Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You Tube Student Drum Cover: "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover"

You guys never cease to blow me away...Fin watched the lesson, learned the song, and then proceeded to KILL it when he made a cover of it. Kudos for makin' your own gig and sharing your playing with the world Fin.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Things to Learn as an Artist from Rebecca Black

If you're an artist, and you don't read "The Lefsetz Letter" somewhat regularly, you're behind...go here to catch up. This is a post he did this I wanted to re-post it here. Read it and re-read it, has a TON of truth in it...blunt, and not all pretty, but truth nonetheless...

Rebecca Black Lessons

1. Selling recorded music is not the only way to make money in music. Ark Factory came up with a new way, ripping off the parents of little kids. Let this be a lesson to you, rather than complain that the old model is dead, innovate.

2. Old media loves to piggyback on new media. "Good Morning America" featured Rebecca Black as did "The Tonight Show". Make noise and old media comes running.

3. Old media is last.

4. If you want to make an instant splash, you’re better off starting online instead of hiring a publicity agent and using old wave apparatus to dun old wave media.

5. Shelf life online is forever. Like a land mine waiting to be stepped on decades later, if you can Google it, it can always blow up. In other words, a spin on radio evaporates, a YouTube clip is waiting to explode.

6. Young kids want to play in the big time entertainment world. Having been sold prepubescent kids as talent, they ask themselves, why not me? This paradigm, like reality TV, will never die. But like reality TV, it’s only part of the landscape.

7. A tastemaker is anybody with an audience. In other words, Tosh.0’s got more impact than Lucian Grainge or Lyor Cohen. Tosh.0’s got an audience. If labels were smart, they’d figure out how to be a brand themselves and gain an audience independent of their roster, but they’re dumb.

8. YouTube hosts videos for free. Too much emphasis is being put on how much Rebecca Black is getting paid. More important is the mechanism that led to her fame. Used to be you had to pay independent promoters to get your track on radio, hoping to have it heard and discovered. Today airplay is free.

9. Music and video production are cheap. Rebecca Black’s mother paid Ark Factory two grand and got not only a song but a video. Not only does this beg why major label productions are so expensive, it reinforces the fact that anybody can play. In other words, if you’re bitching about needing money to make it in the music game, you’re playing by the old rules.

10. Train-wreck is more important than quality if you want instant attention. If "Friday" weren’t bad, only mediocre, or mildly good, no one would care.

11. In the modern world everybody feels he’s entitled to express his opinion. Fifteen years of the World Wide Web have taught people this. Track comments more than spins. Comments demonstrate that people care. But for how long?

12. Don’t equate fame with being rich or longevity. Fame is oftentimes brief and oftentimes the famous make almost no cash. I.e. reality TV. But there’s an endless parade of wannabes willing to prostitute themselves for a bit of fame. Is it the human condition or a reflection of America, where the poor can no longer be rich and fame is a substitute?

13. Those in the old world pooh-pooh. Yesterday’s story was how little money Rebecca Black was making off her success. If you think it’s about money, you’ve lost the plot, it’s about fame. Furthermore, in the connected world, real money comes AFTER fame. It’s old wave CD thinking to believe people will pay up front to experience something new. It’s usually free and you figure out how to extend the life and profit from it afterward. With the mainstream media clamoring to feature Rebecca Black, she can get an agent and sign on as a host for Nick or Disney. Don’t think small, but big. Don’t think music, but fame. In other words, if all of today’s Top 40 acts want to start clothing lines, which have nothing to do with music, why should Rebecca Black be limited to the music field?

14. Give the money away. Not only does it deflect criticism, it helps your bona fides. In other words, Rebecca Black is smarter than Beyonce. In the new world, you give back simultaneously with making it. Black is giving her profits to earthquake relief in Japan. How come she’s smarter than all those stars who played for a dictator?

15. In the modern world, you’re part of your audience. Don’t place yourself above, but within.

16. If you’re twentysomething and have been slugging it out for years trying to make it don’t complain about Rebecca Black. She lives in a different world. To make it and last in music takes longer than it has since the seventies. The MTV era made stars overnight, which faded almost instantly. Now you gain traction slowly, only your fans know you, they spread the word online and you pray that you never gain a Rebecca Black moment, because that means you’ll be ridiculed and be toast.

