I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who stopped by this site and viewed the content, and I wish you great health, peace of mind, and success in 2022. May this be the year where we truly start getting back to what life used to be like before the pandemic.
Like many music fans who appreciate the music of The Rolling Stones, or at least love Rock and Roll and consider The Rolling Stones a pioneering and pivotal band in this genre, I am deeply saddened by the passing of drummer, Charlie Watts. Charlie, however, lived a full and amazing life for 80 years. That is a great blessing and worthy of celebration at the same time.
What made Charlie Watts special to me? One, it was his backbeat – that is, where he laid the snare drum in the bar. Charlie had a unique timing on those backbeats that gave the music of The Stones, as we love to call them, a certain swagger and earthiness. It is the kind of backbeat that you may hear a drummer from the southern region of the US versed in the classic blues and rock n roll tradition play. Charlie had that gift to channel that swagger and earthiness of the American pioneer blues, jazz, and rock and roll drummers. I still try to make my back beats sound and feel like his. Much has been said of how he would stop playing on the hi-hat when he struck the snare drum to give the latter much more space, projection, and resonance. It is such a beautifully simple yet groundbreaking concept, and hell of alot of fun to practice and play.
As a Jazz-er at heart, Charlie taught us how to swing in the Rock and Roll idiom. That is the Roll in Rock and Roll. The Rock part is easy. The Roll is what makes giants of Rock drummers of the likes of Charlie, Ringo, Ian Paice, and John Bonham. For us kids who were born in 1980s in a world of Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Ratt, Metallica, and Motley Crue (all great Rock and Roll bands of their time), we still could get some of that swing under our skins. Those of us who were lucky to have parents who loved music or were musically inclined made us listen to the Stones. Personally, I am grateful for that. For us drummers, we took notice of Charlie’s drumming. We took note of how he supported the song so humbly and yet, without his contribution, you would not have the groove that moved packed clubs, theatres, arenas, and stadiums.
Charlie, thank you for making music your life vocation. You made our world that much bigger with your humanity and your groove. Rest easy, Big Man.
I subscribe to Rob Brown’s drum channel on YouTube. I like his content alot and I think he’s a great drumset teacher. A couple of days ago, I received a notification from my YouTube app that Rob put out a video regarding the topic of this post. I link the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkV-AFRnNTo.
Being highly impressed after watching the video, I decided to investigate the app. The basic version which I downloaded (available on both Apple and Android platforms) is free and it freaking blew my mind with what it does. I include two screenshots from my Moises app:
I copied the URL link to a YouTube upload of a Weather Report tune, Palladium (Heavy Weather, 1977). Once I pasted the URL link into the Moises app, it worked it’s AI magic in a couple of minutes long enough for me to make a chicken sandwich and coffee. You see the evidence in the two screenshots. That is just the basic version and it slays already. The premium version, as Rob demonstrated it, is quite a miracle, if I may put it that way. Watch his video for the full demonstration and an explanation of what you get in the basic and premium versions.
This is a game changer! I remember the time when I longed for a device that allowed me to isolate drums or other specific instruments, preferably with a variable speed setting, to allow me to study what’s going on in that particular instrumental part. Now, I got my wish! I cannot recommend the Moises app highly enough. The app developers started something that will get better and better down the road. I am so grateful for what they’ve done for the music community.
We are truly in the golden age of being a music student, a music teacher, a practising musician.
I will be opening limited slots for online drum lessons. Timing is subject to availability.
If you are keen to study drumset playing with me from the comfort of your own home, and you have a kit, Zoom web conferencing app, Google Hangout, or Microsoft Teams, and have at least a bluetooth speaker or amplifier to connect the audio from your backing tracks and/or electronic drumkit, we can make this work. I have years of experience helping students improve their drumming skills and score above expectations at drumkit examinations. I am also passionate about working with students to overcome their challenges, fears, and doubts about their drumming abilities. Students 12 years and above of all skill levels, and have been playing drums for some time are welcome.
How would my online lessons be useful to you?
Whether you would like to work on technique, sight-reading, co-ordination, a specific genre, or work through a drumkit exam syllabus from either Trinity College, Trinity Rock and Pop, and Rockschool, I offer competent and effective guidance that is tailored specifically to your learning goals.
WhatsApp 98291901 to enquire further!
It’s been awhile. I hope you guys are keeping safe out there!
It gives me great pleasure to share with you the new album by singer-songwriter, Thomas Willemsen.
