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Lesson with Ralph Salmins

Ralph Salmins and II saw Ralph Salmins at a clinic put on by my old teacher, Phil Solomon, in Brighton a few years back. Ralph’s playing and approach were presented in a fun and informative way and his professionalism and practical attitude towards his work as one of the UK’s leading session drummers was inspiring. I asked Ralph for a lesson but due to complicated schedules, we couldn’t find a suitable date.

My next meeting with Ralph was at this year’s Ultimate Drum Experience where he gave a class on swinging. After being told I swing good (which lead to me saying “yes” to my current project) I told Ralph that I must have a lesson with him. This August I was lucky enough to visit the Bunker, Ralph’s studio, for a lesson.

It seemed sensible to work with Ralph on my jazz playing. I had been working on The Art of Bop Drumming for some time, trying to improve my jazz vocabulary. After tea and a biscuit, I sat at the kit and played a swing with ride and hats and Ralph approved, to my relief. Then I started to rattle through Comp Example 3, which double-page spread I had been most recently preoccupied with.

“Your swing changed,” said Ralph. My swing changed when I played the comping patterns. I was playing at a fair clip. “You need to slow it down,” he told me.

So the metronome was set to 80 BPM and we spent the next hour or so working on placing the snare and bass in the right spots. I couldn’t help but frame the slow tempo playing as a mild form of torture and Ralph reminded me on several occasions to get into the slowness and really enjoy it. I was to play the first comping pattern at a slow tempo for a couple of weeks until it was perfectly lined up. I followed my orders. I am now working on the second pattern at 80 BPM and it seems to be working. When I play at all tempos I find that my swing pattern is a lot more consistent in sound and I am staying more relaxed. I am doing my best to enjoy playing at super slow tempos and this has really helped me with some other stuff I am working on, most noticeably the Songo which I need to get to a giggable skill level some time in the not too distant.

The rest of the lesson was spent on some practical stuff such as how to approach some laid back Bossa and Samba stuff and Ralph also made sure my timekeeping was up to scratch in my home territories of rock and funk (FYI, future employers, it is…).

My lesson was well worth the wait. Ralph gave great teach, he was very attentive and critical and identified some basic and essential issues and wasn’t afraid to make me work hard on getting things right. He approached everything with a totally positive attitude. Having a lesson with a great player and teacher was a wonderful experience not only with regards to improving my drumming but also with regards to learning something about teaching. If nothing else, it’s good to get a taste of one’s own medicine every so often to remind us we are always learning.

Thanks to Ralph for giving me the opportunity to learn from him. Check out his website here:

Finally, here’s a clip of the man himself making groovy.