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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