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Wise Words From Stewart Copeland

This instalment of “Wise Words” features an excellent quote from the game-changing Stewart Copeland, who once drummed for a mega Rock band, The Police, and is one of my all-time heroes.

Here he talks about the mechanics of playing successfully: Playing the music and not worrying about your technique or the mechanics of your instrument.

You once talked about “playing outside your instrument.” When did you come up with this idea, and can you speak about what it means to you?

“It came to me when I was playing polo – you ‘play outside your horse.’ If you’re thinking about your horse and your equestrian skills, and things like proper riding and hitting the ball, let alone playing the game and putting your horse in the right place on the field…

“See, you shouldn’t even be thinking about the horse. You have to be outside the horse. Your body and horse are one. You shouldn’t be thinking about riding. You have to think, ‘Here’s the ball. I need to get it there. I need to stop that guy from getting to the ball. Uh-oh, there’s a pass and that’s where I gotta be.’ When you do that, you’re thinking outside your horse. You’re playing the game.

“Put this to music: The mechanics of playing an instrument should be furthest from your mind. You’ve got to think outside your instrument, play outside your instrument. You’ve got to think about the music: ‘What is the music? Where are the other players are? What’s going on? Where’s the groove?’ – things like that. What drum you’re hitting, what your technique is – that should be completely subliminal.”

Complete interview at: http://www.musicradar.com/news/drums/stewart-copeland-on-the-police-drum-solos-rush-double-bass-pedals-and-more-546175

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Creative Practicing With A Metronome

Hi all,

Thank you for stopping by my blog which is a window to my world of drumming: my musical activities, my drum lessons, my thoughts on various drumming and musical topics, my personal reviews on certain drum gear.

In this brief article, I would like to share about one important way of practising with a metronome and its benefits.

Let us say you are already comfortable with playing along to a 1/4 note click on your metronome in a wide enough range of tempos. As you analyze more closely your timing with the click, you would probably notice that the notes in between the clicks are uneven. This is an issue that you must address right away in order for anything you play to feel good. You may be hitting the clicks dead on but that is not good enough, because everything in between is messy and therefore the tightness you seek after in a recording situation for example will not be achieved. You must also address how well you control the subdivisions of the beat with the metronome.

The method:

Try practising with the 1/4 note click displaced.

The first step is to get comfortable hearing the click on the upbeats (the “&” each of beat). Once you get it, try singing a basic groove pattern along with it. Any basic Rock groove would be great for starters. If you able to “groove” well with your vocalizing of the beat along with displaced click, it will help accelerate the process of you nailing the time when you actually play the groove to that same displaced click.

CRUNCH TIME! Record yourself as you practice, hear it back, and take note of where you may be rushing or dragging the groove. Take note of the space you give between each note you play. That is the great thing about practising to a displaced click. You have no choice but to really zoom in on your control over the subdivisions to make sure you are grooving well with the click. Now add some fills! It will certainly feel very awkward in the beginning and you may have to deal with many times of failing to keep the click on the “&”,  and thereby hearing it back on the “1” before you finally get it. It will also feel like you have lost the security of hearing the click on the “1” which tells you if you are playing your fills in time or otherwise. It may take a week or a month but it DOES NOT MATTER. Patience, perseverance, focus, and a winning attitude are what you need to conquer this challenge.

Once you are able to play comfortably to a click displaced to the “&”s, try hearing the click on the “Es” and the “A”s of the beat. Repeat the same process as above. You can eventually work with having the click displaced on the “&” and “A” of the 8th note triplet to fine tune your slow blues grooves, shuffles, and Jazz playing (and it’s very tough!).

Whenever I work on the exercises from the legendary David Garibaldi’s classic book, “Future Sounds” I use the displaced click to zoom in on my note placement and I also develop solo material during my practice that way. All in all, I have noticed a big improvement in my time and in my feel across various styles.

Conclusion:

The above practice method with metronome will ultimately strengthen your internal clock as you have to rely on yourself to keep the “1” in the same place all the time. Moreover, as you sharpen your time with this method, you will be better able to work with computerized loops and sequences which demand total precision from you as well as record great takes in the recording studio. In today’s world of drumming, you will never know when you will be required to work with the aforementioned. It depends on the band/artist you play with and if they incorporate electronics into their music live and/or in the studio. From experience, I will say its a necessity if you want to be a successful working drummer in today’s music environment.

Drumming Technique Simplified

Hi all,

I decided to write this post after a very interesting lesson with a student. It was one of those lessons that seemed frustrating at first because the student was not really getting it, but one and a half hours later, he made a discovery. What was it?

DRUMMING TECHNIQUE SIMPLIFIED.

What is this and how is it done?

First, let us look at 3 steps to making a stroke on the drum:

1) Your stick is parallel to the drum surface about at least an inch above the drum with your wrist angled flat. Alternatively, if you prefer to hold your sticks with your thumbs up, then the thumb is on top of the stick parallel to the surface of the drum, again at least an inch above the drum. This can be called the REST POSITION.

2) From the Rest Position, you raise your stick to a desired height to execute the stroke.

3) The stick strikes the drum and you now have the option to stop the stick at the REST POSITION or allow it to rebound up.

With point no.3, why do you have these two options? It is because of the next note you are going to play. Is it a soft note or a loud one? If it is a soft note, you just have to stop the stick at the Rest Position and lightly tap the drum from there. You immediately achieve a stroke with the right sound and texture for a soft note. If this note is instead a loud one, you must then allow the stick to rebound immediately after the previous stroke and then you thrust the stick down again to achieve the right sound and texture for a loud note. Am I making sense?

TIMING OF YOUR STROKE:

The timing of your stroke will depend on two things:

1) Your ability to hear where the stroke should land in relation to the time

2) HOW you prepare for that stroke such that it lands correctly in time.

Point No.1 is extremely crucial. You are a musician and your ears are your greatest weapons. Train your ears to hear the time accurately and it will go miles for your development. Thus, when you make a stroke, you want to know where the stroke should be in the bar and if you can hear it in your mind? This is where practising with a metronome comes in. Verbalizing the stroke aloud with or without actually playing the stroke will also help you determine the accuracy of your timing.

Point No. 2 is the “make-it-or-break-it” in the success of your execution. Once you are able to hear the stroke accurately in your mind, you then want to PREPARE for the stroke in an efficient and relaxed manner, so that the stroke lands right on the money and you physically feel great doing so. Pay attention to how your hands and feet FLOW with the time. Drumming is like a dance – alot of the activity of drumming takes place above the surfaces of the instrument (The late great Freddie Gruber would teach this too). Therefore, if your motions flow well with the time at whichever tempo, you are relaxed, and you are NOT THINKING TOO MUCH BUT RATHER FEELING THAT FLOW THROUGH YOUR BODY, you will always achieve accuracy and consistency in your playing.

In summary, having a GOOD FLOW in your physical motions on the drumset is highly essential to playing well.

To find out more, book a lesson or a couple of lessons with me. Contact me at jason@pulseofmusic.com for more information!

I hope this article opens up your awareness to the actual simplicity of drumming technique.