Tower of Power bassist Rocco Prestia Needs A Kidney Transplant – Please Share


I read this post on Facebook today and wanted to pass it along:

A Special Message To Our Fans And Friends:

As you know, our beloved Rocco Prestia has been a part of Tower of Power since the beginning. He is the legendary bassist that has inspired countless musicians. His music has touched the lives of many, and will continue to do so. Everyone, he needs our help. Rocco is currently battling some health issues that require the immediate attention and concern of others. Rocco is in need of a kidney transplant, and it is crucial that a donor is found quickly.

Please help us in spreading the word. If you or someone you know is interested in being tested to possibly become a donor, please contact the following e-mail address: You will speaking to Eddie Hernandez, someone who has been through this process, and Eddie will answer any questions and concerns that you may have.

Please visit this page or our for developing information.

Thank you. God bless, and lets keep the music playing.


Please share this post, and thanks to Leslie Butts for putting in on Facebook.


Finale Music and The Elements of Rhythm Vols. I & II – Cyber Ink on Steroids

Regular readers of this blog are probably familiar with my books, The Elements of Rhythm Vols. & II. I created them within an InDesign template and used Finale 2011 to create all of the music examples. I originally wrote ALL of the examples out by hand, years ago, and when it came time to do every thing myself in real print, I owe my life’s work to Finale Music.

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I met the guys (Tom Johnson, me, Scott Yoho, and Justin Phillips) at NAMM 2012 and showed them my books, got interviewed briefly for some video clips, and Scott Yoho, their Marketing guru, very kindly offered to write a blog with an overview of the books and some of the creation challenges. Here’s the link:

I’ve been very fortunate to have people from all over the world reading this blog for the past three years, and on this rare occasion, I want to use it to publically thank Finale Music for creating a product that handled an unbelievable amount of detail. Some readers have seen the previous posts with page samples, and Amazon let me post a PDF that lets you look inside the books as well.

I didn’t have anywhere near enough room in the blog interview to describe how truly insane and tedious the level of refinement was to create so many rest and note shapes. I spent about a year and a half working out all the layout details, over 400 pages worth, learning how to convert one type of file into another, and basically, wearing many hats and drowning many times along the way!


It mattered to me that everything be as perfect and precise as possible, because if you’re gonna say that you have THE collection of building block rhythm patterns that all the larger combinations you could ever imagine come from… you’d best be right. Finale’s software accomplished the utterly damn near impossible, and yep, this surely is a sales pitch and a serious two thumb’s up.


When I wrote for DRUM! in the 90’s, I couldn’t always include a personal message in the articles, which is why I love blog technology so much. I am eternally grateful for Finale helping me accomplish a three-decade journey, just as I’m every day grateful that people stop by this blog to check things out.

So let me say this: if you are thinking about blogging drum music examples of your own, or considering cranking out your own set of books, I can give you over 400 pages of detailed reasons why Finale Music just flat-out kicks printing ass. It’s cyber ink on steroids. And no, they don’t give me free stuff to say this, nor do I ask for it.

Carry on.


Mike Johnston: The Most Important Video He Has Ever Uploaded


These two words evoke a wide range of responses when considering the spectrum of content presented on it. California drummer/teacher Mike Johnston has become familiar to viewers all over the world through this digital medium, as well as through his drumming educational website (, and his most recent video upload is one I want to repost here and talk a little about.


Mike’s very sincere message concerns the negative posts on YouTube, and how we as drummers should do what we can to encourage, not discourage, other drummers and their efforts. He then addresses a case where one of his young drum students, an 8-year-old, posted a short video of his playing to show Mike how he was coming along. Some negative comments were posted, which begs the question: why would you shoot down a young drummer’s efforts?

Yeah, why would you? To me, it’s just shy of bullying.

We live in such a jaded age, where everything is racing by at 900 miles-an-hour in a sound-byte world, where so little seems to matter, because it’s about to be replaced by something else new and fresh, over and over. But for at least 2:22 minutes, someone out there decided that a kid’s feeling’s mattered, along with those of many other aspiring drummers.

True, some of what is posted on YouTube is pretty raw and ragged, but if a young (or an old) drummer puts up something for us to watch, maybe (as Mike points out) they are just in a different place along the drumming progress time line.


