Latest Entries »
Every once in a while, I come across a drummer whose abilities are as intense as they are subtle. This is a pretty accurate definition of the word sublime, and that is a pretty accurate definition of Bernie Dresel.
I heard Bernie playing the other night with the Emil Richards Big Band, in Santa Monica, California, at the Typhoon restaurant. It’s a very cool jazz hang located on the Santa Monica airport, with an awesome view of the runway and the planes and jets that come and go.
But come nighttime, the attention focuses on a small stage that is well-mic’d and well lit, a very professional yet laid back setting that plays host to some of the best jazz groups in Los Angeles. Watching the legendary Emil Richards perform with amazing precision was a treat in itself, but with great and due respect to his musicianship and that of his band, it was Bernie Dresel’s drumming that drew my very intense interest.
Honestly, I’d never heard him play before. But all it took was about three bars of big band jazz time to recognize a master of the genre, a player who valued the touch and tradition necessary to impart authenticity to this venerable environment. Bernie’s phrasing and fills were just perfect. I mean seriously, you couldn’t have sung better drum parts than the ones he created.
His playing was appropriate, understated, and a pleasure to study. The hour-long set went by way too fast, but it was a lesson in big band drumming as good as I have ever seen. Bernie was playing a Craviotto kit with Zildjian cymbals, and I believe he told me later he was using two K’s for rides. One was a Constantinople and the other was a more traditional K. They sounded perfect for the night.
The up-tempo songs swung just as hard as the slower ones, aided by Dave Stone’s excellent bass playing. He and Bernie formed a solid team, and they drove the band just right. There were so many great lessons being offered that I could not drink them in enough. I didn’t want to turn my back and eat at the bar for fear of missing more perfect moments.
Later, I did a little reading about Bernie, the usual Google stuff. He graduated from Eastman School of Music with a double major in music education and performance, and then came west and landed a wide variety of gigs, from Maynard Ferguson to David Byrne, Chaka Khan, Brian Setzer, the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band, and tv/movie studio work.
Two items that really stand out on his resume are him having played with Ringo Starr on an English tv series called “Dame Edna.” He was also part of the massive collection of drummers used for “Man of Steel.”
Quite a resume, to say the least. Very impressive stuff. But it gets better… yes is does. He’s got his own big band (BBB, Bernie Dresel Big Band) as well, which I’m looking forward to hearing back at the Typhoon on May 26.
If you live in Los Angeles, you really owe it to yourself to check out Bernie Dresell and his eloquent playing. You just don’t see enough of this nowadays. He’s preserving a style with style, and honestly, I can’t get enough of that. No sir, I can’t.
Billy McCarthy is a drummer. It’s not what he does; he paints houses. But it’s what he is.
Just like you.
His bio says he was a signed drummer in the past, a published author, and a music producer. He’s also an aspiring filmmaker with a project near and dear to his heart, which leads us to the point of today’s blog…
Billy wrote me recently, asking if I’d spread the word about a Kickstarter program he’s got going on to fund a movie called Ferocious Drummers, The Documentary. I watched the trailer, read the background, and my gut tells me this is a good thing.
Billy’s been gathering classic footage and interviews for some time now, and believe me, it’s a lot of work. I dabble in production on the side, and the amount of work it takes even to shoot a trailer is incredibly disproportionate to the amount of time allotted to the actual finished product.
That’s one reason Billy needed to go to Kickstarter. He’s already laid out a lot of his own money to shoot the basic footage. The rest of the journey takes considerably more.