Like on his previous studio album, Sentimental Ride, which was his debut studio effort, it was highly enjoyable from start to end working with the same band. The bass, drums, basic keyboard and acoustic guitar parts were done in a single 8 hour session for 8 of the 9 tracks that had drums on it. We convened again some two weeks later to record the last track on the album.
Shout out to Tony Go of Greenroom Suite who did a wonderful job capturing the performances with a superb microphone selection, a classic analogue mixing desk, and his deft skills with Pro Tools. He truly brought brightness and clarity to the mixes in his own unique way. I can also truly say that I did some of my best recording work up to this point at his studio.
Hope you enjoy this album! This album is for sale at Apple iTunes and all proceeds go straight to Thomas himself.
Hi all, hope your Lunar New Year holiday and festive celebrations went well.
A couple of updates:
First of, my heartiest congratulations to my student. Advait, for scoring a distinction in his Grade 3 Trinity College “Classical and Jazz” Drumkit exam. His work ethic is nothing short of inspiring. To me, he almost always takes to learning new things on the instrument like a duck takes to water, and I enjoy the lessons with him very much. He is a very thoughtful individual who is never short of interesting questions to ask during lessons. I look forward to working with him to take his drumming and musicianship to the next level.
Secondly, in my last update, I shared about my experience recording the Sentimental Ride album by singer-songwriter, Thomas Willemsen. I have been invited by Thomas again to play on his second album along with the same group of musicians as on the last recording. Details to follow. I thank Thomas for giving me this opportunity once again to work with him as I truly enjoyed the process for the last album.
I’ve also completed 4 originals for my own music project and am in discussion with the musicians and engineer for the recording of these songs, as well as organizing rehearsals. Details to follow.
May this year be at least a slightly better one than last year for all of us.
Hope you are all doing fine.
Just a quick post to share some new studio recordings I had the honour and privilege to participate in:
- https://imp-act-sg.bandcamp.com/track/the-island-of-alsocanla (available for paid download at SGD 2.90).
Imp Act is a newcomer to the more progressive sector of the Singapore Rock and Metal scenes. Consisting of Eugene Ng, Willie Lyou, Jayash Prakash, Benjamin Hwang, Nivian Chia, and Qush Abdul, they released their first single, Another Life, also available on their page at Bandcamp.
Round about early to mid July (or mid to late July, I forget now..) Eugene, who is also very talented recording engineer and producer, called me to consider the possibility of replacing the original drummer in Imp Act. I could not do it, but offered to session for the band till they found a suitable replacement. It didn’t take long for them to find one in Jayash Prakash, and I’m glad that things worked out for them quickly. In the interim, the band approached me to assist them with writing and performing the drum part for their latest single, Island of Alsocanla (Singaporeans and Malaysians will get the last word, lol!), and we recorded the drum track on 19th September.
The drums were done at Mr. Tony Goh’s excellent recording facility, Greenroom Suite, overseen by Eugene, and assisted by a capable two-man team, Mark, and Ray, who also mastered the single. It was also the first time I met the music veteran, Mr. Goh, himself. On the very kind referral from Eugene, I subsequently worked with Tony for one of his clients on an album project which I share more details of below.
Drums used on Island of Alsocanla consists of:
Ludwig Accent CS Custom kit with Ludwig Supraphonic LM400 snare.
In the same drum tracking session, Eugene produced me on providing sounds from my kit for a sample pack, which is also available on their page at Bandcamp for SGD 2.90.
It was fun working with the entire band and recording team on this track, and I extend best wishes to everyone involved during the session. I’m personally happy with how the whole track came out. This is a testament to the creativity, talent, and excellent skill of the band and recording team. I hope you feel the same when you listen to it.
2. Thomas Willemsen’s Sentimental Ride
This was another fun project to work on. Thomas Willemsen is a talented songwriter who counts The Beatles, and in particular, John Lennon, as his key musical and songwriting influences. Being a Beatles fan myself, it was an easy process for me. Special thanks to Tony for trusting my ability to play this music after only seeing me on the Imp Act drum tracking session, which is whole different world stylistically. If I’m not wrong, he went on Eugene’s word, that I could play the classic 1960’s and 1970’s stuff, and I am very grateful. As with Eugene and his team, I also learnt a lot by observing as quietly as possible how he works during a session, the microphones he used, his choice of outboard signal processors, amps, and his commitment to capturing the old school “whole band in the studio playing the music together” feel.
