Floyd Sneed: The Unmistakeable Backbeat of Three Dog Night

When I was a kid growing up in Delaware in the 70’s, I listened to a lot of top-40 radio while in elementary and middle school. Three Dog Night was one of my favorite groups, and it was the first group where I distinctly remember listening to the drummer for the feel he created. That drummer was Floyd Sneed.

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He played a clear, acrylic Zickos kit with double bass, which at the time was about as cool as it got. Floyd was built like Billy Cobham, so his physical presence behind the kit was formidable. His solid grooves and use of backbeat were what really got my attention. (Note: If you’re ever in Hollywood and want to see his kit, walk through the doors of Pro Drum and look up and behind you, on the shelf above the door…).

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Disco was about eight years away from invading the airwaves, but Floyd employed a kind of groove that clearly preceded what would become the classic sound, and he also played it in a way that Billy Cobham would later popularize on his China cymbal. “Black and White” kicks that groove in well, and I remember getting a very strong sense of feel that made me appreciate keeping time quite a bit.

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His backbeat always seemed (at least to me) to hang back just a bit, creating a very cool platform for the other musicians to contribute over. Some guys just have it in their blood, and the rest of us have to work at figuring it out. I still cogitate on it from one measure to another at times…

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Three Dog Night owned the airways for a brief period during the 70’s, delivering one pop hit after another with no Pro Tools, and I would seriously doubt any click-tracks. It was human beings playing human feel, with incredible harmonies. As disco began its insidious invasion, I lamented the loss of simple pop music, but I often thought about Floyd Sneed and his great feel. “Out in the Country,” “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” “Never Been to Spain,” “Joy to the World,” and “Mama Told Me Not to Come” are just a few that come to mind.

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Many years later, I had the opportunity to meet Floyd when I was writing for Easyriders magazine. He lived near the offices, and he was playing in a little bar around the street. I introduced myself during the break and told him how much I had loved his playing over the years, and we had a great conversation. Turns out he was as equally interested in art, and he has done a lot with it as a mode of personal expression.

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We met a few more times at the same bar, and one night, he gave me a small paperback about Three Dog Night. I have no idea what ever happened to it over the years, but it meant a lot coming from a drumming idol.

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Every generation has their music and the values they associate with it. Mine will always be the 70’s, an era that emphasized the human element of real-time performance. Floyd’s grooves, feel, and musical fills hold a special place, and if you want to hear good, solid, musical drumming, check out the streaming tunes available for a bit of old school schooling. You might just find yourself tapping your toes, bobbing your head and humming… the way you do when something works the way it should and is played as it should.

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For me, Floyd Sneed’s playing is a backbeat model for drummers, someone I will always look forward to returning to, providing reminders of when music was truly magical to me, and how to keep my own feet tapping and head bobbing…

 

For more information on Floyd Sneed, checkout his website at http://www.floydsneed.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Top Practice Areas For Increasing Your Drumming Speed

Welcome to the AfterTimes. We live in strange days and a new world as of only a few months ago. It’s filled with a great deal of uncertainty that until now we’ve only seen in movies. Kids born today will be referred as Generation WTF, I’m sure of it.

As we wait for better days, some things never change. The need to practice and improve our drumming craft doesn’t have to succumb to Covid-19 or anything else if we can stay healthy and stay focused. Since a great many drummers of all ages want to increase their speed, here are five top areas for you to work on.

  1. Use Proper Technique: Sloppy practice equals sloppy neural programming. Garbage in, garbage out. Take care of technique, and speed comes much easier. This means LEARN YOUR RUDIMENTS and PRACTICE MOVING VERY SLOWLY AND PRECISELY. Exaggerate your movements to discover the full range of motion of each rudiment you’re learning.
  2. Think Fast: You have to be able to hear the speed you aspire to. Sing patterns out loud. Doing this energizes your entire mind/body connection. Hear them in your head and re-create them, over and over and over and over. You’re priming your neural pathways by doing so. Use a metronome while you do this. You’ll be quite surprised at how effective this technique is.
  3. Relax: Part of proper technique is relaxing. This is different from executing the movements precisely, because if you stiffen up as you speed up, you’ll choke yourself out. Breathe, keep you shoulders relaxed, and the SECOND you feel your muscles tighten up, STOP. Shake your hands off, stretch your legs and calves, then get back to it.
  4. Visualize Your Performance: Close your eyes and see yourself practicing, gradually increasing your speed. This also helps develop the mind/body connection, and if you don’t believe me, ask professional athletes and coaches who’ve been using this technique for decades. See your hands starting slow with say, paradiddles, and then moving faster and faster. The same applies to your feet.
  5. Vary Your Stick Weights and Pedal Tension: Use three different weight sticks (light, medium heavy), and alternate between them as you practice. Try playing marching sticks as quietly as possible to discover the degree to which you can refine your control, then switch immediately to light sticks (7A), then medium (5A), or some similar combination. Likewise with bass drum pedals, although this does take little more work. If you can find small weight to attach to the beater stem, give that a try, or adjust the pedal distance quite a ways back form the head. This will definitely make you work harder.

Most of us have nowhere else to be right now, so give these ideas a shot and see what happens. Ultimately, we want to be able to play whatever we do musically, and there is a time and a place to unleash and make a blistering musical statement. If you put time into developing these five top areas of improving your speed, you may soon discover that your inner drummer has a Ferrari waiting to be revved and cut loose. All you have to do is turn the practice key, and you’ll be leaving these strange days in the dust before you know it.  Good luck!

Hey Drummers, Compose Your Musical Future!

Howdy again from ATX, home of SXSW and some very entertaining bats who erupt from underneath the Congress Avenue bridge. I moved back home two years ago to regain some perspective on a lot of things, including music and drumming. I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about both in this piece, focusing on how we create our true musical future.

