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L.A. Beat

The Drum Beat

Drum Beat #6 — Talk to your bassist

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Hello and welcome to column #6.  Thanks for all of the support you have shown.
This week's lesson is centering on getting to know your bass player.  As you start to gig you will always have to be in touch with the bass player. If there is a bad bass player you might as well just do your best to keep things together.  
Take the time to have sectional rehearsals with your bass player. Sectional rehearsals are where you get together with just one of the players or maybe a few to practice your parts together without the distraction of the band and what the band as a unit is trying to rehearse. Break down the songs with the bass player and come up with parts that work within the context of the band. Even try to create parts where your bass drum pattern matches with the notes the bass player is playing.  Try and come up with parts that are syncopated together over many bars of the song instead of just a few. In other words create a pattern together that is 8, 12 or 16 bars long instead of a simple four bar pattern.  
Now of course do not get so fancy that the parts you create do not fit the song or material you are playing. There is a fine line between creativity and over doing it. If you are a full time member of a band do this quite often with your bass player and the quality of the band's sound will increase immensely. You will find by doing this that not only will you be able to create an awesome groove but the overall sound of the band will take on a professional sound. The rest of the players will be able to create parts that work easily because the rhythm section is laying down such a groove that the parts they create work better and overall the sound is not cluttered.  I will say it again, get to know your bass player. You will be happy you did.

Conceptual thought #6 — Practicing at home

This week's conceptual thought centers on the notion of practicing at home.
How many times have you been at a rehearsal and everyone is playing their instrument or practicing their parts while rehearsal is going on. This makes it impossible to get any real work done at rehearsal because there is basically chaos going on. When the band is not playing the song usually there is discussion going on concerning tempos, notes, dynamics, etc.  Not a lot can get done if one of the players, especially the drummer, is tapping his drums or practicing parts while people are discussing these finer points of the execution of the material.

Drum Beat #5— Get in Shape

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Welcome to Column Number 5. I thought it was pertinent to discuss the value of exercise and being in shape to play the drums in a live setting. Do not get me wrong, you do not have to become a steroid infested muscle pusher.  In fact I would venture to say that is counterproductive unless it is part of your look.  For example who wants a skinny metal drummer with small muscles dressed in his indie rock clothing their mother bought for them.
Play metal, get big muscles,  lol. No not really but I hope you see my point. Drums are about fitness and fluidity.  Set yourself a workout regime that is balanced and benefits you for drumming. Over the years I have always used the following as an exercise routine before practicing. It helps clear the mind, gets the blood flowing and prepares your body for the pounding it takes to be a nightly gigging drummer. Start by doing 30 minutes of Yoga. This builds strength as well as inner balance and will aid you in developing yourself to be in harmony both physically and mentally which obviously will translate to your drumming. Next run for two miles or jog.
I am not a big fan of this kind of cardio as it is so high impact. If you have an exercise bike handy use it.  
Find some way to put in some cardio work that best fits you and your body.
Yoga will aid in cardio development but it is not enough to have the proper cardio capacity for a three hour gig full of fast beats.  
When you are done with your run,  do yoga for another 15 minutes and you are good to go. There are not any rules only the opportunity to increase your playing ability while actually getting healthy.
In summary, get in shape but do not hurt yourself let it inhibit your drumming. Instead, fitness should be  and enhancement of your drumming.

Conceptual Thought #5— Hear Yourself

This column’s conceptual thought centers around hearing yourself in the context of the band. The greatest teacher I ever had discussed this one day in a lesson while we were just talking. I am not sure he even knew I was listening but among the countless lessons he taught me, this advice was the most valuable. I asked him what he meant by “Hearing yourself in the context of the band.”


Practice, practice, practice

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Welcome to Column Number 4 and we have finally reached 10 hours of sunlight a day. For this column I believe it is valuable to touch on the importance of a practice routine. We will explore practicing in all of its glory. Practicing is what sets players apart. Every good player for the most part has dedicated themselves at least a couple of times in their lives to woodshedding. Woodshedding is an intensive learning regime designed to become profusely proficient at your instrument. Each person’s practice routine is different but for the most part you should include the following:
• 2 hours a day on stick control and rudiments. This exercise is basically a chop builder. Once you have chops, then it becomes a chop maintainer.
• Take you five favorite rudiments. Start your practice by playing these five rudiments of your choice for 10 minutes each. In between each rudiment take a two minute break.
• For the last hour of practice many combinations of paradiddles with different accents. Try paradiddle diddle's as well. Make sure and try all of them with double strokes as well.
• Develop a routine that allows for you to practice and break up the monotony.
• For the next two hours get on your set and practice your lesson for the week. Now obviously having a great teacher and homework  from your lessons is ideal. If you cannot afford a teacher or there is not a competent teacher near by, there is the internet, the library and the local music store to seek out material and things that you can form your own lessons from. The key here is to not get on the set and just play a bunch of beats and mess around without a cohesive plan for getting better.
For the last two hours play to as many recordings as you can. Play to as many styles of music you can. As painful as it might be, make sure to stay current on all radio music. This keeps you well rounded. It helps your timing and keeps your chops alive.
Once you are done with all of this practice you can go to rehearsal for the evening.


