We know it, we are drummers
We all like crazy syncopated patterns, intense solos and intricate rhythms. All that noise can sound cool, but we often forget about the power of simplicity in music. Some of the greatest songs ever recorded have been done with two verses, a chorus and most of the time with a single rhythm looped for the entire duration of the song.
Why am I writing about simplicity? Well, for two main reasons.
The first one, is that I spent the whole summer gigging almost every day with instrumental jazz gigs with various acts, electronic rock/pop (http://www.fjokra.com) and last-minute function gigs. The differences of “vocabulary”, sound, repertoire and approach are quite challenging and very often there’s no time to prepare or rehearse the set list.
There is always a good solution for this kind of situation, it is simplicity. Keeping the rhythmic section clear, minimal and most of all musical helps the music breath more and sound better ( and eventually get more bookings).
The second reason why I’m talking about simplicity
is for all the music students who are reading this. During lessons, I talk with students about band workshops and about “being ready” to play with a band. I know it can be hard to believe, especially for beginners, but a single rhythm looped for an entire song, plus maybe a single fill is enough for a successful session.
To be good drummers/musicians in a band context, we don’t need to show several different ideas squeezed inside a single song or demonstrate incredible technique and independence. The main factors we need to take care of are: timing, song/structure (stating the form), and sound control. If we are successful in doing this, we will have a successful session, 100% assured!
Don't misunderstand me
I’m not saying that technique and other more academic studies are not important. Indeed, every kind of music requires a specific standard knowledge; what I’m saying is: do not confuse practicing with playing when you're making music with a band. In other words, while you are playing, focus on the “now’ and do your best with the skills you have acquired up until now.
Of course, I like watching skilled drummers showing off brilliantly executed chops and taking inspiration from them. But don’t forget that what you really need to do is to play for the song, this is what drumming and making music is about..
As Miles Davis used to say “I always listen to what I can leave out”
Blog post by Planet drum teacher, Filippo
It's always best to buy a quality branded drum kit. Brands include DW, Yamaha, Pearl, Mapex, Tama, Premier, Ludwig, Sonor, Pacific and Gretsch. The cheapest brands at the bottom end of the market are best avoided, even for children.
If you seek the advice of an experienced drummer and reputable drum dealer, then the chances are you will be armed with the advice you need to go out and make a great buy. You will get a lot more for your money buying second hand.
We can give advice to all enrolled students and help them to find the right kit.
Electronic kits have come a long way since the 80's. They allow you to play with headphones and are virtually silent. Electronic drumkit brands include Roland and Yamaha. Prices start from about £500.
Again, stay clear of budget brands!
I was lucky enough to receive some Arts Council funding
from a new strand they’ve recently launched called ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’. It’s all about giving arts practitioners time to explore one particular area in-depth. I proposed that I would embark on a year-long project composing new music for four different sized ensembles. The outcome would be four sets of music accompanied by four separate day-long workshop sessions with the musicians, which I would record as a document. Each ensemble would be a different size to the band I’m used to composing for: my quintet, Entropi. So I decided that I would write for a duo, quartet, sextet and dectet.
In December, at the start of the project,
I thought I would be doing project planning for the year, contacting musicians, booking rehearsal rooms and sitting down to compose music for one of these four ensembles. A very organised and logical approach. This is not what happened. In this blog post, I’ll outline what I’ve learnt so far in the hope that it might inspire you to think about how you approach your music-making, composing and improvising.
Up till now, my composing has been ‘on demand’ for a very specific reason. Normally it’s a gig with my band where we need an extra two tunes to have enough original material for the whole gig, or I need to write one more composition for a recording. The process has often been quite stressful and close to the wire. I’d find myself up late trying to finish a tune off for a rehearsal the next day with my band. Fear played a great part in getting the thing done and I didn’t find the process very enjoyable
When I started this project I did not want to compose in this way
so I forced myself to find another way to go about writing music. This has been quite unexpected. A book came into my hands called ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which talked about nurturing and unblocking creativity. While reading the book I realised that I was quite creatively blocked when it came to composing. You know when you are blocked when you avoid doing the thing - whatever that is, writing a novel, painting or in my case composing and then make up a load of excuses in your mind about why you can’t do it. I realised that I hadn’t really seriously addressed the practice of composition. Often when I did sit down to write, I’d have an inner critical voice saying: ‘what is this piece of rubbish?’ This is no way to get into the zone and be creative!