Many years ago, a friend of mine from high school (guitarist Chris McDermott) said I should write my own music to showcase myself and my style of drumming. I’ll never forget that conversation, a brief phone call that changed everything. I was heavily into odd meters at the time (1979) and had been since high school, when composer Hank Levy came up from Baltimore on a government arts grants to teach us his style of music. Hank was writing for Don Ellis and Stan Kenton at the time, and he believed a rhythmic revolution was long overdue.

I had very little music education and did not really think I could write my own music. There was no Garage Band, no Pro Tools, no laptops to help you construct music one step at a time on an electronic grid. There was blank sheet music, pencils, and inspiration. For someone with my level of ADD, learning how to read music was agonizing. The symbols barely made sense, and it was extremely frustrating to even think about following my friend’s suggestion of somehow showcasing myself…

But… there were cassette recorders…

I started singing my ideas into a cheesy-assed Radio Shack cassette recorder, hoping that some day, I could find the focus to write the notes down and bring things to life. I dreamed of there being technology like we have today, which probably seems impossible to imagine that it was not around. Every couple of years or so, I’d go back East to Delaware and be fortunate enough to spend a day in the recording studio of another high school friend (keyboardist Paul Harlyn), who’d let me tinker and explore. We’d capture the ideas on tape, and I continued to dream of the day when I could buy all the equipment I needed to spend hours diving into the sonic palettes that awaited.

It would be many years later that I’d finally acquire some equipment and begin my own electronic explorations. I bought a TEAC 4-track from Paul Harlyn in 1987 and started making my very first actual compositions, and here’s one that I wrote in a Washington D.C.

“Morning Walk Through Tibetan Gardens”

I used an Ensonique sampling keyboard, layered a few tracks, and BOOM! I was a composer! It was pure magic to bring these sounds in my head to life and actually MAKE something happen, taking charge of my music and life for the first time. I could finally combat my ADD and be patient enough to take the small steps necessary to bring the ideas out and make them happen. It was a game-changing moment.


Now, fast-forward to today. I’ve accomplished a lot outside of music, written books, screenplays, learned to fly and teach flying, traveled the country as a writer for a Harley magazine… but cranking out my own CD of original compositions still remains unachieved. It’s really the last big goal, because it’s the one I’ve had on my mind forever but had to put behind some of the other larger goals.

And here’s my point. Well, two actually. One… as drummers, if you aspire to lead your own band, to create your own music, know that this is the best time in history to do so, because you have incredible tools at your disposal, more powerful than is sometimes believable. Learn them, use them, and do it TODAY.

Second point… Don’t ever tell yourself you aren’t a composer. Every time you create a beat for a song, you ARE COMPOSING. You can learn the basics of song construction, simple music theory, and you can noodle around with the endless sound possibilities on a synthesizer until your fingers fall asleep. You’ll hear cool sound here and there, learn to cut and paste loops, add some effects here and there, and make music that YOU enjoy playing.

Here are a few samples of explorations from 1987 to 2020, to give you an idea of how things evolved. I hope they give you some inspiration to explore, and to reach out to musicians from around the world to collaborate with. I hope to do this in 2020, as I’ve seen a great of it being done lately and know just how possible it is.


1987-1990: Still living in Washington, D.C., aching to get back to California. I had a one of the original square Macintoshes, with Mark of the Unicorn software that I never fully mastered. Most everything else was just multi-tracked onto my faithful TASCAM 244. I still have those tapes, and I found a newer version of the 244 in a pawn shop for $50!

 

“Go Dog Go”

 

“Funk 5 Dub”

 

2004-2007: I was living in San Luis Obispo and had a Roland TD6, a Korg keyboard (model unknown), and a Fender Squire Strat and Precision Bass set-up. I was using Cubasis, running into a big blue Mac desktop that surely weighed 100 lbs. I used a TASCAM analog to digital converter to bring all the sounds into the Mac, and it was a lot of fun to see where things could go.

 

“The Crawl”

 

“Ghost 23”

 

“Some Thunk Funk”

 

“Nature Boy”

 

2017-2019: Between my last few years in L.A., and then once in Austin, I could more fully dive into ProTools, my Roland Handsonic, and a handful of other Roland synths to discover some cool sounds.

 

“10-4 Tribal Groove”

 

“27”

 

“Chasing Mr. Z”

 

“The Hunt”

 

“Madge Likes Mars”

 


 

I play all the instruments on these clips, trying to lay down ideas that I’ll share with like-minded and more skilled musicians to help bring them to life. I hope you’ll do the same with your music, and compose your own future. Drummers lead, we don’t follow. We drive the band and energize the music. There’s no reason we can’t do it for ourselves if we so choose.

And there’s no better time than now to do so.

– David Aldridge

 

 

 

 

Drum! magazine is closing

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As you read this, Drum!magazine is preparing to shut down. One of the longest-running drum publications will be closing its doors after a run of twenty-eight years. Originally spawned from Drums and Drumming, Drum! magazine was launched under the publishing direction of Phil Hood, his wife Connie, and editor Andy Doerschuk in September 1991.

I wrote regularly for Drum! throughout the 90’s, doing features and providing whatever ink Andy needed. I was introduced to Andy when he was editor of Drums and Drumming, where I wrote the introduction to a piece called “The Drummers of Miles Davis” (the body of the article was written by the late Adam Ward Seligman). This assignment was the beginning of my professional writing career, something I’ve always been grateful for.

Andy gave me a truly powerful lesson in writing in that article, showing me how moving paragraph three of the intro to the very beginning proved to be the perfect editorial change. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve used this writing device, but I certainly owe it to him.

