Bill Stewart

One of my students passed this video along to me...I'd not seen this but am now absolutely enthralled at his time keeping and musical chops.  He appears to be super relaxed and even has the ability to be aware of his hi-hat stand slipping, and so you can see him pulling it back into place with his left leg, while he is still playing!  I especially like how he integrates his left foot into his comping patterns...(among other amazing things that he's able to play :-) )


More on Bill Stewart can be found here:

and here (with lots of audio examples) - be sure to check out the Drum Solo from Travel John - amazing stuff!:

Practice: How much time and where?

I get asked frequently how often and how much should one practice?  It's a great question, and I think hidden beneath it is the thought of, how much time will it take for me to get "good" on the drums?  In this age of instant gratification, it's tempting to think that there is some quick way to become "good" on an instrument, or really at anything.  But skill is something that is achieved through repetition and experience.  No matter how focused you are in your practice sessions and clear on the goals you are trying to achieve, it takes time and patience to get good AT ANYTHING.  So my short answer is - if this is something you want to do, then start doing it. 

More specifically, because drumming is a learned skill, you become better through repetition of exercises - which constitutes the need to practice. You'll find that your drumming skill gets better the more time you are able to spend working on it.  I usually recommend 15 -30 minutes of practice, every other day for the beginning drummer, to start with.  However, with that said - if you feel motivated to practice more, by all means go for it!  
Starting out - if we begin on snare drum only - you can practice at home on a practice pad (if you don't already own one, I can recommend several brands for you to try).  When you progress to playing drum set - there are several options:  you can get a drum set practice pad - which is relatively silent, or you can get an electronic drum kit, which allows you to play with headphones or through an amp, so that you can control your volume (I can also recommend several brands for you to check out).  With an acoustic set, you'll have the most noise to deal with, and so finding a dedicated space within your home or garage becomes more of an issue.  
If you do not have the space at home to practice, I encourage students to check locally for practice spaces - some places allow you to rent by the month and you can set up your drums in the space and play as loud as you need to, with out the fear of bothering your neighbors. There are also some drum and music stores that have dedicated practice spaces you can rent on an hourly basis that come furnished with a drum set, so that you can practice without having to bring any of your own equipment.
If you have further questions about setting up a custom practice routine that works with your schedule, or would like to set up a time to take drum lessons - by all means please feel free to get in touch and I'll be glad to talk with you more! 

Larry Bunker - Jazz Time Keeping Study

After my post yesterday, I've been listening to some Bill Evans records.  The brush playing on many of those tracks is so amazing.  However, today I've been checking out the 1963 album Bill Evans at Shelley's Manne-Hole and came across this track of Larry Bunker playing with sticks (earlier in the album he's playing some great brush stuff as well):  

By clicking on the link you should be taken to the part of the recording where he starts keeping time on the cymbal and adds some brilliant comping patterns with his snare and kick.  By slowing down the video to half-speed (click on the Settings tab in the You Tube menu bar directly below the video, and under Speed, change it from Normal to .5), it's easier to hear exactly what he is doing rhythmically.  

My goal at some point is to transcribe some of what he is playing, because I just love how it sounds. His feel and choices - specifically how he interacts with the rest of the musicians is pretty cool.  

Jazz Album Recommendations

I recently had a new student ask me for my jazz album recommendations, and so without thinking too much about it, I listed the first albums that came to mind.  My student had been learning rock songs, and so I wanted to create a list that was enjoyable to listen to, full of melodies that were memorable, and featuring some of the classic players and albums that I was exposed to in college.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but a list that provides inspiration to hopefully learn more about jazz, and to enjoy listening to the "sound" of jazz (from a drummers perspective) - where the drums sit in the mix and specifically how the ride cymbal and hi-hats (left foot) take on a larger time keeping role compared to how the kick and snare do the bulk of the time keeping in rock music.  (I know these are over-generalizations of the role of the kick/ snare/ hat and ride, but hopefully you get the idea.)  Many of these albums feature some great brush playing as well.  

Firehouse 5 + 2 "South" 

Ella and Louis (Full Album)

Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane (Full Album)

Getz and Gilberto (Full Album)

Frank Sinatra and Jobim (Full Album)

Art Blakey Moanin' (Full Album)

And I felt that this song relates to the song "Moanin" (specifically how the drum groove feels) so I included it in the list as well:

Booker T and the MG's Green Onions

Miles Davis Kind of Blue (Full Album)

John Coltrane Giant Steps (Full Album)

Bill Evans Waltz for Debby (Full Album)

However, if you find that you are not quite ready to start listening to jazz or playing it, may I suggest Pyramid Song by Radiohead?  It has a simple jazz drum groove that starts about half-way through the song.  It's one of my favorite songs for teaching beginner students how to play jazz drums.  

Beat Displacement w/ Paradiddles and a 5 stroke roll

I love Gary Chaffee's drum books and use them from time to time to challenge myself and introduce new concepts and ideas.  Not long ago, I came across a page in one of his books where he was talking about moving a rhythm "ahead" in a measure.  There was an entire page of paradiddles written out, along with the corresponding 5 note pattern that moved the paradiddles "forward."  As the exercise was written out to primarily illustrate the concept of moving a pattern forward, I found it easier to not focus on the actual exercise and instead think about the underlying concept and pattern involved. That pattern is this:  

R L R R     L R L L    R L R R     L R R L L

This is a 17 beat (!) phrase comprised of 3 paradiddles, followed by an inverted 5 stroke roll.  

First, practice this pattern without a metronome and be sure to accent the first note of each group.  As you get comfortable with the pattern, turn on your metronome to play a measure of 4/4 and be sure that there is an audible bell sound on beat 1 of each measure.  If you don't have a metronome to do this with, you can easily create a drum loop to play with using Garageband or some other program.   As you play this, the pattern will shift forward through the measure so that the beginning of each group will begin on the following beats:

1st time through - accents will fall on the down beats:  beats 1 2 3 4

2nd time through - accents will fall on the "e" beats:  beats 1e 2e 3e 4e

3rd time through - accents will fall on the "+" beats:   beats 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+

4th time through - accents will fall on the "uh" beats :  beats 1uh 2 uh 3uh 4uh

Now, in order to make the pattern resolve in 4 bars, you'll need to "jump" back to one at some point, and where I usually will do this is in the 4th time through, on the 2nd beat of the last group (LRRLL).  It's on that 2nd beat where the "real" one (the bell on the metronome) is.  So knowing that, you can prepare yourself on the 4th time through to resolve the pattern on that beat.

This is a fun exercise to challenge your sense of time keeping with, and to also try on the drumset (place your R on the cymbal and your L on the snare drum - additionally with each R be sure to play a kick drum).

I will be posting a video soon showing how to apply this to the snare drum and drumset.  But for now, try out the pattern, get used to playing it with a steady tempo and let me know how it goes!



Inspiration from James Altucher

Here are some quotes I found inspiring from James Altucher via an email that was forwarded to me by my dad:  

"The "dues" are when you find your authentic voice. The singing voice that stands out in the world chorus. "Paying the dues" is when you open up that voice to its full range."

"When you find your voice, slow down. There's no rush. Out of six billion people, you're the only one with your voice, your experiences, your ideas, your wisdom. There's no competition to be you."

I'd love to help you find your "voice" on the drums! Get in touch and we can talk about your goals and formulate a plan to help you achieve's never too late to pursue your dreams!