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The following is a very meandering post that will, hopefully, arrive at what I feel is an important point. But you might need to be patient.

From where I’m sitting, it seems like the reason kick drum technique is a big deal among drummers is due to an ongoing argument about how to play a bunch of kick drum hits super fast with a single pedal, because apparently playing a bunch of super fast kick drum hits with a single pedal is “awesome” and “technical” and stuff.

Regarding that, I would like to humbly suggest that playing lots of fast kick drum notes on a single pedal is NOT necessarily awesome or technical, at least not objectively or inherently.

Premise #1 for today’s post is to rethink whether you should even want to play lots of fast kick drum notes. Meaning, will the music you’re playing be improved as a whole if you add lots of fast kick drum notes? If so, then does it really matter if a single pedal is used to play them instead of a double pedal? If you’re answer is “yes” to either of these questions and you’re not shooting a video for gospelchops.com then you should really reconsider.

Disclaimer: Once again let me reiterate that I’m speaking from my own experiences here – what playing drums for twenty years has taught me. Feel free to disagree, especially if you’ve had experiences that contradict what I’m saying.

Now then… premise #1 is that lots of super fast kick drum notes on a single pedal doesn’t automatically get you any extra cool points. Perhaps if those fast kick drum notes were appropriate and fitting for the song, and if the notes were played right in the pocket with clean execution… well, then that’s great. But I find those circumstances to be pretty rare. I’m moving on to premise #2 now, which is that TWO kick drum notes in quick succession (not lots of notes – only two) is a very useful component throughout many styles of drumming.

But what does “quick succession” mean? Bear with me here… I know I’m jumping around in a lot in the discussion…

Clarification on premise #2: “Quick succession” for two kick drum notes is defined as any two notes that require a special technique to play because they are so close together. Think back to the heel-up technique from my first kick drum post. Normal heel-up kick technique means that every note has an upward motion of the leg to prepare for the stroke, and then a downward motion to execute the stroke (you can see when a drummer is doing this because the knee is visibly moving up and down for every note played). So, if a drummer is wanting to play two kick drum notes in a row, and in order to facilitate this the drummer needs to do something technique-wise other than the standard heel-up motion, then I would say that those kick drum notes are happening in “quick succession.” In my private lessons I call these notes “doubles”… two kick drum hits in quick succession that require an alternative technique to heel-up. “Singles” are notes that are played each with the standard heel-up technique. So a drummer can play either “singles” or “doubles” on the kick drum.

Again, let me reiterate what I said at the beginning… I’m NOT talking about more than two notes in quick succession. I basically don’t care about that. And I’m also not talking about using a double kick pedal. I’m currently discussing the situation where a drummer wants to play ONLY two notes in a row, and I’m suggesting that there are two ways to do this: Play “singles” (because the two notes are far enough from each other that the standard heel-up technique can be used for each one), or play “doubles” (because the two notes are so close together that some other technique must be used to pull off both notes).

You’ll notice that I’m saying that doubles involve “some other technique” than heel-up, and that particular wording is intentionally vague because today’s post isn’t meant to point you toward a specific doubles technique. I don’t really care too much about that. I have one that I use, and it works great, but I’m sure there are other equally helpful techniques for doubles.

Ok. Onward to premise #3 (the real reason for this post): If a drummer spends enough time working on the heel-up “singles” technique, a doubles technique may never be needed at all. This is obviously fanciful thinking, but it’s at least logically true. Imagine that I spend a ton of time practicing my singles technique – always playing notes in pairs with individual heel-up leg motions for each note – and regularly push myself to get better and stronger and faster at this. The way I defined “doubles” above (two kick drums so close that they need a technique besides heel-up) implies that the heel-up technique can’t adequately cover your two kick drums notes if they’re played at a certain bpm or higher.

But a drummer can always raise a bpm ceiling by practicing.

