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johnbonham56

Today’s installment of my “From The Archives” series is a list of exercises based on the legendary 3-limb pattern made famous by John Bonham. In short, “Bonham Triplets” are a constant circle between single strokes on the hands and a kick drum added as a sort of third hand. The order of the strokes can vary, as well as the rhythm application (i.e., actual “triplets” aren’t the only place to use this idea).

While you’re at it you should rewatch this Jojo Mayer solo if you haven’t seen it already. His rhythmic and accenting prowess within a BT context is incredible.

Lastly, I want to take a sec and unpack this statement from my original BT post: “These patterns sound pretty cool, but aren’t necessarily very useful outside of a soloing context (in my opinion). I’ve found them more helpful as an exercise/rudiment than as a staple ingredient in my playing.” 

My point is that I have gained a TON of helpful and useful feet-to-hands coordination through BT exercises, but I end up utilizing that coordination mostly in non-soloing contexts. I suppose this is partially because I rarely do drum solos of any kind at all, but what I want to communicate is that the Bonham Triplet integration of hands and feet is a profoundly useful thing in general. It was maybe misleading for me to say that I only use BT patterns as exercises. In actuality I use small moments of BT patterns almost constantly in my day-to-day freelance sideman playing. Linear grooves, fills, ghost note ideas… all of these benefit tremendously from a good grasp of the BT idea.

Jojo’s playing above is in a solo setting, but don’t let that make you think that a solo is the only place for Bonham Triplets.

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If you care about the specifics on the kit I’m using these days then this post is for you.

Sara’s summer tour launched 3 weeks ago and runs for about 3 more weeks. All the venues are 5,000 capacity (give or take 1,000) and most are sold out! The performances so far have been fantastic. I really love working with this band, and I’m especially pumped about the setup that I’m using.

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Kick and toms
*All RD padauk stave shells with tube lugs and diecast hoops
– 9×13 rack
– 16×16 floor
– 14×24 kick

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Snares
– RD 6.5×14 black-polished brass shell with tube lugs and triple flange hoops
– RD 5.5×14 nickel-plated brass with tube lugs and single flange hoops (seen above on the kit)
– RD 7×14 walnut stave with triple flange hoops
– Canopus 5×14 ash ply with triple flange hoops

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Cymbals
*All Paiste
– 14″ Dark Energy Mk1 Hihats (on about 3 tunes)
– 16″ 602 ME Thin Crash (as top hihat) w/ 16″ Twenty Series Medium Light hihat bottom (on the rest of the set)
– 21″ Dark Energy Mk1 Ride stacked on a 22″ Traditional Light Ride (in place of primary crash on 2 tunes)
– 20″ Traditional Light Ride (primary crash)
– 22″ 602 ME Ride
– 8″ Dark Energy Mk1 splash (resting on the snare for 1 tune)

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Other Misc Gear
– Remo coated Emperor on toms, coated P3 on kick, coated CS and Ambassadors on snares
– Vic Firth SD2 Bolero sticks, SD1 General mallets, and VicKick felt radial beater
– Roland SPD-SX
– DW 9000 series hardware
– Ableton 9 on a Mac Air with Motu Mk3 Ultralite
– BFSD “Original” and “Steve’s Donut” snare muffles
– generic goat hooves resting on snare for a tune
– Toca Caxixi, RhythmTech hihat tambourine ring, and LP Cyclops brass tambourine
– Booty Shakers leg resonators on floor tom and Gauger Ring on rack tom

Notes:

The padauk stave shells are so beautiful. The natural color is a surprisingly bright orange (see below), and Grady left the insides of the shells unstained. The contrast between the dark chocolate brown finish and the unfinished orange is really striking, and for that reason I was originally using clear black dot heads on the kick and toms (so the inside shell would be visible). These sounded great to my ear when sitting at the kit, but our front of house engineer wanted to try the coated heads to compare and ended up liking those better. I think the coated Emps probably sound more like the classic “good” tom tone when EQ’d and cranked through a PA, but the clear black dots had a cool and unique vibe which is more what I was hoping for. I have a lot of great sounding “classic” drums and I like exploring other options with the kits that RD makes for me (acrylic, mahogany, etc).

