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Well, the Drum Library is finally live. Check it out.

It’s taken me WAY longer than I hoped, but this drum lesson website I’ve been dreaming up for years is finally alive and kicking. I haven’t announced it on social media yet. You guys, my blog readers from all these years, are the first to know about it.

It feels really strange. I’ve never put my own name on a product other than my private drum lessons or master classes. The artists I’ve worked with always talk about how vulnerable they feel when they release an album. It’s their heart put into their songs and nobody else has to like it, but by releasing it and selling it they are kinda hoping that people WILL like it. I feel the same way. I’m proud of the content and the idea, but maybe nobody else will care! We’ll see. ūüôā

Thanks for reading my blog all these years. Check out the new site and see where all this has led.

 

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I’m in an instrumental band called “MaSSs”¬†and we are releasing a record called How I Killed A Bear on September 1.

Here’s the story…

In 2012 I was touring with Owl City and my friend Jasper Nephew was playing guitar. Jasper and I would often jam at sound check – just noodling around with ideas. Most of the time we would quickly come up with something that we both thought was pretty cool, and at that point we would usually lament the lack of time during soundcheck to document and preserve the improvised compositions. We concocted a plan to someday go into the studio and jam with mics up and tape rolling, but I honestly figured it would never happen.

But then we somehow managed to rope in our crazy talented friend Matt Patrick. On Jan 2, 2013 we loaded our gear into The Library Studio in Minneapolis and got everything set up and dialed. Jasper had his guitar and typical ENORMOUS pedal board and Matt had a couple keyboards, a bass, a turntable with a bunch of effects pedals in the chain, and a few other misc sound-making devices. We then met in the control room and discussed what the day would look like, because there were no songs and no real real plan. The only idea was to improvise – to just start noodling around on our instruments like we would if it were an Owl City soundcheck – and see if anything developed. I remember saying something like, “let’s just press red and go play whatever we happen to play and listen to each other and then we can stop and circle back if we land on something we like.” So we did that – we walked out of the control room and picked up our instruments and proceeded to play the first track on this record. I mean, we just barfed out a cohesive song with a clear beginning and ending and storyline and it was super magical and we got done and looked at each other in disbelief. And that’s how the day went.

We ended up with 12 tracks. Some are one-take improvisations like the one I just described while others took some adjusting and shaping. Some are only a trio and some include overdubs and editing. Some were recorded with a click track and others are totally free-form. As we recorded each tune Matt would pull random quotes out of an old science book that he had in his studio which we then used as the titles for the various tracks.

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Our respective lives have been pretty busy over the 2.5 years since we recorded this music, but Matt eventually mixed and mastered all the tracks and we even did a photo shoot.¬†I’m not sure if we will ever play a live gig, and that wasn’t really the point of the project anyway. All I wanted to do was document the inspiring ideas that always came from jamming with Jasper, but adding Matt to the mix turned the whole thing into its own creature.¬†I’m really proud of everything we recorded, and there are even a few drum solos (I’m rarely proud of my soloing).

I don’t know how to describe the music. It definitely isn’t Jazz, and it’s also not ambient or electronica. Below is a short preview and I hope you dig it.

Hey there, faithful blog readers. Every time I post anything here I am hit with two realizations, simultaneously:
1) A drum blog is an unbelievably geeky thing to have
2) I wish I had time to post stuff EVERY DAY.

I love blogging. I guess that makes me a geek.

If you’re interested in my geek perspective on in-ear monitors and how I go about dialing in a mix on a gig, then head over to the Alclair blog and check out my recent guest post. That crew builds some incredible monitors and partnering with them has been a really great thing for me.

Also, if you live in the Twin Cities then you should make some time on a Thursday night and come visit me at my weekly Jazz Is Stupid gig (facetiously titled after this moment from The Office). Bauhaus Brew Labs makes delicious beer, then they serve it at good prices in their wonderful (and HUGE) Northeast Minneapolis taproom, and then they let my friends and me play jazz music from 8pm-11pm every Thursday. No cover + no age restrictions for hanging out and listening to the music + good food trucks = WINNING.