Now… as regular readers know, I’m about as anti-commercial as it comes. In fact I basically loathe the whole Internet “Oh look at me, man, I got shit for sale, buy my shit, cuz it’s awesome! Here, have a bunch of it, and let me drown you with ads and stuff while you buy my stuff…”
I don’s see that here. What I do see are some serious name drummers and a couple of well known drum companies helping out without drowning the project in “Oh look at me, man…”
So I’m giving my little promo nod to Billy and his cool project in hopes that it can help spread the word. He’s got a hard road to hoe, but if you look at the Kickstarter page link below, you’ll see what the donation tier awards are as well as a few of the sponsors, like Zildjian, Vic Firth, Aquarian, DW…
By the way, my first thought was when I say these company heavyweights was, “Why aren’t they kickin’ down serious coin to help make this happen?” Then I reasoned that it’s not really their place to do that, quite frankly. Just wanted to make that point.
I might add that the list of drummers he’s got footage of to date is pretty impressive, including Hal Blaine, Carmine Appice, Carter Beauford, and Chad Smith. It’s a long list, actually, that you can see on the website page as well as the Kickstarter page. Some serious hitters, no question.
That said, as drummers, we are members of a very cool club, a unique group of multi-limb talented individuals who are driven to hit things like we mean it. Some harder than others. And I tell ya, like hundreds of thousands of drummers all over the world, when I go home and pick up a drum key, change a head, get the beater angle and spring tension juuuuuuuuusssssst right on my pedals, adjust the seat height and position, fix the cymbals just so, put on the headset and press “Play” to my favorite song, I go to another world, far away from the bullshit of humanity. I go to drummer land, and I get to live.
That’s what Ferocious Drummers, The Documentary, is really about. The spirit of hitting and not quitting. The intangible, unexplainable connection to life through four limb movement and neural back flips. The moment when impact and projection complete your world.
The countdown goes to May 28, 2015. Check out his Kickstarter page, see what you think. Oh, and you can submit a song for possible inclusion in the film as well, which is actually something I’ve not seen in any other Kickstarter programs, making this a uniquely interactive project.
My only personal request is that somewhere in the footage, a dog be included, like the one in the YouTube clip going around tapping the bass drum pedal.
Please Billy, make this happen. But even if you can’t, your film will be 1,000 times more honest than Whiplash, and for that, I gladly accept your request to tell the world about your project and passion. Oh hell yeah…
When the Ludwig Breakbeats kit first came out, I wrote a blog that dug into what the shells were all about. It took some work, but I was very curious as to why Ludwig was saying so little about the shell construction.
I wrote the piece because I wanted to get answers and wanted to share them. That’s what my little drumming blog has really always been about. Recently, I received a request to post a link to a site that reviews and provides information about small kits, compact drum sets. I usually pass on such requests because they are often commercial in nature.
Not so with www.compactdrums.com
Magnus Boll wrote a very cordial request, and after looking at his site, I agreed to post a link. Problem is, in WordPress, all I have right now are blog links. So, I wanted to bring his site to your direct attention with a little write-up.
What I like most about it is that Magnus said he does this as a hobby, wanting to share the information about a unique and specific category of kits. I’ve been digging into that subject here and there myself, and it’s very cool to find a focused and well-written resource to go explore.
The street drumming, urban banging, play on a 5’x5’ stage kind of world we live in nowadays makes certain drum set realities not entirely possible. There’s obviously a worldwide market, and there’s no shortage of manufacturers working to address that market as well as expand it.
Magnus covers the gamut with his site, with Articles and Reviews about classic cocktail, street and be-bop kits, a very cool Do It Yourself (DIY) section for drum construction, cymbal set-ups, bass drum risers, and a Resources section with porting, coverings, videos and more.
Overall, www.compactdrums.com is a very well-organized and well-written site that provides an excellent resource for drummers wanting to explore less being more. I truly enjoy it when drummers work to help other drummers learn on many levels simply for the joy of sharing.
Nice job, Magnus. And if you start writing a drumming blog, I’ll do as promised and link it to WordPress! Meanwhile, this piece ought to do the trick…
A couple of years ago, I went out to the Remo Recreational Music Center in North Hollywood, California, to attend a memorial for Layne Redmond. She is best known for her work in bringing the legacy of women drummers and frame drumming back into the 20th/21st century world.
