Drum! magazine is closing

drum first cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 


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

 

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

 

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I just knew the guy could play.

 

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

 

Yeah… that kind of serious.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Louisville Leopard Percussionists: Ordinary Kids Transformed…

Oh, man, it is my serious pleasure to write this blog! I owe this particular find to frame drummer Candy Eaton, who sent me a link to a YouTube video featuring some amazing young musicians known as the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.

 

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I opened the clip, and there I saw a group of very young, earnest musicians playing… Kashmir!

Yes, Led Zeppelin’s classic Kashmir! And we’re talking performance! Not sorta kinda, not, “Oh look, how cute, it’s kids playing Led Zeppelin.” We’re talking focus, intensity, and conviction.

 

 

Awesomeness!

So, like any immediately curious soul, I Googled these youngsters to get the lowdown…

… which led me to http://www.louisvilleleopardpercussionists.com

If you’ll take a few minutes after reading this blog and watch the following promo video, it’ll give you a very good overview of what these amazing players are all about.

 

 

The short version: 65 or so kids, ranging in ages from 7-12, who live in the greater Louisville, Kentucky area. They learn multiple percussion instruments, including xylophone, vibraphone, marimba, bongos, congas, timbales, drum set, and piano… and then they blow you away!

Their founder and artistic director is Diane Downs, who took her bachelors and Masters degrees in elementary education and used them to create the Fabulous Leopard Percussionists in 1993. Ten years later, they evolved into the Louisville Leopards, described on their website as a non-profit, community based group. This means they are a 501(c)(3) organization, so please look at the Donate link on the bottom of their website Home page when you visit it if you’d like to help them out in any way.

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The collective academic and percussion pedigree of Diane’s team is nothing short of awesome. As I read through the bios of devoted souls in the About Us link, I was repeatedly floored by how much teaching and performing horsepower Diane had brought together, and when you watch a few video clips, you’ll be quite floored by the results.

Within the main organization, there are three sub-programs offered, each with a specific focus. Leopards Lite is a less-intense version of the main performance group, designed to let more kids get the basic Leopard experience and also participate and perform in the annual Spring, Big Gig event.

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Steel Leopards is a post-graduate performance group, founded by assistant director Aaron Klausing in 2009, comprised of around a dozen Louisville Leopards graduates, 6th through 9th grade. The group is currently taught by Meg Samples, Kelsey Lee, Price McGuffy, who all also work as Louisville Leopard assistants.

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Summer Camp is a week-long percussion camp offered to kids in 2nd through 5th grade, designed for those with no prior musical experience. They cover drum set, hand drumming, percussion rudiments, and mallet percussion ensemble.

 

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Now if you really want to see something impressive, read the Endorsements link on their website. When the likes of such musical luminaries as Carlos Santana, Dave Samuels, Ndugu Chancler, Neil Peart and Joe Morello offer praise and recognition, you know something very intense and authentic is happening.

I mean seriously… they cover Ozzy Ozbourne’s Crazy Train! You never saw so many VibraSlaps in your life!

 

 

And two of these Leopards went on to just a bit of musical fame, playing drums for Prince and Tune Yards. Yes, Hannah Ford and Dani Markham earned their spots many years ago, and both artists credit the experience of learning by ear to have helped immensely in their overall musical development.

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Many accolades and acknowledgements can (and rightfully will) be directed towards these dedicated performers and their amazing teachers, but I think it’s their own Facebook page and the Short Description that sums them up best:

“Ordinary kids transformed by an extra-ordinary musical experience.”

Jimmy Page certainly thinks so, enough that he posted the Kashmir link on his own Facebook page with the comments, “Too good not to share. Have a rockin’ weekend.”

https://www.facebook.com/jimmypage?ref=br_tf

I imagine their website pretty much lit up like Times Square when the legendary Mr. Page launched those words!

Meanwhile, if you are in the Louisville area, mark Sunday, April 19, on your calendar so you can check out these amazing performers at their Big Gig. But personally, I think their REAL Big Gig was being featured on HBO Family, “The Music In Me,” in a segment called, “The Leopards Take Manhattan: The Little Band That Roared.”

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I wish I could go hear them, but California to Kentucky is a bit of a stretch. Regardless, Neil Peart’s words about the Louisville Leopard Percussionists couldn’t sum up my own feelings better:

“I’m very glad to know such things are being done in the world.”