Over the years, I had the opportunity to interview some of drumming and percussion’s true heavyweights, including Terry Bozzio and Chad Wackerman, Luis Conte, Bill Summers, Rick Allen, and Virgil Donati. Through Drum!, I also had the opportunity to write my dream article, “10 Billy Cobham Tracks You Must Hear.”

Phil Hood sold Drum! to Stringfellow Publishing in 2016, where it was steered by Nick Grizzle. The magazine converted to a quarterly version, but even this reduction was not enough to prevent the virtually inevitable overrun by the digital world and the reduction in demand for printed matter. In a nine-hundred mile and hour, sound byte world, waiting a few months for something to hold in your hands simply proved too much for conventional publishing.

I have little additional information to offer, but I do know that Drum! will not be forgotten. It was a magazine that wanted to always remind you that you should be playing. The title was a directive, a command, an order of the highest order, to get behind your kit and light it up. The exclamation point in the title was no accident. It was an imperative.

And it IS imperative that we continue to do exactly that.

 

 

Dr. Nadia Azar – A Pioneer in Drumming/Sports Medicine Research You Should Know About

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photo credit: Dr. Nadia Azar

“Drummers should be training their bodies for the demands of their profession, to be able to perform at their peak and to avoid getting injured.” – Dr. Nadia Azar, Associate Professor, University of Windsor

 

The academic exploration of drummers and the drum set is kind of like Oklahoma at the near turn of the 20th century; vastly wide open and mostly unclaimed. It was the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 that sent settlers blazing across the unassigned lands, as they were called, all seeking a spot to stake out and build upon.

 

In the world of human movement studies, Dr. Nadia Azar has hitched her horses to a unique research wagon of her own design and is pioneering the exploration of exercise analysis and pain research as applied to the drum set. With the help of Mike Mangini (Dream Theater) and Jeff Burrows (The Tea Party), Dr. Azar is opening the doors for future academic exploration of the drum set and the players who up until now have not likely seen themselves as athletes who can benefit from a sports training perspective.

 

I discovered Dr. Azar’s work on a Twitter feed and contacted her requesting an interview. Regular readers of this blog know that I usually just write about someone and leave it to you to explore further. The Clem Burke Drumming Project is such an example:

https://davidaldridge.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/clem-burke-drumming-project-studying-drumming-and-the-brain/

 

I wrote a fairly short post about it 2009, briefly describing the project and the research being conducted with respect to drumming and exercise.  However, in this case. I felt it was important to get the story directly from Dr. Azar about her work and its potential application.  If you click on the following link, you can view her university website and background.

http://www.uwindsor.ca/kinesiology/455/dr-nadia-azar

 

What follows is a Q & A conducted via e-mail to allow Dr. Azar to expound on her project. Hopefully, it will inspire drummers to participate in her future research and perhaps even nudge some of you into the realm of academia to help push the research envelope further. It also serves to lay groundwork for the next evolution of this blog, into a second one that will be focusing specifically on Drum Set Research (the new blog name).

 

We’ll be interviewing Dr. Azar again when her current study on drumming and pain is complete. I encourage drummers to check out her studies in this area especially and to please help her complete a survey that could eventually help drummers down the line with respect to pain research, management and avoidance. You’ll find the link at the end of this interview.

 

That said, let’s get to know a bit about Dr. Azar and her work…

 

What first prompted you to study drummers?

“In the fall of 2016, I was at a Dream Theater concert watching Mike Mangini playing, and I thought to myself how great it would be if I could hook him up to my research equipment and see what his back muscles were doing while he was playing. About a week later, Mike tweeted something about his drumming technique, so I took a chance and responded that I’d like to study his technique, not really expecting that he’d respond. Well… he did, and we began corresponding about possible research projects! As I started digging into the research literature, I realized that there is very little research on the biomechanics of playing the drums, and on drumming-related pain and injuries. So, I decided to design some research studies to start investigating these things myself.”

 

Do you play drums? Other instruments? If so, please share some background, favorite groups and musicians, influences, etc.

“I can play a 4/4 beat, maybe even add in a basic fill – but I wouldn’t call myself a drummer. The summer before I started high school, my friend’s cousin set up his drum kit in her basement, and he taught us how to play. We spent the summer playing Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ on a loop. I did take piano lessons for about eight years though, and I also played the flute for three years.

“[As for] favorite groups & musicians – there are so many! Dream Theater, Disturbed, Walk Off the Earth, Walk the Moon, The Tea Party, Imagine Dragons, 311, Phish, and many more.”

 

How did you become interested in kinesiology/biomechanics?

“I’ve always been interested in sports, health, and how the human body works. When I was deciding on potential career paths, my high-school guidance counsellor introduced me to the field of ergonomics. The Kinesiology program at the University of Windsor allowed me to pursue my combined interests, and our graduate program also has a strong biomechanics/ergonomics stream.”

 

What made you want to pursue your Ph.D, and what was the focus of your thesis?

“My father is a (now retired) University professor. I knew I wanted to pursue research as a career, but in an entirely different subject area (he was in Education). When I finished my Master’s degree at the University of Windsor, I was working as a research technician for one of my former professors. I loved it, but it was a temporary position, so I started looking for PhD programs and came across the Biomedical Engineering program at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. It was one of the top programs in the country, and it appealed to me because it would allow me to learn more about biomechanics from an engineering perspective. My thesis project studied the neck muscles’ responses to stretching of one of the ligaments in the spine. It was part of a larger project whose goal was to investigate potential mechanisms for how whiplash-related neck pain develops.”

 

How does your work differ from the Clem Burke drumming project in England?

