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Bear with me, this one is kinda long and maybe a bit of a ramble/rant. But it needs to be, to convey the message. Please adjust your seat for comfort accordingly…

 

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When I first heard about a new drumming movie featuring not just a jazz drummer but a song written by my musical mentor (Hank Levy), I was curious, interested and a little excited. That’s mostly because my love of odd meters since I was 15 was fueled almost entirely by Hank having come up to our high school on a government arts grant to spread the jazz word.

 

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Hank was writing for Don Ellis and Stan Kenton at the time, big band explorers of the highest caliber, and Hank shared his knowledge and enthusiasm in a way that ignited our young minds and made some of us want a great deal more. My high school bandleader pushed us like that as well. He held us to high performance standards, but it rarely involved yelling unless we were simply acting like fools or were utterly lazy.

 

Hank was the same way, and not once during his visits did he ever snap or exhibit anything even close to serious anger or beratement. When I landed the top slot in the All-State Jazz band my senior year, Hank was the guest director. Again, he demanded a lot, but he was never a berater. Ever. Not once.

 

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When I graduated high school, I followed him to what was then called Towson State College. He led the three jazz ensembles there, and I started off in the third and worked my way up to the second. Here I got to see Hank on his much more demanding level, and he had no tolerance for laziness of lack of attention.

 

Either of these actions, if not corrected after fair warning, would earn you a dry marker board eraser thrown your way, and given the times and Hank’s honest but fair gruff nature, I certainly respected his message: pay the hell attention and stop screwing up the music for everyone else.

 

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So, what does all of this have to do with Whiplash and why I won’t go see it?

 

Because I absolutely loathe the idea of competition. And I loathe it because it prevented me from becoming a truer artist and musician for years.

 

All through high school I had pushed myself very hard, with no whip cracking required from anyone. I was simply driven to be the best, and I went after it like a demon. I was actually driven by demons of a sort, ones that wanted out of my body that was consumed by an undiagnosed case of Tourette Syndrome. I expressed the never-ending blast furnace through rock drumming, and then I developed four-limb coordination to control it through jazz drumming.

 

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When kids first applauded my playing, I finally found acceptance to some degree. This fired me up to want to get more of it and to get more of it than anyone else. I wanted to obliterate my competition, and I had the chops to do it. My body and neural pathways are wired for drumming, and I went after everyone in my way. I was young and immature, uninformed and unguided. I was an idiotic gunslinger who was learning everything about how to make my body unleash and virtually nothing about how to interact with fellow musicians and make music.

 

In my senior year, I took every first chair there was in the state of Delaware. All State Band, Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, and a tri-state honors band that went to Europe that summer. I owned every bit of it, or at least I thought I did. It was somewhat innocent, because I truly didn’t know any better, even though my band director constantly reminded us that competition didn’t mean anything unless you truly improved as an artist.

 

I had two primary drum teachers at the time, and one was into supporting my desire to blow away the competition. The other was a disciple of Jim Chapin, who brought Jim down to the drum store once a month from New York to offer lessons. Guess who taught me more about the right path?

 

Now I believed to some degree that I HAD to be competitive, because there were so many other drummers out there in so many genres. Hank reminded us more than once that there was always someone better out there, and that we had to strive to do our best for ourselves.

 

But I remember one time, I was going to have a drum solo in a song at a festival, and I was sitting in a corner with a watch, timing how fast I could get my hands going. When it came solo time, all I did was explode and go insane… zero musicality. A couple of years later, I ran into a fellow drummer from another high school, and do you know what he remembered? My sitting in a corner with a watch. Certainly not my alleged performance that had been hell bent on showing everyone else up at the festival.

 

I’m probably beating a dead horse at this point.

 

By the way, let me add that having written several screenplays and unsold pilot TV shows, and also being involved with some small degree of film production projects on the side, I do have a reasonably informed perspective on what it takes to get a movie made and do respect the hoops that Whiplash had to jump through. You can’t even begin to imagine how insanely impossible it is get anything done in this town…

 

That said, it was a question asked on a Facebook drumming group that really inspired today’s blog, so I’ll close with it: “Do you think Whiplash will inspire a new interest in jazz drumming by young drummers?”

 

My hope for those who chose to watch it is that the answer be yes. But, for those who do chose to watch it, know that the title of the movie comes from a song written by a man who was heading 180 degrees in the opposite direction. As a life-long disciple of Hank Levy and his spirit of fearless jazz exploration, I’d be betraying my admiration for this man to go see Whiplash, and if this position comes back to bite my professional ass, so be it. I’d rather speak the truth loudly any day than choose to silently support something that is diametrically opposed to what I now know to be the true and correct path for a musician.

 

I chose instead to watch endless hours of YouTube videos and instructional DVDs created by new and old masters, and support their production if they convey the stuff that matters. I chose to find drummers who are killing their hands and offer suggestions of how to treat themselves better so they can better express their message.

 

I chose to promote drumming as storytelling so the energy of magic weaving can take you over. I chose to write blogs like this, laying bear my soul for younger drummers to hopefully learn from and recognize in themselves, and then move forward to re-direct their minds and souls.

 

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But if you must follow the competitive path, do it to master yourself and make it one hundred times bigger than it presently is. Give to the music, push out, tell a tale with Tony Williams intensity and musicality. Channel Max Roach, play with the snap and flare of Gene Krupa. Read about allllllllll the drummers who came before you and drink them in rabidly to make them a part of you.