Drumkit used on this project were a hybrid of the following:
Ludwig Accent CS Custom rack tom and floor tom
DW 18″ Bebop bass drum with the front head off
Omar Hakim Signature snare by Pearl and Ludwig Supraphonic LM400 snare
A Custom Ping Ride, A Custom 16″ Crash, and K Dark Hi-Hats by Zildjian.
We also experimented with the classic Beatles drum recording technique, famously known as the Tea-Towels-On-The-Kit (literally) technique. You can hear this type of drum sound on The Beatles’ albums from 1968 to 1970. It made sense to Tony and me to employ this type of drum sound for Thomas’ music.
I wish to thank Thomas for his very clear musical directions, which made it very easy for me to provide him what he needs from the drums on his songs, which are very personal to him.
Also thanks to the other band members, Matthew, Jack, Colin, I-Shyan, David. Although I didn’t track together with David and I-Shyan, the string players, I appreciate their excellent contributions on top of the basic rhythm tracks. It was indeed very easy to work with Matthew, Colin, and Jack, who are all very experienced at this stuff.
Sentimental Ride is available for purchase at the iTunes store. It will make a great Christmas gift. The YouTube link above is a slightly lower quality audio sampler of the album. Get the paid version! The recording and mixing quality is great!
I wanted to take this opportunity to write my thoughts on this topic, which can potentially lead a drummer down a rabbit hole of a confusing array of options with regards to mounting Toms on your drumkit. The decision to write this post came out of a WhatsApp conversation I had the day before with a very good student I am currently teaching. He is in the process of choosing his very first acoustic drumkit to purchase, and the ideal rack-tom mounting system was one of his concerns.
Here’s my story:
Like every other drummer who started out not knowing any better, I used the conventional bass drum mounted tom set up. I had no issue with it at all, and I felt that such a mounting system had no effect whatsoever on the bass drum’s tone. I just did not think of it.
Many years later after I started out, I read (though I forgot which source) that bass drum mounted toms do in fact affect the tone of the bass drum – because of the added mass on the bass drum, it prevents the drum from “breathing properly” like a snare drum with its own separate stand, or floor toms with their own separate mounting systems, independent of any part of the kit. This same source also recommended trying out mounting the rack toms on stands that can hold two rack toms, or on a snare drum stand for a single rack tom. When I saw pictures of some of my favourite drummers such as Ian Paice and John Bonham, alas, they used snare drum stands tall enough to mount their single rack toms. I noticed how full and resonant their rack toms sounded on their hey-day recordings.
I acquired a tall snare drum stand about 6 or 7 years ago – the kind also used for concert snare drum work, as you would typically stand up and play the snare drum – made by Gibraltar Percussion. Between the time I bought the stand and when I actually started using on live gigs as a mount for my rack tom around 2018, it was basically a white elephant. I tried selling it off online but to no success, for some reason (my sales luck in the past wasn’t that great. It’s getting better now, though..). Then, having been fed up with my failure to sell it off, I decided, one fateful day, to use it in the same manner as Ian Paice and John Bonham.
When I tried out this “new” mounting system for the rack tom on a live gig in 2018, I immediately noticed how much bigger, resonant, and explosive my bass drum sounded. It was like a cannon. Very impressed, I decided to stick with this setup. I do not see myself changing from this setup when live performance returns (whenever it does). I just like the way my kit sounds now with each drum free of each other, and allowed to resonate as freely as possible.
This is my story so far with mounting toms. Now, when it comes to a student asking me to recommend him or her to go with either the conventional bass drum mounting system, or a separate stand, OR a clamping system attached to the cymbal stands, I can only share my opinion. My opinion, however, is not the absolute truth. The truth is, many drummers in the world are just as happy with the conventional bass drum mounting system. Many recordings have been done with such a setup – and you have to keep in mind that the resulting drum sound you hear on the final mix has gone through various forms of signal processing during the mixing process, regardless of what mounting systems/hardware used. It is truly a personal preference, although, I am highly convinced of how much the bass drum tone improves when there isn’t something lumped on it like Goliath on a horse, in a purely live setting – where there is much limited time for mucking about with the drumkit tone. You should be able to dial in your kit tones as quickly as possible before you conduct a band soundcheck pre-show time.
To this end, I would suggest researching and experimenting as far as your time and budget allows you. It is also not a sin to start out the conventional away and then gradually break away from it in search of new or improved sounds. It would, perhaps, give us greater peace of mind to not obsess over getting it all perfect the first time around. Forget it. Any successful seasoned professional drummer knows how to work well with what he/she is given.
