should be in by the end of the week...If you'd like to check out a video of our studio time go here.

3) I finished my home studio (See the photo above)...it's taken me over two years to purchase the house, buy the equipment, build the room out...lots of time, but alas, excepting for a few minor esthetic issues, it's finished...

4)You can now find www.DrummerEtc.com on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and most recently..... YOU TUBE!
You've probably noticed alot of the new posts have been lessons from the YouTube page...I'm having ALOT of fun getting these together and have TONS more to come...I've been out on the road a good bit this month, and so most of them have been me w/ a practice pad or brushes...look for more full kit posts in the next month as well as a series on the different grips, finger control, etc. In addition, the sound quality should be getting MUCH better...to do all of this I've had a huge learning curve w/ video editing, recording software, and the likes...but it's all smoothing out...thanks for bearing w/ me while I work on getting better quality videos and lessons to you.

5) And the most recent addition, one that I'm STOKED about, might I add...I've been pooling my resources and have started collecting play along bass tracks from several producers and bass players in the Nashville area...some really great players. There are two tracks up at the moment...they'll be getting better as we go. Check out the top of the blog to hear them. I really just wanted to test the waters w/ the first couple and the response has been really encouraging! I had a cd full of play along bass tracks in college that I absolutely wore out practicing to...and hopefully I'll be able to build a really great library of tunes for you to download and practice w/...that being said, there is a small charge. To bring you the quality I'm wanting to in the future, it's costing a bit of money...so hopefully your donation per tune will help to offset some of those costs so that I can keep putting them up...and PLEASE, I love feedback about these things! Feel free to contact me through any of the social pages, here, or via email...I love hearing from you guys!

So I really haven't been sitting on my laurels...I've been busting hump, and hopefully you can benefit from some of my work! Thanks again for reading!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Drum Lesson: The Flam Tap

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Drum Lesson: Brushes-Medium to Uptempo swing pattern



Sorry, I've been stuck on brushes lately...the full kit shall return next week...meanwhile, quick poll...Would anyone be interested in some bass tracks to practice grooves and fills to? Let me know on the Facebook page, on Twitter, YouTube, or by email at littlesteviedrums@yahoo.com

I have a reason for asking...if you let me know, your wishes may be granted...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Drum Lesson: The Crazy S



Here another brush pattern called the "Crazy S"...For slow to medium tempo ballads...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Drum Lesson: The Figure 8 Brush Pattern




This one is on one of the most basic brush patterns, the Figure 8...if you get this one sounding smooth and uninterrupted, you're off to a GREAT start with the brushes...Just remember Danielson, wax on...wax off...Cheers!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Carpal Tunnel Avoidance Stretches



A while back I wrote what was supposed to be a 3 part series on my experience with what I thought was carpal tunnel but turned out to be nerve entrapment...and turns out, alot of people don't really have carpal tunnel syndrome, they have nerve entrapment. The first post explained what it was and how it could be fixed, complete with an interview with Dr. Preston Wakefield. The second part was on my experience with the problem...and then I got busy and never posted the third part...so here it is, finally! I put it in video form, so it should be easy to take 5 minutes, watch the video, and then incorporate the stretches into your daily life. Sorry it too so long...but better late than never I guess...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Studio: Day 1-Drummin' for Lovers and Liars...



So I usually don't make my posts about what I'm currently involved in...alot of them are about my experiences, but I try to make them pretty general and not bore you with the details of what I'm doing. That being said, the past few months have been quite unbelievable for me personally and the project I'm involved in, Lovers and Liars...being capped off last week by us finally cutting our first two songs for Universal Republic Records. A definite high in my career. So here's a video of what I affectionately call "D-Day"...or drum day...15 gruelling hours of picking drums, cymbals, sounds...and then recording them...very hard work, and very rewarding. Our bass player, Adam, put this vid together to document for our fans what we did...and since I run this blog, I figured you all might want to know a little bit more about what I do...so here you go...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ALL NEW!!! Video Lessons w/ Yours Truly...



I've been working on my studio for quite some time now...and it's finally done (for the most part...). Along with recording and live teaching, I'm going to be posting quite a few video lessons on YouTube. Hopefully, they'll be helpful to some...and if they are, pass them along...that's the thing I love about drumming, the community feel. The sound isn't the best, but that should be fixed with the next one.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's back...Finally!...Video of the week: Sheila E...



