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I use a little trick in the “genre” field of my iTunes program, which I explain in this 2008 blog post. DO IT. IT RULES.
I’m in the middle of 8 weeks of Owl City shows, most of which are openers for Maroon 5 on their North American 2013 tour leg. I’m using pretty much the same rig as this past Fall, but with a couple changes.
– No more side snare with a trigger. We played a bunch of shows overseas and couldn’t bring extra gear, so I had to get used to playing those samples on the Roland pad. I think I like it better now that way.
– I’m using my black brass snares this time around, instead of the 15″ glo kit snare. I have both the 5×14 (cranked tight) and the 6.5×14 (tuned pretty deep) with me, and I switch them out about 4 or 5 times throughout the set.
– Paiste Traditionals are almost always my cymbals of choice, but a brighter cymbal setup for these big rooms makes more sense. I’ve got a 22″ Twenty Custom full ride, 20″ Twenty Custom full crash, 20″ Twenty crash, 16″ Twenty Custom crash as hihat top, and a 16″ Twenty med thin hihat bottom.
This week’s “Recent Listening” post is all about Happy Apple, the band that first introduced me to Dave King and avante garde jazz. This band had SO MUCH influence on me during my college years. I saw them play live at least 100 times between 1998 and 2002, and I have all of their records memorized. Additionally, King gave me about 1.5 gigs of live recordings which I’ve combed through repeatedly.
A handful of recent conversations with friends combined with last week’s “From The Archives” post have conspired to put me back on the train of the Apple’s triumphant discography. DANG IT. They are so good. It is basically everything I want out of music, and the more I dig the more I find. Moving compositions, incredible improvising, deft manipulation of time signatures and odd meters/phrasing, and unreal facility on their instruments. Look it up. Get into it.
My top picks for getting into Happy Apple are:
1) Please Refrain From Fronting … the Apple’s 4th record… an unbelievable display of everything awesome about music.
2) Happy Apple Back On Top … their most recent recording, which unfortunately dates back to 2007.
3) Body Popping, Moon Walking, Top Rocking … the band’s 3rd record, and perhaps their best sounding work (sonically). An amazing audio capturing of this band, with two juggernaut tunes that I can’t get enough of (Barstowe Sizzler, Wishing Book)
4) Blown Shockwaves and Crash Flow … the out-of-print debut recording. In Dave’s own words… “I played stuff on that record that I can’t play anymore. I think I was at the top of my game, chops-wise.”
5) SEEING THEM LIVE. Really appreciating the art behind this music can’t happen fully without witnessing it personally. Since they don’t play out very often anymore, I recommend hitting this great playlist of tracks from their 2011 performance at Lawrence University.
PS… I had an absolute blast last week making this mashup using the 16 seconds of intro groove King plays on “Waltz For The Few Remaining” (off Please Refrain From Fronting). That tune is one of my all time favs.
… I mean, just so you know…
– That 22″ ride… I must have it.
– Vinnie’s groove at 4:10… OH MY GOODNESS
– The story at the end about how they named the cymbals… so lame.
Rapper Tariq Trotter (aka Black Thought from the Roots) just posted this quote on Twitter…
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
I’m dipping into the Vic Firth Artist Spotlight series again for Drum Solo Friday. Keith Carlock is up, and LOOK OUT… this dude has some chops.
– Style points for traditional grip.
– Love the constant-right-hand-on-the-ride motif. The slight swing he has in that pocket feels great, and the kick/snare interaction underneath the ride is super hip.
– Open kick drum tone is also super hip (and notably, NOT a buried-beater thing… and he really makes it work).
– I could do without the super fast roll thingy where his left hand always goes to the first rack tom. I’m not saying it isn’t impressive… it just feels like a bummer of a recurring idea compared to the ride/snare/kick stuff.
– Favorite moment: the closing phrase (last 10 sec of his playing)
Every now and then I hear the super intellectual artsy types talk about drummers and how the good ones play “melodies.” Ok, so… I don’t want to be that guy who points out people’s grammar mistakes in Facebook posts or whatever, but seriously.
Drummers don’t play melodies. We just don’t. That’s not the drumset’s job. It never has been and it never will be. “I love how melodic that guy is on the drums.” I feel like people who talk that way are trying to lend cred to the drumset, and I appreciate the effort, but it’s just too much of a stretch. Drummers simply don’t play melodies.
There are, however, a handful of ways drummers can participate in the melodic and harmonic aspects of music. I’ve been slowly learning these things over the past decade and they’ve really impacted my playing and how I view my role in the band.
1) Be aware of what key the song is in.
The biggest impact this has for me is how I tune the snare drum. An open and ringy snare tone can add a lot of life and energy to a rock song, but not if the ring sustains at a bad interval with the key of the song. I typically try to tune the snare to either a tonic or a 5th, but major/minor 3rds can also be cool. Tuning toms to the key of the song can work well too, especially if you’re using them in the actual groove and not only in fills. For instance, check out the way Jay Bellerose uses the tuned rack tone instead of a hihat on this piece of awesomeness. And check out this wiki page on scale numbers if you don’t know what 5ths and 3rds are.
2) Go for “hooks” in your fills.
The thing about a melody that everybody likes is its catchiness, or “hooky-ness” (in pop music terms). It’s something that everyone can sing along with… something that makes the song easily recognizable. Though a 12-tone scale can’t be played on a drumset, there’s nothing stopping us as drummers from playing HOOKS, especially in fills. Dave Grohl on “In Bloom” comes to mind here, or the iconic Phil Collins on “In The Air Tonight.” And you know what? Forget about just fills. What about timeless groove “hooks” like the intros to U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or Green Day’s “Longview?” While these references are certainly NOT melodies, they are genuine hooks nonetheless and the music is better because of them.
