Well, the seminar this past Saturday was a ton of fun.  Thanks so much to everybody who came.  The attendance was way heavier than I expected, and it made the morning really cool.

I mentioned at the clinic that I would post my notes on the blog so both those who attended and those who couldn’t make it would have the outline of what we talked about.  I’m also including some links to specific blog posts about some of the topics we discussed at the clinic.  Unfortunately I can’t really remember the specifics from the Q&A time, but other than that, here’s what went down…

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1st half: Mental side of things

MAIN THESIS: YOUR MIND IS THE FOUNDATION OF BEING A MUSICIAN
– rudiments only give stick control, but the mind governs your actual message
– speaking analogy:  when you talk, you don’t think about how your lips move in order to pronounce words… the focus is instead on what you want to communicate.

therefore…

IT IS ESSENTIAL TO USE YOUR MIND WHILE PLAYING DRUMS
– Don’t check out mentally and let the drums play themselves
– Actively use your mind to make your playing better – pay attention!

so the issue then becomes…

HOW SHOULD THE MIND BE USED AS YOU PLAY?

1. Make sure you sound good
Hit the drums in the center
Good dynamic blend between cymbals and snare
– Be assertive with your playing… not heavy-handed or loud for loud’s sake, but yet clear and deliberate

2. Serve the song
– Don’t be preoccupied with “drummer things” (like rudiments or transcriptions of famous fills)
– Make decisions on what to play based on what will help the song
– Summary: avoid “Drummer Disease”

3. Know the form
– Make sure you understand exactly where the song is going
– Lead the band through the road map of the song
– Be intentional and strategic… don’t just play whatever you feel in the moment

4. Listen to the rest of the band
– Pay careful attention to what they do and respond accordingly
– Just because you have a plan as a band doesn’t mean you will stick to the plan… sometime things change in the moment due to unforeseen factors and careful/attentive listening will really help in that moment

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2nd half: Drumming specifics

MY TYPICAL CHURCH RIG
– Dark cymbals are a must… bright cymbals bleed into the vocal mics and are difficult to keep at the appropriate volume level… strips of tape on the underside of bright cymbals can help make them darker.
– Don’t be afraid of tape on the snare and toms also, especially the snare… while it will cut some of the drum’s sustain ( a bummer) it will also cut decibels and help your overall volume. (Try cutting the collar off an old drum head and using that as a snare muffle)
– Be careful to not include too many non-essential elements in your kit (extra cymbals, cowbells, etc)… it will be difficult to resist the urge to play them and you will most likely force the issue and not serve the song.

PLAY TO A CLICK
– It’s very helpful to use a click track during the service, but if nothing else, make sure you can at least play with it during practice sessions… your ability to play with a click is a direct indication of how steady your time feel is.
– While using the click, trust your time feel and use the click as a guide… don’t just rigidly follow each click… learning to play to muted click tracks will help with that (click here to download the 120bpm muted click mp3 that I promised at the clinic… fyi, the link is only good for 7 days or something).
– Ultimate goal is to make the click track “disappear,” and then not panic when that happens.

THINK IN TEXTURES/TIERS REGARDING THE SONG FORM
– Try to strategize specific intensity levels for each section of the song (verse, chorus, etc) and use the various textures on the kit to do this (hats vs ride, sidestick vs rimshot, etc).
– Have a full bird’s eye view of the song form when establishing your intensity levels – i.e. think about how loud and how soft each and every section needs to be before you determine which textures to use.

RELATIONSHIP TO RUDIMENTS
– Rudiments build stick control, which is an important part of being a good player, but the stick control will only really benefit you if it is internalized.
– paradiddle spelling test.

INTERNAL VS EXTERNAL SUBDIVISION
– Thinking about the 16th notes while you only play quarter notes is helpful… this is called “internal subdivision.”
– Actually playing 16th notes instead of just thinking about them is called “external subdivision”
– It’s important to have a filter between your internal and external subdivisions, so that you don’t unconsciously play the notes that you are mentally keeping track of… for example, I often think about 32nd notes, but I rarely play them… summary: internal subdivision is helpful but can lead to inadvertently playing too busy, so guard your external subdivision carefully.
– Creating an “audience-perspective” way of listening to yourself can help with this… which means that you are simply trying to be as aware as possible of how the audience will experience your playing… which will be very different from how you experience your playing because you are internally subdividing and they are not.

PLAYING WITH HOT RODS
– Don’t be afraid of this… just remember that rods are different than sticks, so they have to be used differently, not interchangeably.
– For example, hit rimshots on the toms, which will make them sound more full and round instead of the thin papery tone that rods normally produce on toms… rimshots on the toms with sticks aren’t a good idea, but with rods it will make all the difference.

PRACTICE ENOUGH
– Difficulty is subjective and really just a mirage. The real issue is unfamiliarity.
– You don’t want a groove you plan on playing to intimidate you because it feels unfamiliar, so practice it enough ahead of time that you can easily play everything you plan on playing.
– If there isn’t time to practice something enough to make it familiar, then simplify the idea so that you can play it more easily… it’s better to bring an easy/simple idea to the gig than a difficult one that you could very well stumble on.

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