Advice For Beginning Drummers from The Cruise Ship Drummer

travelogue_new-coverI really loved this post from Todd Bishop of the Cruise Ship Drummer blog. Go have a read, he very succinctly summarises a bunch of stuff that’s essential to be aware of.

Go read here –

Meanwhile, I’ve had another Skype lesson with Todd and found it very enjoyable and am planning to do an actual kit lesson with him soon to see what it’s like. Oh, and to get some pointers on my jazz playing.

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Drumming DVDs About Musicianship Not Chops

Since I just wrote a review of Jojo’s DVD about feet, I thought I should do a bit about some DVDs I know which are all about the music and don’t waste much time on technique. These are videos that any drummer would hugely enjoy and benefit from. You should get them all.

Levon Helm – Classic Rock, Country & Blues Drumming

Levon Helm - Classic Rock, Country & Blues DrummingOne of my absolutely favourite videos is by one of my absolutely favourite drummers, Levon Helm. Levon Helm – Classic Rock, Country & Blues Drumming is a wonderful collection of anecdotes about Levon’s history, collected wisdom about playing, grooving and singing and performances with some great musicians including Rick Danko and Garth Hudson from The Band. Learning with Levon is about the history of rock n roll as well as when to go bash and when to go bosh. If you can get a copy of this wonderful DVD (there’s one on Amazon at the moment for a mere £389!) you will want to be using the terms “sock cymbal”, “tenor toms” and “tubs” by the time the end credits roll.

Here’s the great man talking about his approach to singing and drumming, “I don’t think about it too much”.

Steve Jordan – The Groove Is Here

Steve Jordan - The Groove Is HereNext is Steve Jordan’s The Groove Is Here which you can buy for less than a tenner. In this video Steve takes us through a wide variety of grooves in the rock, pop and soul idioms. He’s accompanied by Bernie Worrel’s keyboarding among others and plays through some of his favourite grooves from his illustrious career as a session drummer. There is some great insight into the purpose of the drummer. He also talks at length about the art of playing with other musicians, playing in the pocket and for the song. There is a short interview with Levon too. Steve Jordan knows!

Here’s a clip, Bernie Worrel and Danny Kortchmar on guitar.

James Gadson – Funk/R&B Drumming

James Gadson - Funk-R&BNext is one I’ve not had for long, James Gadson’s Funk/R&B Drumming. It’s an absolutely amazing DVD in which Gadson walks us through the major styles of American funk, blues, soul, R&B all the way to disco and 80’s soul. The video progresses through the styles via the geography of the music. There’s a great house band and each style is explained and related to its nearest relatives and then demonstrated through some pretty decent soundalike tracks. James Gadson’s presentation is untainted by media savvy, he’s naturally good at presenting the material and his drumming is just a beautiful thing to watch and listen to.

One of my favourite features is James Gadson’s vocalising which is demonstrated in such a way as any drummer watching it who doesn’t sing or at least hum or doodoodahdah when they’re playing will have a go next time they sit at the kit. He also sings a couple of songs in their entirety and has a sweet soul voice.

Here’s a clip demonstrating the beats of Detroit including some explanation.

New Orleans Drumming

New Orleans DrummingNew Orleans Drumming is an omnibus edition of videos with New Orleans drummers Herlin Riley, Johnny Vidacovic, Earl Palmer and Herman Roscoe Ernest the 3rd. This was recorded in Allen Toussaint’s studio and it covers the drumming and music of New Orleans from Herlin Riley’s lessons about the origins of New Orleans jazz and how it evolved into modern jazz to Roscoe’s modern funk playing. Every section is packed full of groovyness.

Herlin’s bit is high art, softly said, nuanced and he expresses a deep love of the music that’s palpable throughout and makes me feel a sense of responsibility to these alien roots of everything I love about music. It ends with him playing When The Saints Go Marching In with his mum.

Johnny Vidacovic shows us how to really use the snare drum, how to use a clave, how to apply the New Orleans vibe to a variety of different styles, singing and playing, the jazz and about some of the grooves he played with Dr John and Professor Longhair. Oh, and how to be painfully funky.

Earl Palmer talks about how to invent rock n roll, bringing the backbeat to the front. He demonstrates some of his famous grooves, plays Tipitina with Allen Toussaint, he talks about the shuffle and the magic created by doing it to a mad pianist who was playing straight 8ths. There’s the 12/8 too.

Herman Ernest talks about his career as a session drummer and playing with the Nevilles. The influence of Zigaboo Modeliste is in there, coming up with the groove to Lady Marmalade and how traditional New Orleans music has influenced modern funk drumming.