Now if only they’d cover The Black Page

What do you say, kids? 🙂

 

Dame Evelyn Glennie: The First Lady of Percussion

(Photography by James_Wilson-©_Evelyn_Glennie)

I’ve heard of this renowned Scottish percussionist for some time, and recently, I decided to learn a little more about her. If you have a few minutes after reading this blog, I highly recommend that you do the same.

Dame Evelyn Glennie holds over a dozen honorary doctorates, has earned Grammy’s, has been bestowed a title, has been inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, and has worked tirelessly to change the way the world listens. She is an extraordinary percussionist who has played for royalty as well as for children on Sesame Street, and her hands are a ferocious display of mastery to be reckoned with.

Oh, and, she usually plays barefoot.

There’s a reason, but I will leave it you to find out why on your own.

However, I will tell you this: when you watch her videos, hear her speak, or read her words, you are receiving the energy of someone who has a very interesting take on vibration. She literally uses her whole body to perceive sound. For Dame Evelyn, hearing is “a specialized form of touch,” a fascinating idea she discusses in her Hearing Essay, found on her website under the “Literature” button.

There is no one in the world quite like Dame Evelyn Glennie. The trill of her Scottish accent is punctuated much the same way she plays, with precise articulation and exactly placed intention. She raises the bar high into the rarified air for anyone who picks up a pair of drum sticks or mallets, and I believe that among her many honors, she has hands-down earned the title of first lady of percussion.

And what amazing hands they are…

(For more information on Dame Evelyn Glennie, visit her website at http://www.evelyn.co.uk)

Audiation: Hearing Music in Your Head and How to Make Use of It

“Oh man, now I can’t get that @*&#&^ outta my head!!!”

Welcome to audiation.

Wikipedia gives a good definition of the word: a high-level thought process, involving mentally hearing and comprehending music, even when no physical sound is present. Musicians have experienced this most of their playing lives, but how many of us have really focused on developing it?

I want to suggest that as drummers, we begin to pay great attention to developing our ability to hear drum set and percussion sounds internally. It takes some work, but if there was ever an area where practice pays off, it’s here.

What’s the value? Well, for starters, the clearer you can conceive of a musical idea, the easy it becomes to execute it. I began doing this when I was 9, imagining drum solos and seeing them played on a kit. Over the years, I refined this ability by daydreaming about music endlessly, just like every other musician out there. I just didn’t realize that by doing so, I was helping myself become a better player.


I write a lot about polyrhythm and odd meters, and I use audiation to practice both quite a bit. Odd meters seemed to come naturally as a kid, but polyrhythms have taken a little more work. If you check out some of my previous posts about 5-and 7-note grouping practice methods, you’ll find some simple two-handed exercises that let you hear 5:2, 5:3, 5:4, and 7:2, 7:3, 7:4.

Using audiation, I can now more clearly conceive of these ratios and improvise in my mind using the drum set and cymbal tonalities. I can then sit down behind the kit and “realize” these sounds with some slow, focused practice. This approach is really nothing new to drummers, but now it has a more formalized name, and believe me, music researchers are fascinated by its potential.

Our instrument is slowly receiving more and more attention from the science world, and this is one esoteric area I believe deserves quite a bit of study. Researchers at The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego have technology that lets them map a picture of the brain as you perform. Imagine using audiation to create sounds in your mind and seeing a picture of where it occurs. What might this tell us about how music and language are related?

Point being… from here forward, science will be exploring music perception to a degree that’s light years ahead of what’s come before. If we adapt as drummers and learn more about how we perceive music, it can help us take things further as well.


Peter Erskine often speaks of the simplicity of playing just a quarter note. Here’s a simple exercise that if done correctly will demonstrate a practical application of audiation:

1. Play four measure of quarter notes on your ride cymbal, medium tempo.

2. Pretty boring, huh?

3. Now, close your eyes and play those same four measure in your head, and perfectly and precisely as you can. Focus on seeing the cymbal in your mind and watching the stick hit the surface. Make it perfect. Okay, eyes open.

4. Not so boring.

5. Close your eyes again. Play four perfect measures of time, and then let four more measures pass in silence.

I think you’ll find the results to be very interesting…

When I do this, two things happen: my mind begins to improvise in the silent four measures without effort, and I feel a stronger connection to all four limbs.

Give it a shot, and see what you hear.. literally.