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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