17. To get a lot of people to pay attention very quickly you’ve got to get lucky. I.e. Tosh.0 directing fans to the Rebecca Black video. You cannot plot success, your career map is not set in stone, you get in the game and try to get lucky. Better to keep playing and fail than polish one track and hype it to high heaven.

18. You do not need radio or record stores to make it. There is no physical product, airplay didn’t break "Friday". Anyone telling you you need a label is sorely mistaken.

19. Either go for train-wreck value or be exceptionally good. Yes, if you’re an "artist", mediocre doesn’t cut it. The landscape is evanescent lowest common denominator crap or incredible art. In other words, if you’re not going to be the next Bob Dylan or Radiohead, stay in school.

20. Rebecca Black is a bigger story than SXSW, certainly than any band that played there. Question the old game. Instead of wasting money to make yourself feel good, stay home and think. Come up with something that truly gets us to turn our heads.

21. Scale is important to instant success. Tens of millions of people can watch a YouTube clip in weeks. Nowhere near that many can see you live.

22. Broadcasting once not only fails in radio, it fails in TV. We live in an on demand world. Rebecca Black’s video was available on demand on YouTube.

23. There are more people who want to glom on to a success and ride it to their own personal nirvana than can create something new and different and make it. In other words, there’s a cottage industry of prognosticators and analysts jumping on the Rebecca Black train for personal advancement, like ME!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kinda've a Cool Thing for Me...

Screen shot 2011-03-23 at 11.33.57 PM

So I realize this isn't a big deal for you guys, but it is for me. I don't go out actively seeking new subscribers, so the fact that this many peeps dig what I'm doing is pretty cool to me. Thanks so much for the support...I'll try to keep pumping out decent content. Cheers.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Listening Material

Another question off of Facebook...

"I was wondering if you could give me some really good listening material. I know there is so much stuff out there, but I remember you making some comments about some drummers/groups in your clinic."

Yes, but this is by NO MEANS a complete list, just off the top of my head...

I mentioned a couple of drummers and groups in the clinic, and they'll be included in the list. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just an appetizer to get your appetite wet in several genres. This list could be a thousand times as long as it is...but I'll spare ya...


Miles Davis (anything w/ Tony Williams, but here's a few starter albums)
-The Birth of the Cool
-Love Songs
-Miles Smiles
sidenote: "Bitches Brew" is an overrated album in my opinion...yes one of the first "fusion" albums, but it's just not great in my mind, obviously others disagree...I made the mistake of spending money on it when I should have bought a couple of his other albums I would have benefited from more.

John Coltrane (Anything w/ Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner is killer)
-A Love Supreme (This one is a MUST)

Big Band
Anything by Count Basie


James Brown
-Sex Machine (The most sampled drum beat in the world...this groove is where rap found its roots and eventually it was sped up and morphed into what is now known as drum and bass or jungle music)
-His greatest hits will give you a good start...actually, anything by him is good to start with.

-Killer grooves (Dennis Chambers played with them for a while)

The Funky Meters (Zigaboo Modeliste)
Tower of Power (David Garibaldi)

-A greatest hits will get you started.
Stevie Wonder
-Check out ALL of his, he played drums on alot of it.

Led Zeppelin (John Bonham)
-Houses of the Holy
The Police (Stewart Copeland)
The Who (Keith Moon)
Toto (Jeff Porcaro)
-Their greatest hits will also give you a great overview of the music and Jeffs PHENOMENAL playing...also, the track "Mushanga" is absolutely killer
Steely Dan
-Aja (but I remember you saying you had just gotten this one)

Progressive Jazz
The Bad Plus
-These guys are a personal fav...I love everything they do actually.
Frank Zappa (To many great drummers to mention)
-Joes Garage is the album to get to start with.
Happy Apple
Snarky Puppy

Other noteable drummers to check out
Bill Stewart
Jeff "Tain" Watts
Ari Hoenig
Brian Blade
Ginger Baker
Keith Carlock

This should get you started...if you need more in other genres, just let me know.

Hope these help man!