The video’s ringmaster is Dan Thress, a man without whom a huge proportion of the world’s drumming related books and videos would not exist.

Here’s Herman Ernest talking about Lady Marmalade:

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Drum Intro For Tony Allen’s Go Back From His Latest Album

Tony Allen And Singer
Damon Albarn is a pretty lucky guy since his rock star status allows him to play with musicians of the calibre of Tony Allen. Having said that, he’s quite good at songwriting and Go Back from the album Film Of Life is really good.

On the album version of the song is this intro which I just realised is absent from the radio version of the song which is available on Youtube. I guess it’s a good reason to get the record.

A nice example of his drumming. Pay attention to the very dynamic hi hat. There’s so much nuance in the hi hat playing, a lot of colour derived from the interplay between right hand and left foot. Some of the open hats I notated are on the border between open and just a bit splooshy.

Tony Allen - Go Back Intro

Get the PDF: Tony Allen – Go Back Intro

(I hope the inclusion of the audio clip doesn’t upset any so-called rights owners as it’s being used for educational purposes and I think everyone should buy this music if they like it).

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I Saw Tony Allen Play In London

Drummer Tony Allen
So last Thursday I got to see Tony Allen at a venue in London called the Village Underground. I was very excited to see him play since I have a bit of a drum infatuation with his incredibly funky and unique drumming. The set comprised the songs on his new album Film Of Life and I felt very glad to go and see the great musician’s left foot in action in real life, so to speak.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really get into the set. The band was brilliant but the sound was really bad, the balance was all wrong. I got the feeling the sound guys thought they were doing a dance music gig, the synths and bass were far too loud. There seemed to be too much gating and compression on the drums losing a lot of the nuance of Tony Allen’s drumming. To add to the frustration, the stage was permanently in a fog as if the venue’s dry ice had reached its use-by date and they decided to use it all up rather than let it go to waste.

I highly recommend Film Of Life, Allen’s current album and am looking forward to another opportunity to see him live again, hopefully under better circumstances.

The support band was absolutely brilliant. Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa is a Moroccan singer backed by some Senegalese musicians. They had brilliant groove and I was enthralled by their polyrhythmic music.

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Jojo Mayer’s Secret Weapons 2 Is All About Feet And Pedals

Jojo Mayer's Secret Weapons Part 2 It promised to be “The most comprehensive guide to foot technique for drummers ever available” and it is. Well, I imagine it is because I haven’t actually seen the other available guides to feet but this DVD is so amazingly comprehensive, I can’t see how there can be any competitors. Not to mention that people with Jojo Mayer’s insanely focussed intensity and commitment are very very rare so the probability of someone else producing anything remotely as comprehensive in this field must be pretty low. Not that it’s a competition, anyway.

So Jojo Mayer: Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer Pt. 2: A Guide to Foot Technique comprises three DVDs and contains over four and a half hours of stuff. The first DVD is all about playing the bass pedal, the second DVD is about the history and the mechanical aspects of how a bass pedal works and the third DVD is about the hi hat and coordinating the feet. There isn’t much directed at double bass because, obviously, your other foot would be doing the same stuff. It’s also not about playing music but learning about the physics of the instrument and gear we use.

I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it. Jojo’s commitment to breaking down the movements required to percuss with our feet is incredible and I am fascinated by the detail he goes into. As a teacher, I’m also interested in expanding my understanding of what’s possible, if only to broaden my perspective. At the same time, I think that only a small amount of what’s presented here is something that most drummers really need. Jojo Mayer’s chops are something to behold  and we all need  technique to push at the boundaries created by us being monkeys stuck on a rock floating in space. We don’t all need that level of facility, though. Watch this with that in mind.

Secret Weapons 2, is fantastically illuminating, entertaining, insightful (in a mad way) and alarming. I would say for most people, there is about fifteen minutes of practical information about the main subjects (bass pedal, hi hat and coordinating the two) and the rest is for the more trainspottery contingent or drummers for whom technique is a goal in itself. I am very very glad I got this. I’ll be taking a lot from the bits I found most applicable.

The DVD is interspersed with a bunch of great musical performances spanning a wide variety of styles. I particularly enjoyed the bit where he jams with a tap dancer, reflecting the close relationship between the art of the drum kit and tap. Another highlight was a rockabilly type song that required poor Jojo to play something simple (which he does, unlike many other “chops guys”). There is also a lot of attention given to Jojo’s pedal and for people with gear lust (guilty, sort of) there will be a temptation to try one of these groovy looking things.