By putting this post here, I can refer students to this so I do not have to repeat myself again, ha! Of course, they are welcome to put forth follow-up questions and even arguments against what I wrote here.
Since about 2010/2011, I’ve been using the Groove Essentials Play-Along Series books 1.0 and 2.0 for my own practice and as lesson/musical material with my students to hone their drumming concepts. That gave me about 8 to 9 years of so-called qualitative research into the effectiveness of this system developed by renowned drummer, drumming teacher, and author, Tommy Igoe (Groove Conspiracy, Tommy Igoe Big Band, Art Garfunkel, Lion King Broadway Musical etc).
The Groove Essentials system started with a poster of 47 of what are considered to be important drumset grooves from around the world that every serious drummer and working drummer should know. It’s based on the demands and requirements of performing live music in concerts, clubs, bars, weddings, events. Popularity and demand ensued,leading to the a DVD production of Groove Essentials 1.0 based on that original poster. Popularity in sales and demand again ensued, which led to Tommy producing the play-along package, 1.0. The same pattern occured for the sequel to the Groove Essentials 1.0 DVD and Play-Along package. Thus we now have 100 drumset grooves that every serious drummer and working drummer should know.
My own experience with the system:
In the last 8 or 9 years, I had many students who bought either 1.0 book and/or DVD, or both volumes in the book and DVD formats. I’ve never seen in my entire time so far being a drummer and teaching, a more intelligently produced and organized system to learn musical fundamentals including sight-reading charts, and developing a great groove as well as musicality on the drumset. The DVDs themselves are inspiring. Not only do the DVDs show Tommy masterfully explaining and breaking down the grooves, which are categorized into genres, and which progress linearly along the spectrum of simple to complex, he plays those grooves with self-produced live band play-along tracks with such passion and enthusiasm.
How to get the most out of Groove Essentials:
In my opinion, to get the most out of the Groove Essentials system is to get the complete DVD and Book package. You could start with 1.0 first, but do get both the DVD and the play-along package. It’s also great and highly recommended to go through this material with a teacher face-to-face, to gain insight into several ways of approaching the charts. Then, you can use the DVD at home as a complimentary learning-aid to gain further insight from Tommy himself. I sort of think of the DVDs as study-guides that we use in universities, which help us to organize and focus our learning from the textbooks.
Of course, the DVDs do the impeccable job of being stand-alone instructional materials. Students who are capable independent learners and have a strong foundation in the drumming basics – technique, rudiments, time-keeping, co-ordination – can delve into Groove Essentials on their own. Even then, I strongly caution against getting too caught up with one’s own ability to learn independently that one completely dismisses the value and benefits of getting face-to-face lessons. This is because face-to-face lessons not only help the student gain immediate feedback on his/her progress, but gives the student the platform to discuss and explore with a professional other ideas and concepts that could be applied to this material. How Tommy presents the material on the books and DVDs are only one of the many ways to do it.
Expanding on the above paragraph, it’s also important to note that the Groove Essentials system is not one which teaches you how to play fill-ins. As the title implies, that’s obviously not the focus of the system. One can choose to play the charts in the book or play-along with Tommy’s demonstrations on the DVD without any fills. That’s fine. In my lessons, I do expect my students to be able to execute at least simple fill-ins for the purposes of setting up new sections in the chart, and setting up ensemble figures – rhythmic patterns played and articulated exactly by the entire band. Tommy has some wonderful fills that he lays down in his demonstrations and you can “steal” ideas from there. Ultimately, you have to have a vocabulary of fills authentic to different styles of music which you can readily pull out as and when required of you. This is where face-to-face lessons come in very handy.
The priority of the Groove Essentials will always remain on the Grooves and how to groove like the pros. Like Tommy said in his introduction in the 2.0 DVD, students should be using the Groove Essentials system for the purpose of developing the drumming and musical competence to play on gigs with other musicians. So if your aim is to be able to play in your first band in a year or two from now? The Groove Essentials system is without parallel as a starting point.
What students past and present have said:
The feedback I’ve gotten from my students over the years so far is that the Groove Essentials system is an essential building block to their drumming development. I’ve witnessed the positive growth of students who really stick with it for a long period of time, and it’s very heartwarming to see some of the things that they can pull off such as make the grooves feel good, the groove variations they can weave in fluidly, and some “chops” along the way in their fills or embellishments to the grooves. I’d love to post videos of many of my students working through the Groove Essentials material, as that is the best form of evidence. I however opted to not do so out of respect for their privacy. From time to time, however, I will share some really outstanding ones here on this site, with the students’ permission. Hopefully, they will allow me to!