“With respect to the calorie counting case studies I’ve done: they are similar to the Clem Burke Project in that we both documented drummers’ energy expenditure (i.e., calories burned) during live performances. I am using different equipment than they did, and my approach is also different – whereas theirs was a formal research study, I am using this as an exercise in knowledge translation and raising awareness. It’s an interesting and accessible way to demonstrate to the public that playing the drums is a vigorous physical activity that can be used as an alternative to traditional forms of exercise, like going to the gym or playing organized sports.

“The Clem Burke Project was the first to put his idea forward, and they took some important steps in getting this message out to the public. I’m now trying to take it a step further by documenting song-by-song energy expenditures in high-profile drummers. If information on rates of energy expenditure (i.e., calories per kilogram body weight per minute) were available on a song-by-song basis, people who want to play the drums for exercise could customize exercise ‘playlists’ to their preferred intensity levels as well as their favorite songs. This is my long-term objective with this branch of my research – to get enough drummers to do this so I can create a database of calorie burn rates per song.

“The flip side of this work is to make the point, especially to full-time, professional drummers, that they need to start looking at themselves as athletes, and start training as such. The Clem Burke Project showed that drummers’ HR [heart rate] profiles similar to those of professional soccer players. Professional athletes don’t just get on a field or a court and play games/matches – they engage is a significant amount of training, including both skill-specific drills and general strength/conditioning, in order to handle the physical demands of their sport and to deliver their peak performance. Based on what we know about the physical demands of drumming, it’s no different – but I don’t believe many drummers view it this way. Drummers should be training their bodies for the demands of their profession, to be able to perform at their peak and to avoid getting injured.

“My other research on drummers is completely different from the Clem Burke Project. I mentioned earlier that when I started looking into research on the biomechanics of drumming, there was next to nothing on drumming-related pain and injuries. So, I designed a survey that will allow me to document the prevalence and patterns of playing-related musculoskeletal disorders in drummers, and identify some of the playing-related and lifestyle characteristics and/or habits that might either help drummers avoid these injuries/problems, or put them at risk of developing them. The survey results won’t be able to tell me whether these characteristics or habits CAUSE injuries – but it will tell me which characteristics/habits are related to an increased or decreased likelihood of reporting injuries. From there, I can design more studies to study the different risk factors or protective factors in more depth. The survey is available at the following website:”

https://uwindsor.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4SLzudTazCNBWw5

 

Do you have research autonomy, or did you have to convince supervisors about the validity of your present research to make it happen?

“I do have research autonomy, so I didn’t have to convince my dean or department head that the work was valid. My challenge will be to convince the research funding agencies.”

 

When you first began the project, did you find others in your field exploring this subject matter? If not, what did this suggest to you?

“Not at all – there are very few people studying drumming biomechanics, and no one studying playing-related injuries specifically in drummers. Most of the studies I’ve read only include a handful of percussionists, and it’s often not clear whether drummers were included in the study. Most of them also focus on classically-trained percussionists, and don’t consider the differences in the physical demands of playing different music genres. However, we’ve all heard of high-profile drummers who have battled career-threatening injuries – we know it’s a problem, but it hasn’t been systematically studied and documented. I saw a real need for research in this area, so I took it as an opportunity.”

 

How did you choose your first subject, and how did you get introduced to Mike Mangini?

“The calorie counting study wasn’t actually part of my original research plan. It sort of evolved organically – one day, Mike tweeted a guess at how many calories he burns during his shows. We had already been in touch for a few months at that point, so I told him that if he wanted to find out, I had a way to do that. I told Jeff Burrows (The Tea Party) about it, too, and they both thought it would be fun to find out.

“If you mean, how did I make his acquaintance, see the answer to #1 – it was entirely serendipitous. He tweeted about his technique, I took a chance and responded, he wrote back, and the rest is history. If you mean, how was I introduced to him as an artist? I’ve been a fan of Dream Theater since my husband introduced me to them about 19 years ago, so I was ‘introduced’ to him when he joined the band in 2010.

“I’ve also been a fan of The Tea Party for almost 25 years, so I was thrilled when Jeff Burrows offered to get involved. We kept in touch, and an opportunity to collect data on him came up during The Tea Party’s residency at The Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto, ON).”

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Dr. Nadia Azar and Mike Mangini – photo credit: Melissa King

 

How did they react to the project? Did they contribute to its structure with any suggestions regarding approach?

“Neither of them really ‘reacted’, so to speak – this entire line of work evolved based on my Twitter interactions with Mike and our first conversation, and Jeff came on board shortly afterwards. So, they have both been involved since the projects’ inception, and their interest and contributions have evolved with the projects as they developed. Aside from being participants in the calorie counting study, both Jeff and Mike were active collaborators in working out the logistics and facilitating collecting the data during live shows. Along the way, they have both provided informal suggestions for this and other studies I am planning, basically being sounding boards for my ideas. Jeff also contributed to the development of the drummer injury survey as a member of the expert review panel, and has been actively promoting my work through social media.”

 

Please describe in layman’s terms the calorie measuring device and technology you use.

“The device I use is the BodyMedia®  FIT armband. It is a small device (about 1.5” square) that is secured to the back of your upper arm using a Velcro strap. The device contains four sensors:

  1. A triaxial accelerometer, which measures motion in 3 planes (up-down, side-side, front-back)
  2. A temperature sensor, to monitor your skin temperature
  3. A heat flux sensor, to monitor the rate at which you are dissipating body heat
  4. A galvanic skin response sensor, which monitors the conductivity of your skin (a value that increases with sweating)

The sensor data are recorded once per minute and stored on the device. After the drumming session, I remove the armbands and download the data to my computer. The software that comes with the armbands contains algorithms that use the sensor data, along with basic participant information (height, weight, age, sex, handedness, and smoking status) to predict energy expenditure (i.e., calories burned).”