Improvisers compose in real time all the time. As an alto sax player who is extremely into free improvisation and jazz, I normally have no problem coming up with ideas and essentially making stuff up on the spot. This is just because I have done it a lot, so it feels comfortable for me to do so. A large part of improvising in any kind of music is interaction with the other band members, listening, reacting, developing ideas all in the moment. To be able to do that you need to be far away from the critical mind and right in the flow of ideas. I wanted to be able to recreate this feeling while composing new music.
In the book ‘Big Magic’,
Elizabeth Gilbert talks finding our creativity by following what makes us curious. I realised that I wanted to do some visual art. So I proceeded to spend an hour a day doing A5 sized pieces of colourful abstract art. The rules were: do it everyday and be non-judgmental about the outcome. In other words value the process and not the result. This was hugely beneficial for me: because I am not trained in art, I had no real value judgements on my choices of colour, shape or line. I just did it every day for a month. Over the weeks, I started to notice that this art activity was having a positive effect on the way I was improvising on the saxophone. I was applying the freedom I was experiencing on the blank canvas to music.
As musicians, we spend a lot of time learning and practicing technique. Obviously this is very important, but I feel that we can sometimes forget to engage with the side of music which is artistic. As musicians we are all creative artists, but do we always feel like that? Expressing ourselves through music is probably the reason why we all started playing in the first place. This must be something to nurture as much as achieving technical prowess on the instrument, I think.
In January I switched the visual art sketches to musical sketches
using the same system: one hour a day and no judging what ideas come out. It is much harder to ignore the critical mind when shifting the creative process to something we HAVE trained in. But I had developed a non-judgmental muscle through doing the artwork the previous month. When starting a piece of visual art, it was very unhelpful to question ‘why did you use that colour?’ so using that same principle I trained myself to stop questioning every single choice of chord, melody note, bassline, theme and just let the music unfold - much like improvising. Over time, ideas started to flow more freely when I stopped putting so much pressure on myself. I shifted the focus away from outcome towards process. In the month of January I have composed 16 musical ‘sketches’.
My website is: deebyrnemusic.com if you are interested in what projects I’m involved with and where I might be playing next. Thanks for reading this and I hope to share some of these compositions with you in the future!
Blog post by Saxophone teacher, Dee Byrne
Last month it was with great pleasure
to be asked to supply the Planet Drum Studio with our Practice Drum Pads. Planet drum joins a long list of teaching studios in the UK that use our products. We have been manufacturing practice pads since 1973 and have supplied top drummers and teachers with our pads for over 40 years.
We use a special drum feel rubber which is very quiet and doesn't wear out. That's why every year schools and studios research other pads that are on the market but always come back for ours.They know our pads will give a lifetime of use. In fact it was only last week I saw one of our original pads that's over 30 years old and still being used on a daily basis.
We offer a full range of pads to include Button Pad/Mini Pad/Brush Pad/Snare Pad/Dual Knee Pad/Pads on stands and our highly successful full practice kits. We can simulate any drum kit arrangement into a practice kit format so you can practice drums at any time. No electronics to go wrong. No headphones.
Next time you are at Planet Drum check out our practice pads. It could be the best investment you will make in your drumming career.
For special prices, reference 'Planet drum' and contact me direct on firstname.lastname@example.org Tel Mob: 07778 288783 or see our full range at:
Planet drum teacher, Radovan Brtko
shares his experience of his latest studio session at Wax Studios.
'This is an upcoming debut EP of my good friend Severin Bruhin who is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger from Switzerland. His music is in the realm of jazz/fusion mixed with neo-soul, hip-hop and more. The project features quite a few international session musicians, vocalists and artists including a successful Canadian-born producer Robert Strauss (studio owner).'
You can watch their experience below:
Not all music is made to dance to, but all drumming is dancing,
even if the rhythm is so abstract the drummer is the only dancer in the room.
While there are some instances where being the only dancer in the room makes (sort of) sense, free improv, ambient, or introducing rhythms that are exotic and whose kinetic potential takes time for the audience to understand, rhythm is at its most powerful when it is able to infect a room with a pulse that compels you to move.
