Professor Takako Fujioka: A Music/Neuroscience Researcher You Should Know

An 87-year-old man took part in a study involving learning how to play the electronic drum set, and in fifteen lessons, he recovered some use of a bad arm and was able to move around the kit creating rhythms.

Gotta love it.

Prof. Takako Fujioka led the study through her work at Baycrest, a University of Toronto affiliated research facility. She earned her Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering in Waseda University, Tokyo Japan and her Ph.D in physiology at National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Japan. Prof. Fujioka is also an integral part of UT’s new Music and Health Research Collaboratory.

Her academic horsepower and curiosity about how the brain processes rhythm is exactly what we need to further the explorations of music and health. I love discovering these researchers and sharing their work with you, because we’ve never lived in a time like this where so much was happening at once.

The following link takes you to an excellent article about Prof. Fujioka’s electronic drum set rehab experiment:

And here’s a link to her bio and work at Baycrest:

I hope readers will Google Prof. Fujioka and learn more about her. Supporting and encouraging scientists like her may help yield incredible benefits down the road, and if you are academically inclined, you may want to even introduce yourself. We need brilliant minds to push the limits of what we think we know about music and medicine, because if an 87-year-old man can make his body work better as a result, serious good has been accomplished.

And that’s some energy we just can’t get enough of.

The Elements of Rhythm Vols. I & II

How many rhythm patterns do you suppose there are?

Thousands, hundreds of thousands?

The list is infinite, but the number of patterns that make up the fundamental building blocks is finite.

I’ve spent the better part of three decades, on and off, working on a series of books that present the basic patterns and their logical evolution. I have greatly appreciated your readership of my blog, and I would now like to announce the official release of those books… The Elements of Rhythm Vols. I & II (Rollinson Publishing Co).

Many years ago, I took some drum lessons with Terry Bozzio when I was living in Los Angeles. He showed me a collection of simple 2/4 patterns and told me that they made up the basics of just about everything else I would ever see.

From there, I developed a list of 4/4 patterns as a sort of jazz drummer’s vocabulary list… and I expanded it significantly.

In the mid 1980’s, I met American music composer Lou Harrison and shared my list of patterns with him. He had written about a simple binary formula, 2n, that let you create basic silence and sound combinations. We had been working on the same thing in many ways, and he gave me a lot of suggestions as to where the book could go from there.

The level of detail became pretty intense, something much bigger than I had expected. It took many, many revisions to sort out all the information, but what I eventually came up was that the book and patterns formed the basis for something drummers (and all musicians, really) have never had: a rhythm pattern theory resource.

In Vol. II, I take the fundamental patterns and present them in multiple music lines. This lets you read a pattern in 4/2, 4/4, 4/8, 4/16 and 4/32, all stacked on top of each other. This shows that an identical-sounding rhythm pattern can be written many ways and still retain what I call its absolute sound shape. Vol. II also explores the many ways you can count a rhythm pattern, which helps de-condition you from always expecting certain note shapes to be counted certain ways.

Keyboard players can look at notes and see everything they will be working with. So can guitar players. But what do drummers have to look at? Where are the source of rhythm pattern origins? Where are our collection of basic shapes?

That’s what my books are really about. They give everyone a collection of the basic shapes that all the larger, more complex combinations come from.

The value of this list is that you can prepare your mind, your eyes, your ears, and your whole body with the fundamental movement possibilities. It’s not about sight-reading, however. It’s about preparing and programming yourself, completely, with nothing left out.

Several other authors have explored similar approaches using the basic patterns, to whom I give credit in Vol. I, but my approach goes somewhat further in terms of the different ways you can write a pattern. I use half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth and thirty-second rest/note values and create a very large collection of patterns that can be studied and mastered.

I’m going to be teaching seminars in the near future, demonstrating how drummers can use the patterns to explore odd meters, polyrhythms, and advanced improvisation methods. I hope you can take a few minutes and check out the website to see more about what I’ve created, and I truly hope that music teachers will find the materials useful for helping students gain a much broader perspective of how rhythm patterns logically evolve into an amazing structure. I also include teaching guidelines in the Appendices to help provide structure for this new approach to rhythm pattern study.