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Jeff Burrows – photo credit: David Torbett

 

Please describe in layman’s terms the basic elements of your research approach to calorie burning.

“I chose to collect data during live performances because it is the most convenient way for professional drummers to participate – they don’t have to make a special trip to my my lab, which is located in Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is right across the Canada-USA border from Detroit, Michigan, and Toronto, Ontario is also only a few hours away. So, between those three cities, which are typically stops on most bands’ tours, I can easily travel to wherever the drummer will be.

“Sometime before the start of the show ([which] can be minutes or hours, depending on the drummers’ preferences), I meet with the drummer to put on the armbands and synchronize them. The drummer then goes and plays the show. During the show, I also wear an armband that has been synchronized to theirs, and I use the timestamping feature to record the start and ending of every song. I meet up with them again after the show to remove the bands, then I take them back to my computer to download and analyze the data.

 

What were your goals with this project beyond simply measuring calorie burn? Were you able to correlate separate calorie burn isolation for the individual limbs, or is it only measure collectively?”

“Re: goals beyond measuring calories, please see my answer to #5.

“The drummers wear an armband on each arm, and I take an average of the readouts of the two armbands. Normally, you would have a participant wear only one armband on their non-dominant arm, but since playing the drums has a lot of upper limb movement and both limbs are active nearly equally, I wanted to take measurements using both arms. Interestingly, both Jeff and Mike were pretty symmetrical – the estimates were pretty similar for both arms. However, the numbers don’t represent the calorie burn of each individual arm – they are estimates of whole-body energy expenditure.

 

What were your overall thoughts and observations concerning your results? What does calorie burning data tell you about drumming in general, and why is this of value?

“I was really pleased to see the variation between the songs of different intensities. For Mike, because Dream Theater played the same set list on both data collection nights, I was able to look at the reliability of the estimates for each song, and I was happy (and amazed) to see how consistent he was from night to night. I was also very happy to see that the numbers I was getting were in the same ballpark as those that have been reported in the research literature so far (e.g., the Clem Burke project, and two other studies I’m aware of). Those studies used different methods than I did, so I can’t directly compare my numbers to theirs, but it was good to see that my equipment wasn’t wildly off from the published data.

“As far as what this data tells me about drumming in general and why it’s of value, I think I answered that in #5 already. But to reiterate – it demonstrates that playing the drums is a vigorous physical activity, which is important to know for two reasons:

  1. Playing the drums can be used as an alternative to traditional forms of exercise like going to the gym or playing organized sports. This is good news for people who don’t like these kinds of activities – they can still get in a good workout doing something fun.
  2. Drummers need to be aware of the demands they are placing on their bodies, and engage in strength and endurance training to prepare their bodies to meet these demands.

It’s this final though that serves as a vital stepping off point for the future of drumming physiology research. We are indeed engaging in not only a cerebral and a musical activity, but also a decidedly physical one. Perfecting your technique will not turn you into an automaton, but rather, will hopefully extend your ability to play for many years.


 

To this end, once again, please check out Dr. Azar’s link to her survey on drum-related pain and problems:

https://uwindsor.ca1.qualtrics.com/…/form/SV_4SLzudTazCNBWw5

 

And lastly, it’s worth repeating that one of Dr. Azar’s very interesting research goals is being able to design an exercise program based on the calorie-burn rate of songs in your playlist. It would be very interesting to see how double bass songs, for example, differ in terms of calorie burn from more straight ahead single kick drum beats. These are just the tip of the iceberg of research doors waiting to be opened.


 

I’d like to thank Dr. Azar for taking the time to answer my questions and help make this particular blog possible. She’s headed into unknown territory with great interest and curiosity, and that’s exactly what our drumming world needs to further our knowledge of how performance on our amazing instrument can be improved upon. And you can be sure that as a pioneer of drum set research, Dr. Azar is looking waaaaaay past Oklahoma …

– David R. Aldridge

Virgil Donati, Camille Bigeault, Gretsch Drums, Austin Texas… and a Muscle car named Em

 

Howdy, gang! Well here we go with some updates about this and that, wherein I get off my overworked ass and propel ink thusly forward …

 

Virgil Donati

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I wrote the cover story for the July 2017 issue of DRUM! magazine, featuring the incomparable Virgil Donati. What an amazing drummer all the way around! It was a real pleasure and honor to meet him, and I did the interview on my birthday no less!

We hung in his practice studio for probably three hours, hitting all the bases. And of all the thingd we talked about, I have to say, his microphone and recording set-up were a real inspiration, because he’s done several of his album projects recording remotely in a non-traditional studio environment.

It was truly educational to see how anyone can create an AFFORDABLE remote recording environment. Seriously, you don’t need to go into 30-year debt to create a place where you can record your part, export it to friends via DropBox, and have them import and add their own. Many of you already do this, but for those who don’t (raising hand here), it was eye-opening to see how relatively simple it is to do. Virgil was quite patient in explaining it to a newbie, and further on down in today’s blog, I’ll elaborate a bit…

 

Camille Bigeault

camille

About a year ago, I began seeing video posts and references to a French drummer with some pretty amazing skills. No flash, no glam, just pure understated substance with a great sense of humor. Tama artist Camille Bigeault’s specialty is being about to play complex patterns with individual limbs, combining them to create a song.

This is really cool, and after watching a few of her clips, I became sincerely convinced that she would become a leading explorer in drumming. I friended her on Facebook and sent a message saying exactly that. Last month, Camille was in town, and I got to meet her briefly and hear her sit in at the Baked Potato.

It was fairly loud, as always, but the takeaway was this: after several thousand collective views of her drumming clips, she said she never expected such a response nor really intended to elicit it at that level. It began as a simple 4-limb experiment, playing first one set of notes, then another, then another, that collectively created a song of sorts.