-Stephen T.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Drummers Helping Japan

Want to help with the crisis in Japan? Well now you can...AND you get some killer drum lessons to boot. Mike Johnston is spearheading the Drummers Helping Japan Campaign...Check out the video, give give give, and repost as often as possible on Facebook, Twitter, and all of your other social outlets. It runs on March 19th from noon to midnight (P.S.T.)

Jazz Paradiddle

Here's a message I got from Facebook out of Australia. I think they're both killer patterns and can probably expect a lesson on them in the near future.

Cheers for sending it Davis!

"RLRR LRLRLL RLRLRLRR and completely alternate LRLL RLRLRR LRLRLRLL. Further, you can swing this pattern between snare and ride. Speed it up slow it down, whatever- it's a great excercise.
This was an exercise Thelonious Monk Jr. Shared with me. Supposedly Max Roach taught it to him. I've got one more for you-

Standard Swing pattern on ride
2 and 4 on hats
Quarter notes on snare
Bass drum on the "and" of each snare beat

Alvin fielder taught this to me. It was a beat him and jack dejohnette experimented with. The pattern can be varied by switching snare and bass role. This seems easy, but it may drive you kind off nuts for a minute."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Email Question from You Tube

Above picture from Amorphia Apparel

"Hey how's it going?

I've been drumming for a while now, and I've got the groove aspect of playing down pretty well. But when it comes to the faster songs, I don't really know what to do. I can keep the beat, and do some more groove-like fills, but I can't really play it like a fast song. Haha does this make sense? It's like I can play it, but I don't know how to have the drums act in the song. If you could help that would be amazing. I'm a church kid, and there are a few of us that are actually not bad at music so we've been wanting to do some stuff. But there's this other guy who solely drums to fast songs and because of that I might have to play the bass. Which I'm not very good at but for some reason people think I am. Well, that's my story."

Sorry it took me a minute to get back with you...I've been swamped!

A couple of good things I hear in what you're tellin' me...

A) You've identified a weak area...this is always a good thing. Some people don't view it as that, but if you don't identify it, you can never fix it.

B) You've got a reason to get better at your weak area...a goal.

C) You've got competition...again, not always viewed as a good thing, but it pushes me to perform and play better. Even if the other guy gets the gig, the process i went through to prepare is the benefit that I get out of the whole thing.

It sounds like you need to work on your fast song playing. i know that sounds like a simple answer...but that's really what you need to do. So, from now on, if you really want to play the drums in this situation you've got to become consumed with playing fast songs and fast tempos comfortably. The reason you feel like you're not really playing them like a fast song should be played is because you're not comfortable at those tempos...sure, you can hang on for dear life, but I actually like to ride inside the plane when I fly and not hang out on the wings, lol!

Alot of times when we practice we go over the same things we know...or improve on areas that we're already good at because we feel comfortable makes us feel good and warm and fuzzy inside. There's nothing like leaving a woodshedding session feeling like you still can't play what you were practicing. It's frustrating, borderline insanity...but it's what drives you to come back to the practice room later and tackle it again, and again, and again...until your a beast at it!

So here's what you do...stop practicing everything you usually do. You're solely focused on quick tempos at this point. Everything you can already play now needs to be played at these fast tempos....grooves, licks, fills, you name it. Find 8-10 fast songs that you like and play them over and over and over...and then play them again. You need to be setting your kit on fire every day you're playing so fast! It will be frustrating at first, but after a while you'll get better...and better...and better...until you're the only logical option for the drum chair in this situation because you play the other guy under the table in every area. It's the way I've always done it.

Your other option is to get discouraged, decide you're just not good at it, and settle for playing the bass. But I think you're a better drummer and person than that...NOW GO PRACTICE!!!

Hope that helped! You can play this guy under the table, you just have to decide to do it.

-Stephen T.

DISCLAIMER: Drums aren't a competition or a pissing contest, as they're often treated. They're a musical instrument with the abilities to play rhythm, melody, and's a beautiful thing! That being said, when you're in the running for a drum chair, the rules change. You don't become vindictive towards the other players, or simply quietly go about dominating the competition. It's not personal, you just want the gig...whether it be a volunteer church gig or a legit touring position. And after it's all over, you can go grab a cup of joe and talk drums with no hard feelings.

