Monday, December 28, 2020

What I learned from Sugar Rush

 Like a lot of people in these crazy times, I have spent a fair amount of time watching Netflix lately. (Hey! You can't practice ALL the time!) Anyway, one of the shows my wife hipped me to is "Sugar Rush", a baking contest show. I gradually got into it, which is doubly ironic since I've hardly ever baked and haven't eaten anything with refined sugar in it since last April! 

                 Whoa! Keep this SUGARy cake away from Ted or he'll really start RUSHing!

Anyway, I started thinking about how baking, like music, and many other pursuits that were invented before the start of the current century, are not instantly gratifying or can be learned overnight. Baking, like music, requires a lot of trial and error and one won't be successful with every outing. However, the failures seem to be what teach the practitioners the most! Also common to both disciplines is that knowledge, experience, and an ability to grapple with any eventuality is something that develops over time. There do not seem to be any shortcuts, and patience is an important requirement. 
Apparently, instrument sales and rentals have greatly increased since the COVID lockdown. it is my sincere wish that people starting to play be patient and enjoy the learning process. If one sticks with it, there are so many rewards! Or you could stick with baking and have tasty things to offer friends and family. Let's hope that soon will all be singing this song, a la Ernie! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Random Voicings with Static Sticking

Not a very catchy title for this post, I'm afraid. In a nutshell the idea of this is to take one sticking and to not voice it in the standard way one would utilize that sticking. ( Check out the video for a more concrete explanation). Speaking of the video, a couple of notes. 1) When I was trading with myself, I took the Elvin "Sometimes my 4s take a little longer" concept and switched to 8s.  2) Also sometimes instead of using the RLR sticking, I was doing something more like RRL. At least you can be assured I don't spend months rehearsing these things to make them super-slick! :) 


Anyway, good luck and have fun! 

Friday, December 18, 2020

OTR Vol. 3 - Jim Keltner - Part 2 or EVERYONE LISTEN TO JIM KELTNER!!!

And by listen, I mean everything he plays AND says. I have never heard a more intelligent discussion of click tracks and their effect on music and musicians. Also, the playing near the end of this (part 1 is great as well) is so beautiful. The man really does create magic with the drums! :)

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Ken in the Wascana Park Bandshell

 This is a short post but I wanted to relay an old memory that came to me the other day while  I was practicing.

First some background…..

In the mid-80s, after getting my Diploma in Jazz Studies after 2 1/2 years studying at St. FXU, I moved back to Regina Saskatchewan and tried to be a working musician as much as I could. Now, I was 20 years old, and I had leaned just enough to think I was pretty hot stuff, that there wasn't much an older musician could show me, and I was easily the best drummer in Regina at this point! (Yikes! I know, right?)

Anyway, I don't know who else was on the gig, or what it was for, but I have a memory of playing in the bandshell at Wascana Park with bassist Ken Coffey. Ken and I worked a lot around that time, and although he was much more experienced than me, he generally appreciated my youthful enthusiasm, and put up with a lot of the stupid b.s. that can often accompany it.

So, we were on the last tune, and I remember it was an up tempo swing number. About 1/2 way through, Ken comes over to the the drums and says, "I can't tell where 1 is". He probably said this 3 more times over the course of the rest of the tune. I want to make clear that while he said this, he didn't seem angry or upset. In fact, I remember him looking slightly bemused. We finished the gig, and I don't remember there being any weird feeling or anything between Ken and I, just the thought inside my head that Ken just didn't get how hip I was……..


There were SO MANY lessons in this that I was too ego-based at the time to learn!

I can't remember what I was (or wasn't) playing, but I'm sure Ken was right! And even if I had been doing something oh so clever and modern (which I wasn't) ], it doesn't matter if you've lost the bassist! HELP A BROTHER (or sister) OUT! 

What I'm pretty sure what was going on was I WAS MORE CONCERNED WITh SATISFYING MY EGO THAN MAKING THE MUSIC WORK! Talk about messed up priorities and a missed opportunity. Not only to play the gig better,. but to learn from my folly!

You may surmise I'm looking back on this experience, cringing and feeling ashamed. Actually, I'm not. I'm thinking back on how young and experienced I was in those days ( as a drummer, musician, AND human being) and feeling grateful I've learned a few things since then.

Remember, any honest criticism of what you'er doing has the potential to make you better, and it's a gift! 

See you soon! :) 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Cheating? This isn't a card game!

 Hello all,

Once again, I am inspired to RANT! I recently viewed a demonstration on playing up tempos with brushes, and it had some good advice on how to develop this skill. My problem was that the person doing the demonstration said this was a way to play fast tempos without cheating. He never explained what he meant by that but I assume it's using two hands to play the ride pattern, even though many great drummers have done this. (Philly Joe would be a prominent example.) 

But this is cheating, apparently….