Maybe they just need a little constructive criticism instead of being ripped to shreds. Maybe if they heard these words, they might be inspired to work harder, study more, and broaden their perspective.

You never know.

Mike’s message in the video is simple: “Find a drumming video on YouTube, comment something positive and your work is done :)”

So here it is, and I invite you to watch it all the way through. Give it a couple of seconds to move past the slow motion drumming when he begins to speak. I also hope you will share this link with your fellow drummers through message boards, Facebook, and whatever other social media you frequent.

[Thanks to Bart Elliot ( for initially posting the clip on Facebook.]

Yamaha Drums Loses Sakae Rhythm, Its Legendary Drummaker

I was sitting at Denny’s restaurant this morning, surfing the ‘net and checking Facebook to see what was crawling across the screen.

When I saw this odd post, I stopped crawling:



Hmmm… that seemed really weird. I mean, really weird. Yamaha is discontinuing one of the most famous line of drum products EVER?

A little more morning browsing, and then I stumbled across this:




Okay… so who is Sakae? I followed the link, and the first post made very immediate sense: Yamaha’s drummaker was essentially calling it quits with Yamaha. Which is huge. 

Not unlike like when Leo Fender sold his company to CBS Instruments and went on to make his own line of guitars.

Which was huge.

I looked closely at the publication date of the story and noticed that it said April 1, 2013… and I thought, “Oh those wacky guys at DRUM! magazine, up to percussive mischief yet again…”

And then I went to the Sakae site and read this letter, which I am reprinting in full…




The Sakae Story

A Letter from the Desk of Eizo Nakata

Many people on the inside of the drum industry are aware of my family business, but for most drummers the name Sakae is completely new. Because of this I would like to explain a little further the history of my family business, Sakae Rhythm/Sakae Drums.

Sakae was founded in 1925 by my grandfather in Osaka, Japan. Up until the late 60’s we made several percussion instruments for the Japanese school market. We spent many years developing our unique way of making drums and creating our own musical voice in the world of percussion. Because of this success, we eventually drew the attention of Yamaha who approached my father to consider a partnership in making drums for them. So, from 1967 until now Sakae has been the primary OEM source of all Yamaha high-end drums. This is something my family is very proud of and for over 40 years we have remained exclusive to Yamaha.

One thing is for certain and that is change. Recently I became the third generation to be handed the reins of this proud family business. My whole life I have been groomed to understand and respect the importance of our drum traditions, artists, history and honor. I grew up with legends like Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine, Ndugu Chancler, Charley Drayton etc. all contributing to my nurturing and training. It is upon me that my family has now laid the responsibility to carry on this excellence and tradition to making the instrument we call the drums. Equipped with this task I now find it necessary to have the Sakae brand stand on its own and come out from behind the shadow of Yamaha.

In these difficult and uncertain economic times I realize the decision to independently build the Sakae brand is one most would see as risky. However; Sakae is not just another drum company. My family and I are committed to the traditions of making instruments of the utmost quality and excellence. Corporatism and the desire to become the biggest drum company in the world are NOT our priorities. What IS our priority is making musical instruments that my father, grandfather and the legendary artists I have grown up with, would all be proud of. Bringing honor to their names, hard work and music is the driving force behind each and every morning I wake. With this passion underneath all that I do, the decision to go alone was obvious and the only conclusion. There was no other way to pursue the ground breaking advancements we wanted. I believe you will agree when you hear our new instruments.

I understand that for most in the drumming world the name Sakae may be unfamiliar, but the sound of Sakae is not. We believe we have taken that great and well-respected sound to a new level and would love to have you give them a listen. The world doesn’t need another drum company, but the world DOES need to hold onto the Sakae sound that has been so instrumental in the music we have heard for the past 40 plus years. Please give Sakae a listen, check out our site and ask your favorite drum shop if they carry the brand. We would love to make the name Sakae as popular to the world as the Sakae sound you have come to know and love.

I hope to meet you all some day and hope that Sakae will be your choice for a musical voice in the near future.

 Eizo Nakata
 President Sakae Drums



The first part of the letter that caught my initial attention was this:

“Corporatism and the desire to become the biggest drum company in the world are NOT our priorities.”


It takes guts the size of Jupiter to step away from THE giant and say, “Mmmm, kinda done with the suit and tie, let’s get back to jeans and tee shirts. Oh, and let’s severe one of the largest financial ties ever known to drumming.”

