2nd YouTube Video, The Elements of Rhythm, Vol. I, Introduction to Binary Rhythm Pattern Theory

Hey there, here’s a little something more that I’m pretty sure will turn your rhythmic world upside-down if you’ll give me about six minutes of your viewing time…

In 1982, the some lessons I took with Terry Bozzio exploded in my head and lit a fire that never went out. It led me to figuring out a systematic approach to understanding where all rhythm patterns came from mathematically. I sucked at math from day one of first grade on up through forever, so, I’d say this discovery was personally kinda huge…


Regular readers have been really cool and kind about humouring me over the past five years, so I’d like to ask them, and you new readers as well, for one small favour: turn up the volume so you can hear my voiceover, and watch this video clip. It’ll show you where everything comes from that you’ll ever play, or at least get you started on it.

There are a finite number of building block rhythm patterns that all larger combinations come from. Binary rhythm pattern theory uses 0s and 1s to prove they exist and create a model of them, which we then re-write with conventional music notation. But first, we gotta prove that a finite number exits… which I’ve done.

Other educators have explored this notion, but I’m pretty sure I can almost absolutely that no one has done it to the degree that I pursued. It was an insane obsession, but the results… are pretty damn cool. And I say that with a lot of unusual pride.


Anyway, the first video was kind of general and broad… but this one gets down to it like nothing you’ve likely ever seen before. The page excerpts from my books are fuzzy at times, just because of conversion I suppose. I’m working on it, so please bear with me. But gimme six minutes… and your head might get set on fire too. I hope so, because all I really want to do in this world any more is get the word out about binary rhythm pattern theory and how it can help expand our rhythmic minds to explore basic patterns, odd meters, polyrhythms and beyond.

And please, if you like this one, tell your friends and share it. I have never asked this, but if you get the message and what it means, you’ll see why. I hope you do, and as always, thanks for checking out my blog. I love writing this stuff!

My First YouTube Video About My Books, The Elements of Rhythm, Volumes I & II

Whew!

Okay, lemme tell ya up front: THIS was some work! And for those of you who’ve already done it, my hat is off to you. For those thinking about making a drum video of sorts, I figure it might be helpful to tell you a little about the process I experienced in hopes that can save you some time and steps.

The short version: I bought a GoPro, a backdrop system to hang fabric, some lights and stands, a very functional tripod (good lord, a must!), a complete set of mics for a 10-piece drum set, a mixer, dug out my ProTools LE8, bought another Mac laptop that could process the GoPro 4k images, and I borrowed a really nice HD video camera as a backup.

The short short version: no GoPro, no mics, minimal kit, and I only used the HD camera and one lighting stand.

What I discovered was that… the new version of iMovie was getting slammed reviews, and I couldn’t figure out how to strip original audio from the incoming iMovie 8 file and layer it with a ProTools sound track. My old laptop worked just fine, and I was able to import the footage, move it around and edit it, add some still shots and some music audio, and get it up and running on YouTube.

Seriously, I wasn’t experienced with this stuff to the degree I wanted to be, but it got done… which is all that matters.

If you’ve been following my last few posts, I’ve been sharing what I’ve been able to accomplish to move forward with getting my stuff out all over the world. We have the technology… but not all of it easy to grasp. It ain’t perfect, but I don’t care. I began the journey three decades ago with this project, so, tonight, I’m happy it got launched in one piece.

Meanwhile, I hope your individual drumming projects are moving forward, and hey, keep pounding if they aren’t done yet. You’ll sleep pretty good once they are, and then you’ll wake up and want to do more.

Enjoy, and remember: Everything You’ll Ever Play Comes From Here!

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Help Make Bernard Purdie’s Drumming Life Documentary Happen!

Just got a tweet from a film company producing a documentary on Bernard Purdie. They are really close to fully funding and only have a few days. 

  

I met Bernard in a hallway at NAMM 2014 and got to shake his hand. We talked briefly about his hometown, Elkton, Maryland, where I grew up near and lived in for a bit in the late 70’s. His face lit up when we exchanged a few tales.