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Not to give up on the clear black dot, however, my tech Kris threw one on the 14″ Walnut snare and it sounds AWESOME. I use that drum on the tunes that use the vintage “fat and dead” sound (Love Song, Uncharted, Gravity). It’s tuned really low with just a few moongels. The NOB and Black Brass snares have coated CD reverse dots, and those are feeling great. The BB is tuned low but wide open for a big rock sound (used on Hercules, King Of Anything, and Brave), and the NOB is cranked pretty tight for the more funky Bernard Purdie vibe (perfect for Sara’s cover of the En Vogue tune “Never Gonna Get It”). I also use the NOB on “Wanna Be Like Me,” “I Choose You,” and “Little Black Dress,” but with a donut muffle on LBD and the splash muffle effect on ICY. The Canopus sits in a similar tuning to the NOB (with a coated Ambassador), but the ash ply has a nice “thud” even when tuned high so it doesn’t replicate the NOB exactly (NOB has a ping while the Canopus is more of a slap). The Canopus appears on “Love On The Rocks” (wide open) and on “Chasing The Sun” (with the goat hooves).

I usually use my brighter sounding Paiste Twenty Custom cymbals when playing outdoors, because dark cymbals tend to get lost in the wide open space of an outdoor stage. I brought them along because this tour has so many outdoor venues, but the “outdoor” venues have all actually been pavilions with tent coverings and have felt more like theaters. The Twenty Customs made an appearance for the first two outdoor stages and then I switched back to the ME and Trads, which have stuck. As far as cymbals are concerned, I’ve really enjoyed using the sharper and tighter sounding 14’s on the three tunes that seemed like they would benefit from them (I Choose You, Little Black Dress, and Wanna Be Like Me). The 16’s are still my jam, but I’m trying to approach this live setting like I do in the studio, which is to pay attention to what the song wants from me and then determine which instrument will best deliver that sound. Complex and busy hihat patterns need the shorter and crispier 14″ tone, whereas slower and thicker tunes seem to sit best with the 16’s.

Also noteworthy are the custom BFSD muffles that Kris made for me during rehearsals a few weeks ago. I’ve noticed that the official “Steve’s Donut” model cuts a lot more decibel from the drum than my homemade one. We decided that this was perhaps because of the rubber ring that Kris uses to keep the muffles feeling more sturdy. He took the rubber off of both the donut and the original and I like them way better for this specific larger touring environment. The low-decibel effect of the official BFSD models work great for volume-sensitive gigs like a church or a wedding reception, but the varying volume levels weren’t ideal for our in-ear mixes. So there’s that.

I’m not sure if the Booty Shakers and Gauger Ring are worth it or not. Kris really wanted to try them, and they definitely help the drums resonate a lot more… but then we end up needing moongels so perhaps they cancel out?

Bottom line: I couldn’t be happier with the setup I get to play every night, and I couldn’t be happier with the musicians I’m playing with or the music we are playing. I am grateful.

 

 

I first heard about Ilan Rubin when he was playing live with NIN (2009). There was a lot of buzz about him at that time: “Dude have you heard the new NIN drummer? He is crazy tight and super passionate and very creative.” People were telling me this over and over, and those attributes are exactly what I want a drummer to have. I checked him out and became a fan.

Ilan’s playing is firmly rooted in the rock world. His feel, power, and ideas are the best kind of Bonham tribute, with a bunch of the pop punk sound thrown in (he replaced Atom Willard in Angels & Airwaves and played all drums on the recent Paramore record, if that gives you an indication of his style).

Go read his wiki page if you want more biography info, or you can let his playing do the talking:

Some commentary:

First off, his ideas and chops are awesome. The solo itself isn’t hugely mind-blowing or progressive, but it’s super rad nonetheless. BUT THEN he plays it all in near perfect pocket with the sampler track that he sets up (which is pretty cool on its own). That’s what I want to zero in on in this post.