I've been lax in my updates as of late...the past 5 or 6 months have been ridiculously busy...rewarding and positive, but frickin' busy...and I just ran out of time. I'm sure all have been missing the Video of the Week...and so it's back with a bang...

Givin' some love to the lady folk this week...none other than the impeccable Sheila E. She was fantastic with Prince...and she's still fantastic. She does a great singing breakdown in the middle...Enjoy!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Berklee Drum Lessons...













So I came across some great, downloadable drum lessons from a Berklee College of Music site called "Berklee Shares"...Check them out here...Everything from snare, to drumset, to latin, to jazz...heck, they even have some vibraphone pdf lessons...Enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Van Tour...


Below is something I wrote up and sent in to Modern Drummer a few years back...they loved it, passed it around the office...but ultimately didn't want to print it because, and I quote, "It had too much of a negative slant on touring. People would walk away from it with a negative view of the touring world."

Hmmm...I'm pretty sure that's what I meant to do. We hear all about the glitz and glamour of our fav artists and musicians...but we rarely hear the other side...sleeping in a van, shady venues, honary club owners, car trouble, low per diems, etc and so forth. So here you go...just one of my many experiences in this area...

To Tour or Not to Tour...

Signing on with a group for a tour, whether it's an extended period of time or just a couple of weeks long, is much different than agreeing to a one night, in town gig...especially if it's a low budget tour. Sometime you get what you deserve if you don't ask some important questions and consider the situation carefully...

The call came early on a Monday afternoon. A bandleader, whom I had met at a recording session while in college, had heard I had recently moved to Nashville. His regular drummer had cancelled on him at the last minute and he needed a sub for a two to three week leg of a tour that left in two days. Here it was...my first touring opportunity! I was pumped to say the least! I had only been in town for about two months and was already getting a chance to head out on the road. Visions of gold plated beds, parties, champagne...I could barely believe it. The pay wasn't going to be great, but good enough in my mind, and seeing as I was going to need to pay rent the next month, all systems were a go.

My happy little bubble was burst promptly at 11:15pm that Wednesday evening when the van (what?! No bus?!?!) pulled up at my apartment. I walked outside and the first question in my mind was, "Where is the equipment trailer?" Come to find out, there would be no trailer. Instead they had removed three of the four bench seats to make room for the equipment inside the van. I did the math in my head and realized that this left only one bench seat in the back for two grown men, while the other two would sit up front. With our first gig seventeen (yes, you heard me right) hours away, it was lookin' to be a long night of travel. Scratch that....a long couple of weeks.

Ok...so the travel conditions weren't perfect...I was still optimistic...

I opted for the front seat to get to know the driver/bandleader, whom I had met only once, while the guitar player, whom I had never seen in my life, settled down for some sleep in a spot affectionately referred to as the "coffin". This bed of sorts consisted of a two-foot wide space directly behind the seat in back with a questionably clean sleeping bag rolled out across the top of two monitors laid on their side. Not exactly the Hilton, or a Motel 6 for that matter, but he seemed cozy enough.

With sleeping beauty in the back and me up front with our fearless leader, I decided to make small talk. We exchanged war stories about gigs (totally unbeknownst to me at the time that I was entering into the musical equivalent of Vietnam in my mind) and got to know each other. I was beginning to have some confidence about the situation again when he dropped the bombshell...He informed me that he smoked a little weed, and he hoped I didn't mind. Warning sirens began to sound in my head...as you know if you've read ANYTHING on this blog, I'm no stranger to drugs (which is probably the reason for the deafening warning bells...). I had played for three years on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and had been around much heavier substances than weed. The difference was, I had always been able to distance myself from it. I have somewhat of a high professional standard and I consider drugs to be a deal breaker in any situation. This being said, I had no way to get back home...whatever...how bad could it get? And so began my two and a half week long course "Life on a low budget van tour with a bunch of guys you don't know and wouldn't hang out with even if you did know them." To long of a name? How about this one..."Life Sucking."

