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L.A. Beat

The Drum Beat

Drum Beat #26 — ’Tis the season for drum circles

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It is the time of the year that I notice drum circles starting to pop up. Interestingly enough I have never been part of a drum circle. I always thought they were sort of strange. I decided over the last two weeks to do some research on drum circles and check one out myself. I found out I enjoyed the experience and they are indeed a great experience for most who attend them.

For those who are not aware of what a drum circle is, it is a getting together of people from all backgrounds and playing abilities to play drums together. In fact you do not even have to be skilled at playing drums. To attend requires an open mind and the willingness to participate. I believe more people would attend but for their inhibitions that they cannot play a drum. I can tell you that every person can hit a drum with the beat. If it seems overwhelming then start out slow by playing just one beat here and there until you pick up the beat or pulse of what the group is playing. The best part of a drumming circle is that it is free to attend.

After talking to a few folks who run drum circles these are the conclusions I came to. First drumming, or any playing of music is good for you. To play drums for an extended amount of time is a great form of exercise. You will not even be aware you are raising your heart rate and working your muscles. One recent study showed that drumming has proven to be good for the immune system. Research showed that hand drumming increases the amount of T-cells. T-cells are one of the most important elements of the immune system.

Not only do you get physical benefits but you get mental benefits as well. One common thread I heard when talking to drum circle organizers was that when the group is going strong that the members achieve a linking of consciousness. This is usually demonstrated when without rehearsing the group will increase in intensity and tempo. Many times people have said the group will all stop at the same time just out of nowhere. The circle requires you to think and elevate your brain activity.


Drum Beat #25—Timing is everything and looking back

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First let me thank you for reading and following the column. Over the first 24 columns I have covered many topics, concepts and facts concerning drumming.

Upon reflection it seems a few themes have reappeared that are relevant to drumming. Although there are many aspects of drumming, it seems the most important and relevant topics are tempo or time keeping, (this seems obvious), a professional attitude and good work ethic, a well thought out plan to becoming a professional musician, picking like minded musicians to align yourself with, tuning, training all of your limbs individually as well as together, and having a well thought out approach or concept to your drumming. I will briefly cover these points one more time in order to hammer them home before moving on to the next phase of this ongoing column.

First and foremost it is imperative you develop good time keeping in order to be a great drummer. You can play a thousand notes and be the most dynamic drummer around, but if your time keeping stinks you are basically worthless. Granted if you are in a situation where the rest of the musicians do not keep time well then this is more difficult.

Having your timing together will help this situation and provide a basis for the rest of the band to excel. If you are working with musicians who have great time as well, this allows for a freedom to play without restrictions, enabling you to freely challenge your musical thoughts.
Take the time to work with a metronome on many different time settings. Practice at slower tempos first and then progress to faster ones. It is harder to play something super slow than it is to play something fast. Music needs space in it to create mood. So practice your timing and tempos and you will be glad you did.


Drum Beat #24— videos show technique and talent

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In this column I decided instead of the written word I would spend my time searching the internet for informative videos concerning drumming.

Here are some links to some videos on the web that are great drumming videos. The first 10 are various lessons, drummers talking about drumming and some interesting drum related videos that are worth seeing. The last 10 are drum solos by drummers that I believe are pertinant.  Enjoy the viewing.




Jazz Drummer vs. Sound Engineer

Check out the other robot vids they are great.










Ed Thigpen sound of brushes -











Greats talking about music and drums


Drum Beat #23— how to read drum tablature

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What is drum music and how do I play it or read it?  This is a question I hear all of the time. It is worth a discussion as it is very valuable to have a great understanding of drum music as well as being able to play it. I believe there are two kinds of drum music. Both require a understanding of music notation and what the symbols and notations mean when on a chart or piece of music. There is what is called drum tablature and music you read to play with a big band most commonly called charts. Drum tablature is used when learning beats, rudiments, stick control or anything related to learning technical playing aspects of drumming. Big band is music that shows the melody line the band is playing or strict sticking patterns for various sections of music or particular pieces of music. In this article I will describe drum tablature and then provide some excellent links for chart reading and basic musical notation information. Enjoy the material and hopefully when you are done you will have a better understanding of what drum music is.
First, there are some basic concepts of written music in general you will need to learn or already have a grasp of in order to fully understand drum tabs.  This is one of the better reference places which you can refer to often when needed. Again, before you even start with reading any drum music you must have an understanding of this.