My dream is to travel the world eventually and share more insights, with both the music community and the music research community. There is so much to explore and so much to integrate… and we as drummers are truly the keepers of the temporal flame. If you’ll visit, I hope you’ll see where the ignition for my passion comes from.

Exercise, Weight Loss, and the Drum Set

In mid-Septermber (2012), I helped a friend move out of state, and we spent a day unloading a large storage pod delivered to her door. It was 95 degrees, I was 25 lbs. overweight, and the work was brutal. When I got home, I rested for two days and then headed for the gym.

6 weeks later, I had lost those 25 lbs. I could run my mile again on the treadmill, do 2 miles on a stationary bike and 2 miles on the Eliptical machine. I could also do an about an hour’s worth of weight lifting after that, and this routine (with variations went on 6-7 days a week.

I had little time to practice drums, but when I did… my hands were tight. My arms were stronger, but I was tired from the constant exercise. I had not worked my legs, but they were a little tired too. 

When I was a teenager, I lifted weights, and even then, the same thing happened. 

So for what it’s worth, let me just say a few things to keep this post short. If you need to lose weight fast, as I chose to, eat MUCH smaller portions, eliminate all breads, sugars, sodas, and cut WAYYY back on carbs and any fats.

Do high numbers of repetitions with the weights, not concerning yourself with building strength. I ran and then lifted, to get my results, but a friend recently suggested that I could have done more sooner by lifting first and then doing cardio exercises. I will be trying this shortly.

BUT… know that you may find yourself tired from it, and if you work you arms too much, you may find all of you will be stronger…. and tighter. I’ll take smaller arms with looser wrists any day.

So, some thoughts as you head for the gym. Stay with it, and you WILL get results. Just think carefully about the results you really want and need…

Buddy Rich Documentary on Kickstarter


I saw post today that I wanted to share here for you fellow drummers. Buddy Rich’s daughter, Cathy Rich, is producing a documentary on her father’s life. The funding will be coming from Kickstarter, and for those of you unfamiliar with how it works, here’s the lowdown…

You create a video presentation about a prospective project. You set the amount you need and the time you need it by. People make a donation via credit card, and when the total amount is reached, then and ONLY then is the card actually billed.

In other words, you lose nothing. If the funding amount is not reached, nothing comes off the card.

Contributors receive various levels of rewards based on how much they contribute, ranging from a copy of the DVD to Executive Producer credit. All the details can be found at this link:

Buddy Rich IS drumming. No other human being more completely personifies our art than this man. If 350 people donated $100 each, the $35,000 production price tag can be reached.  By the way, the title, “Welcome to Nutville,” refers to one of Buddy’s favorite songs.

I leave it to each one of you to read further about the project. You don’t get a cut of the profits, so it’s not a traditional investment by any means… but it is a project that honors an amazing guy, and I think it’s worth looking at.

However… the cutoff funding date is September 8th, 2012… so check out the link, see what’s up.

He gave us everything. That musical effort definitely needs to be immortalized…

Ed Shaughnessy Back Surgery Recovery Update



I got a nice surprise today, an e-mail from Ed Shaughnessy letting me know he appreciated the more than 60 letters and cards he got from you readers who saw the July 5th post about his back surgery.

Ed said he was looking to be out of the recovery center by 9-15, but I’m sure he’d still enjoy hearing from everyone, so here’s the address again in case you did not see the original post:

Ed Shaughnessy, Room 115A, Canyon Oaks Rehab, 22029 Saticoy St, Canoga Park, CA 91303

Thanks again to all of you who wrote and who will write. We are drummers, and it is a pretty cool brotherhood.