Friday, March 11, 2011

"Toxicity" by System of a Down-You Tube Student Drum Cover

Here's one from Jannis Reiher...he sent me the link the other day. Absolutely kills it! Nailed the grooves and fills great! Seriously guys, you hear me harp on it, but this is absolutely one of the best ways to start letting people hear your playing and to get a little controlled atmosphere stage time. Kudos Jannis, way to put yourself out there! Great job!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stick Endorsement with Silverfox Drumsticks and Grover Pro Percussion

Be sure to hit Silverfox Drumsticks up on their website to check out all of their GREAT sticks and swag!

And if you don't need drumsticks, you should check out Grover Pro Percussion...percussion galore, mallets, marching sticks, drums...seriously good stuff.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Sample of What I Get to Read Everyday

I hear from you guys daily...I went out of town this past weekend and it took me 2 hours to catch up last night with the emails, messages, and comments...and I ain't complainin'! I really do love talking with all of you and being able to provide a place for drummers to hang and hopefully motivate you to become a better player...and person in the process. Here's a sample of some of the things I get the privilege to read everyday...

From FB:

"Hey steph what's up!! That's with pleasure that i saw you answered on my wall's post. I'm fabian, 29 from belgium and i felt in love with drum long times ago but i decided to achieve my dream 5 month ago. I bought advanced funck studies (rick latham) stick control (g lawrence stone) drum set warm-ups, drum backbeats encyclopedia, the breakbeat bible, mini monster book of rock drumming... At the moment i'm totaly hypnotized by funck, and the patterns you've put on drummer connection is very good, you're kind of a good teacher... my problem is fills, so i try to work on that... i whrote all that book just to thank you.. because my only teacher is the internet ;)
take care!"

fabian aka the belgian ;)


"Hey bro,
Love your site and I guess I have to admit I'm not really a drummer. I do have a kit and took a few lessons but I'm ancient (don't ask) and I suppose being able to keep a simple rhythm doesn't make you a drummer. I love the diversity of styles that you teach, it reflects much of what I gravitate towards. I think I actually found your blog looking at Stewart Copland stuff online. You could probably guess my age based on that alone but I grew up musically in that transition zone, loved prog rock/hard rock but latched onto punk/post-punk especially stuff like the Clash, Police, Slits, etc that were adventurous enough to incorporate more interesting textures and rhythms into their music. I was originally a bass player (probably explaining some of my drum fascination) but now play guitar and sing on a worship team in a crazy contemporary Saturday evening service at our church.
So I'll continue to set up my drum kit every now and then and make all kinds of racket.
Would love to see a lesson based on the style of Sly Dunbar.
Thanks again for the great lessons and website."
Dean the drummer wannabe.


"You're an inspiration
Hey man I just want to give you a word of encouragement. Your videos are very very helpful and have improved my approach and technique alot. Hopefully you will notice that in my new drum covers when I upload them. I showed my friends in Nigeria your videos and they were blown away.

God bless you and keep doing what your doing man."

You Tube from Rydmking:

"First off thank you for making these videos. The quality of your instruction and the audio quality is first rate. I can tell that you have a background in audio engineering. The mic placement and types of mics you use are clearly on another level. Your overhead mics look like the coveted AKG EB414. Nice!

Anyway, enough of gear porn. Just wondering if you could at some point break down the Porcaro/Rosanna groove. Even the master himself (Porcaro) explains it on Youtube but I prefer your style of teaching instead. Seriously.

I know you have the Purdie half shuffle and Bonham lessons up already. I just think your teaching style would be much easier and concise to follow.

Thanks for considering! Keep up the great work. You've managed to help me get back into practicing again. Thanks!!!"


From @wmdrums
@DrummerEtc Hey Stephen, just found your drum blog! Just want to say very cool and I will be checking it frequently!

You Tube from maluguita

"Hi, i have just seen videos of you playing the drums and it liked me a lot.
You are soo good :)
I play drums and i want to learn of you !
I am from Barcelona, and my english is not soo god.
Congratulations of your good work ;) :D"

You Tube from cssmoke1234

"Thank you so much

Your video's are helping me 1,000 times more then my school band director ever could.

