Reviews – Books

Method Books For Drumset: My Personal Buying Guide For Building A Core Library of Drumming Reference Material

Hello once again. I hope all of you had a good start to the week and I wish you have a productive time.

In this article, I wish to touch on a very common subject in music education and share my thoughts thereof. It is in no way a must-follow guide but I do hope you can get some ideas that can help you with your selection of the appropriate method books to build, as the title states, a core library of reference material that will give you years upon years of effective practice material.

Method books are categorised as follows with examples of titles in each category:

1) Technique (Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone, Master Studies I and II by Joe Morello, Double Bass Drum Freedom  by Virgil Donati, Bass Drum Control by Colin Bailey e.t.c)

2) Co-ordination (The New Breed by Gary Chester, 4-Way Co-ordination by Marvin Dahlgren and Elliot Fine, Future Sounds by David Garibaldi, Syncopation by Ted Reed e.t.c)

3) Sight-reading (Benjamin Podemski’s Standard Snare Drum Method, Portraits in Rhythm, Alfred’s Drum Method 1 and 2, Syncopation by Ted Reed, Groove Essentials 1.0 and 2.0 by Tommy Igoe e.t.c)

4) Styles (Groove Essentials 1.0 and 2.0 by Tommy Igoe, The Total Rock Drummer by Mike Michalkow, The Art of Bop Drumming by John Riley, The Drummer’s Bible by Jason Gianni and Mick Berry, Afro-Cuban Rhythms For Drumset by Frank Malabe and Bob Weiner, Future Sounds by David Garibaldi, Double Bass Drum Freedom by Virgil Donati e.t.c)

Note how some of the method books appear in more than one category  simply because these address more than one element of drumming skill sets.

Your basic library of method books should have at least one title from each category, and better still, if the book addresses more than just one aspect of drumming skill. This is especially helpful to those of you who are on a budget and do not have the luxury of storage space to house a number of method books that can easily fill up the National Library of Congress.

I will share the perimeters that guide my decision in purchasing a drumset method book.

1) A great drumset method book should be timeless. It should be relevant today as it was when it first came out. Such books will last you a lifetime’s worth of great practice material that will challenge you at every phase of your drumming development.

2) A great drumset method book gives you not just challenging material to work with but leave enough room for creative manipulation and application of those material.

I shall list 5 examples from the books listed above and explain how each book fulfills the above perimeters:


FUTURE SOUNDS (DAVID GARIBALDI / ALFRED PUBLISHING – Intermediate level to Advanced evel)

-This is one of my all-time favourite books dealing with drumming in my favourite style of music, Funk. David shares his hugely innovative and highly advanced approach to the way he develops groove patterns as applied mainly to Funk but can also be applied to other styles such Pop and Rock, if the situation can allow for such rhythmic exploration. That is already a good example of the sort of cross-disciplinary learning that I want to get across.

The exercises in Future Sounds are grouped into two main sections, “Permutation Studies” and “Groove Studies”. In the Permutation Studies section, David writes out one groove pattern and in the subsequent exercises, the student will learn to create variations based off of that same groove pattern by way of beat displacement. Depending on the note value, you can create as many variations of the groove pattern based on that note value, An 8th Note groove pattern will offer 8 different permutations and a 16th note groove pattern will offer 16 different variations.

In the Groove Studies Section, David then presents a basic groove motif to start off with and the student will then get to explore variations by displacing notes or substituting one of the voices on the kit for another (eg. a foot hi-hat note in place of a regular hi-hat note played by hand). You are then working on different ways to orchestrate a certain groove motif.

David touches on the techniques involved to execute the exercises at the beginning of the book under the concept of the “Two-Sound Method”. This method is a way of distinguishing the accented notes from the unaccented notes in the following ways:

– Where and how you hit the drum/cymbal. For the snare drum, an accented note would be a rim shot, and the unaccented note a ghost note at a a very low stick height employing a light tap stroke.

– For the Hi-Hat, an accented note would be played using the shoulder of the stick struck against the edge of the hi-hat, and an unaccented note would be played using the tip of the stick striking the top hi-hat cymbal at a low stick height.

– For the bass drum, the distance of the pedal beater from the drum create the different volumes in much the same as you do with sticks.