 

As long as you are breathing and upright, you can be a badass. Chose to be the right kind of badass, is all I’m saying, the kind that understands honoring the music and not the ego. Slay your SELF, because it’s always competing with the bigger picture to get out.

 

Then go play a story in a way never before told… cuz…

 

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Oh, man, it is my serious pleasure to write this blog! I owe this particular find to frame drummer Candy Eaton, who sent me a link to a YouTube video featuring some amazing young musicians known as the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.

 

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I opened the clip, and there I saw a group of very young, earnest musicians playing… Kashmir!

Yes, Led Zeppelin’s classic Kashmir! And we’re talking performance! Not sorta kinda, not, “Oh look, how cute, it’s kids playing Led Zeppelin.” We’re talking focus, intensity, and conviction.

 

 

Awesomeness!

So, like any immediately curious soul, I Googled these youngsters to get the lowdown…

… which led me to http://www.louisvilleleopardpercussionists.com

If you’ll take a few minutes after reading this blog and watch the following promo video, it’ll give you a very good overview of what these amazing players are all about.

 

 

The short version: 65 or so kids, ranging in ages from 7-12, who live in the greater Louisville, Kentucky area. They learn multiple percussion instruments, including xylophone, vibraphone, marimba, bongos, congas, timbales, drum set, and piano… and then they blow you away!

Their founder and artistic director is Diane Downs, who took her bachelors and Masters degrees in elementary education and used them to create the Fabulous Leopard Percussionists in 1993. Ten years later, they evolved into the Louisville Leopards, described on their website as a non-profit, community based group. This means they are a 501(c)(3) organization, so please look at the Donate link on the bottom of their website Home page when you visit it if you’d like to help them out in any way.

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The collective academic and percussion pedigree of Diane’s team is nothing short of awesome. As I read through the bios of devoted souls in the About Us link, I was repeatedly floored by how much teaching and performing horsepower Diane had brought together, and when you watch a few video clips, you’ll be quite floored by the results.

Within the main organization, there are three sub-programs offered, each with a specific focus. Leopards Lite is a less-intense version of the main performance group, designed to let more kids get the basic Leopard experience and also participate and perform in the annual Spring, Big Gig event.

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Steel Leopards is a post-graduate performance group, founded by assistant director Aaron Klausing in 2009, comprised of around a dozen Louisville Leopards graduates, 6th through 9th grade. The group is currently taught by Meg Samples, Kelsey Lee, Price McGuffy, who all also work as Louisville Leopard assistants.

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Summer Camp is a week-long percussion camp offered to kids in 2nd through 5th grade, designed for those with no prior musical experience. They cover drum set, hand drumming, percussion rudiments, and mallet percussion ensemble.

 

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Now if you really want to see something impressive, read the Endorsements link on their website. When the likes of such musical luminaries as Carlos Santana, Dave Samuels, Ndugu Chancler, Neil Peart and Joe Morello offer praise and recognition, you know something very intense and authentic is happening.

I mean seriously… they cover Ozzy Ozbourne’s Crazy Train! You never saw so many VibraSlaps in your life!

 

 

And two of these Leopards went on to just a bit of musical fame, playing drums for Prince and Tune Yards. Yes, Hannah Ford and Dani Markham earned their spots many years ago, and both artists credit the experience of learning by ear to have helped immensely in their overall musical development.

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Many accolades and acknowledgements can (and rightfully will) be directed towards these dedicated performers and their amazing teachers, but I think it’s their own Facebook page and the Short Description that sums them up best:

“Ordinary kids transformed by an extra-ordinary musical experience.”

Jimmy Page certainly thinks so, enough that he posted the Kashmir link on his own Facebook page with the comments, “Too good not to share. Have a rockin’ weekend.”

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I imagine their website pretty much lit up like Times Square when the legendary Mr. Page launched those words!

Meanwhile, if you are in the Louisville area, mark Sunday, April 19, on your calendar so you can check out these amazing performers at their Big Gig. But personally, I think their REAL Big Gig was being featured on HBO Family, “The Music In Me,” in a segment called, “The Leopards Take Manhattan: The Little Band That Roared.”

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I wish I could go hear them, but California to Kentucky is a bit of a stretch. Regardless, Neil Peart’s words about the Louisville Leopard Percussionists couldn’t sum up my own feelings better:

“I’m very glad to know such things are being done in the world.”

Now if only they’d cover The Black Page

What do you say, kids? :)

 

 

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Ahhhhh…

That’s the sound of me relaxing my feet after the full-on four days at NAMM 2015!

As usual, it was completely insane, but it was also a great deal of fun. I thought you folks might enjoy my take on a few things I saw and some of the people I met.

In 2013, I did a daily blog of it (https://davidaldridge.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/namm-2013-live-blog/), which was a tremendous amount of work. I loved it, but I felt like I was back in magazine-writing mode. I like the fun-writing mode much better.

Now as I always mention, I write about what I like, I do NOT accept free products in return for ink, and I very rarely even talk about products, much less accept solicitations for their review. I find THEM, not the other way around. It’s so much cleaner and truer this way.

Same with the people. I love discovering interesting people in the music business who aren’t in the business of overtly selling themselves. They are the ones who really rock.

I owe great thanks to Mike Belitz, owner of Ultimate Support Stands, for providing me with access to NAMM yet again. A fellow pilot and overall awesome guy, Mike made this adventure possible. Check out his drum covers and his iPad holders when you get a chance, at www.ultimatesupport.com

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And now, without further adieu, here’s an overview of my hiking excursion across the Anaheim Convention Center and all points in between. Good gawd, my feet… what the hell was I thinking…

THE STUFF

Anthology Gear Wear

http://www.anthologygearwear.com

Man, Brian Griffith had some serious high-end leather stick bags and cymbals bags. I mean, serious craftsmanship. Pricey yes, but he was low-key and let his works speak for themselves. I saw his booth as I walked in on the first day. He was across from a painfully loud amp booth, so I gave him an extra set of earplugs to endure the madness.