This DVD is utterly brilliant as a catalogue of everything that’s been discovered and implemented by an amazingly dedicated and intense human being. The content flows together wonderfully, Jojo presents everything really clearly and I will definitely be incorporating some stuff from here into my teaching. The philosophy of loose springiness, least-resistance/get-out-the-the-stick’s-bloody-way that’s come from studying with Chapin and Freddie Gruber, is right up my street. But you don’t need all this information.

If you’d like to learn what an obsessive perfectionist has discovered about playing percussion with his feet, I strongly recommend this DVD. But beware, Jojo’s package might be as much a cause of information overload and choice paralysis as a vehicle for improving your drumming.  There isn’t anything about playing music on this DVD, it’s strictly about how the body interacts with our instrument. I know some people are hostile to separating the music from the technique in this way but I find it pretty useful to compartmentalise the different things we need to learn as long as we figure out how to make the parts serve the whole in due course.

Meanwhile, I think a perfect instructional vehicle would be Jojo Mayer’s edited version of his two Secret Weapons DVDs called – Well Known Tools Modern Drummers Need To Know About The Mechanics Of Using Your Hands And Your Feet To Play A Drum Kit. It will be less than 60 minutes long and I’d recommend it to all my students.

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I’m Looking Forward To Seeing Tony Allen Next Week

Tony AllenNext Thursday I’ll be going to see Tony Allen playing in London, at the Village Underground in Shoreditch. I guess he’ll be playing a bunch of stuff from his new album, Film Of Life, which sounds great. I’m really looking forward to seeing him play since I’ve spent a chunk of the last year or so trying to do what he does. I love his loose and energetic playing and his amazing touch. Something I am finding particularly challenging is to develop the coordination between the left foot and the rest of my limbs and keeping everything fluid.

I am planning to do more posts about Tony Allen’s drumming when I can make the time. Meanwhile enjoy a couple of tracks from his latest:

Boat Journey – Beastly Bass!

Ire Omo – Hip Shaker

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I Saw The Kinks Musical, Sunny Afternoon

Sunny AfternoonLast week I got to see the musical Sunny Afternoon which is based on the story of the Kinks and features their music. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve visited the theatre (and have a couple of fingers to spare) and I found it to be a very novel experience.

The show is based on the fortunes of the Kinks from their early days as the Ravens to the summer of 1966 where the show climaxes with the comingling of the band’s musical success and some sort of sporting event that happened that year…

I went to see Sunny Afternoon because one of my students, Ben Caplan, is a member of the cast, playing publisher Eddie Kastner. Ben does a spot of drumming on the show as well as acting and singing; his propulsive groove is on about seven of the songs (unfortunately, I can’t take any credit for his playing on the show). I really enjoyed the show and the music was especially good. The actors playing the four Kinks were all very good musicians and they captured the Kinks’ feel authentically. The rest of the cast members were all involved in the music as well as the acting so there was constant movement on stage as musicians swapped places with each other and became actors and vice versa.

Obviously, all of the songs were great. Apparently Ray Davies is closely involved with the production and with the cast recording of the show’s songs. All of the big hits are there and a few less familiar songs, not to mention a couple of Pretenders songs which turned out to be Kinks songs (as a quick Googling in the intermission confirmed). The story blended with the band’s songs perfectly and the cast was able to move effortlessly from acting scenes to uptempo rock ‘n’ roll to slow numbers to acapella and back again.

I was very impressed with how all of the cast members fulfilled several different roles throughout the play. One moment someone would be managing the band or would be a groupie fawning over Dave Davies then the lighting would change and the manager would be at the back of the stage playing bass on a number in a different shirt and hat and the groupie would be singing backing vocals in a recording scene. This sort of performance looks incredibly challenging to me and I’m amazed at how smoothly everything flowed together.

The atmosphere in the theatre was great and the show’s climax had everyone on their feet. If you like musicals, I’m sure you’d love seeing Sunny Afternoon, I highly recommend it.

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Videos of Drummers In Action

I really enjoyed the recent post on Steve Goold’s blog with “drum cam” footage from a recent performance and thought I’d post a few videos showing drummers at work including one of myself, for good measure.