Second, drum tablature is a method of writing music that enables the translation of different beats and techniques.
It basically is the technical translation of physical drumming on the set on paper.  It is written most of the time on the music staff.
The lines of the staff are different drums. The staff does not have to be used but it seems to translate better that way.
Here are a few examples of written drum "tabs" which I will describe below.


              | ====== 4x ====== |
 Count:| 1   2  a3   4  a |
  Ride:  | x---x--xx---x—x |
    Hh:   | ----x-------x----- |
 Count: 1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a | 1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a |
  Snar: |  -----o-----------o----- | ------o-----------o----- |
Tom2:| -------------------------- | --------------------------|
   BD1:| o-----------o-o--------- | o-o--------o-o---------|

 Count:| 1e+ 2 + 3e+ 4 +  | 1e+ 2 + 3e+ 4 +  |
     Ride:| x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-| x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- | 
   Cym:  | ---------------- ---| X------------------|
  Tom1:| oo---------------  | oo----------------|
  Tom2:|- --------oo------- | ---------oo------ |
   SnD:  | ------o-----------  | ------------------- |
   BD1:  | o-------o--------- | o-------o--------- |

rlrr lrll rlrr lrll lrll rlrr lrll rlrr rllr lrrl rllr lrrl - counted as a 16th note rhythm or 1e+a.


Drum beat #22— 15 more questions for drummers

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In the last column I asked 15 of 30 questions regarding drummer and provided answers. Here are the next 15 questions.

Are you balanced when you are playing?

Too often drummers slope to one side, sit with terrible posture or flay when they are playing. When you are not balanced you are expending energy you otherwise would not have to expend when you are playing. Make sure you are on a level plain with your drums when sitting. Ensure both your feet and arms do not have to cover a lot of space in order to hit the drums. Keep yourself balanced and not leaning to one side or the other.
If you make sure to keep yourself in position where you do not feel any stresses on your body when playing it will be much  easier to play for longer periods of time. You can get great tone quality as you are in position to hit the drums correctly.
You will feel much better because you will alleviate soreness or muscle tweaks.

If you can't play four drums efficiently,  why do you have 12 of them?

We have all seen a drummer with 50 drums and cymbals and they only hit three or four of them. This is not smart. If you have not mastered playing your basic trap set, (bass drum, snare, ride tom, floor tom, ride cymbal, crash cymbal and hi-hit),  then why do you need to have any more drums? Learn all you can applying the basic drum set before you add drums.
It also means you have less drums to move from gig to gig. Sound people will love you because it is less work for them.
Other musicians will love you because they do not have to help you carry your stuff. Playing fewer drums forces you to be more creative in your playing and the fills you do. This knowledge acquired really helps when you start adding more drums and noise makers to your set. The best advantage of playing fewer drums is it is less expensive as you do not have to buy the drums, maintain them and worry about them.

How many hours a day do you practice and is it good practice?

Many drummers will tell you they practice eight hours a day. That is great and commendable as long as the practice is good practice. This means is it productive and you are achieving goals you have made. Of course to compete on a professional level you are going to have to practice quite a bit. Natural talent can go a long way but at a point it becomes stale and  progression starts to diminish. Set a realistic goal for the hours of practice that works for you. Once you have this, outline a practice regime of many different disciplines. This will alleviate boredom as well as burn out. Stick to this outline and you will see major improvements at a quicker rate.

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