We’ve all heard drummers play dope, complex, difficult, progressive, and creative stuff… and I love it. Shredding is shredding, and it’s cool at the right time and place. But many (if not MOST) of the shreds I see online or live or wherever are marred ever so slightly by small imperfections in time and feel. In fact, it seems like subtle sloppiness is even assumed to a certain point, as if the crazy chops required to really shred outweighs said sloppiness. Rushing is common, or unintentional flamming, or just an overall looseness.

Don’t misunderstand me, the looseness that lives in the Jay Bellarose or Pete Thomas styles is not what I’m talking about. That kind of looseness is awesome, mainly because it’s an intentional groove/feel thing that serves those styles of music. Most “gospel chops” drumming is NOT aiming for that kind of looseness. The Bellarose/Thomas feel makes the gospel chops stuff sound worse, not better.

Complicated and flashy playing needs to be executed with incredible precision, and I usually don’t hear shreds that feature the kind of precision that Ilan is delivering in the above solo. He is playing some crazy stuff – conceptually complicated and physically challenging – and he is just BURYING that loop.

People. That is HARD to do. Or at least it’s really hard for ME. I like to think that I can pull out some shred-fest if you back me into a corner, and I feel comfortable playing with a locked feel in a song that has programming and click track, but doing both is VERY VERY difficult.

So, for that reason, the above solo is one of the most amazing shreds I’ve seen in a long time.

Hey everybody… greetings from NYC. Sara B tour is in full swing and we are having a blast.

With Sara B in mind I’m posting this link for the shaker that I use on our live performances her single “I Choose You.” It’s a caxixi (pronounced “kah-shee-shee”) made by Toca. It’s made of synthetic materials but sounds great and I’ve been using the same one for over 15 years.

In other news, my new friend James Williams is playing drums with Emily King (one of our tour’s opening acts) and he is THROWING DOWN with some cool aux tambos incorporated into his kit setup. I’m gonna hunt some of those down and try to keep up with him.

Annual Blogpost Frequency Disclaimer: I started this post below 2 months ago. Time got away from me. In fact, it appears that I haven’t posted very much at all in 2014. I’m gonna post more while on this summer tour. Do you believe me when I say that? Let me rephrase: I want to post more and maybe it will happen over the next few weeks because I’m on a tour and have a little more free time than usual.

And now, Yogi Horton…

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A quick Google search turns up very little on 70’s funk + R&B drummer Yogi Horton, presumably because of his tragically young death. The only noteworthy stuff I found was the video below and an article from a recent Modern Drummer tribute (which itself also mentions the video below).

Wow. After watching this video I feel like I should have heard of Yogi before, or at least the internet should be more dense with celebration and admiration for his playing. I really love his style and approach. His feel is super comfortable, and his fills and embellishments (though often very complex and out-of-the-box) always fit within the grooves he’s playing.

Notes:

– The audio and video represented here is allegedly the first ever drum instructional footage, and I think it was never officially released. Maybe because the quality of the sound is so crappy?

– Yogi uses tons of linear ideas, which keeps his sound really flowing and smooth. BUT, the smoothness of the way linear ideas translate is directly determined by how solid one’s time is. Meaning, linear ideas suffer the most from choppy or jerky time feel. In other words, Yogi has rad time feel.

– He’s really aware of the recordings that were happening both DURING his active career and in the years PRIOR to his rise as a player. He’s able to discuss, comment on, and learn from the progression of feels and approaches that other drummers were using. In other words, he did a lot of listening.

– I’m going to be honest and confess that I don’t know what he’s talking about when he says that Bernard (Purdie) plays “all inside the quarter notes” (3:44), because he then proceeds to play HEAVY 16th syncopation with backbeat shifts AND downbeat shifts. The following explanation of the Motown quarter note snare feel (4:30) makes tons of sense to me, but the Bernard thing… I don’t get it. He even goes on to mention, at around the 10:30 mark, an “8th note feel” that sounds exactly like his 3:44 quarter note example. I’m not sure what to make of it.