The colour of the beat

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Welcome to column 3 and I hope it is warm where you are at. In the mountains of BC today it is beautiful indeed.
First off let’s look at drum placement. A vast majority of drummers either sit too high or too far away or just not in the right position to effectively play their drum set. In fact, they are positioned at such an angle that it actually inhibits their chops and playing ability. Basically where someone is comfortable while playing is an individual preference — to a point. Ideally you would want to place the drums to where you are sitting just below the snare drum. alt
The trick is to position the drums to enable as little movement as possible to strike each drum. At the same time you want to  be at the height to where you can pull the sound out of the drum, not hit down into the drum. In other words do not position yourself so high that it is impossible to strike the drum correctly to get good tone quality. When you are positioned lower you also will have your legs so that you can bounce them freely on the pedals. You can use heel to toe techniques easier and without resistance in the muscles because they are not fighting leverage to execute movement. Once you are sitting properly you can then place toms and cymbals at the correct angle so you can hit the drum in the middle, use rim shots and hit the sides and bells of cymbals freely. If the toms and cymbals are placed awkwardly you are losing valuable sound areas and sacrificing good tone.
Concept #3 — The colour of drum beats
Now I would like to discuss the theory that music is a musical canvas to be painted by the drum set. I believe most will agree that music is a distinct set of variables of time and space. I mention this because with drums you can use colours to paint the musical canvas.
Each drum and cymbal has a different colour associated with it. These colours might be different for every player. It is really a interpretation by the musician that allows this concept to come to reality. Every sound has a mood to it. Every mood has a colour associated with it.

Tune up those drums and learn to swing

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Welcome to column number 2 and I hope your your holidays were awesome indeed.

After looking at my last column I realized I did not discuss how to actually tune a drum. While this seems to be a very complicated process for most people, it is actually very simple. The hardest part is using your ears, so it should not be that hard.

In order for a drum to sound good it must have two heads on it.alt Do not play a drum with one head on it unless it is designed that way, like a conga drum. Place the head on the rim of the drum. But before you place the head on the drum, lightly sand the edges to a smooth finish so that you can spin the head around the rim without any problems. This will eliminate any dust or small wood chips that will affect the sound if they are trapped between the head and rim of the drum. Next tighten down the tuning pegs going around the drum from one tuning peg to the other, going in a across the circumference of the head pattern. In other words tighten one and then go to the tuning peg across from it, not next to it.

Tighten the pegs slightly and then move to the next one. Keep doing this until all tuning pegs are so tight that you hear a sound like the head is cracking. This is ok, do not worry. This breaks the head in so it will keep its tuning longer and will be more consistent in its flexibility and workability. At this point loosen all of the tuning pegs by a 1/2 rotation turn until you achieve a good tone. The head should be somewhere between really tight and really loose. In other words a nice medium. Use your ears and get a good sound. Once this is done, using the cross diagonal method, hit the drum lightly next to each tuning peg on the head. Go from each tuning peg and match the sound you hear so they are exactly the same pitch and tone.

Once this is done you will have a drum that is in tune and will stay that way, at least for awhile. Repeat the same thing with the other head on the drum. Make sure at every gig or rehearsal to tune the drums. They will go out of tune when moved or exposed to weather, etc. You do not have to tighten the head until it cracks every time. Once you have put a new head on a drum, until it is time to replace it, you just have to tune the drum by tightening or loosening the tuning pegs slightly and then using your ears to match the sound at every tuning peg with the cross diagonal method to get it in tune again. As a note, tune the bottom head slightly lower than the top head. This is a personal preference. Experiment with this and find out what you like best.

 Concepts on Drumming #2 — Control your environment
The second conceptual drumming thought will center around a discussion on how to control all aspects of your environment in order to channel emotion to your audience.

You are not merely providing a loud noise with some kind of rhythm to it. You can use your beats, your dynamics, your individual style and drum sound, along with controlling the acoustics and lighting of the room you are performing in to not only make someone dance but to actually take it to another level of emotion and release for them. You can do this by creating an environment and mood instead of just a beat by simply taking a few steps.

Here is an example. When entering a room take note of the surroundings. Is the room dimly lit, how does it sound in the room, it is muffled or loud, is it thud prone, how are the stage lights, etc, etc. These factors enter greatly into the the way you will play, tune your drums and translate to the audience. For example, if the room is dimly lit, with a muffled sound, you are going to want to tune your drums a little more wide open. Tune them higher and use rim shots, and cymbal bells, the side of your drums along with a little tom action and create a dynamic live crisp sound for the drums. Adjust the lighting so it is pleasant. Shine them on the drums if possible so they are warm by the time you perform. Do a long sound check to get the drums sound just right. Now you have control over the environment and can take the audience into your hands because you are setting the feel and energy of the room. You might think this is dumb. In fact I am not sure if many even think of these things. The issue is, it makes more sense to control the vibe and feel of a room so you can maximize your creativity and ability therefore creating a platform that allows you to translate feeling and emotion through your drumming. You can be free of all negative influences and actually achieve a place where you can be in a "zone" of creativity and awareness which translate to the audience. In other words you can translate and channel yourself, to evoke emotion from your audience they otherwise might not have felt. If you take the time to do this it seems people who have never danced can be seen dancing freely for the first time. Experiment with rooms and find what works for you. You will be glad you did.
Lesson #2— learn to swing
The second lesson is going to center around playing the swing beat. Every drummer should be able to "swing". Basically you need to be able to count, one twoah three fourah, assuming a tune is in 4/4, over any music in for it to swing.
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