There’s a huge amount of indulgent stuff being shown by drummers in their practice rooms, and it’s great fun to watch but to see our colleagues working up close during a live performance is something else. The following videos all show drummers of a high calibre who are continuing to work on their skills and are generous enough to share with their fellow musicians some very personal insights into their learning process as well as showing off their existing chops and musicality. And me at the end…

Starting, then, with Mr Goold from his blog post here –

Next a clip from Steve Hynes, a great drummer who has a YouTube channel chocka with interesting footage here –

Next, some drum cam action from another YouTuber, Adam Hay, whose videos I discovered via a chat he put up with drummer Al Cross about strokes (not the type that land you in hospital, of course). His channel is here –

Joe Crabtree is another brilliant drummer whose series showing the drum solos he did on a tour with insightful comments on what he played, thought and learned, accompanying the videos is must-watch stuff. He has tons of lessons on his YouTube channel and also a website where subscribers can watch hours and hours of lessons, too –

Here’s a bloke called Alec Tackmann whose YouTube channel, GoAndPractice is full of little exercises you can learn to add to your vocabulary presented in a very economical way. You can grab any one of the ideas and work it up to speed and take it to your next gig –

Lastly, here is a bit of me playing a pub gig in Finchley. It’s from a couple of years ago and it strikes me that my drumming has evolved quite a bit since then. I am doing Use Somebody by the Kings of Leon which some of my students are learning, they might find it amusing…

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Jojo Mayer – Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer Pt. 2: A Guide to Foot Technique

Jojo Mayer - Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer Pt. 2 A Guide to Foot TechniqueI’m rather excited to discover that the long awaited sequel to Jojo Mayer’s insane video on hand technique is due out soon. Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer Pt. 2: A Guide to Foot Technique is released by Hudson Music “soon”. It promises to be “The most comprehensive guide to foot technique for drummers ever available”.

The hands video is best viewed as a compendium of technical information rather than a step by step guide that needs to be mastered in its entirety. It looks like the foot one will be similar. I’m very much looking forward to the experience of elaborating my drumming-related neuroses to the feet.

You can pre-order the “soon” available product from or just wait and buy it somewhere like a normal human being.

For more info, check out Hudson’s page on it here –

Addendum I done a review here.

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Stanton Moore Clinic at Bell Percussion

Stanton Moore Clinic - Bell Percussion 19.10.2014 (2)I had a great time last Sunday attending a clinic with top-notch New Orleans drummer, Stanton Moore, at Bell Percussion in Acton. The event was organised by fellow Edgwareian and hub of the drum community, Mike Dolbear of

I admit I was feeling a little apprehensive about seeing Stanton since I became a bit “Stantoned out” with his Street Beats DVD and Groove Alchemy Book and DVD. It started to feel like he was popping up everywhere I looked, like some sort of drumming Jimmy Carr, doing his gurning and a-rat-a-tat-buzz-buzz-thump thingy. My apprehension was all for nothing, though. Stanton Moore is a brilliant drummer and his presentation was thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring.

The clinic was part of a two day educational programme which involved a couple of day-long master classes for a privileged few. After a brief introduction by Mike, who requested, in a fit of nostalgia for the 1990’s, no one post anything to YouTube, Stanton sat down on stage and proceeded to play a couple of songs from his oeuvre with great energy. He then got straight to the educational part of the programme.

The main topic of the evening related to “musical mileage” – how we can use one idea and create loads of variations with it around the kit to develop grooves and fills. As an example, Stanton used a three stroke ruff (or what I would call a single drag) – llR or rrL, played closed at first and then open as triplets. With this simple rudimental pattern, we learned how to work on feel, to understand the swung and the straight variants and how to move between the two, we learned about dynamics and phrasing and how to apply an excercise we use to develop our physical prowess to make music.

Stanton Moore Clinic - Bell Percussion 19.10.2014 (1)Stanton seamlessly incorporated all of the themes familiar to anyone who’s followed his educational work into this dissection and reconstruction of the single drag – the James Brown/Meters funk thing, the Johnny Vidacovic thing, the swing thing, the Bonham thing and so on. He must have gone on for a good 90 minutes on this subject alone. It was engaging and entertaining all the way through. Following a question from an audience member, he also spoke about how he developed his famous buzz roll, thanks to a gig with a punk-klezmer outfit.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to see Stanton Moore do his thing and feel like I went away with a load of ideas I can apply to my approach to learning and teaching drums which, although I was familiar with many of them from his books and videos, have been brought to life by seeing him in the flesh. His presentation was a perfect example of what a drum clinic should be.

Check out Stanton’s site here –

Thanks to my student, Jonathan Cocking, who let me use his photos.

Here’s the YouTube lesson he did covering similar topics. I don’t think seeing this will put anyone off going to see drum clinics. If anything, I am sure it will encourage people to support real life events.

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