Friday, May 18, 2018

Digging Deeper

Hi all,
'The cymbals and drums are still for sale so check out the previous post if you're interested.

Okay, I wanted to hip you to a series of videos that have helped me a lot with filling in my harmonic knowledge. Drummers, especially formally educated ones, have a bit of a conundrum in regard to chords and scales. In my case, I have been given a TON of harmonic information but, without a place to use it in a practical way, it's remained pretty nebulous. My friend Jeff Antoniuk has a great series on Youtube entitled " Digging Deeper " that goes step-by-step through many concepts of playing on changes, scales, etc. This series has been invaluable as I'm slowly getting involved in the determinate pitch/harmonic universe. I've posted the first few videos in the series below...

As you can see, the information is well presented in bite-size chunks and delivered with the sort of self-effacing humour that could only come from a Canadian!

So, I highly recommend this series, especially to all drummers that are beginning to grapple with harmony in an active way. ( Please note, I am receiving  no kickback from Jeff from this post. Although, if he decided he wanted to send some AMERICAN greenbacks my way, I wouldn't be offended! )

Now work on your scales!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Cymbal blow out! NEW PRICES!

Sorry folks, this post is about commerce. Pure and cymbal! ( Ha! Typo, and I'm keeping it.) I currently own too much metal and have obtained enough old K. Zildjians to keep me happy for the rest of my existence! ( I currently do not endorse any brand of cymbals.) So I'm posting some video of the suspects in question, along with prices. ( In Canadian dollars). All reasonable offers will be considered. The videos are in the order that the cymbals are listed. If shipping is required, I'll look that up and add it to your total. Any questions? Put them in the comments section, email me at, or find me on Facebook or Twitter

For Sale: 20" Zildjian K. Constantinople Medium Thin ( High ) - $350 (Sold)

Murat Diril Renaissance 22" Prototype Ride- $350

Murat Diril 18" China Type Renaissance Light- $200 ( Sold)

Murat Diril 20" Renaissance Light Ride- $250

14" Murat Diril Renaissance Regular Hi-Hats- $250

14" Murat Diril Renaissance Dark Hi-Hats- $250

Also selling some Tamburo drums. Italian made. 10",12"14" toms. 18" bass drum. Black.

Here they are in action....

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ella Fitzgerald's Birthday

I had to post something for such an important musicial date, because like most performers of her stature, it's hard to pick one recording. I do, however have a soft spot for the "songbook" series, arranged by the great Nelson Riddle. It's most likely Alvin Stoller on drums. So, here's "All the Things You Are".

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The drummers of InstaHAM

Hello all,
I think it's time for another rant, don't you? ( Wait, don't answer that.)
Anyone who knows me or has followed the blog knows I have a rather complicated relationship with social media. This is especially true of Instagram. Yes, I know it's a lot of preening teens, bodybuilders, and the like.

But, you know what's the worst, by far?????

The drum videos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The drum-related Instagram stuff seems to generally fall into 5 categories, they are.....

1. Chops Galore.....
This actually also contains two subheadings, velocity of hands, and velocity of feet. Sometimes they have both, but in any case the point is to show how fast one can play without and musical context or any real reason to be playing this way except that,'s fast!

2. I'm so cute!
A type of video where a young, good looking person ( of either sex. Believe me, I've seen some shirtless beefcake drummers on there! ) usually plays along to a track ( often categorized as a "drum cover" )  with super-exaggerated arm movements and a big smile. In essence,  it's long on show-biz, short on content.

3. The showcase play-along......
Arguably a subset of #2,  this features someone playing along to a piece of complicated music that exists only to show-off fancy drumming within it. You won't find any singable melodies, interesting chord changes, or thoughtful lyrics here, because the track is accompanying the drums, rather than the other way around.

4. Stick tricks, pads aplenty, and drum corps gone mad.....
In these type of videos, no one ever plays on a drum, but rather gives us the incredibly inspiring sound of wood striking plastic or rubber. It's really more the idea of being a majorette, but with sticks rather than a baton. Leaving the feet out helps the participants avoid any semblance of even trying to keep time, and again, show-biz reigns supreme!

5. Look everyone! I'm playing a Rock Beat on my drums in a really bizarre place!
What's way better than playing a beat everyone's heard a thousand times? Playing a beat everyone's heard a thousand times in a swimming pool, a snowy backyard, or in front of your favourite barbecue restaurant beside a major highway!!! I'm sure when space travel becomes even slightly more common, it'll be one small step for mankind, but one giant leap for stupid Instagram videos......

Okay, I guess I've been a grumpy old man enough for today, so I'm going to share two underrated drummers I've been checking out lately.  One is the great Bill Dowdy, who played on many recordings but is best known for his work with The 3 Sounds....

The other great drummer I'm listening to is Ben Dixon, particularly with organist Big John Patton. Enjoy!

Ahhhhh. That's much better. To be fair, there are some drummers I do follow on social media. Mark Guiliana, for example. But generally, it's vintage pics of my hometown and cute Boston Terrier videos!
Until next time......

Monday, March 19, 2018

It Ain't All Jazz

Here's a wonderful documentary about three Canadian treasures...musicians Wray Downes, Sonny Greenwich , and Archie Alleyne. Some great footage of them playing as well as discussions of their formative years, the changing face of the Jazz scene in Toronto, and the racism they faced. It's especially poignant as Archie is no longer with us. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A changed man

This is what I meant to talk about the other day before I went on my wristrenome rant.

 For a long time, I wanted to play at drum festivals, to be seen as "one of the cats", to have drum and cymbal companies vying for my attention.

