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.