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RoboCup

http://www.therobocup.com

Awww hell yeah! A.J. Zakarian had me from the git-go when I saw a pair of sticks in one holder and a beer bottle in the other, mounted on a cymbal stand. Talk about full-fisted glory! I loved the grip handle for the four-cup version too.

A.J. said this was his first NAMM show, and when I came by at the end, he said Guitar Center had come by… which led to some very good news for him. Nice guy, lives in Vegas, not pushy about his stuff at all.

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Downing Drums

http://www.downingdrums.com

Michael Downing had a display against a wall, and I was being pummeled by bombastic percussion coming from every direction. I was kinda curious about his patented, free-floating drums, so I gave them a whack. In complete fairness and honesty, I could not hear myself really playing and being able to fully appreciate the snare and toms, but the kick drum…

… wow… even through all the sonic insanity, it SANG. I’m a fiberglass Fibes kinda guy, but to be able to hear the kick through the aural assault kinda said something. I also liked Michael because he fought and won a good patent fight. I love fighters who prevail. Here’s a picture of his drums, and one with his wife, Louise.

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Sakae Drums

http://sakaedrums.com

Oh my goodness, what beautiful drums! I love the color and finish of this blue/teal sparkle, and I have been a fan of them since reading about their departure from Yamaha a couple of years ago. I wrote a blog about it that is still getting a lot of readership (https://davidaldridge.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/yamaha-drums-loses-sakae-rhythm-its-legendary-drummaker/)

Again, a sort of underdog who decided to bark big and loud with an incredible product. Yes, THEY were Yamaha’s drum maker, for many years.

I just read an article in the current Modern Drummer about the new Yamaha line being made in China, and they referenced how they used to outsource their drum manufacturing to “a company in Osaka…” with no mention that it was Sakae, which bothered me until I realized that it spoke VOLUMES about the headway Sakae has made in the market!

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QSC TouchMix

http://qsc.com

I’d never heard of this audio company until my good friend and guitar player Don Ortiz (http://dinaprestonband.com) told me to check out their TouchMix digital mixers that can have iPhone and iPad interaction. I do my own recording, and this looked soooooo cool! Plus, I got to hear Omar Hakim playing in a demo band, and that alone was lesson on studio drumming.

You can pre-set these bad boys and save the settings, modify all kinds of effects, and do a lot more than I likely will understand for quite some time. It’s something I’ll probably get down the line, but for now, I have to say that the product explanation and demo to a newbie like myself is what I liked the most. I wasn’t dismissed or talked down to.

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Roland Session Mixer

http://www.rolandus.com/products/hs-5/

This thing was so cooool! I saw the HS-5 in the Roland booth with several instruments feeding into it (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards). Instant attraction, because it will let me rehearse with a band using my electronic kit. Simple and clean.

There was no one demo’ing it, just a bunch of strangers plugging in and cutting loose. That’s a pretty good measure of how well something works.

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Spaceharp

http://www.spaceharp.com

It’s a sound controller that you manipulate by moving your hands over illuminated sensors. I just LOVED this! The video links speak far better than I can describe. It took the designers about ten years to make things happen. Well worth the wait.

Mu-Fx Mutron Emulators

http://www.mu-fx.com

I had a MuTron phase shifter when I was in high school that I played my drums through some times, inspired by Billy Cobham and Carl Palmer’s electronic experments. It was exciting and very cool to see the Mu-Fx version re-birth of these products!

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Tempo GPS Devices

http://www.tempocases.com/tempo-anycase-device

The Anycase GPS tracking device is a little pricey, but you can put these in your drum cases and hardware cases to track your precious cargo. I think it’s a really cool idea if you are into the high dollar end of things. You buy a monitoring subscription plan, and you can also download an app that will let you track you instrument and even know if it’s been moved!

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SmartMusic Teaching Software

http://www.smartmusic.com

I used Finale to create the rest and note shapes in my two volumes of The Elements of Rhythm, but I had not really looked at their other family of products until this year.

I’m glad I did.

SmartMusic is a subscription-based program that lets educators create lesson plans with music and send them to students who also have a student subscription. The program plays the music, you play along through an interface, and it lets you know if you performed the piece correctly. You see red dots for missed notes and green dots for correct notes.

I was hooked immediately and will be exploring how use this to teach the materials in Elements over an electronic platform.

Giovanna Cruz, SmartMusic Education Manager, took her time explaining and getting me dialed in, which again, I very much appreciated.

Scott Yoho, who interviewed me for his Finale blog in 2013 (http://www.finalemusic.com/blog/creating-anything-you-can-imagine-with-finale/), also offered to help me sort out some technical aspects for an upcoming book, which I definitely appreciated.

I am huge fan of the whole Make Music organization (http://www.makemusic.com), and I am really looking forward to further incorporating their products (which I always pay for, no freebies) into my future publishing and teaching projects.

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Weezic Electronic Sheet Music

http://weezic.com/en/

I saw this booth downstairs in “E” hall, and I liked what I saw. Nicholas Arbogast explained how the product worked, and I want to look into it further for additional teaching and practice potential. Like SmartMusic, you can export files for students. I was getting overloaded by the time I found their booth, but it did get my attention.