  

Bernard is of course the shuffle MAN, inventor of the eternally copied Purdie shuffle that Jeff Pocaro evolved with in “Rosanna.” 
Bernard’s YouTube videos are a blast, filled with humble truth and sharing of treasured knowledge. I’m keeping this little blurb short and sweet will just say that if ANY drummer out there is deserving of a documentary, Mr. Purdie’s name shoots to the top of the list!
Here’s the funding link:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-purdie-good-life-the-documentary–2
Seriously, this man has given you great shoulders to stand on and leap from. It’s time to give the drummer some… literally!

Why Dink Cymbals and Those Who Play Them Matter

A couple of weeks ago, I read a very interesting thread on a Facebook drumming group (Drummer’s Database Community, April 24, 2015). Seems a young drummer named Adrian had referred to a ride cymbal as a “dink” cymbal, after which a guy apparently decided to rip him a new asshole about that and how little he knew.

Adrian left the group, obviously upset and feeling bullied within a group he should have felt the exact opposite of. True to the blood that runs through most of us as drummers, people started coming to his defense left and right. They started posting pictures of their “dink” cymbals, and they engaged in discussion about various brands and sizes of dinks, the merits and dislikes, the whole dink enchilada.

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It was a thing of beauty to see. And it kept going for several days, which you can search and read (find April 24, 2015 and go from there). The brotherhood of drumming rallied around a young beginner who may never know how many people came to his support, because by this time he was long gone. The camaraderie you feel in a real drum store was reflected in the posts, with full-blown cyber support hitting on all eight cylinders.

But it also reminded me that the subject of bullying is not something we as a group are isolated from. I have to admit, guys in my generation can’t easily relate to the bullying issues one reads about a great deal today on the Internet, but this certainly painted a quick picture. Those of you in your teens and 20s reading this perhaps relate more immediately and have likely seen these things happen to some of your friends and peers.

The power of words can’t be understated, especially when so many millions of people have access to putting them out there. And when it hits, you feel it. In today’s blog, I’d like to share a little story with you about it that pelted me two years ago…

I had just published my Elements books, and I was so excited I couldn’t see straight. It literally took 30 years from start to finish, a very lonely and isolated process in my head that came and went. It took everything I had in terms of strength, focus, and financial investment. And of course, the mental gyrations that Tourette Syndrome served up on a daily basis never made things any easier.

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But I found a software tool called Finale that helped me make it all happen, and when I met the Finale guys at NAMM 2013, I couldn’t stop raving about their product. I was 100% sincere and not looking for anything free. I just wanted to thank them.

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They wrote a blog about me on their website, which was quite an honor, and in it I said I could not have completed my books without their product.

Shortly after, I discovered that a musician, a Ph.D candidate, had read this and was commenting rather snidely about it on a site about Lilypond. It’s an open architecture music software site that I’m sure has merit. But in his series of posts, the Ph.D candidate really started taking me to task for not using what in his opinion was a better system, pointing out left and right how I could have done things so much more efficiently… but he didn’t stop there.

He became increasingly boastful about how he was going release Lilypond code to write basically the contents of much of my books… for free… for anyone to use.

How do you think that went over in my world?

As he continued to grow more full of himself, other Lilypond readers began noting that he was starting to draw increasingly erroneous conclusions from my words. They did offer valid critique and comments about my work, but they also actually started coming to my defense. They saw his inflated self-grandizing for exactly what it was. Hardly actions becoming a Ph.D candidate.

I, on the other hand, was actually very concerned. I envisioned code being sent all over the world, people cranking out versions of my work, costing me what little money I do make off sales. I was being insulted and talked down by a complete stranger, all because I enthusiastically wanted to thank Finale for making a product that made my lifetime dreams come true.

And then this Ph.D candidate pretty much crapped all over them.

I was about two months away from going to England to present my books at a highly respected academic conference, one where leading researchers in the field of rhythm perception meet every two years to share their findings. It was an incredible honor to be able to go, and I had to decide how to react to this Ph.D snob.

I debated engaging him publicly on the Lilypond message board (he never did contact me directly, by the way, and I’m very findable). The hardcore biker in me wanted to shred him in print. The airplane flight instructor in me kept things at a higher road level, but I was even ready to contact his music school and Ph.D advisor concerning the possible ethical issues concerning his actions.

