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!

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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…

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

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

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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.

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

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Me and Alan White…

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

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

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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.

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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:

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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!