I had never heard of Eizo Nakata until today, but where he really got my attention was with this: “What IS our priority is making musical instruments that my father, grandfather and the legendary artists I have grown up with, would all be proud of. Bringing honor to their names, hard work and music is the driving force behind each and every morning I wake.”



Folks, the Japanese take honor and tradition about as seriously as it can be taken. The samuri code of bushido, the “Way of the Warrior,” defines a man’s life quite unlike just about nothing we have in the Western world. When a samuri would challenge another on the field of battle, it was tradition to recite one’s lineage and accomplishments. Yamaha did not really have a prospering drum division until they connected with Sakae in the mid 1960’s, and the rest has been drum manufacturing history.

So where will this leave Yamaha Drums now?




That’s going to be the multi-million dollar question. It is certainly newsworthy and profoundly earth-shaking to read that Yamaha will be DISCONTUNING its legendary Recording Custom Series, along with so many other lines.

What will happen to their quality? What happened to Gretsch when Jasper Furniture stopped making shells? Will Yamaha drum artists jump ship and sail with a smaller ship called Sakae?




I always root for the little guy and the underdog. They have grit, guts, and teeth. Eizo Nakata has invoked the ghosts of his past to infuse the spirits of his company’s future. He has a vision and certainly an incredible amount of faith that a small company can continue the legendary sound that overshadowed most American drum companies for decades.


I read a quote that kind of sums up what Sakea Rhythm may have on their minds, and it’s worth repeating here: “Your are wise to climb Fuji once and a fool to climb it twice.” 

Then again, less than one percent of Japan’s population has accomplished that feat. You might say that Yamaha was the oxygen that made Sakae’s initial climb possible, but as Sakae makes their second ascent, I wonder if Mitsuru Umemura, President and Representative Director of Yamaha Corporation, looks at Mt. Fuji with the same glint in his eye that Eizo Nakata surely has every morning…












Drumming At the Edge of Magic: Discovering What Mattered Through Micky Hart’s Take on Rhythmic Truth

In the summer of 1991, my girlfriend took a trip back East from Santa Cruz, California, to visit her family. I decided it was a good time for a short camping trip to Big Sur, so I loaded up my Harley and hit the road for a nice 2-hour putt down Highway 1. I had no idea what I’d be doing once I got there, but it didn’t matter. It never did. Big Sur is perfect no matter what your plans are, and it always put my head back in a proper place.



I was 32 at the time, and I was knee-deep in mental confusion about how to finish writing The Elements of Rhythm. It was a never-ending source of agony to try to sort out which way to go. I figured that maybe some time away would help me get some direction, and camping always relaxed me, so off to the redwoods was the plan.


I pitched the tent and then headed over to Heartbeat, my favorite store in Big Sur. They always have something interesting in their layout, and at the time, the whole drum circle thing was just starting to grow. I saw a book I’d been wanting to read for some time, so I bought it and headed back to my campsite.



Drumming on the Edge of Magic was written by Grateful Dead drummer Micky Hart, who majorly helped usher in the concept of rhythm as therapy. I could write an entire page alone on this effort, but if you search his name, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The thing I hoped to find in reading his book was indeed the magic, or at least conversation about the more spiritual side of drumming. Micky shared his drumming journey and his incorporation of world rhythms into his playing, and as I sat by my campfire, I became drawn deeper and deeper into exactly what I’d hoped to find.

The smell of the smoke, the simplicity of the day, the wind blowing through the trees… all of these elements spoke to what playing was really about: paying attention to what’s going on around you and becoming a part of it. Finding your place and then finding your way. I was sorely out of touch with all of this, and it took detaching myself from everything to get re-connected to what really mattered. I did it by going someplace where regardless of what you did, nothing mattered. No worries. Just being. And integrating.


A friend came down to visit, and we rode my bike around Big Sur for an afternoon. When we came back to the campground, I took off my riding boots and tossed them. They landed toes-forward, aiming towards Los Angeles. I took that as a sign that I needed to get back here and work on things, that it was time to dive in and solve the problems associated with finishing The Elements of Rhythm.