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Band-In-A-Box

http://www.pgmusic.com

Okay, okay, it took me years, but I finally got to sit down and see how this really works. Oh hell yeah. Sold. Loved it. As a learning tool, as a practice tool, so many applications.

As a drummer, I have a weakness in the music theory department, but you can type in chord names and hear the sounds. Grab a Real Book, pick your favorite song, type in the chords, and hear them… learn what makes them work and what you like about them… I can’t wait to do a lot of THIS!

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Vector Pedals

http://www.percussionkinetics.com

I wrote a blog about these pedals last year (https://davidaldridge.wordpress.com/?s=vector) and promptly bought two of these to explore single and double-bass drumming. The swivel footplate lets you set the pedal up so that when you sit down, your thigh is straight and your foot angles off to the side naturally.

All the power from your thigh can be directed without diffusion, so, no force is lost. Playing heel-down becomes incredibly easy as well, I mean, you notice it in a second.

This year, owner/designer Goran Kjellgren came out with a long-waited, bonafide double pedal, which just smoked. I watched as Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett sat down and immediately smiled, and he signed on right away as an endorser.

Very interestingly, I heard him saying that he had been mounting his kick pedals at an angle to the bass drum rim for years to accomplish what Goran had designed…

I’ll be adding that to the arsenal for my 24” Fibes kick drums/noise maker soon as possible! It was a blast to hang out with Goran and hear about the company’s progress over the last year, which included a very favorable review in Modern Drummer. Some other good news was his new distributor in the U.K., a company called Liberty Drums…

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(Goran Kjellgren, Vector ergonomic foot pedal designer/genius)

Liberty Drums

http://www.libertydrums.co.uk

I had not heard of these guys before this year, but you could not miss the lime green kit and crowds gathering around it. Owner/builder Andrew Street is a helluva guy, and I got to know him and his crew over the four days and enjoyed our conversations very much. He literally hand-builds the drums himself, along with Operation Manager Kevin Lodge.

I liked their small jazz kit, especially the snare, because it had authentic be-bop jazz shading sounds to it. By this I mean I could do press rolls, single-stick buzzes, nice accents… everything I wanted to do across the sound range palatte. I am primarily a Ludwig Supraphonic junkie, but Andrew’s craftsmanship kicked serious jazz snare drum ass. It just did. And his smaller snare drums have a hip-hop crack that will (and did!) cut through the insanity of NAMM bashings from all four sides.

Liberty is a custom drum company, a boutique sort of deal. I really liked these guys as people, and I got to know Andrew and Kevin along with John Watson (USA Artist Relations) and Kwesi Yvorra (UK Artist Relations). I was most appreciative of the opportunity to meet a small company on its way up, and I would recommend checking them out.

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(Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffet, blazing on away on Liberty Drums)

Zildjian Constantinople Cymbals

http://zildjian.com/Products/Drumset-Cymbals/Cast-Bronze-Cymbals/K-Constantinople-Series

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog here about how I’d fallen in love with Paiste’s 2002 series and had found what I considered to be my sound. I was never able to fully afford a complete set, and in the meantime, I played my classic A series.

But this year, I was able to check out the full line of Constantinoples for the first time… and I just melted. I’d seen an older Elvin Jones ad about them somewhere before NAMM, and I figured, maybe I should check this out.

The attack of the 22” rides gave a really nice balance of definition and wash. Does that make sense? It was like hearing Eric Gravett playing on old Weather Report albums, one of my favorite all-time cymbal sounds.

The crashes had the same effect on me, with nice tones and a similar kind of wash. It was the BALANCE of the two elements that really got me. The 14” hi-hats sounded good too, although I’m a little more inclined to go with 15” hi-hats for a bigger fusion sound, and I love 13” hi-hats for tight funk. They only make a 14”, but I’ll check them out further in local stores to see if it works for what I want.

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Chronos Electronic Drums

http://www.chronosdrums.com

Gotta save my favorite for last. The look and feel of Chronos eletronic drums floored me the second I sat down behind them. The mesh heads felt awesome! The kick pad especially. I like to play six-stroke rolls around the kit, especially on the snare, and I got exactly what I wanted in terms of feel.

But the aesthetic of the colors… oh good lord. Nothing out there compares. I mean NOTHING. The lacquered birch shells were simply stunning.

Roland and Yamaha, you guys have serious competition. Yes you do.

You have to add your own sound module, and they were using Yamaha. Multi-cables fed into the module, same as with a Roland unit. I’m leaning towards Roland for several reasons, which is a whole ‘nother story.

Again, I liked the PEOPLE in the company. Mark Thompson, Director of Sales and Marketing, took his time talking to me, and I got a good sense of what he and the company were about. Chronos is based in Fremont, California, but Mark lives and works in Austin, my hometown, which made an impression.

I’ll mention that I gave him copies of my three books to show him what I was doing, and that I told him I needed an electronic kit to take on the road to teach the books and do clinics. I hope I can make this happen, because now I see very much how I’d like to do it and with a kit that looks and feels very good…

The kit I’m sitting behind by the way was set up with the Zildjian gen 16’s, and they sounded and felt pretty good. For now, you can buy the shell packs and other set-ups direct, with all the information on the website.

