Wednesday, June 23, 2021

And now a word from our sponsor, ME!

 Just a quick note to let everyone now I am continuing to offer lessons, both online, and in person with the correct social distancing. You can contact me through here, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (drumjoywithted) 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Ostinato Bravado ( Mmmmm…I'm craving Gelato!)

 Hey all,

If there has been theme to my drumming practice the now year and a half of weirdness we're experiencing, it could be foot ostinatos. I have used this time to work on left foot clave, over the bar line foot patterns etc…..but I was recently reminded of a great clinic Ian Froman did and that inspired this latest group of exercises.

In a nutshell, Ian has a concept of opening up and making one's time feel more modern through subtractive processes. In other words, he talks about leaving notes out of the ride rhythm, and interrupting the constant 2 & 4 on the hi-hat. This is what the first two exercises are demonstrating. I then added in the bass drum, and the rest is various combinations of the 2 feet. 

I feel we sometimes overly complicate things with foot ostinatos. They don't have to be super busy or complicated. In fact, one of the cool things about a repeated foot pattern is it allows us to leave space with our hands, but the actual ostinato can sometimes have space in it as well. These can be used as grooves or solos. I view them as like a good soup base or pizza crust. Once you get started , you can add anything you wish! :) 

Friday, June 18, 2021

What's My Motivation?

 As we're nearing the year and a half mark of no to minimal work for music-makers, I'm reminded of the cliche acting line, "What's my motivation?". This is apropos for all musicians as this time as we have to balance, even more than usual, the void between art and commerce. I recently compared re-heading and putting new snares on, accessing all my cymbals etc., to the owner of a bus company who has all their fleet in the garage for maintenance, but is unsure if the the wheels will ever roll again. I got some very heartfelt and kind responses to this, but most people thought that meant I was giving up music. Nothing could be further from the truth, but I am harbouring doubts about whether I ever will make even a meager living from playing the drums anymore. Perhaps because I have never made much money from playing,  I am quite prepared to find another way to pay my bills, and in fact this process has started already. If some sort of" live music boom" ends up happening when things open up and more people are vaccinated, nobody would be happier than me, but I'm not counting on it. Perhaps I'm fortunate, but I studied music for  at least 10 years before I became a "professional" at it. During my early years of study, I developed a love of learning about music for it's own sake, and that has helped me immensely during this time. I'm currently working on soloing on "Giant Steps" on piano. Is anybody clamouring for me to do this? Definitely not. But I'm having a great time and learning lots.

Don't get me wrong. I miss so many things. The camaraderie with the band, waitstaff, and audience, the team effort of making music, hearing a band and peers develop, recording, etc. But there's more to it for me. I'm on a path, and will continue on it for as long as I'm able.

So, ask yourself, "What's Your Motivation", and decide. It's your choice and your choice only……..

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Yes, it is another rant but it's short!

 I get that drum, cymbal, and stick companies are trying to sell product. They are  in business after all.

However, the sound, feel, and concept of what happens to those objects comes from YOU!!!!!!!!!

Case in point, the first time I saw Elvin Jones play, he was playing borrowed cymbals he'd never seen before, and it sounded like it always it. It didn't matter!

And speaking of Elvin, here's his trio with Joe Farrell and Jimmy Garrison playing "Keiko's Birthday March" on the BBC. Enjoy!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Thank you, yet again, Peter Erskine

 I'm not going to lie to you. Recently ( this was written in mid-May) life has been challenging. I have had a very slow recovery from a knee injury, there are no gigs of course, and I haven't been able to play a full drum set in over a month due to the current lockdown. What's keeping me sane? LISTENING! And to that end, I have decided to listen to ( and eventually play along with) every tune on Peter Erskine's Infinity Drum Playlist. Here it is on youtube….

And here's the Playlist spreadsheet with Mr. Erskine's illuminating notes on each track…..

Phew! 300 and some recordings, with new ones being added every day! I am about 80 or so in, and again I'm not going to lie to you, I was amazed and how many recordings (drummers) I didn't know! Rather than beating myself up for this, I instead am enjoying all this great music I was previously unaware of.

It's also interesting to observe my reactions to the different tunes, styles, and drummers. There's a lot of "Wow, I slept on that" exclamations to a lot of the small group pieces, a great appreciation of a lot of the fusion and big band recordings, and some tunes that really GET to me emotionally (The James Brown, and Michael McDonald tunes, in particular). There's also occasionally things that I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to listen to, which makes the playlist even more handy as there's something to learn from every tune on the list. It's also cool to see how the tunes reflect Erskine's own experience and demographic (he'd be about 10 years older than me, I suspect) through the inclusion of the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson big band stuff, for example.

So, thank you Peter Erskine. Not only for so many of your own great drum performances, but for sharing these recordings with us and will keep me engaged, sane, and learning until we can play again! :) 

Friday, June 11, 2021

The music is where the music is

 Hi folks,

It must be all the time off, but I find myself extra rant-y these days. Today is no exception. I continue to be bombarded with warm-ups, chop builders, practice pad etudes, etc. I think it's important to stress that all this-physical-functioning-at-the-instrument is just a MINOR part of what we do!

We absolutely need to

-be able to read music

-know forms and melodies of many tunes

-be able to interpret and memorize new compositions quickly

-listen deeply, not only to the other musicians around you, but yourself as well

-have a sound that you desire, and not just play any old way (see above)

-be able to shape a band's sound and vibe with our playing

-groove, in every sense ( this includes rubato music)

There are so many people out there that constantly play at one dynamic, or one style, or always play the same stuff behind a soloist. Do yourself a favour. learn a standard tune ( if it's a great American Songbook tune, learn the lyrics as well ) and CREATIVELY apply it to something you want to do on the drumset. Making exercises out of drum books is okay, but it really is then just taking you a step further away from the music.

Thanks, and happy musicality!

Monday, June 7, 2021


 I hear a lot of musicians complaining about the tunes they are required to play. Yes, I agree some tunes seem "hipper" than others, yet when we blame a lacklustre performance on the material we are playing, we abdicate a lot of our personal responsibility and power. Bill Evans described tunes as "vehicles". In other words, we can inject whatever we are playing with as much life  (or death) as we want.

I've probably mentioned this before, but the first time I saw Ray Brown's trio play, they opened with "You Are My Sunshine" with Ray playing the melody. It's probably not the most amazing composition ever, but it sure sounded great when they played it! Sure, they could have played some more obscure original tune, but they started with "Sunshine". Everyone knows that tune, and it got the audience on board IMMEDIATELY.

Even if you're playing tunes that don't include improvisation, do what actors in the theatre do and create "the illusion of the first time".  You want to make your performance always sound fresh .

As well as Ray Brown, Sonny Rollins always has played music familiar to all and added the hipness himself! Here's a concert he did in Montreal where he opened with the Dolly Parton hit " Here You Come Again". Sonny sounds great of course, and check out DeJohnette's serious badass shuffle! 

In conclusion, if you find yourself disliking a certain tune, find a way to rearrange it, or change what you're playing, or change your attitude to what you're already playing etc. Accept your boredom/frustration with a tune as a challenge, and as a creative person you will find an innovative solution! I look forward to hearing it!