Peace.

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.

Yes. Yes I did. I’ve been SLAMMED with work lately for next week’s Go Fish mini-tour and the Sara Bareilles shows following that. It’s a good problem to have, really.

More posts coming soon. Deep ones. HEAVY ones. Like, I am gonna drop some WISDOM up in here.

Or maybe I’ll just post some youtube videos that I like. Which will it be? YOU WILL HAVE TO CHECK BACK TO FIND OUT.

The connection you make with people VIA music is what matters.

I know the title of this post may appear to conflict with my recent post about taking music seriously, but in my head the two concepts go hand in hand.

The deal is this: I really don’t think music matters in a grand or cosmic sense, at least not music in itself. ¬†The RESULTS of music, however, are incredibly important. ¬†In my mind, the primary function (result) of music is connection with people. ¬†The emotional influence that music has on listeners, and the resulting connection that develops between a performer and an audience – this is what I am concerned with. ¬†Therefore I take playing music VERY seriously.

But… what I don’t take seriously is the music itself, or the idea that music is somehow sacred and important aside from its usefulness to connect with people. ¬†In my mind this concept is very similar to the whole “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it still make a sound” idea. ¬†My answer to that is “no,” at least with regard to the RESULTS and PURPOSES for sounds. ¬†I realize I am taking a very human-centric viewpoint here, but I will go out on a limb and say that sounds exist to be HEARD. ¬†If they are not heard then they do not matter.

I thought about this all night at the U2 show last weekend. That band has an incredible ability to connect with people. Whether it’s through a stereo via their albums, or in-person at their epic live shows… they always connect. They always make an impact. They always leave their audience so affected by their performance that they want to go out and DO something. “Emotional high” was a common description my friends’ Facebook status updates on the day following the show. Many people were so struck by the show that they couldn’t even describe what they were feeling.

This is fantastically interesting to me… the idea that what I do with an instrument can affect listeners so strongly that they can’t even fully process it. Knowing that music wields such a powerful sword makes me want to be very intentional with what I do. It makes me want to choose wisely what kinds of message the music I play sends, and it gives me a lot of drive to see that the performances that I give are effective.

U2 certainly did this last Saturday. I plan on digging into their music even further over these next few months in an effort to learn how they do it.

The technological landscape of 2011 and its effect on music has resulted in the widespread use of “loops” and other forms of programming/sequencing. ¬†My theory is that this evolution in the music world is not a temporary fad… I think it’s here to stay. ¬†Use of electronic accompaniment will be officially commonplace in only a few more years, and this requires drummers to have a familiarity with both the musical and logistical aspects of the new terrain. ¬†Here to help us navigate those waters is none other than one of the catalysts of the evolution itself (at least in the Christian music world), Jeremy Bush aka “Bwack” from the David Crowder Band.

Here’s the two part interview, and it’s worth checking out:¬†pt 1¬†and¬†pt 2

Check it: The “father of computer music” died last thursday. I bet this dude had NO IDEA how influential his inventions would become…

HT: Huntley Miller

In other news, my older daughter Betty was baptized tonight.  Huge honor for me to be in the pool with her and facilitate that. Happy Easter, everybody.

I just got done reading this great interview with drummer Keith LeBlanc, a seminal figure in the development of hip-hop drumming and subsequent rise of drum machines. Keith played with the Sugar Hill Gang (Rapper’s Delight), in addition to releasing a solo record attributed as the first sample-based album… which is a pretty big deal given the sample-heavy nature of the current Pop world.¬† He’s got tons of interesting stories about hip-hop history, and a great perspective on the relationship between a drummer and drum machine.

HT: Tony Renaud

Dear Tama,

Thank you for manufacturing the Rhythm Watch, which really is a great metronome. I love the individual subdivision faders and the “click 2” tone option. However, please consider revamping your design for the engage buttons. You see, they constantly break. I often daydream about someday owning a Rhythm Watch with an engage button that functions properly for longer than 4 months. Boy that would be swell.

Love,
Steve

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