Thanks to you my chances of making the U.S.M.C Jazz band are increased vastly. Keep the video's up please!


"Man, that makes my night! I'm really glad they're helping so much!

If you have any particular questions or you get the audition requirements and need lessons on a particular subject, let me know. I'll do my best to help ya out!"


Jakub Cipny GrĂ¡c from Facebook:

"Hey dude! Finally joined the FB page up here aswell. I have to say I´m REALLY digging your lessons and your blog posts. The Pyramid warm-up is a really sick idea. It sounds so simple but I actually have a pretty hard time with keepin´ that hi-hat straight. But since I understand that hi-hat independance is pretty much essential, I´ll keep going. Also those excercises ya come up with actually make it interesting to practice, so really really happy that ya do what ya do, and I hope you´ll keep at it!"

I posted these simply to say THANK YOU...seriously, I think it's really cool that a bunch of drummers can jump online and hang. The fact that you guys enjoy it makes it all the more gratifying to me. Cheers to you guys.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Get Work as a Gigging Musician

I had a GREAT question come in the other that made me think alot, and it's a question that I think every gigging musician, not just drummers, asks at one point or another...

"Your page is kickin man. I was just checking out your songo beginner lesson. I was recently working it out, It's proly one of the most difficult grooves I've tried learning and def made me feel like an idiot haha, but anyway I was wondering how things are going for you work wise? I'm in nola and feel like works been really slow but trying to think of new ways to get some more things happening here or debating a move to a LA or somewhere where the scene might be a lil more poppin.

Got any thoughts?"

What's up man...

Yea man, the songo kills! Coordination through the roof...but it pays off once you get it under the hands.

The ol' work conundrum. As far as for me, work is going exactly like I make it go. This may get a little long...for that I apologize, lol...and you've probably heard some of this before...

I lived in nola for 3 years playing on Bourbon Street...great I know alot about the scene there. I had house gigs, went through times without gigs, went through times with way to many gigs (which is always a good problem). I've been doing this thing long enough that I am adamant about one make your own work. In other words, if it's not comin' to you, you best be's goin' to it.

Here's the blueprint (I say this tongue in cheek...)

You need to make sure you work while you're at the gig...or work while you're at work in other words. We to often get the gig and then just go play it, have fun, etc...the thing is, that one gig could lead to the next gig...and the next, and the next, ad you need to treat it like that...treat every gig like Carnegie Hall. Everyone at the gig should have your number by the time the show's over...even the bouncers and bartenders! You laugh, but hey, they're there every night and the bands talk with them...sometimes they may throw your number to the right peeps. Make friends with everyone you meet there, especially the guys in the band. Be an easy hang, not a diva...nobody wants to bring on a player that has a bunch of baggage. Show up on time (that means 15 minutes before the stated soundcheck/load in), be ultra accomodating ("You cool with what I'm playing there? How's the tempos? Do you like the ride or hats underneath your solos?")...the fact that you're asking questions and trying to give them an easy night goes a long way in the bandleaders mind.

Follow up every gig with a simple email, FB posting, or text (i.e. "Man, I had a blast the other night! You killed it on the second song! Can't wait to jam again", etc and so forth). Once they've seen you, you want to stay in their mind...but not in an annoying desperate way...there's a difference. Find out where their next gig is...go to it if you can. Casually hang around, chat on their breaks, get to know the drummer...that last one is uber important. To many players get in this competition mode of who's the better player....WHO CARES?!?!?! We all love music, nuff said. The goal is to become that drummers first call guy...when he can't make a gig, you're the one he thinks of immediately. This may require goin' out for a drink, grabbin' lunch, goin' to see some shows together (this is sounding alot like a date, lol!).

Now, as far as stirring up more work. Here's a few bullet points that have helped me in the past.

-Post on Craigslist. I know, i know, there's alot of junk on there...but that can work to your advantage. If you make a legit listing, one that sounds professional, lists some of your recent projects, has a link to some of your playing or a picture, etc...well, you win. All of the other guys will pale in comparison. I'm not suggesting you solely rely on Craigslist for work, but there was a time that it was making a $1500 difference in my month...and it's FREE!!! Well worth the time...even if it's for networking purposes. You'll have to shift through the rabble and field a couple of bogus "hey man we got this band and we're tryin' to get signed and we got a gig at Floyds Beer and Ceramics Store this weekend", but it's well worth the time.

