Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Zen and the Art of Versatile Drumming

this is something that may be of use to you budding drummers/instrumentalists....

I should open this current post by saying that this is one outline of some clinic material I use when I am giving presentations to musicians/drummers/percussionists at a clinic setting, so some of the verbiage is just a prompt for me to expound on when giving said speech.

Read between the lines here, and you will find some good information to chew on.

Hopefully you will find something contained herein to make you think about what it is that motivates you to be a drummer, and to hopefully give you some direction/suggestion on how to participate effectively, and to search out information in organized music concerns.

Please enjoy, and it is always my hope that it (the posting) will get you to do some thinking about things.

"Zen And The Art Of Versatile Drumming"

1. experience
how do I get to stay in the batter's box of experience

a) jam sessions...remember your etiquette in these situations!
you may want to bring your own pedal, sticks to lock in the 'comfort factor'

b) subbing on a gig for a friend or mentor
breaking in due to another person's generosity and trust.....this reflects on your friend and yourself as to ability to cover the gig.
Dont be afraid to do your homework to cover the music. Tapes, charts, cheat sheeets all fill the bill...

c) hang with the older guys who have done what you want to do
(they didn't get to be old being foolish, they are still out there playing for a reason!)
or hang with gigging friends on gigs backstage/network!

d) any open playing situation
community bands, rehearsal bands(college and pro, semi-pro),jam sessions!!!

e) organized situations
orchestras, church musical groups, rehearsal studios
hire a great band around you for a gig to get contacts?

2 be ubiquitous & responsible
a)don't be afraid to immerse yourself into different music's
(listening skills and sources:library, radio, records, CD's, tapes, kinescopes, internet, etc.)

b)the more versatile, the more busy?
(how can this be so?)....

c)different styles, different fluent are you? this may mean putting some time in on your instrument on a steady basis...practice, practice,...

d)being a model citizen (or can you just pretend that you are for this 4 hr. gig?)
showing up on time and ready to play. correct dress and such....
people will recommend those who show that they are responsible.

e)get out and interact with your drumming community
(know who your peers are and where they play at...
there are lots of world-experienced people living here in PDX now to soak up info from!)

f) get a business card made!
post your services on musical bulletin boards/newspaper or music magazines.
develop a network of musicians, bands, producers, engineers, booking agents, club owners and other industry people that have the work you want...

3. what music should I concentrate on?
a)what is your passion in music

b)what kind of music do you gravitate to?

c)your background? (what have you learned/what will you learn in the future?)
this may be a key in what you are into....

d)what kind of gigs do I want to play?? Private/club/cover band?

4. try to branch out into new territory with your music
a)get involved with different mediums and musics:

b)hang out w/Latin players/hip-hop nation/world beat/
Dixieland/classical players/avant players/jazz/rock/blues/klezmer/street musicians

c)joining music societies and organizations
(Creative Music Guild / Wild Cheetahs / NW African American Ballet / Cascade Blues Assoc. Young Audiences,USA, Accelerated Learning Stage Band, Vancouver School Øf The Arts, The Academy)

d)absorb new styles of music. Develop your listening skills
go to the used record shops and scour them for information in the recorded medium...

5. Preparation
what to think about....
a)where you are at b)where the music is at right now
keeping those two things separated

b)things not to think about
(keeping your head clear of junk so you can play music)
learn to breathe
be settled in your posture and grip while preparing to play.
Balance points between the throne and the feet.

c)physical items and situations you need to fulfill the gig
a)equipment what is the right stuff for the job?(Different drumsetups)
Water for on stage/rehydration.

b)set-up time/when is it yourself enough time to be ready.
Find out when is the best time, and maybe purchase a hand truck for difficult load-ins
(save your tendons from injury...lifting overly heavy objects)

6. Equipment choices
heads clear vs. coated
sticks pencils or bats?
cymbals how versatile is your set up?
drums the wide gulf of opinion..
the ergonomics (set-up) of the kit?
(is it easy to get around your set up?)

Emergency fix-it kit???
(duct tape, felts, springs, metal washers, tension rods, snare cable or straps...extra heads??) how about the concept of Preventitive Maintenence??

7. Good Time/Sustaining a groove - what does it take to do this?
a)what is groove? time? pleasant, consistent time feel that inspires....

b)giving of one's self in respect to the building of the groove
example: James Brown's music:adopting the "everyone has a part,
so I will play mine for the sake of the groove" mantra

c)does the music feel good? are you being selfless to the aim of the tune??

d) how about song form and functionality
each song has its own problems to form to a drum part will aid in it's functionality. Ask yourself what is the job to be done with the drum part at hand.
Construction of the part is made up of choices in both rhythmic and tempo considerations. Where do you push the tempo? Where do you lay back at?
In what sections do you accompany the band. Or drive the band?

The choice is yours...

8. selfless drumming
what is good for the music? (ego?)
playing the style for what it is....respecting the style (ego?)
role playing... a necessity! (EGO?)

9. Cutting Yourself Some Slack during your search:
a)Learning how You sound
What do you like about your playing? your choices in equipment
b)Growth Takes Time (and time is all you have...)
c)Learning From All...
other drummers
artists in other mediums

10. The Media Kit
glossy photo
(black and white, make sure it represents you and your music w/ name and phone #)
(solo or band, it is a good selling tool in this day and age),
(full name, email address followed by educational bkgrnd.
i.e.HS,College,Drum Lesson/Music Camp experience)
Playing experience
(tours and notable bands you have played with, Album and Demo recording experience...)
some quotes/testimonials
(about your playing from people about you on their letterhead with a contact number or address for follow up)
demo tape
(show many sides of you and your playing as you can, but keep the examples short!)