As the days drug by (no pun intended), another issue presented itself...food. We received ten dollars a day per diem, but seeing as we were all above the age of eight and breathing, this presented a problem. I was trying to make some money on this gig, so it quickly became a game of survival...with my liver taking the brunt of the blows. Cheap fast food was the menu most days, health concerns gone out the window at this point, and some days I skipped up to two meals. I even stooped to the level of sneaking food from the casino buffet into a Ziploc bag so that I wouldn't have to pay again (without remembering that I had earlier stored my detergent in that bag...everything from that buffet had a definite "bite" to it)...Yes, I had reached a new low in my career.

Other problems followed closely behind. Everyday was a toss up as to what our sleeping situation would be. From shifty houses to cheap motels, I felt like a cheap Bourbon Street call girl...I never knew what the next bed would look like. This combined with problems of gear malfunction, unhappy club owners, and me getting sick mid trip (imagine that) made for a hodge-podge of misery. Let's not forget that the person closest to my age was thirteen years older than me and the other two were actually TWICE my age!

About halfway into the tour...and my sanity...the van began to run hot. Leaking radiator...fantastic. Seeing as we had two days off before the next gig, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take one of the days, rest, and get the van fixed. I thought wrong. Our fearless leader, with all of his mechanical mastery and knowledge, deemed that the leak was a slow one and we were going to stretch this one day trip into two. He had always wanted to travel on the Extraterrestrial Highway (a stretch of road that runs through Nevada and passes Area 51, infamous for supposed government cover-ups of UFO sightings) and the two days off afforded the perfect opportunity. This lonely stretch of highway also lies in the middle of the desert, a place one would think to avoid traveling through with a vehicle that had the very high probability to overheat, not to mention we would now spend both of our days off cramped in a van. Needless to say...I was thrilled.

Even though this seemed to be a bad decision, I secretly took comfort in the fact that I had my cell phone should anything go wrong, but about half an hour into our drive I realized i had no service. My safety net was slowly beginning to have holes in it. Another thought began to arise in my mind...No one really lives in the desert...mainly because it's the desert. A leaking radiator, no cell phone, and stretches of road over a hundred miles long without the hope of even seeing a house, much less a service station. I began to wonder where I had gone wrong to deserve this punishment.

Sometime that afternoon the decision was made, without my consultation, that it was time to break out the goods... And so everyone began to alter their state of mind, everyone except me who was desperately trying to figure out how to get the back window to crack open more than three inches. It was in this altered state that they began to scan the horizon for UFO's. After a while they of course found something in the air that they deemed UFO material, seeing as it had all of the distinguishing characteristics of a white dot or a small cloud. Who knows, maybe it was a UFO...full of aliens...alien musicians...with a drummer in the back wondering how the heck they wound up on planet Earth.

Bonus to this story...I learned a few things from my experience...and hopefully they will save someone somewhere a lot of misery.

Drugs are a deal breaker...

In my life I've seen far too many talented musicians fall prey to drug addiction. If you want a healthy and productive career in music, it's best to steer clear of them. This means more than not indulging in them, it means distancing yourself and your career as much as possible from them.

Know the people and their lifestyles before signing on...

Even if it's a well funded tour, this is a must...Are they close to your age? Do your personalities match up? Do they share the same set of values? If it's hard to stand them for a two hour rehearsal, an extended string of gigs is a definite no-no.

Pay on the road is different than pay in town...

You are actually LIVING out of a van...or bus...or whatever...Unless an adequate per diem is agreed upon ahead of time, you will be losing some of your overall take home pay. It's not worth the trouble to work for a month straight if you're not going to have anything to show for it. The pay scale needs to be raised to compensate for increased expenses.

Bus or van?

Short and easy question...the answer to that simple question tells you ALOT about the gig.

Not all tours are created equal. Be sure to know all of the facts (or as much as possible) or you might find yourself in the middle of the desert with three men you don't know...looking for UFO's...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Band: Lovers and Liars Sign w/ Universal Republic Records...














I know I've been absent for the past little while, but there's been alot going on. My group, Lovers and Liars, just signed w/ Universal Republic (Owl City, 3 Doors Down, Jack Johnson)...We couldn't be more excited!

Read more about it at http://www.melodic.net/newsOne.asp?newsId=15695

Monday, February 1, 2010

Progress...