-You no longer have a night off. Why sit at home and pine about how you don't have any work when you could be out making stuff happen? If you're not out and visible, no one will know you. I don't know where you stand on the "work vs creative" process, but I believe in them both. You have your money gigs, you have your fun gigs...and sometimes they're two in one, although I certainly never expect them to be. Go down to Bourbon Street or Snug Harbor...or Beale Street if you're in Memphis...or Lower Broadway if you're in Nashville...or a million other streets in a million other towns that have the same type of setup. Find out when the bands go on break and get there about half an hour before that. That way the band will see you actually listening and not feel like you just came in to hand them a card...which you did, but they don't need to know that. Talk it up on their breaks...casual stuff "What kind of amp you usin'? Are ya'll here every night? Where you from?". This is not the time to mention you're looking for work. Once they're a bit comfortable w/ you, ask if they'd mind if you sat in for a song...or better yet, ask the drummer if he'd like a break for a song or two. When you're playing a 5 or 6 hour club gig, a 2 song break is warmly welcomed! Tell them if they don't like what they hear on the first song, you'll be more than happy to get down...I've never been kicked off after that first song though. If you can, find out their setlist and learn 5-6 of their songs...they'll ask you what you want to play and you want to have several ready.

And don't just do this once. Go back again and again...once the drummer knows you can handle some of the songs he'll be more than happy to take a paid break when you're there. You'll make new friends, play some fun tunes...and I promise, once you've set in with them enough and heard enough of their tunes, they'll be calling you.

This goes quicker in the bar band/cover band arena...the jazz arena is a bit more snobbish. I've never known why though...

-Always have business cards with you...they need to have your name, email, number, and a link to your playing if possible. Give 2 to want them to have one to hand out to others.

-Start teaching if you feel like you're capable enough. A 6 year old doesn't need Neil Peart teaching him...he needs a cool guy that likes hangin' with him and can show him the drums. I'm not down playing need to be thorough, professional, make lesson plans, follow up, etc...but you don't have to be a guru to do it. You just have to have a passion for the instrument.

-Go to as many auditions as you can. Even if there's no chance of you getting the need to go. Experience and networking.

-EVERYONE needs to know you play the drums and that you're looking for more work. It doesn't need to be in a desparate can just phrase it in a way that explains you're looking for some new experiences.

-START YOUR OWN GROUP!!! This one is way to often overlooked because it takes alot of work. But who cares...if you don't have a steady gig, you have nothing but time on your hands. Put together a business card, band name, and find some guys that know alot of the songs you do. Rehearse some and then get with it. Offer to do a free night for a club as a trial...or 3 free nights. If it leads to a steady 4-5 night gig then it's worth it. You can write the free ones off on your taxes, lol! Just be sure you sound good. Clubs, weddings, fraternities, and private parties are all great places to dig for gigs. Go to bridal shows...set up a booth. Offer a 3 hour reception for the price of a 2 hour one, etc.

Let me just say...I'm in the "make some money" mode while writing this. Some gigs are work. Some aren't. But in the end, you're playing drums, so shut up about you don't like the gig. All of these things work for original projects as well.

As far as moving to another city...that's a personal thing. You should never move because a certain scene looks more need to make sure it's happening before you relocate. There are alot of FANTASTIC drummers in LA that don't have work. And Nashville as well. And nola. And Memphis...etc and so forth to infinity. The ones that are working took the time to network and bust hump getting to know other players and sitting in with them. I will tell you that starting over in a new city lose all of your old contacts and no one knows what kind of reputation you have. It takes a while to build that, so don't be to hasty to jump ship.

In every city there are people making a living doing what you want to do...find out how they did it. I think there's a ton of work waiting for you in just have to find it.

I told you it would get long, lol!
Hope that helps!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Pyramid Exercise-A Foot Warmup

This is a 3 part series I just did...the exercise helps with foot control, subdividing, playing in 3/4, hand and foot technique, and polyrhythms. Have fun!