For example, in her “Brain Work” clip on YouTube, Camille plays an 11 pattern with her right hand, kick and hi-hit play a 6 pattern, and her left hand plays a 5 pattern. When it all overlays, you hear a really cool groove, and it works. It’s not forced, strained, or contrived. It’s just cool.

Camille said she posts more stuff on FB, but I’d suggest subscribing to her YouTube channel as well. Either way, She’s got much more interesting stuff planned, and you will want to check it. I think Camille opens such an interesting door for the rest of us, a very advanced one, to explore the drum set as musical instrument capable of creating songs in a unique context.

 

Gretsch Drums

gretsch street club

I’ve been so utterly overloaded these past few months that I can’t remember if I posted anything about finally planting my feet behind a couple of really cool Gretsch kits. Short version: I was looking for a bop kit, and Guy Murai at Guitar Center showed me a Catalina Club Street kit tucked away in the back room.

 

The first drum set I ever heard and saw live was red sparkle, and I’ve always wanted one. That was 52 years ago. Well, this little kit made of mahogany stole my heart in two seconds and three taps. Sticks, mallets, brushes… every thing sounded exactly how I’ve always wanted drums to sound. I like sustain with attack at all volume levels, simple as that.

So, I took it home.

gretsch black

Then I went next door to Sam Ash and found a 7-piece Catalina Club black sparkle kit on the floor. Slightly used, but bigger (which I needed for other stuff), and again, sustain with attack at all volume levels. And good lord, when played with mallets? I couldn’t like it/love it enough. To my ear, exactly what I wanted.

I later picked up a 6.5×14” Chrome over Brass snare, a newer one, to add some oomph where needed, and last week, I went back to GC and found a 5×14 1970’s chrome over brass Grestch snare that was headed home… which leads us perfectly to the next item on our blog list…

 

Austin, Texas

Austin-blog

I was born and raised in the Lone Star state, and after many years of here and there, it’s time to go home. Austin may not be as it was, but it will never lose what it is, and I will be heading there at the end of August to begin the next chapter of all things musical. This will include teaching in a private studio and recording remotely as inspired by Virgil Donati’s explorations.

I moved back briefly in the 80’s, learning how to play blues with Kathy and the Kilowatts. I also met and recorded with Arthur Brown (as in The Crazy World of…), but at the time, I felt I needed to be in Los Angeles for several reasons. Some were valid, some not so much.

In any case, the heavy lifting is done here, including writing several books, so now I want to plant myself in the middle of the country a bit south and have access to the East coast and Europe. British Airways has direct flights to Heathrow, so what more could a guy ask for? Time to reach out across the world from a friendly base, and I am looking forward to ditching the sneakers for my boots.

 

Em-blog

 

… and a Muscle car named Em

For you MOPAR car fans out there, here’s a couple of pics of my horse: a 2013 Dodge Challenger, 5.7l, Hemi, six-speed manual shift. It hauls ass, kids, and you can hear it doing so for many a mile. Badass and bold, is what she is. I call her Em (for muscle), and while she’s completely impractical for hauling a big kit, the little red sparkle kit fits just fine. I’ll get a van later I suppose. We’ll see … but for now, me and Em (ya like the symmetry of that phrase?) are gonna light it up and blaze across the southwest at the speed of Hemi!

So there ya go, what’s up with what’s goin’ down. I hope your summer is rockin’ along with music and mayhem, but if not, you still have six weeks to perspire and inspire. My fuse is sparkling, with dry powder at the end just waiting to make a little noise.

Meanwhile, be kind, stay focused, and make it happen. All of it. Big time.

Liberty Drums Jazz/Bop Series Kit Test Drive – A Very Satisfying Ride Indeed

Hi, and thanks for stopping by. I haven’t had much up lately, been way too busy, but this read will more than make up for the gap. Yes it will.

First, the usual disclaimer: I don’t do product reviews as a general rule here, simply because that’s not what this li’l blog is about. What I do is write about people and stuff I like and believe in. Usually, I prefer to surprise folks and put up something up that they never expected to see, to give them due recognition. When it comes to products, same thing.

In the case of Liberty Drums, based in Shildon, U.K., it’s a bit of both. I met Andrew Street and Kevin Lodge at the 2015 NAMM show, in Anaheim, California, where Goran Kjellgren was sharing a booth for his Percussion Kinetics Vector bass drum pedal. I wrote a blog about Goran’s pedals awhile back for the same reasons: great product, great person.

 


 

Andrew and Kevin are the heavy lifters at Liberty. Kevin’s very intense attention to the vast array of production and logistics details, as well as his experience as a sound engineer, allows Andrew to do what he does best, which is make a seriously amazing drum. But mind you, everyone at Liberty contributes to making the final product one that’s well worth checking out.

 

 

Continuing on the matter of giving due recognition, Rhythm magazine awarded Liberty Drums the best wooden snare drum in the world last year. Modern Drummer gave strong respect and admiration to Liberty’s jazz/bop kit a few months ago, and they also created a video of it. The tuning was a bit low for my taste to sample a jazz kit, and thus was born my desire to write this blog and put up a few video samples with higher tuning and more emphasis on the jazz end of things.

 

rhythm mag liberty.jpg

 

While at NAMM 2016, I had the chance to briefly play the Liberty Jazz/Bop series kit seen here, with the following sizes of Finnish birch shells: 8×12 rack tom (12 ply), 14×14 floor tom (12 ply), 18×14 kick (15 ply), and a 14×5.5 snare (15 ply). Here’s a video clip of my exploration, shot with just a cell phone and the usual NAMMbient background madness…

 

 

Ya think?

