Author: jasoncruzdrums

Getting the most out of the Groove Essentials system

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).

Background:

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.

Priority:

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!

Next….

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.

In Memoriam: Ginger Baker

reuters_ginger_baker_05Oct19.jpg

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.

Making the final push in the last 4 months of 2019

Dear all,

It’s been about 3 months since my last post. I hope all of you are well, productive, and contented.

I’ve just entered what is likely my third to last semester in my university course. The last semester was a success and I’m very happy with the results I got. I look back with fondness on the pressure I felt during last semester to work even harder especially on the essay assignments. As there were no pre-class quizzes which made up 10% of the overall grade, the essay assignments alone carried 50% of the overall grade. I felt the pressure to really score as well as I could on every single essay assignment. I probably grew a few more white hairs because of this, haha..

That was school. Then came the 2 month break after the exams, which I totally enjoyed. I was getting back into exercise, watching my diet more closely, going to more concerts, movies, and making a list of things I wanted to learn and practice. In that list, I wanted to learn more about Indian Classical rhythmic cycles and appreciate the differences of that between North Indian Classical music and South Indian classical music; work on my vocals as I’m doing quite a bit of singing lately with my new Beatles tribute project. More on that later; brushing up my metric modulation abilities and bass drum technique.I managed to complete almost of all these goals in the list except finding an organization to volunteer in. I’m a little disappointed with myself on that but I’m still working on it.

Now with the Beatles tribute project. I got together with the bass player from another band I played in who is a Beatles fan (or maniac), a guitarist from yet another band I played in who is also a Beatle fan (maniac), and an exceptional guitarist, bassist, and singer from the Philippines who’s working here, and he is a total Beatle maniac than the other three of us combined! It’s a blessing to have him with us and this is just another fun band to be in. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but we’re having fun working the Beatles’ catalogue and trying our very very best to be as close as we can in sound, feel, and standard to the original recordings. A tall order for us considering our individual limitations as singers.

This is our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BeatlemaniacsSingapore/.

On behalf of the band, I hope that you like the material. We’re in the midst of securing gigs in future. We just did an open mic session on the 26th of August to test how we sound in front of a live audience and what the latter’s reaction would be. Warts and all in our set, along with technical kinks particularly with one of the guitar amps, we had very positive feedback from the audience! You can see pictures and videos from that performance on the facebook page.

I guess you can infer from what I’m sharing above, that I’m moving towards playing more the music that I want to play with the people I truly enjoy making music with. It started as early as late 2015, and it’s now becoming a reality. I’m very contented and consider myself blessed to be in this position.

Having said that, I also managed to take part in two recording sessions in June! One was for Wong Kah Chun (https://www.facebook.com/kahchun.music/) for an original Rock song he composed with a school helping special needs kids. I helped him assemble the bass, guitar, drums lineup, and we found a keyboardist to complete the rhythm section. Kah Chun recently sent me a rough mix of the song we recorded with a brass section and classical percussion now added. It was amazing!

The other recording session I took part in was for a recording engineer working at Lasalle. He was able to get some studio time from the school’s excellent recording facility, and I laid down drum tracks there for two of his original Rock guitar instrumental compositions to be put out as an EP some time end of this year or early in 2020. That was another very enjoyable experience. The highlight  was I got to use my 2015-acquired pre-serial badge Ludwig Supraphonic snare drum. It just sounded amazing when I heard the playbacks. 16 Beat Drums helped me refurbish it and install new heads, and they did a great job. I just used the drum in the studio as how they set it up. Not a single lug on that drum was touched by a key. Beautiful tone. That’s my snare sound which I found in the Supraphonic. Again, I consider myself blessed that fellow musicians still remember me for recording work. It’s an honour to contribute to their music. Thank you all!

Now that the new school semester has kicked in in late July, I’m driven and determined to do even better than last semester. I love being a student again! Along with that, I haven’t stopped loving the routine of practice and improving my drumming. I do miss  the 3 to 5 hour practice sessions, but I think I gained alot more in terms or organizing and focusing better my practice sessions with much shorter time periods. Besides, I don’t consider myself in competition with any other drummer.