Layne authored When The Drummers Were Women (Three Rivers Press, 1997), and in doing so, opened a door to the past that flooded the future with beautiful rhythmic truth.
Several performers honored that truth and Layne’s efforts to keep it alive, and Candy Eaton was one of them. She performed with her Rhythm Sisters, a troup of women percussionists who as I recall played primarily frame drums. I’d never really listened to the instrument that much, but the sounds they created were haunting. I was also struck by the ceremony of the performance, the deep honouring and respect.
I spoke with Candy briefly afterwards, and she was the real deal. Her percussion interest stemmed from a lesson with George Medlock about eleven years before, on a hand drum, and she took to it like a proverbial fish to water. But how does a heavy metal rock fan who knows every song Black Sabbath ever recorded translate her passion into hand drumming?
With serious slap!.
I’ve watched Candy’s drumming videos on YouTube, and she hits a darbuka like John Bonham. She pretty much inverted my preconceptions of what a woman drummer could do, I have to admit. The slam and the tone were intense, even at low volumes. Candy’s presence is what caught my ear.
Candy’s knowledge of Middle Eastern and African drumming is equally impressive. Ask her about a rhythm and you’ll get its authentic name, sound, and history. I love this in a drummer (which I lack a lot of it, quite honestly), so it’s very cool to speak with someone who really knows their deep history and technique. She also plays congas, tabla, and a wide assortment of percussion instruments that reflect a broad approach to her passion for world drumming.
But getting back to the Layne Redmond Remo memorial… it was reverent to watch a group of women in a slow procession, singing a simple song of memory and honoring. It’s something that for drum set players is a rare sort of thing, because we only have about 100 years of background, and short of Daniel Glass’s great efforts, not too many of us play in period events to preserve the history and education.
Candy Eaton’s Rhythm Sisters did exactly that, and watching such a powerful presence lead the group was edifying. It made me appreciate the other energy of drumming, the connection with the past. What I saw in Candy’s playing was a sincere devotion and dedication to the authentic, the preserving of tradition. Like I said, the real deal.
Candy plays and teaches in the Southern California area, mostly around Los Angeles, and she performs annually at events such as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. She also leads drum circles for private groups, playing various percussion instruments such as dumbek, darbuka, djembe, and of course, her frame drums. By the way, the sound Candy gets out of her 22” Remo frame drum with the Renaissance head sounds awesome!
So why should you know who Candy is if you are primarily a drum set player? Well, I think one answer is in watching how someone with a heavy metal drumming sensibility brings it to other hand drums, particularly the darbuka. When you consider that Danny Carry’s knowledge of tabla carries over to the very musical interpretation on much of his drumming with Tool, you get the idea…
It’s about opening our ears to other worlds and hearing what we might be able to take away as a lesson to expand our perspective, both musically and culturally. I’ve had some very interesting conversations with Candy about this since meeting her at Remo, and it’s inspired some pretty cool ideas for a project that I’ll share more about shortly.
In the mean time, check out Candy’s website (www.candyeaton.com) for her videos, and find her on YouTube, WordPress, Twitter or Facebook and say hello. She’s a powerful player with a powerful message for women, which I also like as well: Hit the drum, ladies, because it’s your birthright.
That’s what Layne Redmond taught, and as one of her students continuing the legacy (which is some pretty respectful credential), that’s what Candy lives to do. And when she really wants to, she does so very loud and proud.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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? :)
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
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…
Anthology Gear Wear
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Roland Session Mixer
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.
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
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!
Tempo GPS Devices
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!
SmartMusic Teaching Software
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.
Weezic Electronic Sheet Music
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.
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!
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…
(Goran Kjellgren, Vector ergonomic foot pedal designer/genius)
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.
(Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffet, blazing on away on Liberty Drums)
Zildjian Constantinople Cymbals
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.
Chronos Electronic Drums
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.
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…
(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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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… :)