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THE PEOPLE

Karen Stackpole (http://www.bayimproviser.com/artist/48/karen-stackpole), reknowned Paiste gong endorser, a one-of-a-kind percussionist, sound engineer, and longtime writer for DRUM! magazine, who pushes the gong envelop every chance she gets with her San Francisco Bay-based Machine Shop. A dedicated motorhead, she’s now also a certified biker chick astride her beautiful Buell. A close friend for many years…

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(Two drunken masters of the staff, perfecting their combative art)

John Aldridge (http://www.vintagedrumshop.com/Engrave.htm), my brother from another mother, master drum engraver and writer, editor, REO drum tech, Ludwig endorser and doer of all things in general. We were photobombed by an eyeball, which was kinda creepy and amazing… and yes, John is the younger looking one!

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Osami Mizuno (http://home.att.ne.jp/delta/osami/), and his three young drums students from Japan. This was my first time meeting Osami, who carries the Alan Dawson knowledge teaching flame with his school in Japan.

I wrote about Osami not long ago (https://davidaldridge.wordpress.com/tag/alan-dawson/), and his book, Illusions in Rhythm for Drum Set. A challenging and mind-expanding book from a gifted teacher, whose students Tomohiro Yoshikawa, Takushi Ikeda, and Hiroki Masuda were attending NAMM for the first time. It was a real pleasure to spend time with them and explain my books and the applications for Elements.

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Catfish Keith, and his wife Penny Cahill. I’ve known Catfish (http://www.catfishkeith.com) since we were roommates in Santa Cruz, California, in 1984! He’s one of the most famous Delta blues players out there, who regularly tours Europe with his awesome brand of authentic six-string serenading, but it’s Penny who keeps the show train in the rails!

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Nordika Tyrsdottir, the Viking drummer (http://www.vikingdrummer.com), a new friend who caught my attention immediately in the bar at the Hilton. She was standing there with a Soultone, cymbal for a shield and an ax in her belt. I had to say hello, and on her business card, it said she was also a defender of dogs. She got my vote immediately.

Nordika is endorsed by Soultone and is looking to put together a very interesting drumming show based on Viking themes. Nordika is also an athletic trainer, so I seriously doubt the shield and ax are just props!

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Annnnnd finally…

Vic Salazar, the last person I met before I left was someone I’d hoped to meet for a long time, owner of Vic’s Drum Shop (http://www.vicsdrumshop.com). Vic was walking by looking Chicago-dapper in a suit, and I introduced myself briefly, seeing that he was heading out the door.

Again, for me it’s about the people. Vic took a few minutes to talk, and I had to tell him how much I loved his website and the effort he puts into clinics and social media. It’s a ton of work, good lord I know this personally, and he told me he does it pretty much all himself.

Vic’s store and presence in the drumming world are a solid force, and I really like this, given how many smaller shops are beaten down by the Borg, so to speak. Massively large music stores will simply never be able to shake your hand and remember your face.

Vic is a rather distinctive and intense-looking individual, who instantly made me feel the on-going connection to the awesome world of the drumming community. I hope to check out his store in my future travels, that’s for sure.

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Okay, had enough? Now imagine your feet feeling like your eyes do right now, and you get a slice of what NAMM is like. Go if you can, walk all of it if you must, and bring comfortable shoes and a heating pad for them later at night. You’ll be glad you came, and your feet will forgive you eventually… but ONLY if you know where the secret location is of the awesome and glorious bean bag chairs!

And folks, that’s gonna remain a secret… :)

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A few years ago, I stopped by The Typhoon, in Santa Monica, CA, to check out some jazz. I’d had a long day and needed mental relief from the vapidity of the daily grind. About three bars into the first tune, I was hooked and feeling much better, thanks to jazz trumpeter, composer, educator and band leader John Daversa.

 

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John leads a progressive big band as well as a small group. I experienced his big band that night, and the minute John started playing odd meter tunes, I knew he was someone well worth listening to. He’s been running that railroad since 1996, and he’s consistently earned the title of best big band in L.A.

 

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We talked later, and it turned out that John was a big Don Ellis and Hank Levy fan. Hank was my musical mentor in high school and college, and I really respected that John was stepping outside of the 4/4 safe zone and doing what you’re supposed to do with jazz: take risks and go to new places.

On the academic side, John earned a DMA from USC and led the Cal. State Northridge University jazz program before relocating to Florida to become Department Chair of Studio Music and Jazz at the Frost School of Music, University of Miami.

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Yeah I know, the guy needs to get busier, right?

Well, funny thing, now John is indeed getting busier, this time working to create a Beatles’ cover album of big band arrangements with his inimitable style. In doing so, he’s holding himself out to the world for some serious comparison. As you may recall, there was this George Martin guy who did a bit of string and orchestra arranging for the Beatles along the way…

 

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Excellent! Leap and go big, man! Don’t sit on the sidelines and play it safe. Good lord, the music world is drowning with more of that than there is sand in the Sahara, or fairly close to it.

 

 

Not long ago, John dropped me a line and asked if I’d check out his fundraising website for the project at pledgemusic.com and if I could contribute to it. I was in before I even finished reading the e-mail, because I’ve seen and heard what he’s done and have zero doubts that whenever he hits the “record” button, something of serious musical value is going to result.

 

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Jazz is sustained by true believers who support the art and in doing so, help push the envelope. The Beatles are probably the most re-recorded band in history, and if their pop popularity can help bridge a listening gap and perhaps bring future jazz fans into the fold, I think that’s a very good thing.

John’s pledgemusic website link is: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/johndaversa

His personal website link is: www.johndaversa.com

 

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As regular readers of this blog know, and I say this every once in awhile, I don’t write for any company, business, etc. I covered the commercial end with DRUM! for ten years, learned a lot, and now I crank out this little ink thing for my personal fun and to tell the world about people, places, events and such that I like.