"We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where we want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go foward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man."

C.S. Lewis







Sometimes progress isn't a foward move.

I love the writings of C.S. Lewis...yes, he's a Christian writer...and this particular passage is from one of his most well known works "Mere Christianity". He meant it in a completely different capacity...but as I was reading it through this time, it struck me in a different way...a more universal way.

You could plug this statement into any aspect of your life, and it would still ring true.

The hard part is admitting you're headed in the wrong direction...

Why are we so frickin' stubborn? Why do we insist on banging our heads against a wall, only to get the same result we have every time before...a bloody head.

Yea, it's the admitting that sucks...because then you have to admit you're wrong...your way of doing things is wrong...your philosophies are somehow flawed...you read (or wrote) your manual wrong...

The circumstances leading up to our admitting our fault are usually painful...not pleasant...for some reason we as humans see things the clearest when we're in pain. Maybe that's a survival skill left over from the jungle days...that fight or flight instinct applied to thought.

The girl always has to dump you for you to realize what a deusch you are...you have to be fired to realize how great a gig you had...etc and so forth.

...And then to fix it...

You have to turn around. Start walking back the way you just came. Pass by all of the "work" and "accomplishments" that got you to that wrong place. And you keep walking...until you come back to the place you can fix it. Sometimes that's a few steps...sometimes it's a few miles. either way it sucks. Nobody likes to backtrack. It gives you the feeling of losing ground. And in the short term I guess you are...but when you back away from the map, you're actually progressing towards the shortest route to your final destination.

Why bother posting something like this?

Because I had to admit some wrong turns about two years ago. I had to make that dreaded turn around...head back in the other direction...it sucked. Lots of time and effort wasted. Lots of money wasted. Oh well...so's life I guess.

I re-assessed how my "career" in music was going...not well...and started to make practical and methodical steps to fix it. Steps that weren't based on "chance" or getting a "break"...steps that were decided upon because of things I felt I could do myself....ways I could make it work...etc...that whole self-realization crap...

So here I am...turned around, backtracked, and re-started. I'm alot more at peace. My playing isn't near what it was two years ago, that could be fixed with some elbow grease though...that's ok, doesn't have to be at this point. We go through those dry times...you just have to learn to accept them and focus on other things until you can get back to the reason you're doing those other things.

I love the gigs I'm taking, I love the original music I'm involved in, I've almost completed a studio in my home, I have absolutely ZERO pressure and stress on my playing...it's great. Sure, I'm not playing full time at this point. I'm kinda've enjoying the break though...feels like a pretty intense period of playing is coming up. Cherish the quiet when you can get it...it'll be loud again soon enough.

So what should you take from this?

You don't have to take anything I don't guess.

I'd love for you to assess where you are though. Take five minutes...jot down the things you love about what you're doing...the things you hate...the things you want to accomplish...how you could get there...and then the biggest question...Is the shortest way to that place you want to be backwards?

It's ok if it is...mine was...at least I'll have some company. There's not many that will admit an error in their ways...but those that do are ALWAYS infinitely happier in the long run.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lesson 5: Flam Paradiddle

flam paradiddle

CLICK ON THE EXERCISE TO DOWNLOAD

New rudiment for ya'll to chew on, the almighty Flam Paradiddle. I play this rudiment two ways...
1) With an accent on the flam.
2) Without the accent on the flam.

...again, taking it through the Rhythmic Scale.

I have quite a few of these rudiments written out in this way, so I'll keep posting them for all that are interested. The purpose of running the rudiments in this way is to get you used to thinking in every degree of the scale. We can move on to some deeper stuff a little later, but the foundation has to be there...you have to be comfortable counting the subdivisions before we can work on anything else. Hopefully you're still working on The Blueprint too...alot more exercises to come out of that also, but once again, the groundwork must be laid.

Cheers!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lesson 4: Flam Accents Using the Rhythmic Scale...

flam accent

CLICK ON THE EXERCISE TO DOWNLOAD

Ok...last time we started to work through some rudiments, taking them through the Rhythmic Scale, and starting to see what some of the possibilities were. We looked at the flam in the previous lesson...this time we'll look at the Flam Accent. Same general idea, so for the details of how to work through it just refer back to Lesson 3.