3) Know how to talk about melody and harmony.
The rest of your band knows what scales and chords are. They know the difference between major and minor. You should too. It will make rehearsals and discussions easier for everyone, and it will help to offset the stigma that drummers aren’t “real” musicians.
4) Play in a way that tells a story.
This is more of a soloing or improvising thing, but it can apply to any setting if you want it to. The idea is that you as the drummer spend time thinking and strategically planning what you’re going to play, instead of just mindlessly repeating the same groove over and over. I think this is what a lot of people mean when they reference “melodic” or “lyrical” drumming. And I’m not talking about being overly busy or changing things up just for variation’s sake. I’m talking about putting the kind of effort into the overall direction and crafting of your groove that songwriters put into their melodies and lyrics.
Summary: Suggesting that drummers should play “melodies” doesn’t make you sound smart, but knowing how to use a drumset to access the non-rhythmic elements of the music world sure does. Your job in the band is GROOVE, but that’s not the only realm where you can contribute.
My teacher and mentor Dave King is quite a dude. If you don’t know who he is you need to check him out. If you do already know him, then please at the very least glance at the massive database of links that I’ve put together. Sheesh.
I am getting freaking SCHOOLED by a bunch of listening recommendations from my friend and A-squad Nashville session player John Hammond. I’ve been emailing back and forth with John over recent days, and most of my listening revolved around his suggestions. These include…
1) Gino Vannelli – Brother to Brother … 70’s and 80’s pop artist/singer/songwriter/vocalist/instrumentalist Gino Vannelli has possibly the most incredible roster of backing musicians on his recordings that I’ve ever seen. Drummer Mark Craney on this records blows my mind, and I’d never heard of him before John told me about him. #whoa
2) Mother’s Finest – Another Mother Further … 70’s funk stylings from the South. Drummer Barry Borden laying it DOWN. #whoa
3) The Producer’s – Self-titled … 80’s new wave from Atlanta. The drummer is Bryan Holmes. #whoa #howdidInotknowaboutthis
4) Joni Mitchell – Wild Things Run Fast … a less jazz-leaning and more 80’s pop-leaning record from the iconic singer/songwriter. Vinnie Colaiuta splits the drum tracks with John Guerin. Both are #whoa
5) Graham Central Station – Misc … I’ve been digging through a handful of tracks from Larry Graham’s 70’s funk band. Graham played bass in Sly and the Family Stone and is hailed by many as having INVENTED slap bass. Not yet sure who the drummer is on these tracks because they are a compilation. But still. #whoa #funky
I recently began a series of posts on the “controversial” (tongue-in-cheek) topic of kick drum technique, the first of which was about playing “heel up” strokes with the kick drum foot. Part 2 of my kick posts revolves around what you do with your kick pedal AFTER playing a stroke. This technique is directly linked to heel-up, so if you aren’t a heel-up guy then no need to read further.
In short, “burying the beater” means continuing to press the part of the kick pedal that touches the drumhead (the beater) into the drumhead after the stroke happens, instead of rebounding right away. This technique is the opposite of how one would hit a rack tom with a stick, where pressing the stick into the drumhead after the stroke would deaden the sustain of the stroke. It’s this “deadening” of the sustain of the kick drum that makes burying the beater an appealing technique. The tone of the kick is slightly different when burying the beater than when not, and most engineers (live and studio) prefer the “buried” tone. The pressure required to keep the beater pushed against the drumhead after a stroke is the reason burying the beater is so closely linked to the “heel-up” technique. Keeping the beater buried with heel down is quite a strain on the ankle, but the natural weight of the raised leg can easily keep the pedal in down position.
However, the REAL benefit from burying the beater is NOT a tone thing. In fact, I don’t really think the tone difference made by the technique is all that important. What matters to me is the way the spring on the pedal itself operates when I’m burying the beater. Here’s how it works…
– The beater, when buried into the kick head, leaves the pedal spring fully stretched and ready to fling back. If, while burying the beater, the foot is lifted suddenly off the pedal, then the taught spring will burst back not only to the natural stand-still position, but even FURTHER the other direction.
– The volume of your kick stroke is directly related to the velocity of the beater as it approaches the drum head. Additionally, the velocity of the beater is directly related to how large the distance is between the kick head and where the beater starts moving toward the kick head.
– The bottom line: I leave the beater buried into the drumhead until the last moment before I want to produce another stroke. Then, as I suddenly lift my foot to prepare for the stroke (heel-up style), the pedal flings back maybe 8 inches away from the kick head – instead of the 5-inch distance that the beater sits at while in a normal standstill position. This requires careful timing, but stomping on the pedal while it’s flung way back (from the released spring tension) means that I get a much more powerful kick stroke.
– Last thing: The pressure required to keep the beater pushed against the drumhead after a stroke is the reason burying the beater is so closely linked to the “heel-up” technique. Keeping the beater buried with heel down is quite a strain on the ankle, but the natural weight of the raised leg can easily keep the pedal in down position.
SUMMARY: Don’t be afraid of the tone that comes from burying the kick beater into the kick head. It brings a ton of additional power and tone. This is a somewhat wordy explanation, but if you’re grasping what I’m saying and you spend some time working with it you should see a much stronger kick stroke in your playing.