Soooo… that said, I hope you’ll check out John’s pledgemusic.com page and take the time to learn a little more about him in general. Jazz is a small community of big hearts, and we need to keep each other going where we can. That’s what it’s really about when the last note is played, so that more may follow…

 

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Meet Osami Mizuno, a jazz drummer and educator from Japan, who has dedicated a great deal of his life to preserving and promoting the memory, philosophy, and playing techniques of the late legendary Alan Dawson.

 

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He created a so-named drum school and record label, with Dawson’s widow’s blessing, and he’s written three volumes devoted to presenting the in-depth aspects of what made the acclaimed Berklee drum set instructor such a powerful influence. One of those volumes (Alan Dawson Drum Method Vol. 2) was published with Steve Smith.

It would be an understatement to say that Osami is a man on a mission.

 

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Osami met Dawson while studying at Berklee in the 1970’s. There he also met and befriended Vinnie Colaiuta, a fellow student of the master, and in 2006, the two collaborated on a book that explained several of Vinnie’s core advanced drumming concepts, some of which were inspired by his own studies with Dawson. That book is Illusions in Rhythm for Drum Set.

 

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I’d heard of this book a few years ago, but I never saw it in any music stores. Then recently, I connected with Osami through Facebook. I honestly can’t recall who first friended whom, but it doesn’t really matter, because what resulted was making contact with a guy who can explain Vinnie.

And believe me, that’s intense…

Illusions in Rhythm for Drum Set is an 83-page mental workout that walks you through how to essentially create time within time within time. Section 1 begins with counting exercises and explorations of how basic triplet and more complex polyrhythmic divisions can be grouped within and across the bar, within the context of 4/4.

These preliminary exercises warm you up for the main event, found in Section 2, that introduces Superimposed Metric Modulation. Vinnie coined this term, and as Vinnie and Osami convey it, SMM layers one or more new pulses over an existing pulse, often extended over the bar. The original pulse maintains its tempo, but the secondary ones sound either faster or slower, or both at the same time, yet still occur proportionately within the entire time framework.

Section 3 focuses on exercises for soloing, using the previous two sections as foundation. Simple rhythmic themes, such as a group of 16th note triplets and rests, are introduced and then transformed into contexts of repeated patterns in clusters in varying metric contexts. When you are finally able to see and recognize these patterns’ absolute same-sound forms in the different relative contexts, a very enlightening transformation occurs.

In 1987, almost thirty years ago, Vinnie visited Japan and first demonstrated SMM using a sequencer. He was light years ahead with this new concept, that of shifting time within time within time, but Osami latched onto it, and with tremendous personal dedication and publishing effort, he produced an extraordinary text with collaboration from an equally extraordinary drummer.

Both men were inspired by a teacher they revered. Illusions in Rhythm for Drum Set is a tribute to that reverence, and within its challenging pages lay the secrets to much of Vinnie Colaiuta’s temporal genius. For Osami Mizuno, this labor of love gives his own drumming and personal life great purpose.

 

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Dawson

 

The legacy of Alan Dawson is broad, yet not as widely discussed as other drummers of his era. But when you learn that Dawson’s first student was a young Boston drummer named Tony Williams, you may find yourself wanting to know a great deal more about the man and his percussive progeny.

Osami Mizuno is hoping you will, and is very much looking forward to sharing that knowledge with drummers around the world.

/ /

http://home.att.ne.jp/delta/osami/

 

[Illusions in Rhythm for Drum Set is available directly from Osami’s website, via PayPal.]

 

[Lastly, Osami would like to thank Tama drums for their many years of support.]

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Here’s a shorter blog post that will give you a lot to think about if you don’t already play this way. I attended a Russ Miller drum clinic recently in Southern California, and he made the excellent point about note duration and time placement. He was quite correct about hearing notes as longer or shorter in duration and how this helps you play ahead of the beat, behind it, or exactly on it.

 

Short duration notes (or thinking about them that way) tend to put you ahead of the beat slightly. Longer duration notes put you slightly behind, and to be dead-on, a medium duration note. Sort of like Half notes for behind, Eighth notes for ahead, and Quarter notes for dead-on. These concepts, applied to snare, kick, or cymbal/hi-hat, along with individual volume level control/coordination, are simple but a lot to think about.

 

But there’s more to this thought. It has to do with PRODUCING TONE, not just thinking about duration. When we hit a drum or cymbal, we sometimes stop listening to each sound we are producing and shift instead to keeping the sounds in time, which are two entirely different activities. If you focus on producing a tone, you’ll be listening at a much deeper and more intense level.

 

To discover this, put on a metronome, and just play along to it, striking any surface. You’ll be listening to the click and your notes in relation to it…

Now, try playing on a surface, but really listen to and WANT to produce the sound, making it as identical as possible to the last note created.

 

I’m telling you, this WILL improve your timekeeping, because you are focusing on the thing being created IN TIME… rather than just time itself.

 

The snare drum is a great place to start this exercise, especially if you focus on the rim of the snare to make a truer tone.

 

Like I said… simple… but game changing.

Today’s blog is short. I would just like to extend a simple and sincere “Thank you” to Modern Drummer and DRUMHEAD magazines for the reviews over the past year of my books, The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II (Rollinson Publishing Co.)

 

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Modern Drummer November 2013, page 98.

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DRUMHEAD July-August 2013, page 86.

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There are many heavy duty pros out there with works, and many more up-and-coming authors with very helpful contributions. I consider myself in good and honorable company, and I really am most grateful.