Mickey’s book had so many cool little passages that made you think about the spiritual side of drumming that I soon lost track of them. I felt energized with the right stuff, at least the right stuff for me. And the last night I was there, I really got the message.I took a walk from the bottom of Ventana campground up through the redwoods and to the top of the parking lot. I looked up at a sky filled with stars, and the answer came to me: I had to write Elements in such a way that it would connect the dots of all my thoughts about applying the fundamental building block rhythm patterns to musicians and music research groups.


A year later, I took the train up to Berkeley to a book signing at Gaia Bookstore where Micky was speaking.


“What do you want me to write?” he asked, as I handed him a copy of his book.

“Finish your rhythm book,” I replied…

It would be another 20 years before I got there, but at least I knew how to get started. I got sidelined many times along the way, but in the end, I discovered how to stay true to my musical and artistic vision, much in thanks to being reconnected to the more soulful aspects of drumming.


If you have a lot on your mind about what to do with your drumming and your artistic life, what you could and should do, try getting out of town, and maybe give Drumming at the Edge of Magic a look. You younger drummers especially, who are just starting out in your careers and education, have an overload of options bombarding you. Taking the time to breathe is definitely time well spent.

Then, pump everything you have into harnessing your soul in the right direction, and you will feel vividly alive even during the hardest parts of the struggle. The result is that when you sit down to play, you will be 100% THERE… and believe me, the band will hear it, the audience will feel it, and the musical universe will know it has done its job by bringing you closer to the true edge of your own drumming magic.

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove: What’s in Those Shells??

uhmm, POP! uhhm, POP! uhhm, POP! uhhm, POP! POP!

Can’tcha just hear it? Honestly I did when I pulled the Guitar Center flyer out of the mailbox. There it was, this shimmering little boppity-bop kit just staring me in the face. Loved the color in about a second, and I could see using it for jazz gigs if it sounded as good as it looked.


So the next obvious question was: What’s in those shells?

And therein began the great quest for Questlove’s Breakbeat kit low-down, yes it did…

The adventure began early Thursday night, when I got home from an idiot day of commute through Los Angeles, January 31. After being mezmerized by the azure shimmer, I scoured the Internet with no luck. Looked on forum pages, no luck. Checked on Facebook and the Ludwig-Musser page, no luck.

Next morning, same drill. Looky looky here, looky looky there, nada. I went to the Guitar Center channel YouTube site and heard part of the kit, but still, no shell info.

I then called Guitar Center in Hollywood. No luck. They had it in the warehouse, but no info on the shells…


Allrighty… well then, why not just call Monroe, North Carolina and ask someone at the factory?


Easier said… seems that number is not exactly hung out on a shingle, which is understandable. They’d be answering questions all day and night and have little time to make drums…

Time for Plan B: call Conn-Selmer, the parent company, in Elkhart, Indiana, and ask them.

So I did.


“Hi, I saw the new Questlove Breakbeats kit and was wondering if you could tell me what the shells were made of?”

The very helpful guy on the other end of the phone said he didn’t know but that he would walk down to some office and find out. So, he did, with his headset in tow, and basically told me this:

“The literature we have… hmmm… says… made of select wood, 7-ply, imported, by the people who do the Elements series…”

So, he told me all he knew, and I really appreciated the fact that he took the time to do some legwork. Seriously, can you imagine your cell phone service being even remotely this helpful?


Okay, select wood it is… whatever that might be. I posted what I had just found on the Ludwig-Musser FB page with hopes of hearing more soon… and about 3 hours later, BAM!


So, this little kit that I am looking forward to has a 5×14 snare, 10″ rack tom, 13″floor tim and a 16″ kick. Other than the small kick, my maple Centennials have very similar sizes. KInda cool. The 16″ kick comes with a riser, which sounds very interesting.


I have wanted Ludwig to come out with a cool little jazz kit for a long time, and if this it it and does the trick, I’m in.

Now in a seriously strange turn of coincidence, it just so happens that my beloved girlfriend was in the process of knitting me a scarf that is guess what color? Well, not exactly, but pretty damn close…


And there you have it: the great quest for Questlove’s Breakbeat kit low-down has been solved, which means we can all:


Update: Saturday. February 2.

I stopped by Guitar Center in Hollywood to see if they had a kit set-up. They did, fresh out of the box.

Sooooo… road test time!

But first let me say that a couple of other guys were checking it out, which let me hear it at a distance. First impression: the kick is awesome. Cool tone, nice thump on top of that. The beater hits about 2-3 inches or so from the rim, which means higher frequencies… hence, the cool tone.