I gave it a lot of thought, and in the end, I decided to remain silent and let it all die down, which it did. Meanwhile, more and more people on the Lilypond site began taking him to task for putting words in my mouth and misinterpreting my message.

It was a thing of beauty.

As for the rhythm conference? I never even finished community college, but I had serious Ph.D’s, leaders in the field of rhythm research and perception from all over the world, gathering around my 3’x4’ poster on a stand, asking me a lot of questions and repeatedly acknowledging that they’d never seen anything like it and the information it conveyed.

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So, to Adrian, the young drummer out there who coined the word “dink” as he sought to communicate his sincere and eager interest about drumming, I hope you get word of the support you were offered after you left. To the FB drummers who offered Adrian that support, you fucking rule. To the members of the Lilypond community who offered me support, I really appreciate it and will not pass judgment on your software based on one person’s skewed posts.

And to my drumming family members, remember that we are in many ways models for our younger drummers, in both age and spirit (for those starting drumming late in life). I believe we should offer support and enthusiasm, genuine and helpful critique, or say nothing if we’ve nothing nice to say. Whether you’re 12 and just picking up sticks, or you’re 54 and bearing your soul to the drumming world with a life’s publishing work, it’s kinda scary out there sometimes.

But as long as you’re down with the dink, you’ll show the world that you have the right stuff. If you’re not, you’ll show who and what you are either way.

And if you do it over the Internet, it’ll be for a very long time…

#cuzwordsmatter

Ferocious Drummers, The Documentary – Why You Should Know About It and How You Can Help Out

Billy McCarthy is a drummer. It’s not what he does; he paints houses. But it’s what he is.

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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.

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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.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/166936805/ferocious-drummers-the-documentary

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…

http://ferociousdrummers.com

https://www.facebook.com/FerociousDrummers/info?tab=page_info

Backlash: Why This Jazz Drummer Won’t Watch Whiplash

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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NAMM 2015: So Much Stuff, and the Glory of Beanbag Seats…

 

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Ahhhhh…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE STUFF

Anthology Gear Wear

http://www.anthologygearwear.com

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

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RoboCup

http://www.therobocup.com

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

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

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Downing Drums

http://www.downingdrums.com

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

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

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Sakae Drums

http://sakaedrums.com

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

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

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

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QSC TouchMix

http://qsc.com

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

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

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Roland Session Mixer

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

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

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

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Spaceharp

http://www.spaceharp.com

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

Mu-Fx Mutron Emulators

http://www.mu-fx.com

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

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Tempo GPS Devices

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

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

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SmartMusic Teaching Software

http://www.smartmusic.com

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

I’m glad I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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Weezic Electronic Sheet Music

http://weezic.com/en/

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

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Band-In-A-Box

http://www.pgmusic.com

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

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

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Vector Pedals

http://www.percussionkinetics.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberty Drums

http://www.libertydrums.co.uk

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

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

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

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

Zildjian Constantinople Cymbals

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

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

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

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

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

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Chronos Electronic Drums

http://www.chronosdrums.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE PEOPLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Annnnnd finally…

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

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

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

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

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

And folks, that’s gonna remain a secret… 🙂

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Drummers, Be A Tone Maker First, Then A Time Keeper

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Like I said… simple… but game changing.

Tom Tom Magazine’s Magic Hour Drum Performance, Pitzer College, 4-7-14

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

 

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

 

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

 

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photo by Mike Morgan

 

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

 

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photo by Kit Morris

 

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

 

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photo by Kit Morris

 

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

 

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photo by Mike Morgan

 

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

 

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 photo by Kit Morris

 

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

 

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photo by Mike Morgan 

 

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

 

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 photo by Mike Morgan

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 photo by Kit Morris

 

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

 

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photo by Mike Morgan 

 

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photo by Mike Morgan

 

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

 

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photo by Marlhy Murphy

 

Vector Bass Drum Pedal: Percussion Kinetics meets Christopher Columbus

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

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

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

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

Uh-oh.

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

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

And bass drum pedals should be mounted sideways.

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

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

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

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

Question was, why not?

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

And I liked it quite a bit.

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

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

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

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

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http://www.vectorpedal.com