music

Tribute To Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones (1941 – 2021)

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.

Moises App – AI App for Instrument Separation on Recordings.

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.

Limited Slots for Online Drum Lessons

Hi all,

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, 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!

Sidewalk Traveller by Thomas Willemsen

Hi all,

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.

New Recordings for 2020

Hey all,

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:

  1. 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.

Soultone Cymbals.

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!

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:

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

When Do I Stop Lessons?

This post is aimed at clarifying (hopefully) this often asked question by students who have been learning the drums for some time, who seem to be going nowhere, and are contemplating of quitting lessons, but are not sure if they should do so?

Note: Although this post is aimed at the drumset student, it is also applicable to any other music student.

I have thought for some time about what I would do if I were in the shoes of such a student, and I came up with a list of questions I could ask myself, in order to derive at a conclusion, and hence a decision to either continue or cease lessons. I then explain some possible reasons. Please note that this list is not necessarily a complete one, but I hope it serves as a springboard for the other relevant questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Am I able to continue committing time for lessons?

Sometimes, a temporary or indefinite break from lessons may be needed. If so, let your teacher or the school you take lessons at know. Be sure to check the lesson termination policy with your school, or if you are a private student, directly with your teacher. This, in fact, should have been communicated to you before you embarked on lessons.

2. Am I struggling to find time to practise?

Oftentimes, our other commitments at work, school, and even our social and family lives pile on, and we have lesser and lesser time to practice. If this were to happen to me, it is only reasonable for me to stop lessons for awhile, so that I can hopefully free up some time to catch up with practising the material I worked on in past lessons. Of course, it is still your prerogative as a student. If you do not mind continuing lessons because you may enjoy the therapeutic benefit that comes with them, continue by all means. Who is to say you are wrong?

3. I have been taking lessons for awhile now, but I am still not sure if the drums are still for me as a musical instrument?

This could be due to a number of factors including, but not limited to, the following:

A. I am struggling with co-ordinating my limbs to play the instrument.

Yes, for some students, psycho-motor co-ordination on the instrument, can pose a big challenge. But as I have mentioned in my FAQ a couple of years back, this is precisely why you take drum lessons. I say it is important to have a teacher who is willing to go at YOUR pace, and break things down intelligently so you can manage it. Please speak to your teacher and ask him/her for help in this area if need be.

I may even be so bold to suggest that if your budget and time allows for it, do take some dance lessons – hip hop, swing, latin e.t.c. – and learn to loosen up your body in order to GROOVE…You may want to do dance lessons first, then take drum lessons later.

B.  The lessons are not very motivational or inspiring…

Ah….this one goes a number of ways. Either the problem lies with the teacher – who might be boring or unmotivated to teach – or the rapport between yourself and your teacher is not happening. Like in a counselling session, where if the relationship between the counsellor and the client fosters conditions for positive changes with the latter, so too does it apply to a teacher/student relationship.

It could also very well be that you are just not feeling a connection with the drumset, and that is fine. There is a likelihood that you may connect better with a stringed instrument or a brass instrument, or a woodwind instrument. At least, you gave the drums a shot, and you are the richer for it for having gone through the experience.

C. The lessons are ok, but I just do not like to practice on my own at home.

I had students like this many times. All teachers can relate to this. Some students may have the false impression from other sources that you can learn AND master a drumming technique or concept within the lesson itself. There is no need to follow it up with individual practice to further refine the technique or concept. This is obviously not true. If one aspires to play at the level of the Pros that he/she looks up to, then individual practice time is a non-negotiable element in the game of progress.

Some students just take drum lessons to take their mind off possible stressors in their lives. Hence, they see lessons as a form of therapy. As a teacher for many years, I have gotten better at asking the right questions to the student at the trial lesson, to clarify WHY he/she decided to give learning the drums a try. A competent teacher should be able to help draw out the answer from within yourself as to your motivation to learn drums in the first place. Then, it is up to you and your teacher to see if you can both come to a mutual agreement to either continue with the lessons or not.

Again, I emphasize, speak to someone about any concerns you have as soon as it affects you – your teacher (naturally), your parents, a friend (preferably someone who has the same background in the instrument you are learning), or even a counsellor. Doing so will help you clarify your thoughts and hence make an informed decision. Insight into why the lessons are not going the way you would like them to is very important to gain.

Sometimes, it could be a personal insecurity or fear that is hindering your progress with your learning. Perhaps you have a fear of making mistakes and being judged for it. You fear being scrutinized for every note you play on the instrument. You may feel that if you do not learn things as quickly as you would like to – perhaps you are comparing yourself to similar others you know – you are inferior to others. In such cases, do seek professional counselling as teacher or even the music school, may not be professionally equipped to help handle these deeper psychological issues.

With all this said, I assert that full insight into why you have arrived at a point where you are doubting your abilities to learn the drums and contemplating on quitting lessons will help you make a much more informed decision.

I hope this post sheds some much needed light on an issue that I find is not addressed enough in the music education field, but one that is every bit crucial.

 

 

The Manfreds Live in Singapore, 24th March 2019

Manfred Mann SG

Happy 2019 to everyone here.

On 24th March 2019, I have the pleasure once again to be part of The Revival Band. This time, we will be collaborating with a local music veteran, Max Surin (Tokyo Square), and opening for The Manfreds, featuring alumni members from the legendary 1960’s UK pop group, Manfred Mann, Paul Jones, Mike d’Abo, and Tom McGuinness.

Side note: Paul Jones was part of a band called The Blues Band, of whom my family owned a couple of their LPs. Great band too. Always loved their track, “Noah Lewis Blues.”

What an honour!

See venue, time, and ticketing details above for the concert! I hope to see some familiar faces at the gig!

Christmas Fiesta High Tea Dance 2018

Here’s a clip from the recent Christmas Fiesta High Tea Dance 2018 that I did as part of The Revival Band:

Video taken by a member of the MoCa Ukes Group (Ukelele group).

Special thanks to

The Revival Band – Martin, James, Ricky, and Peter

The Kallang Theatre Management for their warm hospiltality during rehearsals and the performance.

There is another big gig coming up with The Revival Band next year. Details to follow at an appropriate time.