There were a few problems with my little ego fantasy though. The first thing is, I don't have chops. Now, I certainly have amassed many skills and techniques in my 40+ years of playing the drums. I don't have, however, BLINDINGLY-FREAKISH-VELOCITY-BASED-SHOW-BIZ-CHOPS that make 14 year olds drool. I have also abilities that are not valued in these environments such as:
-reading ability
-brush vocabulary
-playing of styles such as Jazz and Big Band
-keen listening skills ( especially in a group situation )
-knowledge of many styles and players of the drum set in a historical context
-vast knowledge of standard song repertoire
-soloing over song forms


When I finally realized that the only reason I wanted to be a part of these things was my own ego, I let go of wanting to be in this particular club house.....

No Teds allowed!

Strangely enough, around the time I was realizing that I probably wasn't " Drum Festival Material " 
( at least in the way most festivals are conducted ) I started realizing I  had reached a kind of wall in terms of the progress I was making in playing Jazz. As well, an ensemble I was teaching needed a chordal player, and I didn't have a pianist or guitar player. I then took this opportunity to dust off the year's experience I had playing piano when I was 9, and jump into the world of harmony with both feet! 
To say my comping and soloing was horrendous at the beginning would be unfair ( to horrendous ) but I kept at it. I've spent the last 6 or so years rehearsing, jamming, and practicing piano, while still doing all my regular teaching and playing on drums. Do I sound brilliant at a keyboard? Not by a long shot, but let's look at just a few of the things I've learned.....

1. Playing another instrument basically from scratch is good for keeping your ego in check.
I've played the drums for decades. It's a part of me. I can be away from the drums for long periods of time and function very well at the next gig. I can learn things on the drums quickly, and often don't even need to do it at the instrument. I never fall below a certain standard of playing, and never 
"choke " on gigs anymore. In a nutshell, I never sound "bad" on the drums now, unless I'm learning something new. None of the above is true when I'm playing piano! This all has been great for my humility.

2. I have a whole new appreciation for the parts of the band that are dealing with the harmony.
Drummers are affected by the harmony too, but it's in more of an indirect way. Conversely, it's been interesting to deal with the students in my ensembles because I now know that yes, playing a beautiful solo on chord changes that tells a story, creates a beautiful melody over the form etc. is very challenging. On a garden variety standard tune though ( " All The Things You Are" , for example ) playing a solo using the chord tones isn't that hard. One just has to know what makes up the chords in each piece, and what does that take? Like everything else, practice! It's not a gift from on high or anything. It's a skill!

3. Conversely, I have a whole new appreciation for drummers who really support the soloists.
I remember being at a jam session on piano a while ago, and when I played a great drummer from the area ( Sam Cino ) played drums. He listened so carefully,  played so sensitively ( even to the point where I told him not to be afraid to play more aggressively behind me! ) and really made a lot more of my half-baked efforts than was originally there. Now, I always new he was great from a drummer's standpoint, but now I knew he was great from a musician's  perspective! 

4. My knowledge of all the levels of the music seems to eliminate the "bs" from my drumming.
Now, this is a pretty subtle thing to verbalize, but I do feel differently now when I'm accompanying someone on drums. I feel I hear more, play better dynamics, have a better sense of the flow of a solo etc. A great pianist recently told me that the way I play now makes it a lot easier for him to get his point across when he solos. I can tell you, that means a lot more to me than 100s of drum festivals!

In conclusion, I now feel that I've become a different sort of player. You know, a lot of drummer's pay lip service to the idea of "playing for the song" but I think that becomes a lot more difficult if you don't understand what the song is made up of besides the drum parts! For me personally,  I get more from learning what makes a good bass line as opposed to the same amount of time trying to make my single strokes faster ( although I will keep working on that as well! ).

And finally, let's hear some transcendent drumming AND piano playing from Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette for Valentine's Day.......

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

First Rant of 2018

Hi all,
I was going to write about something else today but something on social media got my dander up so, as a person well and officially in middle age, I decided to go full "outraged Grandpa Simpson" and address it.....

                              Dagnabbit! There outta be a law.....

Anyway, there's this sort of wristwatch/metronome thing that's being advertised a lot online lately. Now, as regular readers will know, I have no problem with metronomes, drum machines, sequencers etc. They are a part of any current musician's life, and one must learn to work with them. What I have a big problem with, however, is the fetishization and worship of such devices, as if they were the music itself. in the online ad, a great drummer, whose work I admire greatly says.... " No human has perfect time " and ( referring to the wristwatch ) " this is such a beautiful instrument...".
Okay, I'll deal with what I feel to be problematic with these statements one at a time.

I if he means that no human has perfectly mechanical metronomic time, I totally agree with him. Make no mistake, I have listened to this person play so beautifully on numerous recordings. He's making the music, not a machine! In fact, he's one of those great players ( I would count the great Steve Jordan in this group as well ) who can make the machinery sound like it's PLAYING TO HIM, rather than the other way around. The gear isn't where it's at, the humans are, you dig?

Now if he calls this wristrenome ( I just made that up ) a beautiful instrument, what does that make the drums he's playing? It's not an instrument. It's a tool, a device, a utensil. Steinway makes instruments. Seiko does not.

People may feel I'm nitpicking over language but I think it's important to realize (yet again ) that the human element is what makes great music great.

And now ( just by coincidence, mind you ) let's listen to the great JR Robinson propel Steve Winwood's  beautiful " Back In The High Life Again" and shows those little knobs and wires who's boss...... :)