Notwithstanding the inertia-dictating set-up of most jazz venues today, jazz was created as dance music, not as music for chin-stroking-intellectuals, unwilling to even move to tap their feet.
As dance and music evolved from jazz into a myriad of styles, those who were firmly stuck to their seats took refuge in an academic approach to listening that froze their bodies even further.
Samuel Beckett once wrote: 'Dance First, Think Later'.
It seems that some people have taken Beckett's line as confirmation that it's impossible to do both at the same time, a perfect excuse to not move and look down on dance music as self-evidently 'thoughtless'.
However, thought drives action, and in her book Unthought, Katherine Hayles describes how certain impulses bypass the mind to work directly on the body. Rhythm is one such impulse and can go straight from the source to your body. A stubborn insistence on filtering rhythm through the mind before it's allowed to twitch your muscles merely breaks the direct link between reality and experience; the synergy between performer and audience.
The result of such broken synergy is often a room full of people gasping to understand what is happening on a stage where a band is too busy playing to themselves to notice they have an audience.
That music can be highly complex,
challenging, thought provoking and fuse styles from around the world without compromising on its body-moving force is apparent in electronic dance genres such as Chicago Footwork, Grime, UK Bass and jungle.
To get people moving, perhaps more drummers should dance first, think later, get rid of seats at gigs, go clubbing more often and remember the words of Funkadelic: Free Your Mind, Your Ass Will Follow!
Merijn Royaards, performer, electronic musician and drum teacher
In trying to explain Metric Modulation, I came up with the exercise below.
This is an area of theory that has proved difficult to study and even when I ask professional drummers about it I never really feel that many of them have a confident understanding of the subject.
I also came across this lack of confidence when discussing Time Signatures with pupils, other drummers, music teachers and other musician's. No one gave me the total confidence that actually new the subject well until I read a fantastic article on the subject of Odd Time Signatures by Chad Wackerman.
With Chad's help I was able to really dig into the subject and develop a system that helped my pupils to feel confident in their understanding of Time Signatures. As I "enjoyed" nearly eight years in an earlier life in accountancy, numbers had always come easy to me but after cracking the "Time Signature Code" I'd love to move onto cracking the code behind Metric Modulation.
So...here's an exercise with no musical notation that will help develop something closer to Polyrhythmically/Metric Modulation/Superimposed Metric Modulation/Tempo Modulation...but which one is it and how can it be developed with confidence? (Answers on a postcard please). Start by learning the following 3 Stickings. I used the four different versions of the Paradiddle to come up with these sticking patterns but number 1 could also be described as inverted double stroke roll:
Then when comfortable play them as 16th Notes on your snare drum to create a bar of 3/4:
1e+a = RLLR
2e+a = LLRL
3e+a = LRLL
This will look like this:
3/4 RLLR LLRL LRLL
Once comfortable add your bass drum on the 1st note of each group. If you prefer to count like me this means that you will be adding your bass drum on the following counts: 1 2 3 (Not any of the e+a notes).
This will now look like this:
3/4 RLLR LLRL LRLL
(If a note is underlined this means play your bass drum at exactly the same time as your snare). Once comfortable with this it now starts to get a bit more tricky. (Please fasten your seat belt at this point). Turn off your snares and whilst leaving your Right hand on the snare at normal volume then reduce the volume of your Left hand and carefully move your Left hand onto your Left knee. You should now have created a Polyrhythm playing 4 notes on the snare against 3 notes on the bass drum. Count the bass drum out loud: "1 2 3" and repeat this until comfortable.
Keep going but stop counting the bass drum. Now count the snare drum out loud "1 2 3 4" whilst still keeping the bass drum going. (This, is were the seat belt might come in handy). Whilst counting the "1 2 3 4" out loud please remember that you are still in 3/4. At this point stop playing your Left hand on your Left knee and see if you can keep going with the count "1 2 3 4".
If you can do this you are now counting "1 2 3 4" in 3/4 time without the help of the Left hand filling in the gaps but with your bass drum still going. This is known as 4:3 (4 against 3) in 3/4 time.