– The body motion discussion at 6:00 is really mind blowing to me… something I haven’t thought much about outside of the kick drum. I’ve noticed that my balance really affects the timing and control of my kick hits, but the idea that fills and grooves are wrapped up in body motion is a cool new thought.

– His assertion that 3/4 time and 6/8 time are basically the same feel (at 12:39)… I disagree with that. I think he means that both are based on cycles of 3, which is true, but they are not “the same feel” in my mind.

– Around the 13-minute mark he drops some DEEP WISDOM about our whole job as drummers is to just push the arrangement along. He circles back around to the body movement thing, and there it is: it’s all about groove and serving the flow of the time. “Don’t ever try to do anything to deceive where your body is, because your body doesn’t tell lies” (15:43). For those of you that are familiar with my pendulum concept, I wonder if that might be what Yogi is getting at here? He mentions the body movement thing again around 23:00 and ties Steve Gadd into the picture. Cool.

– Multiple uses of the word “thusly” = boss.

– The snare has tons of muffling in order to get that dry vintage tone. You’re kidding yourself if you think that vintage snare tone comes only from older microphones, recording techniques, or special gear. There has always been plenty of physical doctoring to produce particular snare sounds.

– Wow does he hit that primary crash cymbal hard. Sheesh. He just CRUSHES it. I don’t think I could get away with hitting a cymbal that hard on any of the gigs I do.

– I kinda love how he keeps standing up from the drumset so he can talk with more authority… and then sitting back down again to demonstrate. His whole demeanor is very confident, and the standing up thing totally adds to that.

– He’s using the left hand “butt-side” (stick upside down) technique quite a bit. It definitely affects the tone of the kit, but he never mentions that (until the Q&A at the end), almost as if that idea is assumed rather than some sort of big deal that he needs to comment on. Why I use the butt-side on my left stick is probably the most common online drummer question that I get these days. Yogi just blows right past that and discusses the things that really matter to him (ie, not technique).

– When he begins demonstrating the 50’s rock and roll descending toms fill he uses a sticking that’s really interesting… not single strokes only. It’s some form of paradiddle but I can’t tell what it is exactly, and he uses it over and over. This is, again, like the butt-side stick technique, something that he incorporates without comment. He seems to care only about the descending “falling” nature of the way the fill SOUNDS… he doesn’t really care about the sticking. I LOVE THAT. I have a feeling that modern drum lessons would focus way more on the sticking of a fill and less on how things sound… the opposite of what Yogi is doing.

– Has anybody ever done a Harvey Mason impression on par with Yogi’s “Chameleon” performance at 28:00? Good grief. His feel is so sick.

– I’ve never heard anybody refer to left foot hihat “splashing” as “cymbal kissing” (29:30). I might start calling it that from now on.

– “Time is the essence of all music” (31:43).

– The entire discussion of playing lots of notes vs playing less notes (34:00 and onward) is basically just the “less is more” concept explained ahead of it’s time. Yogi is on point.

– Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” is a famous groove covered by literally hundreds of Youtube instructional videos, and Yogi actually plays it wrong (37:30). Hahaha. How does he get away with that? How does he reconcile in his own mind that his version of the groove is not exactly the same as Gadd’s? I think the answer is this: it FEELS the same. So Yogi uses less hihat hits and more snare marching… so what? It’s still the same rhythm with origins in ragtime, and it still serves the same function as a groove. This is another example of Yogi not being bothered with the details and focusing instead on how things SOUND.

– His discussion at the 45-minute mark really strikes a nerve with me. How we look and behave physically while we play is so important. We have to make the audience (or the producer, as Yogi is describing) really believe in what we’re playing, even from a visual standpoint. We’re salesmen… we have to sell it. That’s more important in the live performing side of my world, but Yogi sees the relevance in the studio world too.

– Regarding the placement of your gear and the way your kit is set up: “The minute that you have to REACH to play your drums, you’re gonna hurt your body” (47:49). Yes and amen.

– Regarding what types of music Yogi likes to play: “It’s all just time to me. If it’s got a groove, I like to play it” (53:12).

– The advice for professional musicians at 54:30 and onward is gold.

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