SOOOO… at least in theory… if someone had a strong enough “singles” technique (where any and all kick hits, regardless of whether they’re alone or in pairs on in a sequence of 7 notes or something, are always played with a strong heel-up technique), then that person would never reach a bpm ceiling and therefore never need a doubles technique. This would require immense work/effort/practice, but it is within the realm of being possible.

Like I said, it’s somewhat unrealistic to think that a “doubles” technique would NEVER be needed because your singles technique is so amazing. But why not at least work toward that? Why not try to relegate your doubles technique to something that you only need every once in a while?

Again, I’m speaking from experience here. I did this in college, back in my heavy practicing days. I just sat there and cranked out 16th notes on my kick drum (with quarters on the hats and backbeats on the snare… like a huge 16-on-the-floor groove) for HOURS and HOURS until my thigh just burned. Then I would stand up and walk around and get the blood flowing and go do it again. As a result, at this point I truly don’t need my doubles technique very often at all.

SUMMARY: Consider the possibility that practicing your singles technique (playing lots of kick notes, each with individual heel-up motions on the leg) is your best and most productive way to strengthen your kick foot, rather than spending time on whatever your doubles technique is.

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The great Matt Chamberlain, delivering this week’s lesson in killing pocket…

This is the first single from Eric Clapton’s new record, and apparently it’s the only track that Chamberlain plays on, but the rest of them are split between the likes of Abe Laboriel, Steve Gadd, and Jim freaking Keltner. So… it’s, um, not going to suck.

To top it off, Clapton heads out on tour soon with none other than Steve Jordan. He knows how to pick his drummers.

Welp, go ahead and add Jeff to the long list of legendary players who use Paiste

Welp, go ahead and add Jeff to the long list of legendary players who use Paiste…

I’m still neck deep in my return to Happy Apple as my favorite music to listen to, but I’ve also continued to dig through all the tunes that John Hammond pointed me to a few weeks ago. I’ve been focusing mainly on tracks featuring Jeff Porcaro, whose reputation as a studio player perhaps exceeds that of any other drummer in history.

Porcaro rules so hard. His groove, his feel, his pocket, his time… whatever term you want to use to describe a drummer’s role in a band… Jeff NAILS it.

My iTunes library has about a dozen records that Porcaro plays on, but a little Youtube searching will reveal almost all of his incredible discography.

A few recommendations/observations:

1) Michael Jackson, Thriller… Though Porcaro is regularly cited as the drummer on this record, he actually only played on 4 tracks: “The Girl Is Mine,” “Beat It,” “Human Nature,” and “The Lady In My Life.” Ndugu Chanceler played the rest of the tunes.

2) Steely Dan, Katy Lied… Jeff plays on all tracks for this record except “Any World” (Hal Blaine on that one). Super cool versatility in these tracks.

2) Donald Fagen, The Nightfly… This is another album where Porcaro plays on only four of the tracks: “Green Flower Street,” “Ruby Baby,” “The Nightfly,” and “The Goodbye Look.”

3) Toto, Toto IV… A legendary record from the legendary band that Porcaro co-founded. Perhaps even more legendary than the band itself is Jeff’s signature swung 16th hihat “shuffle” groove, heard on “Rosanna.” This same groove can also be heard on Airplay’s “Nothin You Can Do About It” and Al Jarreau’s “Breakin Away” (note the awesome and hilarious 80’s absence of the “g” in the “ing” suffix in BOTH of those last two tracks… haha).