This past year has been spent wrapping up a third book, my music autobiography (Tourette Syndrome and Music: Discovering Peace Through Rhythm and Tone, Rollinson Publishing Co.). Now that it’s done, I can focus on pushing all three the way I’ve wanted to do forever.

It’s mainly why I haven’t been pounding harder on promoting Elements, because there’s just so much time and energy in a day when you are the one-man publishing show.

If you’d like to see more about all three books, please visit:

www.RollinsonPublishing.com

or

www.davidaldridge.net

 

To view the Elements series, please visit:

www.theElementsofRhythm

 

Rhythm pattern theory is not a subject you’ll find much about if you Google those exact words. In fact, most of the hits will lead you right back here or to the websites listed above. But believe me when I say that much bigger things are about to unfold, and I could not be more excited.

I’m holding my first clinic about Elements on July 7, in Austin TX, through Tommy’s Drum Shop. It’ll be at the One-2-One Bar, 1509 S. Lamar Blvd. 7:00 p.m., free. Info links are listed here:

 

http://tommysdrumshop.com/calendar

http://www.drummercafe.com/

 

As always, I very much appreciate your readership of this blog and interest in my projects. I believe this particular one will ultimately revolutionize rhythm pattern instruction around the world.

An ambitious hope, yes… but you know what? It’s already happening :)

That said, thank you for being part of my rhythm revolution world. Stay cool this summer, and stay tuned for a whole lot more…

 

– David

 

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“I had no idea whether I could play ‘em or not, but I wanted to and I was very determined. . . but the band director said “That’s not really normal.” Of course, all you have to tell me is that something’s not normal and I’ll go for it!!”
                                                                                      – KAREN CARPENTER

 

I am of the generation of drummers who knew Karen Carpenter’s name to be the one most likely associated with women drummers. Following her, Layne Richmond, master frame drummer and keeper of the historic lore. Today, Mindy Abovitz is the name I see shaping the world for women drummers through her and her team’s efforts with Tom Tom magazine. On a sunny day in April 2014, I observed firsthand this spirit of unity, cooperation, and exploration with a group of women drummers at Pitzer College, in Claremont, California.

 

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My friend Maria Morris invited me to attend, as she and eleven other drummers played with kits set up in various locations on the greens near the dorms.

 

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photo by Mike Morgan

 

It looked more like an art exhibit at first, with kits about 10-20 yards apart, adorning the area with percussive potential. The young ladies had gathered in a circle, listening to Mindy speak, so I sat at a distance, quietly observing and enjoying the peaceful breeze.

 

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photo by Kit Morris

 

When she finished, she left the women to discuss and organise a plan amongst themselves. Listening to their interaction was an enlightening lesson in respectful exchange of ideas. There was no alpha girl, but rather, an ebb and flow of validation, support, and encouragement. Men do this very differently; one guy leads, input is offered, assessed, accepted, dismissed, or stored for consideration later, and boots hit the ground.

 

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photo by Kit Morris

 

What I found most interesting about the women talking was that they were in no hurry to get anywhere, and this would be reflected later in their playing. Truth was, at that moment, they WERE playing, just with a different set of instruments… in no hurry to get anywhere, because they WERE there. They were THERE.

 

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photo by Mike Morgan

 

And that made me chuckle with respect for the process I’d not so clearly understood very well until this moment. THIS moment. Right here, because they were RIGHT HERE.

 

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 photo by Kit Morris

 

I don’t want to intrude on TomTom’s pending article about this event, so I invite you to read it when it comes out. I just want to make a few comments about what I further observed…

 

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photo by Mike Morgan 

 

The give and take among the players was ever-present through each of their short explorations. And I mean, there was no chops insanity followed by a shrug of, “Yeah, man, the spirit just took over…” If anything, with ALL of the women, the playing was beautifully understated. Space was their chops. That’s the only way I can describe it.

 

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 photo by Mike Morgan

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 photo by Kit Morris

 

They weren’t struggling to hold back; they were breathing as a group, and it was a lesson in listening. THAT was the performance, the essence of their magic hour, because they made it THEIRS. These women owned time, or at least made it a playmate, an addition to their group, a living entity with life being breathed into and out of it. If this sounds a bit esoteric, guess what? That whole hour was, as well as the discussion laying groundwork for it. Miss that and you miss the entire point.

 

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photo by Mike Morgan 

 

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photo by Mike Morgan

 

I hope Tom Tom puts on many more such events, paving the way for female drummers to find their paths and walk them with purpose. The exploration and sharing of energy is not limited by gender, but it is an unavoidable reality that men presently vastly populate the drumming world. This simply means there’s room for a new take on drumming, one approached from – based on what I observed that afternoon – a very different perspective. I left with a lot to think about, feeling a bit more patient and calm as the setting sun found its way to the Pacific, and twelve drummers savoured finding their way towards the beat and having been the thing they sought… lead sisters, every one…

 

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photo by Marlhy Murphy

 

As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve written posts about Tourette Syndrome and drumming based on my having lived with it since I was six. What I have not written about in depth until now is how for fourteen years, from six to 20, I had no idea what the problem was.

Music and drumming gave me the tools to express my energy, find relief, and stay sane while looking for the answer as to why my body would not and could not still. I owe a great deal of who and what I am as a drummer and a musician to this disorder, and I decided a few years ago that the time had come to write about all I had learned, and share thoughts on how to overcome something and turn it into a better thing.

That said, I finally finished the book that basically took a lifetime to write.