This is all for now. Till the next post, take care!

Half Year Gone In A Flash…

And just like that, June is here…What has it been like for you in 2019, so far?

For me, it was probably the best first half of the year I had in a long time. Usually the second half the year is where the excitement and bustle take place, but for me, it happened early on in 2019. I just hope the momentum holds steady at least.

In addition to two studio recording sessions I am involved in this month, I made a list of things I wanted to get done during the June/July school break – where some of my drumset students will be on vacation and my next school semester commences at the end of July. These include taking up swimming again after many donkey years – I have returned to physical exercise starting last month, reading Dr. Albert Ellis’ book on his Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)  which I just got in the mail, studying Talas or Taals which are rhythmic cycles in both Hindustani and Carnatic classical music of India, improving my metric modulation abilities on the drumset in both straight and swung feels, improving my singing technique – greater accuracy in pitch between huge jumps in intervals, better intonation, and harmonization abilities, and some basic left hand chord work and right hand melodic line facility on the piano – I’m currently working on a really simple songs in the keys of C, A, and F, and doing some volunteer work – I am still deciding which organization.

Great plans, so good luck to me fulfilling all of them!

 

 

 

Yamaha Live Custom Hybrid Oak Drums – New

 

As much a die-hard Ludwig fan I am who once loved Tama drums (and still have a soft spot for them), I have always been impressed with the quality of the drums that the Yamaha corporation make across the different price points. I have been fortunate to play many different models of Yamaha drumkits over the years, from the entry-level Stage Custom to the top-of-the-line Recording Customs, both on stage and in the recording studio.

The Recording Customs, which have seen a reissue a couple of years ago, are everything you could ask for in a drumkit: extremely well manufactured shells, uniformity and consistency of tone, dynamic range, quickness of response, incredible clarity, and ideal projection across all the drums.

Then enter these Yamaha Live Custom Hybrid Oak drums…The Yamaha company has outdone itself again! They took the same shell construction method of their now discontinued Phoenix (PHX) line of drums and came up with these incredibly fine sounding instruments, which history will judge them to be among the greatest drums Yamaha ever made.

Watch the demonstration in the link above. I’m sure you’ll agree with me! PS: That Japanese drummer has the most pristine single stroke roll around the kit. His groove is happening too.

Here’s an excellent review cum demonstration of these drums:

The Revival Band Opening Set at The Manfreds Concert, 24th March 2019, Kallang Theatre

 

It is with the greatest pleasure that I share this clip with you. Yes, it’s that Bee Gees song…

Personnel:

Martin Lee – Lead Vocals (guitar and backing vocals on other songs in the set)

Ricky Sng – Keyboards and Backing Vocals (also music director)

James Ng – Guitar and Backing Vocals

Peter Chng – Bass

Jason Cruz – Drums

Enjoy!

 

Songs From The Big Chair – Tears for Fears

SFBC

Spotify Link: https://open.spotify.com/album/06J93pgtDCUw6bsAQINhCs

Also available for purchase on iTunes.

I revisited this seminal 1985 work by one of the decade’s defining bands, Tears for Fears.

The songs have taken on a whole new layer of depth of meaning for me, especially with

where I am right  now,  the knowledge I’m gaining, and the newfound awareness I’ve

attained.

Since this is a drumming site, I should put in a word or two about the drumming…….AND

the drum programming. In my opinion, this is a textbook example of when excellent

live drumming (courtesy of one Mr. Manny Elias) meets excellent drum programming

to create a rich rhythmic tapestry. The sounds are dated, yes, but I think the rhythmic

creativity has never been topped since.

Give this album a spin……or as we say in today’s parlance…a stream….

My recommended tracks:

  1. Shout
  2. Everybody Wants To Rule The World (for the uninitiated drummers, see if you can figure out how this shuffle groove goes. Your ears might trick you…)
  3. Broken / Head Over Heels
  4. I Believe
  5. Listen