11 Auditions
You have to be ready at a moments notice to get these done, because they usually happen without much notice. They are usually in a bigger city than the one you are in(These usually happen in NYC, LA, Nashville), so this is a reality check.
Do I want to move to be next to everyone with the same aspirations as I do in a bigger city?

Trade mags such as SPIN, BILLBOARD, MUSICIAN, ICE, HITS, ROLLING STONE, MUSIC CONNECTION have listings of these events when they materialize
Call the management of the band or record company, and be prepared for the cold shoulder. Persistience is the key here. But being a pest is not good.
Remember your Citizenship.
You are basically just trying to find out who is in charge of the auditions.

The Musician's Union is a good place to get people to know who you are...check the gig book and the boards for auditions....

Hanging/Practice at a rehersal never know who is at the pop machine getting a drink.

12.. the big finish
a)trying to figure out what You want out of all of this?
lifetime commitment /part-time player, hobby, etc....

b)What music should represent to you in the big picture - is it a privilege to do this????

c) your responsibility in all of this....for you to decide....


Books and Study Guides

Here are some books that you may or may not be aquatinted with....they will aid and abet your search and study of playing the drums....

Syncopation For The Modern Drummer / Ted Reed
Stick Control / George Stone
Modern Reading Text In 4/4 / Louie Bellson/Gil Breines
Salsa Handbook For Piano and Ensemble / Rebecca Morleon
Syncopated Rolls for the Modern Drummer / Jim Blackley
Teaching Rhythm / Joel Rothman
Essential Styles For the Drummer & Bassist / Houghton/Warrington
Haskell Harr Drum Method / Haskell Harr
Drumset Reading / Ron Fink
Percussion Symposium / Vic Firth
Eclectic Drums / John Perett
Rhythm And Rudiments vol. 1 / Gordon Rencher
Contemporary Drummer +1 (book and tape) / Dave Weckl
The New Breed / Gary Chester
Patterns vols. 1&2 / Gary Chaffee
Advanced Techniques For the Modern Drummer / Jim Chapin

RE: Brushes...

any of the brush study books by Philly Joe Jones, Charley Perry, Ed Thigpen, or even the brain of Mel Brown (a former student of PJJ) can and should be picked clean of the knowledge that they hold inside of them!

There is such a wide variety of books, tapes, and videos of many subjects that concern the world of drumming. Take your time and wade around in this minefield of learning. There are many ways to go, and the person who, without reserve, drinks in the big pool of learning, is the same person who will be mostly humbled by varied experiences that will mark their playing life.


Here are some humble suggestions of albums that you can get and listen to in your chase of further knowledge. Hopefully these suggestions will 'spark on' your learning curve as they have mine over the years......

P.S. I am happy to say that they continue to do so after repeated listenings!

Album / Artist / Drummer

Kind Of Blue / Miles Davis / Jimmy Cobb
Seven Steps To Heaven / Miles Davis / Tony Williams
A Love Supreme / John Coltrane / Elvin Jones
Gretsch Drum Night/Birdland / Various / Blakey, P. Joe Jones
Captain Fingers / Lee Ritenour / Harvey Mason, Jeff Porcaro
Swingin' New Big Band / Buddy Rich Orch. / Buddy Rich
Gnu High / Kenny Wheeler / Jack De Johnette
The Funk Stops Here / Paul Jackson/Mike Clark / Mike Clark
Headhunters / Herbie Hancock / Harvey Mason
Thrust / Herbie Hancock / Mike Clark
The Atomic Mr. Basie / Count Basie Orch. / Sonny Payne
Sinatra At The Sands / Sinatra w/ C. Basie Orchestra / Sonny Payne
Start Here / Vince Mendoza / Peter Erskine
Speak No Evil / Wayne Shorter / Tony Williams
The Pursuer / Carl Allen / Carl Allen
Groove Shop / Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orch. / Jeff Hamilton
Stratus / Billy Cobham / B. Cobham
Album Of The Year / Art Blakey/Jazz Messengers / Art Blakey
Bill Holman's Great Big Band / Bill Holman Mel Lewis
Mon. Night /Live at The Village Vanguard / Thad Jones- M Lewis / Mel Lewis
The Big Bang(box set) / Various / Various
Live At The Pershing / Ahmad Jamal / Vournel Fournier
We Three / Newborn, Chambers, Haynes / Roy Haynes
Romantic Warrior / Chick Corea & Return To Forever / Lenny White
For Dancers Only / Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra / Jimmy Crawford
Giant Steps / Woody Herman Orchestra / Ed Soph
Live At The Wichita Jazz Festival /Clark Terry Big Band / Ed Soph
Ellington At Newport / Duke Ellington Orchestra / Louis Bellson

There are many, many albums that could go on the list.
Start your listening and make your own suggestions / add to this list as you get more experience with different styles and artists.
Used Record stores are a good source for getting many of these albums at a fair and reasonable price.

Get out there now, and have fun gathering knowledge...
and playing your drums!!!

® copyright -1998 Carlton Jackson


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