Felipe Torres and Veronica Bellino Drum Clinic – July 7, 2012, Redlands, CA

Would you drive an hour to a drum store where the temps were over 100 degrees on the sidewalk to hear two drummers put on a clinic? I did recently, and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time…

Felipe Torres and Veronica Bellino helped host the grand opening of Got Music Lessons?, out in Redlands, California, on Saturday July 7. Felipe is an east coast rocker who has played with The Monkees and with the late Davy Jones, and Veronica is Jeff Beck’s new drummer. I was not familiar with Felipe, but I had watched a few of Veronica’s videos, and I really liked her relaxed, fluid playing. Both of them had played together in SLAMM, a multi-percussionist group led by Carmine Appice.

Got Music Lessons? is a music teaching environment that was launched by Chad Patrick, a local educator and inventor of the Drum Wallet, who believes in the power of small music stores. The building was partitioned into several teaching areas, with PLENTY of air conditioning! It was a nice, low-key setup that was very personable… I mean, when was the last time you went to a clinic and had a local resident attend it and shake every one’s hands just to say hello?

That’s when I knew I was in the land of humans again, not corporations..

The clinic got underway with introductions from Chad, and then Felipe and Veronica played a short drumming duet. It was tight, cool, and both drummers have some very interesting tricks up their sleeves. Felipe can do more with a small splash cymbal on a snare than you would believe, and Veronica can play toms like congas, getting really cool hand-press tones out of her drums. They both used these skills throughout the afternoon, and it was very musical.

Each drummer played along to solo music tracks as well, explaining very clearly how they did what they did. Felipe and Veronica work really well together, and for their first clinic, they made it flow like a seasoned act. Felipe’s best presentation was the tune in 21/16, and Veronica really got my attention with her duplication of her YouTube videos where she plays a collection of bucket drums. They ended the formal clinic with a version of “Wipeout” they called “Workout,” wailing as fast as they could.

I’ve been attending drum clinics for many years, and what stuck out with this one was this: it was not a blazing display of blinding chops and flailing madness. It was two drummers making music and having fun. I know Chad was feeling stress from the sound system acting up, but he was in great hands as Felipe and Veronica handled it all like the pros they are.

I could not stay for the Master Class, but I liked that such a thing was offered to give drummers a chance to play along with the clinicians. We need more of this, to encourage young drummers especially to get up in front of the audience and give it a shot.

Chad Patrick’s website,, has links to his various teaching and music products, for more information. It takes guts to launch any kind of music education project nowadays, and I really wish him well. As I was leaving, he said, “Wait a minute. You were here early. Here you go.” He handed me a bag with some Vic Firth sticks, drumming charts and a few other goodies. When was the last time you left a clinic with someone making sure you weren’t exiting empty handed?

The quote I will remember from this clinic best came from Veronica, when she said, “It’s about doing your thing, having fun making drums and music yours.” As I walked out back into the triple digit temps, I remembered why I got into drumming in the first place. For that, I will drive just about any distance to find my way back home.

Ed Shaughnessy Recovering From Back Surgery – Please Write Him



I wanted to re-post this short note from Chicago Drum Show after seeing this on Facebook today:


To all friends of the Chicago Drum Show and/or Ed Shaughnessy: Ed’s back surgery was successful but the recovery is going very slowly. He does not have internet access in the rehab facility for now, and days are dragging. It would cheer him up get get cards and letters! Please send communications to: Ed Shaughnessy, Room 115A, Canyon Oaks Rehab, 22029 Saticoy St, Canoga Park, CA 91303. Thanks everybody!!



I met Ed Shaughnessy 30 years ago when I first moved to Los Angeles. He was still the drummer for The Tonight Show, and I went to hear him play at a club in the San Fernando Valley called Dante’s. Ed was good friends with Hank Levy, my odd meter mentor in college, and we talked at every break. Imagine being a 20-year-old kid from Delaware, new to Los Angeles, and Ed Shaughnessy is buying you drinks!


I’ll never forget it. I saw Ed this past January at the 2012 NAMM show, and he was using a walker to get to the Ludwig booth. He had to have been in pain then, I can only imagine how his recovery is going, hopefully not too bad. 

If you’ve been laid up, you know it’s not much fun. I hope readers from all over the world will drop this drumming legend a line, even a small postcard would make his day. Let’s remind Ed what the brotherhood of drumming is all about. And don’t forget, he has a new book out called “Lucky Drummer.”