In my next post, I will discuss Jim Riley’s Survival Guide For The Modern Drummer, another excellent work in drumming instruction, and how it can be used alongside the Groove Essentials System.
On October 6th 2019, the drumming world and the music world at large lost an iconic drummer. Formerly of Graham Bond Organization, Cream, Blind Faith, Ginger Baker’s Airforce, Ginger Baker Trio, Bruce, Baker and Moore, Masters of Reality, and Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion, and having collaborated with such world music legends as Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti, Ginger’s contributions to drumming and to music were massive.
Since I don’t have much time to write a lengthy tribute – although I might do so later this year – I shall share my first encounter with Ginger Baker’s drumming.
It was one evening in 1992. I was about 8 going on 9. My parents separated legally, and it was an extremely confusing and traumatic period in my childhood. Everything took a nosedive including my studies. I was going back and forth between staying with my mom and staying with my dad. But that one evening, when I was with my dad, and he bought me fish and chips for dinner, he put on The Very Best of Cream vinyl (yes, we still played vinyl records those days even when CDs were the dominant format).
The first track was the iconic Rock song, Sunshine of Your Love. I stopped eating and just couldn’t believe what my ears were picking up from the home stereo speakers in the living room. The guitar and bass riff on that song was the heaviest thing I ever heard at that point. Being very sensitive to rhythm also, I noticed the unusual drum pattern in the song also. The backbeats didn’t land on 2 and 4. It landed on 1 and 3 instead. There was no use of Hi-Hat or Ride cymbal. The main groove was just bass drum, snare drum, floor tom, with excursions around the toms in between Eric Clapton’s and Jack Bruce’s vocal lines – a beautifully simple and elegant example of setting up events in a song with fills.
In 1998, when I was going through yet another traumatic crisis in the family, I seemed to be drawn to the music of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and Steely Dan. I distinctly remember playing all the Cream tracks from Eric Clapton’s Crossroads CD box set (1988, Polydor Records) over and over again. I marvelled at the songs, the musicianship (!!!), and not least, Ginger’s very unique drumming and drum sound.
In 2003, I bought the Strange Brew documentary DVD as a Father’s Day present. It was a 1991 documentary on Cream with mind-blowing clips from their legendary 1968 farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London. I ended up watching the DVD more than my dad did. This was the turning point in my life. I decided I wanted to give being a musician a try, and to seriously devote myself to practice. I became a Cream fanatic for over a year. I searched everything I could find on the band online – bootlegs, reviews, interviews, information on their equipment, analysis of their playing styles, analysis of their songs, analysis of their live performances. I studied Ginger Baker’s drumming style and technique intensely. I play alot of stuff that came from him. The way I approach jamming with other musicians, my inclination towards thinking and listening like a Jazz musician (at least I try to), were largely influenced by him.
I then researched on their pre-Cream and post-Cream music projects. With Ginger Baker, I was fascinated by his versatility to navigate through Jazz, Afrobeat, Rock, Blues, and abit of Funk, yet still retain his strong drumming identity. You just knew it was him within the first two beats, let alone the first bar of music. I was inspired to be that sort of drummer – have an identifiable sound and feel to my playing while still being versatile and competent in a number of genres. I owe it largely to Ginger for setting me on this path.
Much has been said about Ginger’s personality. I do not wish to get into that here. I acknowledge his flaws. I’m flawed too. I try my best to prevent mistakes I made in the past from happening again, and am recovering from past mistakes. Ginger, through his drumming and music, however, gave me hope when I was hopeless. As a kid, I thought I would never be in a happy family. I would never be in a family with two parents living together like I saw my classmates, acquaintances, and few friends had. I felt isolated and alienated. I became angry at the world for a time. But Ginger’s music, amongst the many others I was listening to growing up, kept me grounded, and gave me something to look forward to.
Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Mitch Mitchell, Ian Paice, John Bonham, Stewart Copeland, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Billy Cobham, Neil Peart, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl etc…. Ginger’s name rightfully belongs in the company of these groundbreaking and iconic musicians. To me, at least..
Thank you, Mr. Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker for inspiring this broken kid to pick himself up and make something out of himself, as you did so many times in your own life. Rest easy.
My last wish when it’s time for me to go: play Sunshine of Your Love at my funeral. Blast that fucker loud. I don’t want any crying. I want people to rock out and sing their fucking hearts out. As one.