The toms came with pin stripes, and didn’t sound bad at a distance (10 feet at the most). Nice smack. With thinner heads tuned tightly, I suspect my jazz needs would be met just fine.

The snare was not tuned too tightly, but it too had a nice smack. Its sound on the Guitar Center Channel of course is miked, tuned and played by the master himself (Questlove). Still, I had no complaints, and snares off didn’t sound bad either.

But it’s the kick that really got me. Great feel with the riser using a Ludwig pedal, and I got great control and rebound even playing heel down. This mattered most, because in a small club, you need ALOT of control for volume…

Samba, be-bop, funk… again, I had no complaints. The hardware was solid and no muss or fuss, and yes, the drums ARE tiny… but they delivered for what I wanted.

When I asked the guy at Guitar Center what kind of wood they were using, he said it was being promoted as cherry wood. I’d seen “poplar” on the Ludwig Facebook post from the previous day, so I asked him if he was sure…

Five minutes later, he came back and said he’d just called Ludwig and that it was actually basswood. So, there you go.

Now mind you, with the insanity of the NAMM show just passing and a new kit being released, I would expect information to possibly get jumbled and I don’t care. This kit funks, bops, and sambas for me just fine, so it can be comeoniwannabangya wood for all I care.

Ludwig, Questlove, you got my vote.




Our Very Good Fortune As Drummers

It’s a few days after the 2013 NAMM show, and my head is spinning less and less. The blitzkrieg of that event really is hard to describe short of trying to catch a New York subway at rush hour and making your way through the turnstiles with one hundred other hurried campers urging you along from behind…


Regardless, I’m glad I went, because it was a great reminder of just how fortunate we are to be drummers in this day and age. I say this because with each passing year, our access to music technology grows, and we have tools the likes of which I could only dream of as a kid growing up in the 1970’s.


In short, we have access to the world.


Imagine you are a drummer living in the middle of the United States, or perhaps the highlands of Scotland, the outskirts of Dubai, or maybe a small city in China… the fact that you are reading this means the borders are irrelevant. You can go on YouTube and study something about almost any drummer hero you ever imagined. You can go to Spotify and do your homework on virtually any style of music imaginable.


You can enroll in Berkelee’s on-line music study, take lessons from Billy Cobham and have him comment on your video reply, Skype with Daniel Glass to thoroughly learn the history of your instrument, or post your own drumming explorations and light fires in fellow players.


You can refine and perfect your time-keeping with dozens of electronic metronome options for your smart phones or tablets, learn world percussion from Pete Lockett with his website videos and DrumJam app, grasp and explore the secrets of polyrhythms with Wolfram Winkel’s Polyrhythm app.


You can VASTYLY improve your ear for studio drumming with the hundreds of kit options in any number of electronic drum kits, record your own music one note at a time using any instrument imaginable from virtual studio technology, write your own drum books using electronic page layout programs like InDesign and notation software like Finale. You can express any thoughts you have with blogs like this one.


You can communicate with fellow drummers in any number of on-line forums, make contact through MeetUp groups all over the country (and start your own MeetUps as well). You can reach out directly to your drum heroes in many cases, and you can voice your opinions in drumming groups on Facebook. You can create your own free music website with MySpace, and you can reach out to the world through Twitter.


NONE OF THIS existed when I was a kid growing up in the 1970’s.


Every time my blog is read, a post shows up on a world map, showing what country the reader logged in from. I love, absolutely, LOVE, looking at this little map, appreciating the time someone like yourself took out of their day to check out my ink and thoughts on drumming.


I attended my first NAMM show in 1983, the year that MIDI was introduced. Yep, I was there when the digital revolution truly began. I remember smacking the brick-hard Simmons electronic drum pads and thinking, “Holy shit, this is gonna change everything…” The Linn drum machine followed, along with the Oberheim OBX drum machine, and I played both in Texas, thinking the same thing,


Today, I can fire up my iPad, tap out some rhythms, save them for export to Pro Tools, sing into a mic and capture ideas, convert them into sound files, mix it in a coffee shop, and post it within MINUTES. Yeah… everything absolutely changed, and we as drummers can own pieces of the world in almost unfathomable ways.


We now have no limits, nor borders, and no reasons not to turn the rhythmic world on its head with our ideas, opinions and explorations. We can create a temporal blitzkrieg anywhere we want, any time we want.