The above description shows why Future Sounds continues to be widely used by drumset students and teachers, maintaining it’s relevancy with today’s type of drumming styles. Working out of  Future sounds also helps you achieve greater control over your limbs for greater precision, improves your touch and sound, improves your syncopation, improves your contorl over accents, achieve a better balance of the individual dynamics of the kick drum, snare drum, and hi-hat, and shows you very effective  and time-saving ways to widen your rhythmic vocabulary via permutation and voice substitutions.


SYNCOPATION (TED REED / ALFRED PUBLISHING – Advanced Beginner level to Advanced level)

A book such as the timeless Syncopation by Ted Reed offers an invaluable in-depth study into the mechanics of syncopation via progressive reading exercises which can be first mastered on a snare drum or practice pad, and then progressively orchestrated around the kit to generate vocabulary for grooves, fills/solos, and in the case of Jazz drumming, comping.  Thus, in this one book, you are working on reading and co-ordinating the rhythms herein between your 4 limbs. Get together with a good teacher to help you find ways creative ways to use the book and apply the stuff to actual musical situations.



These books are required in my private drumset course. T0 simply get your hands together, understand how various note values work and your introduction to rudiments, the Alfred Drum Method books are a logical place to start at ground zero. Each lesson is tightly focused with 8 different exercise variations on a certain note value, combinations of 2 or more note values, a certain rest symbol, combination of 2 or more rest symbols, or a certain rudiment. There is a solo piece at the end of every 3 or 4 lessons that combine all the rhythmic concepts covered in those lessons into very musical performance contexts complete with dynamics and other traditional notation.

Again, get together with a good teacher who can show you creative ways to practice the material in the book and apply these to musical situations.


GROOVE ESSENTIALS 1.0 and 2.0 (TOMMY IGOE /HUDSON MUSIC PUBLISHING – Beginner to Advanced level)

A modern classic package in every sense. These books (and the DVDs which  the books are companions to) provide the sort of training you need to be battle ready as a working drummer.

Categorised in to Rock, Funk/R&B, Jazz, and World, each section contains a good number of play-along tunes with professional charts that will kick your behind and spur you onto work harder at improving your GROOVE, authenticity, and sense of time across the widest variety of styles of music ever presented in book of this nature.

The well produced play-along tracks come with no click tracks for the most part making you listen and dig deeper into the feel of the band on the tracks. It therefore helps you to find your place in the music. It also leaves a lot of room for experimentation as to where you can lay down the pocket and what the results might be, good or bad. In other words, it trains you to be a highly sensitive, aware, and musical drummer. The charts are professionally written and it will come as a surprise to you what a professional chart actually looks like in the real world if you have not seen one yet. I will leave you to find that out on your own :-).

No library of drumming reference books will be complete without the Groove Essentials package. Do check out the great deals on it on



Those of you who are fans of Dave Weckl’s playing would have probably heard him mention the name of Gary Chester and his legendary book many times in interviews and on his own excellent instuctional material (he mentioned the book and Gary on his acclaimed debut instructional video, Back To Basics). Gerald Heyward, a long-time stellar figure in the world of R&B/Hip-Hop/Gospel drumming, also mentioned in his backstage interview included on the Modern Drummer Festival 2006 DVD of working through the book.

I finally decided to get a copy of The New Breed after a student of mine got hers but did not know what to do with it. To cut the long story short, after working through some of the “systems” (which is Gary’s term for ostinato patterns between three limbs) with the “melodies” in the progressive reading exercises (to be executed by either hand or either foot), I was blown away by how much it challenged my co-ordination. It was the book that I definitely needed to take my co-ordination to a whole new level of sophistication as my interest in polyrhythmic drumming increased.

The New Breed covers reading and co-ordination in one wholesome package that has never been surpassed since. A wealth of creative inspiration awaits you in the pages of this book! Also, do check out the interview with Gary conducted and taped by one of his famous students, Danny Gottlieb, and is included in the accompanying CD, for a great insight into the man’s concepts and philosophies.



I hope this article gives you some helpful ideas on purchasing drumset method books. When a drumset method book combines 2 or more skill sets, it saves you some cash and library space. Well, that is how I think at least! Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. If you have any questions or would be interested in my drumset lessons, kindly send an email to