 

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The control that drumming gave me over my mind and body through the years got stronger and stronger, and I really believe it helped reduce the need for medication. I was able to earn my private pilot’s license and even go on to become an airplane flight instructor, which let me produce my books exactly as I wanted to, leading to this day.

There are so many music projects I have my fingers in, and now they can receive the full attention I’ve always wanted to give them. Besides playing, teaching, and recording, I can now tour and lecture about my rhythm books (The Elements of Rhythm Vols. I & II), and do the drum set/drum circle demos around the country and around the world that I’ve conducted in Southern California over the past three years.

A major section in this new book talks about that, and I’ll be writing another blog shortly about my most recent such performance, which was aided greatly (as always) by Remo and their hand drums and recreational music program (www.remormc.com).

I cannot adequately express my thanks to Loire Cotler (www.loirevox.com) for writing the foreword, drawing on her background as a music therapy professor and as an unparalleled rhythmic vocalist. I could think of no one more qualified to offer thoughts on the book. And over the past 22 years, Dr. Oliver Sacks (www.oliversacks.com) has graciously mentioned my playing and how drumming was served by Tourette’s in several of his publications, including his landmark work, Musicophilia.

 

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When I visited England last September and presented my rhythm books at an academic seminar (RPPW 14), the other highlight was being able to play for a group of Tourette kids in Birmingham. It showed me that I could, with the right planning, do this anywhere in the world… which is exactly what I plan on doing.

It’s a project that means a great deal to me, because the fraternity of drumming is what gave me a sense of safe belonging all my life… and so, to all my fellow drummers, I hope you will accept my ongoing thanks for your interest in my little blog and the work it hopes to achieve. This book is a part of that, along with rhythm pattern theory, polyrhythms, and everything else I can stick my rhythm fingers into.

As drummers, we KNOW the magic that comes with playing… I want to share that magic with a special group of people who need to believe there is more to the world than being teased, feeling overwhelmed, and wondering if things will ever get better.

Drumming has always answered “yes” to the last part, and as I prepare to take many things on the road, let nothing stop you from going after whatever you want to do with your own playing. Like Frank Zappa says, “Music is the best.”

Truer words, I have never heard… and now, it’s finally time to completely let ‘er rip… :)

 

(To purchase the book, please click on the cover images to go to Amazon.com)

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I rarely write about a product in this blog. I do appreciate the occasional solicitations for reviews and am honored actually to get them, but that’s not what this blog is about. Been there and did that for ten years as a freelance writer. However… there are exceptions to almost every case, and I met that case recently at the 2014 NAMM show in Anaheim, California.

I was visiting the DRUM! magazine booth, and I’d been back and forth a few times that day, and I noticed a guy standing alone in front of a black drum set in the booth next door. Every once in a while he’d sit down and play, then get up and hope to speak to someone passing by.

I’ve been there and done that too, manning booths at conventions, so I usually say hello just to help keep their spirits up through a long day. I looked at a brochure on the edge of the booth separator and glanced it over. Percussion Kenetics… Vector pedal… a picture of a large footboard that appeared to be rather sideways, almost 45 degree to the beater… hmm…

“Hello! Come here, please! Let me show you!”

Uh-oh.

I’d just been roped. Hadn’t even said hello yet. I thought, Okay, don’t be a jerk to this guy, ‘cause he’s been on his feet a long time too…

That’s when I discovered that the world is not flat. The universe doesn’t orbit around the sun. Ether doesn’t connect all of creation.

And bass drum pedals should be mounted sideways.

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The man getting my soon-to-be-very much appreciated attention was Goran Kjellgren, inventor of the Vector bass drum pedal.  It’s patented, and as far as I know, it’s unlike anything else out there.

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The heel plate can be loosened and slid left or right of the conventional and traditional center position to accommodate your natural leg and foot design. The single-chain drive beater can be loosened and slid left or right of center as well. You can also adjust the cam position and spring tension, as with most pedals…

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… but it’s the sideways adjustment aspect that convinces you the world is not flat. I was able to instantly play patterns with much less effort, one’s that usually required the “foot twist corkscrew the ball of your foot into the pedal” motion to get those double beats. I didn’t need this at all. As Poogie Bell mentions in the video where he discovered the Vector pedal at a music show in Germany, he discovered a similar kind of unexpected surprise.

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I was immediately intrigued and told Goran I would mention of his pedal in my blog, making it clear that I wasn’t looking for freebie stuff (and do not). I just couldn’t get over what I’d experienced, and a quick Internet search showed there wasn’t much out there.

Question was, why not?

I don’t know. What I do know is that he sent me a pedal, the G3 model, I played it against my 26” kick drum at full blast, and then put it on an 18” floor tom turned sideways for jazz, reset the spring tension and beater angle, and I played quiet and quick.

And I liked it quite a bit.

Plus, the Vector pedal comes with a nifty yellow carrying bag and a cleverly designed drum key.

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I have not done formal product review in a decade, and I’m not going to saturate this blog with additional detail other than to say I believe the drumming world should know about this very different approach to bass drum pedal design. And yes, Goran is working on a double bass version…

I’m going to buy this pedal, and I am very much looking forward to exploring what it can do, especially as I approach turning 55. Let’s be brutally honest here: the body parts slow down a bit, so if I can keep doing things at a level from even 20 years ago, I’ll be a mighty happy camper.

And I do think that if anyone on the crew of Columbus’ maiden voyage to the Americas had been a drummer, he’d have had two reasons be excited about the world as well.

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http://www.vectorpedal.com

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