And the best part? We can make our own good fortune, no longer having to wait for anyone or anything else to shape it for us.


Good fortune, indeed.

NAMM 2013 live blog

1-24-13: I’m in Anaheim, California for the 2013 NAMM show. I thought I’d give a shot at posting live and updating for the next 4 days.

It’s never dull, always packed, and characters abound.

Posting from an iPhone is a neat trick, but I’ll upload photos a little later. If you’ve never been, it’s a zoo times ten…

Check back for more in a little while. I gotta give these feet a rest after 4 hours of wandering through the toy store!


Okay, so here’s a few more pics for tonight.

MIke Belitz, owner of Ultimate Support stands, awesome guy and fellow airplane pilot. He got me into NAMM this year, and I am most grateful.
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And then there were the Sound Control Police, which cracked me up to no end…

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But what really surprised me today was watching Peter Erskine climb up on the Tama riser and play…

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Now exhausted hardly begins to describe Day 1, but the coolest highlight?

Being interviewed by Finale (the music notation software that I used to create The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II). They video’d me for use on their website. I’ll let you know when it is up.

But the best part? I ordered a 6 ” meatball sandwich for dinner and they gave me a 12″ one instead. Awesome!

See ya tomorrow, and thanks for checking things out. Good night.

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1-25-13: Good morning from NAMM 2013, in Mickey Mouse’s backyard (Anaheim, CA).

Checked out Paiste, and then caught JoJo Mayer at Sonor doing a bass/drum jam. Better than coffee, actually…




And then there’s the guys at Roc-n-Soc drum thrones, my favorite, sittin’ down in the job…


Also kinda cool, Vinnie’s actual Ludwig recording kit over at the Paiste booth.


Late afternoon: Alan White received a gold plated Ludwig snare drum from Kevin Packard, Artist Relations.

It was engraved by John Aldridge (shown here), no relation, but we used to both write for Drum! magazine.


Look closely on the snare head. Those are the actual hand engraving tools, and he did it all in One Night!!


Me and Alan White…


And me and Lee Sklar, bass player on Billy Cobham’s classic Spectrum album.


And here’s one of me and John Aldridge, my brother from another mother or something like that…


In closing, here’s a picture of me and Aynsley Dunbar, one of Frank Zappa’s most famous drummers. Really nice guy, and we talked about Frank’s music a bit. Aynsley’s admiration for Zappa was quite evident as he spoke with great respect for his music. It was quite an honor to meet such drumming royalty today.


Saturday promises to be completely insane, and I’ll see if I can get some truly classic shots. Blogging live is a challenge when umpteen thousand people are doing the same thing at the same time, jamming up the Internet, but I’ll get done what I can. Hope you faithful readers enjoy, and we’ll do all again in 12 hours. Good night.

1-26/27-13: I’d hoped to keep the daily log going, but honestly, Saturday blew me out of the water! So here we go to give you an update of Saturday and the closing on Sunday…

I visited the MakeMusic booth and got a great shot with the guys from Finale Music Notation Software. I cannot say enough about that product and how it helped me bring my book dream to life with The Elements of Rhythm, Vols. I & II. Here’s Tom Johnson, me, Scott Yoho, and Justin Phillips:

2013-01-26 11.59.31

A vist by the Remo booth let me get caught up with world percussionist Pete Lockett. He received a copy of the books a month ago and liked them. Unfortunately, he hurt his foot during the show and was on crutches when I saw him. You might want to drop by his website or Facebook page and send him some recovery wishes. His cast did not look like to much fun…

2013-01-26 12.19.27

I also ran into Jerry Zacarias at the Remo booth. Jerry helps run the show with Mike DeMenno over at the Remo Recreational Music Center in North Hollywood, California, and he is a very high energy drumming guy. We are talking about teaching a class on The Elements of Rhythm at the RMC in the near future, and I will keep you posted.

