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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.

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

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.