The snare pops and sings. The kick launches, and the toms deliver from the bottom up. I say this especially, because for the following video clips I shot, I tuned the toms higher. The first clip emphasizes the kit’s overall bop performance with sticks, and the second showcases the use of brushes and how much subtle range the kit has. The third give brushes their due, and it lets you hear what makes jazz so special, at least to my ear.

The snare in particular, while not the award-winning one, stands out as musical instrument of its own. Amazing tones, the smallest little details, the stuff a jazz drummer who is close-mic’d can use to make beautiful musical statements. My jazz chops are decent I suppose, but they sounded more so to me because I could hear the sound of gen-u-ine jazz drums at my fingertips. This gave me an authentic palette to create with.

 

liberty kit

 

On a side note, as I was shedding one night, just goofing around, I could swear I smelled wood, I mean, like walking by a tree in the forest kind of wood. I mentioned this to Andrew in an email, and he said I was in fact smelling bees wax, which the inside of the shell was treated with.

Bees wax.

Yeah, kids. That’s what you do when you hand-form every single shell that goes out the door and want to put a signature on it. You address production with a deep level of focus and care. Now, multiply that level of attention to ten years of making drums. Rhythm magazine did the math and came to a similar conclusion.

 

 

Now, on to the main point of this blog: Here’s a brief up-tempo improv I shot to showcase the overall kit’s response to sticks. I used my iPhone 6S, with sound recorded using a single overhead condenser mic, run through a board and directly into the iPhone using an iRig adapter.

 

 

The drums are super light by the way, and they are running Remo Emperor clears on the toms, kick, and an Emperor vintage coated head on the snare. Tuning could go from rock to bop in sixty seconds per drum. I‘m not kidding. In four minutes, you have two entirely different sounding kits that sound authentic on both end of the spectrum. Yes you do.

Here’s a second clip, a slower example to let you hear the drums a little clearer.

 

 

Liberty’s latest achievement – and you can be sure that it is – was getting their wares into Pro Drum Shop, in Hollywood. Do that, and you’ve summited the top of the West Coast drum store hill. They are distributed by Cymbal Planet on the East Coast, in New York, and if you live in the U.K., the Dealer link on the Liberty site will take you where you need to go (www.LibertyDrums.com)

I’ll leave you with my favourite clip, the true test of any jazz kit, recorded with no external mic, directly to my iphone. Brushes are where the real finesse of this American art form really come to life, and I enjoy giving it a shot every time I pick up a pair. Use ear buds to grasp the finest levels of detail in the snare, and I do believe you will hear what I heard… some subtle truth, laid out across a canvass built by true artisans.

 

 


 

Liberty, you guys really know how to make a drum that sings. You’ve given the drumming world a beautiful and distinctive voice to express itself with.

Well done, mates. Very well done.

 

liberty logo

 

 

 

 

Periscope for Drummers – Some Thoughts and Stuff

 

A few months ago, a good friend of mine showed me an app at lunch that I didn’t quite know what to make of. Periscope is sweeping the world, literally, letting you broadcast live and pick up followers for your broadcasts. I could see the immediate potential and applications… but is it all it’s cracked up to be?

scope

I have used it on my iphone (6S) and my ipad (2 Air) with mixed results. The speed of both devices and their processors certainly makes a difference, as does the camera quality. The sound still leaves a lot to be desired, so you do have to take that into account when you broadcast.

 

There’s a Help manual you can download, and within a few minutes reading, you’re up and running. For those of you who have not yet seen or heard of Periscope, here’s some thoughts on how it works, and some pros and cons I’ve discovered after about 2 weeks of playing with it.

me scope

When you download the app, you can use your Twitter account to log on with it. The set-up is pretty quick, just a few steps and questions. If you have multiple Twitter accounts, you can use those as well. Once you have the basic Periscope account established, you are ready to see and share with the world…

 


 

There are FOUR icons on the bottom of the home screen that make Periscope work. The first is the small TV. It displays who is live that you are following, along with random Periscope broadcasts that its algorhythm cranks out. If you see numbers to the right of the broadcasts, that’s how many people are watching it. If you see minutes or hours, that’s a broadcast that has ended and how long ago.

 


 

The second icon is a Globe, with two options: Map and List. Map lets you expand and see live and expired broadcasts from all over the world. The red dots mean live or just recently ended. The blue dots mean the transmission has ended a while ago.

 

List shows you live transmissions, selected I guess at random by Periscope. It’s cool for just browsing to see what’s out there with no particular search agenda. For either, once you select a broadcast, you may notice little hearts bubbling up from the lower right hand corner. These are generated when people tap the screen, and you can do so as well when you hear or see something you like in a broadcast.

 


 

The third icon is a Camera Lens, with a red dot. This is how you go live and broadcast. You click on it, and then you can type in a short description of what your ‘scope is going to be about.

 

There are four small icons on the screen above the keyboard that give you additional options. The Pointing Arrow gives precise location to your viewers on the Map display. The Lock enables private broadcasting, nothing global, and lets you select who the potential viewer(s) will be for this broadcast. Mutuals is another option, meaning people you follow who also follow you back.

 

The Chat icon, when not enabled, allows everyone who is viewing to add comments. When it’s enabled, it only allows people to add comments who are already following you.

 

Once you have these four options configured, you select Broadcast Now, and you are live! However, to get the camera to show your face, you have to double-click the screen to reverse the image. Very important to remember…

 

To stop the broadcast, you tap and drag the screen down, and select End Broadcast.

 

Oh, and one important note: broadcasts do not remain on your profile indefinitely, nor do they remain on your Twitter feed. You have the option though of saving them to your camera roll for future viewing.