Now whilst keeping the Right hand going on the snare stop your bass drum and you now have your new Metrically Modulated 1/4 Note/Crotchet Pulse. (Remember 4:3 is written above the bar at this point so that everyone can see that you have Metrically Modulated.)
Article first published in: www.drumteachers.info
I moved house in January
A big step, a big change, to the coast.
It’s something I always wanted to do. We all talk about change and it takes some effort to realise it. But if you are prepared to jump in, and with a bit of luck, you pop out the other side you are afloat, and the tide is with you. The end of the road. The beginning of a new chapter. This is the sea.
It's big, and it constantly shifts, the rhythm of the tide is constant. It’s flat when there is no wind. Just a massive heavy slab of blue. Its colour palette changes with the sky, like a Turner. On dull days the weight of sky over sea is almost physical. Like the under belly of a giant grey aircraft, just over head. Clouds become sculptural, when a storm approaches from the Channel. The tide still rolls, but rolls harder. Its the same, but different every time. That's why we stop and stare. Thats why WE play drums.
Rhythm - Pulse - Repetition - Distance
Playing the drums has always been constant to me. It comes naturally. I always knew that. Rhythm. It was only a matter of time before I realized I should take lessons. To make that big step, to better yourself, to create change and develop creativity - put yourself into the NON Comfort zone. Its a gamble. But it just might pay off - so make it work. Be committed.
Eventually, the tide is with you. Paddle at first, warm up your feet, take the next step. Lessons are like the first wave, “boy that took me by surprise”, “here comes another,’ but hey I was prepared this time. Be inspired, watch the pros do it. I went to a drum clinic years ago on the South Bank - and then a photographic exhibition. That day changed my musical direction, the tide turned. I listened to new genres of music and discovered new ways of playing. I also took pictures in a different way too.
I’ve played live many times, recorded, jammed, rehearsed…. but the Grades are like the jumping of the pier. How deep will I go this time ?
They are designed to take you a step further, push the boat out, and stretch your horizon so that technique and skill become finely tuned. Reading music is your map, your chart.
Navigate it properly, learn it, and you will be able to interpret music in a different way. Your tutor is the lighthouse, and the tide is with you. There is only one vessel out tonight, it’s you. Take on the sea.
Mike Redpath - Performer and Planet drum student.
Check Mike's drum channel here.
Playing drums gives me a good feeling,
although it feels much greater when you can work with like minded artists. That's why I'm working with the up and coming Nicola Hogg. Last year we've released 4 singles, you can check these out on all social media platforms with the handle @nicolahoggmusic - for them we've worked with Abbey Road Engineer Christian Wright (Ed Sheeran) and other collaborators.
The single 'Flow' won the Mayor of London Big Busk competition which received press coverage from BBC News, BBC introducing, the Evening Standard and many other major media outlets. It also took us to Glastonbury where Nicola shared the bill with artists such as, Mullally, Everything Everything & producer Naughty Boy. Touring wise, Nicola played in Italy and Argentina.
Where is she now?
She's now back in London, where we are planning for her second set of song releases, gigs and tours. We'll be rehearsing at Planet Drum too, so pop in if you want to meet Nicola or just say hi! Make sure you listen to her tracks, and leave a comment if you like them!
Blog post by Hernan Palazzo
Keith Debarra performed in 'The Lost Disc',
the latest production by the The London Snorkeling Team. We have asked Keith to tell us more about this production:
"I performed again at Shoreditch Town Hall for three nights with the London Snorkelling Team.
Last year, I performed with them in a collaborative production of 'A Mid Summer Night's Dream' with Filter (production company) and Lyric Hammersmith.
As well as a run at the Lyric, we were also very lucky to bring the show to Australia and Dublin. It was a great experience and great to be involved in something quite different from what I'm used to. They are very creative people making some very interesting things things with music and theatre."
Again, it's a very interesting
experience to see how something like this is put together both musically and theatrically. It is a new production based on a short sketch which this team put together for another show some years ago.
My role, as you might have guessed, was to play drums but I had some lines to deliver at some point which was fun and nerve racking .We had rehearsed a lot and I think it was a really good show. Let us know if you came along for either of the three shows at the Shoreditch Town Hall."
Blog post by Planet drum teacher, Keith.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.