Set Your Drums Up Backwards to Improve the “Weaker Side”

You’ve likely seen a growing number of drumming books addressing the “weaker side” of hands and feet. I like the idea of this focus, and tonight, I decide to try something different.


I turned my Ludwig maple Centennial kit around, making it a left-handed kit (as I am right-handed). The instant my hands and feet touched the surfaces, I swear, it felt like I was a beginner… and then, after keeping some simple beats, the strangest things started happening…

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past month doing a simple stick exercise in the car as I drive in Los Angeles commuter traffic. It’s usually horrible, and the only thing that keeps me sane is tapping my left hand stick against my palm.

It has built up a lot of control and strength… much more than I expected. I just left the stick slowly drop backwards, and then press fingers against it to bring it forward and press the butt into the middle of my palm.

Okay, so a month of doing this, and then about a week or really working on French matched grip, and then tonight when I started playing with the backwards kit, my hands were alive in ways I have not felt in years. I tried some fills, and at first they were a little awkward, but some of them really fell into place quickly, which I did not expect to happen.

The bass drum felt strange just tapping 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 against a simple jazz beat with the left hand, but then I got up on my toes and started twisting my foot from side to side… and somewhere out of nowhere, these sixteenth notes showed up! It was very unexpected, and I will need to work on it a lot more, but MAN! That was awesome!

I use match and traditional grip, but for this experiment, I decided to just stay with traditional. I like keeping jazz time with the French grip, and then playing harder rock and funk with the German grip. Both feel good at certain times, and I think drummers should keep their options open and explore both grips for different types of music.

So there you go, a simple suggestion that I think you will find very interesting if you have never tried setting up your set backwards. If you spend a 14 days giving it a shot, I really believe that those two weeks will produce a significant difference in your other “weaks.”, a very cool and global website


I was browsing the ‘Net the other day, and I decided to do a keyword search for “indian jazz drummers” when I came across   If you have an interest in the many facets of Indian drummers and the rich tapestry of rhythmic complexity we draw from this amazing continent, you will enjoy a visit to the website.

The content includes lessons, blogs, clinics, feeds from other drummers, and some product reviews.The site was co-founded by Pawan Gujral and Shrinjini Barik, and they have a Facebook link for their site if you want to follow them from another direction. I like this whole idea of focusing on Indian drumming because quite frankly, we’ve not had such a resource at our disposal before.

I spoke with Pete Lockett last January at the 2012 NAMM show about his book, Indian Rhythms for Drum Set, which gives any drummer quite a workout. Our conversation sparked my curiosity about what exactly were Indian drummers exploring nowadays. I believe that’s greatest potential contribution to our world drumming community will be its continued evolution as a bridge, and it is one I look forward to crossing on a regular basis.

Why Hand Tendon Strength Is The Key To Speed and Control

When I ran track in high school, I remember watching people working out one day and having a thought that ultimately changed my drumming. Everyone was working on squats to build leg push strength, but why not work on the lifting muscles so you could get your legs up faster and then back to the ground faster?

The same thought occurred about boxing and the martial arts. Why not work on the pulling muscles that brought your hands back faster so you could more quickly throw the next punch?

Several years later, I took some lessons with Terry Bozzio, and one of the exercises was simple single strokes, where you concentrated on pulling the stick off of the head and getting back up to strike position.

I use two basic approaches to keep my wrists in good shape for speed and control. For control, I practice the single stroke Bozzio exercise with three different weigh sticks, paying attention to focusing on the tendons to pull the stick off the head.

I modified this exercise for speed by laying my free forearm over the drum head and tapping the bottom of it with the drum stick’s upstroke. This gives you something to think about going up AND down. You can also practice this in the car in traffic, using either hand. Believe me, it works. Try playing 16th notes between you leg and the bottom of your forearm for five minutes…

These are very simple ways to keep your tendons flexible and in shape. You can develop a lot of control this way, which should be your ultimate goal. The speed comes with increased control, because you will discover the most efficient ways to move your hands in the process. Combine this with rebound, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the transformation that occurs.