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Karen Stackpole, Paiste gong artist and one of my friends from the DRUM! magazine days, drove down from the Bay area for a single day of NAMM madness, and it was really great to get caught up. She is an extraordinary percussion explorer, and you should check her out if you want to see just how many ways a gong can be played and tinkered with. More than you might think, actually…

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I think my entertainment for Saturday was a toss-up between two guys. One was Rick Hubbard, from Kazoobie Kazoos. Here’s a pic of me and Rick along with a video clip that should make you laugh. He plays a kazoo through a Korg sound effects module…

2013-01-26 16.00.18

And then there’s Andy Graham and his Slapperoo. It’s a long pole with a band of metal that you play like a slap bass. Now run that through an effects box and hear what happens… awesome! Check out his website for cool samples…

2013-01-27 14.38.27

Of course no visit to NAMM would be complete without honoring the past, and so, here’s a shot to remind you what players used when men were men and sounds were LOUD…

2013-01-27 16.13.33



So there you have it, my attempt at a live blog. I think I’ll leave this work to the pros, but it sure was fun to give it a shot. If you ever get the chance to check out NAMM, do it, but bring really comfortable shoes! I’m gonna go finish soaking my feet and think about next year, and again, very special thanks to Mike Belitz from Ultimate Support stands for inviting me to the NAMM-pede!

Si Begg – Electronica Artist with Permission to Explode

You honestly never know where your words will end up and how they may shape matters beyond. Last night, I was doing a search regarding my books to see how they were moving along, and I discovered a very interesting YouTube video created by electronica artist Si Begg. I was not familiar with him, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how my name had become linked to one of his productions.

Si read a portion of “Rhythm Man,” the personal essay I have often referenced here in the blog, that I wrote in 1992 for inclusion in Don’t Think About Monkeys (Hope Press). Si credited this short story with giving him some artistic inspiration, and I wrote him a letter giving thanks. Kinda cool how something I banged out in a small house in a beach town years ago somehow ended up finding its way around the world.

The following is an excerpt from the video description. You can read the full body by going to YouTube and searching “Si Begg- Permission to Explode”:

Chris Angelkov, director, Brighton, UK: “The brief that started off the process was very open and the nature of the project was very much collaborative. The album is very personal to Si and is at the more experimental end of his musical output.

“The starting point was a page of text that really summed up the reasons behind why Si had decided to make this album and that is what drove the conceptual process for the film. Here is a quote from David Aldridge, a drummer that was in that initial brief: ‘It really resonated with Si who saw this album release as his own “permission to explode”.’

‘I’ve been banging on car dashboards since I was six years old, following and flowing with the rhythm until it poured out of my ears…rhythm and Tourette syndrome have been intertwined from the first day I found that drumming on a table could mask my jerky hand, leg, and neck movements. This newly found masking actually harnessed my unbound energy, directing it into an orderly flow.

‘This “permission to explode” let me tap into vast reservoirs of sounds, and physical sensations, and I realized that my destiny lay clearly before me. I was to become a rhythm man.’

If you are not familiar with Si and want to know more about him, here are some links that you might want to check out:   (personal website)   (wikipedia post with detailed background)

There are many days in a writer’s life when the solitude absolutely crushes you. It’s times like these when you wonder why it’s worth the effort to get the fingers moving. And then there are days where your world lights up with wonder and amazement, reaffirming that the artist within may carry a small flame, but that it can ignite bigger flames when placed in the right environment. Si’s very kind reference is a reminder that synergy can offer a very interesting ride on the Möbius strip of life.

Mastering Quintuplets (5-note Groupings) as Polyrhythms

Getting quintuplets under your belt is not that hard to do if you start simple and build from there. This following an excerpt from The Elements of Rhythm Vol. I, my rhythm pattern theory text.

Quintuplets are simply 5-note groupings that are evenly spaced. They can be written in very complex forms, but to begin our study, we’ll first look at them as quarter notes.

There are exactly 32 quintuplet rest/note possibilities. If you master them in an easy-to-read meter like 4/4, they sound EXACTLY the same in 4/8, 4/16 and 4/32. Once you get the sound down, you can work on exploring them in different meters, as the following pages discuss and present.

If you are just getting started with polyrhythms, a good teacher can walk you through a more detailed exploration of our sample page excerpts. Intermediate to advanced players should be able to understand and integrate the principles with little difficulty.

For all levels of players, quintuplets open very interesting doors to the world of complex sound shapes, and the work you put into learning them will greatly expand your rhythmic vocabulary.

Enjoy, and as always, thanks for checking out my blog. There’s much more to come…

excerpts from The Elements of Rhythm Volume I (Rollinson Publishing Co.)  All rights reserved.