 


 

Finally, we come to the People icon. This one lets you edit your profile by clicking the Cog icon, upper right corner. It also lets you search for people, see your followers, and also delete followers. This item is important, because yes, the porn world has indeed discovered Periscope. Select the Cog icon on the profile and click “Block Viewer.”

 

If you encounter annoying viewers posting rude comments during a live broadcast, you can block them as well. Select their profile, find the Cog icon (upper left hand corner, click and select “Block Viewer.”

 

The rest you’ll figure out pretty quickly, as it’s not that complicated.

 


 

Sooooo… with all this said, is it worth time investing it getting it up and running? I think so, yes, because you can demo stuff on the spot that comes to you, plan something ahead and announce it on Twitter and Facebook, create a live feed to your Twitter account for people who do not yet have Periscope, and it’s a cool way to build your presence around the world.

 

I’m on there as David Aldridge, using my Twitter account (@daldridgedrums) as the link. Mind you, the sound quality for both iphones and ipads is limited, but if you don’t play too loud, it’s comes across okay.

 

But do remember this: it’ll cream your cellular usage like a thirsty camel after a 30-day trek across the Sahara. Watch out for that and battery use (which you can monitor for this and other apps on an iPhone 6S, I have discovered).

 

It’s a brave new world out there, and Periscope lets you partake of it in a very interesting way. I think it’s got a lot of potential, and who knows, maybe it can help you get your particular drumming message out there in a way that transforms other players. We truly do live in most amazing times…

 

 

Leonice Shinneman, In Need of Our Drumming Community Help After a Car Accident

“Watching the waves from a ship to and from Japan and looking out of the car window on multiple trips across the USA in my childhood, gave me the space to study time itself, and the complexity and harmonics of rhythm, order and chaos.  

Subdividing and predicting the instant objects would pass, or their relationship to others in time, consumed the hours of my youth. It all comes down to time. 

That is why I chose drumming, Jazz, Indian classical and African. All the great rhythm traditions. When I drum, I sing the melody of the arrow of time. “

 


About a year ago in Los Angeles, I met the author of this quote, at a gig led by my bass player friend, David Hilton. Leonice Shinneman had a very interesting set-up, a small jazz kit with some tablas. His playing was very light and elegant, sophisticated, without question. He played the tablas briefly, and I thought, kinda cool to see that…

 

leonice-1

 

I had no idea I was in the presence of a recognized world tabla master, a former faculty member at Cal Institute of the Arts, an innovative inventor and patent holder, and an artist whose drumming and percussion credits included work with Frank Zappa, along with contributions to soundtracks for “Drugstore Cowboy” and “Aliens 3.”

 

leonice-3

I just knew the guy could play.

 

Unfortunately, it’s probably going to be six months to a year before Leonice can resume his art, because he was recently in a very serious car accident. Broken neck, broken back.

 

Yeah… that kind of serious.

 

His sister, Joy, created a Gofundme account to help get through what is obviously going to be a rough road, so if you have a minute, please visit the site. You may not have heard of Leonice or know of his work, or perhaps you have and already heard about his accident. No matter. He’s a drummer, he’s one of us.

 

leonice-2

 

Here’s the gofundme link: https://www.gofundme.com/u5jxgb2c

 

For more information about Leonice, here’s the link to his website: http://www.leoniceshinnemandrums.weebly.com

 

During a break at the gig where I met him, Leonice and I had a great conversation about his ride cymbal and how he played it. I asked about his tablas and said I was interested in learning a little more about them. He offered to share information, and he said I was welcome to sit in during the next set. I had to leave, but I appreciated the offer.

 

leonice-4

 

Leonice, when you get back to bandstand, I’d like to take you up on that offer. Meanwhile, you take it easy. The universe has got this.

 

Lacuna Coil’s “Our Truth”: My Musical and Drumming Anthem for 2016

 

Somewhere around 2007, I discovered a MySpace profile of a drummer with a song running on the home page. It was “Our Truth,” by Lacuna Coil. I was unfamiliar with the group or their music, but this song immediately resonated right to my core, and it remains one of my favorites.

 

 

As we enter 2016, about 90% of what I hope to accomplish nine years ago has been fulfilled. But as a successful software developer someone once told me, it’s the last 10% that’s the hardest. He was 100% correct, and I think I have finally figured out how to best make that last push.

We need to return to the origins of our intent and grab them with both hands. The title of this amazing song really begs an important question: What is “our truth?” I mean, what really drives us to make art and be drummers? If we lose sight of it and drown in the overwhelming information overload of today’s world, we are screwed.

 

lifting.jpg

 

I recently returned to the freelance drum magazine world, with works in DRUMHEAD, DRUMscene, and a very cool article in DRUM! that’ll definitely have people talking about the May issue. I’ve got a huge re-publishing effort underway with the definitive Don Ellis biography (two volumes, plus a third with just photos), and if I can do what I think I can do shortly, a huge change in direction regarding getting the word out about my binary rhythm pattern theory books (The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II).

But as far as my real drumming truth… I guess it’s finally time to ditch the rev limiter and just play what I love the most. For too many reasons to go into here, I’ve not ever really done that. What it comes down to is this: being bravely fearful. These are not my words, they were given to me, and they hold great power, as I am discovering more and more every day. Because the truth is, none of us truly knows where our steps will lead, and if you debate it for too long, you’ll never cross anything except a return to your doubts.

 

cane

 

NAMM 2016 is gonna be interesting, and I created a Periscope account to document some of it in real time (David Aldridge, linked through @DAldridgeDrums on Twitter). I hope you’ll check it out, and as always, thanks for reading my little blog. The interest and support over the last nine years has helped make 90% of my ambitions come to life. If stick around for the last 10%, I promise it’ll be the best part of the ride.

And thank you, Lacuna Coil, for a most awesomely inspiring anthem!