4) Also regarding Toto, check out this live clip of Georgy Porgy. I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth posting again. #pocket #danggurl

5) Lastly, and most interestingly, I came across a Q&A page with guitarist/producer Jay Graydon (who worked Porcaro a lot). Check this out! Porcaro didn’t like the click! I mean, the era of his playing makes sense regarding no click, but it makes his consistent time/tempo (displayed on ALL the above-linked tracks) all the more impressive. I underlined the quotes that really stood out to me…

Dear Jay!
I know that you had a chance to record and play with Jeff Porcaro. What are your comments about Jeff as a musician and person. The music world really misses him!
Thanks,
Love your work! Rod St.Denis

Yo Rod,
Jeff was a drummers drummer! His “feel” was incredible regarding so many “grooves”. He did not consider himself a good “shuffle player” meaning the groove on “NOTHIN YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT” (AIRPLAY), BREAKIN AWAY or MORNIN (Jarreau albums). There are other “shuffle grooves” but these mentioned song grooves fall into a category called “funk-a-shuffle”. Jeff thought he was not that good in this situation. Man, was he wrong! He plays this groove better than anyone ever!
Jeff did not play with a “click” like most studio drummers. He did not totally respect the click and would “float” around it. This is good and bad depending on the band. If the players are top notch, they listen to the drummer first and the click is subliminal. This is most important to keep the feel happening. Drummers like JR and Mike Baird can lock with the click and still feel great. When playing with Jeff, better not to use a click since he played inside the cracks and his time float is what made him great.
Jeff, as a person, was totally unique. Very unpredictable and almost like he was on another planet most of the time. He had no regard for business in general. He did not go to a record date like most players meaning always a good attitude. If the session was boring musically, Jeff did not have patience and would get bugged if the producer would keep making take after take hour after hour. Jeff’s 2nd or 3rd take was his best. He learned the songs on the first run down and rarely got lost.
Yes, Jeff is missed on the planet earth. The good news is that he was here for best “musical rock/pop era” of all time! The best news is that he played on so many great recordings that will be around as long as the planet survives.
Later, Jay

I love this guy. If you haven’t heard of him, go read his wiki page, note that he’s only 33 (my age too, as it happens), and then watch him absolutely destroy the typical approach and expectation for a drum solo.

Observations:

– The electronica drum n bass motif he’s using in this solo is present in a lot of his playing (that I’ve seen, at least) and I’m a total sucker for it. 

– No toms, no crashes/ride… just kick + snare (and sometimes hats).

– KILLER right foot stuff going on. Mark has incredible technique and facility there. 

– The phrase he starts repeating at 1:02… AAAGHHHHH I LOVE IT.

– It’s amazing how much frame of reference the hats have when it comes to deciphering his notes/ideas. Although he keeps the same tempo and meter throughout the solo, the stuff he’s playing is so mathy that it’s almost impossible to keep up as a listener without the hihat guide.

It’s a few years old, but this Modern Drummer interview with Stewart Copeland is a good read. The money quote: “I’ve learned how to surge without drastically altering the bpm.”

Also, be sure and note that he, seemingly in all seriousness, uses the term “tempi” as a plural for tempo.

A helpful chart for figuring out the specs and details behind your favorite stick…

Vic Firth is where it’s at for me, but all stick companies use these dimensions.

Part of my snare arsenal from a few years ago.

Part of my snare arsenal from a few years ago.

The recording studio is a very specific environment, and certain snare models have, throughout the years, shown themselves to be ideal for studio work.

Along the lines of yesterday’s post on snare muffling in a live setting, this is a great article about the industry’s preferred snare drums for studio work. A good snare arsenal is essential for any studio drummer. Read up on it, ya’ll!

I’m sure many of you have seen my cut-out drumhead mufflers. I’m a huge fan of the newspaper-on-the-snare trick, and these head cut-outs are my answer for using such a tone in a live performance scenario (where bits of shredded newspaper isn’t desirable).

Like a Remo ring, but thicker. And... well... way cooler.

Like a Remo ring, but thicker. And… well… way cooler.

At this point I’m rotating between 3 options for these muffles: the above ring with an open center (The Donut), and the two full heads pictured below (The Pancake and Teh Pancake). Look for the soon-to-be-released towel/tshirt option, tentatively named “Waffle.”

These two muffles have slightly different weight grades, resulting in slightly different tones.

These two muffles have slightly different weight grades, resulting in slightly different tones.

 

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