So what happens when one "cheats"? Do the cops go into the recording studio and issue an ordinance for "2 hand ride usage"? Do they have a seance at your gig (when there is one) and Buddy Rich's ghost takes your snare drum away?

Okay, I'm being facetious, but I really don't understand this mode of thinking at all. I feel the end justifies the means when you're playing and the end is how it sounds and feels. Truth be told, the feel and sound of this person not "cheating" didn't kill me, and it could be that they could create a better sound and feel using 2 hands. Perhaps by dogmatically sticking to a technique as some sort of athletic display one might be "cheating" the listener out of the best feel and sound possible!

I've probably mentioned this before, but I have arrived to a point where I want to get the best possible feel and sound out of the drums with the least possible effort. If that means me lounging in a Lay-Z-Boy           ( Pronounced Lay-ZED-Boy!) while I can do everything I want to at the drums, I would call that an achievement, rather than a weakness! 

Ted, your drum throne just arrived!                            

So, in conclusion, certainly work on your technique, but avoid "jock drumming" attitudes! :) 

Saturday, December 5, 2020


We are coming to the end of a very challenging year for everyone, musicians included. Even before the pandemic hit, streaming was taking revenues from more traditional forms of music purchase, clubs were closing, and there were more and more talented people around for fewer and fewer gigs. There has been a great increase in online music performances, but people usually didn't have to pay for these, so it's debatable whether this has improved things or not.

There is a possibility that the sun is setting on not only my own career as a professional musician, but for the culture of live music in general. To be clear, I am not wallowing in this, just observing a possible passing of any era. I realize that in my 40+ years of playing, I have had many opportunities, met many people, and traveled many places, and feel very fortunate to have done so .I will always be involved in music, but my ability to survive financially from performing has decreased greatly in the last few years, and I am resigned to the fact that I will need other means to survive that may not involve playing , composing, or recording. Again, I do not feel bitter about this. In fact, I feel grateful for the many opportunities I've had. I do, however, like many of an older generation when looking to the future, feel sorry for all the younger players and the situation they are in. I also regret we haven't done more to leave them in a better place. They will, though, find ways to create no matter what, because that's what we do and are driven to do.

So, just for today, let's play, listen, write, and create, and be grateful….for the music itself.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Rim Click/Tom LH combos

Hello drumming world. I have been thinking a lot lately about repeated comping patterns with the Left hand in a swing setting, namely rim click/tom ideas. I've often thought about these types of ideas as similar to background figures with a large ensemble, or repeated riffs with a small group. Of course, the most famous of these riffs is the "Philly click on 4" , utilized to such great effect on the Miles Davis tune, "Milestones" ( I'm not going to post it here because, if you don't own this recording already, you really should.) I've come up with some combos of my own, as shown below.

                                                                                  And here's some video of me playing the examples…….


Some brief notes. If you are going to play 4 on the bass drum in this exercise, play it MUCH softer than I did here. :) Play each example for a while, possibly while singing a standard tune to yourself and playing the example for at least a chorus. These types of ideas are only effective if you commit to them!  A couple of them I played inaccurately at first, that's why some are repeated more than 2xs. Also you'll notice that they went from 1 bar, to 2 bar, to 4 bar phrases. Don't be afraid to create longer phrase lengths with this idea. I feel it's very effective. Also notice that the last 2 examples suggest 5/4 and 7/8, respectively, even though the ride and h.h. are in 4 throughout.
Don't be afraid to come up with your own combos. Also remember that some soloists DO NOT like this sort of accompaniment, so be prepared to ditch this if they give you the hairy eyeball! :) 

As always, have fun and be good to yourself. Oh, and here's the pdf

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Abstract Solo

Hey Folks, I was thinking it's been a while since I played a solo that was rubato/colouristic rather than just demonstrating something I've been working on. This has little nods to Bartok's "Concerto fro Orchestra" as well as 'Trane's "Interstellar Space". Mallets mainly, experimented with preparing the floor tom with my coat as well as adding my "16 Zildjian China type for added spice! Hope you dig it……..

Friday, November 20, 2020

A different kind of clickbait

Or is it clickgate? As I tell the tale of one of my weirder experiences in 45 years of playing music, you'll see why I'm using that term!
Fairly recently, the leader in a big band in Montreal asked me to  remotely record a tune with the band. I have certainly done this in the past, and since covid hit it's become a very frequent occurrence. I filmed myself playing the chart we were doing on my Zoom camera ( they wanted video as well ) . I checked it ( I was playing to a click track in headphones ) and it sounded good so I sent the file to the leader. A couple of days later he sends me a message saying that he would like me to record to a click this time. Confused, I checked the recording I sent him. It still sounded fine and I told him i had played to a click. He then sent me this:

Wow! I was flabbergasted! What's especially weird about this is that it sounds like I'm really dragging. Believe me, my natural tendency is to rush, not head the other way! :)
Anyway, other musicians have told me they've had similar experiences, and I've had it described to me as the different programs not being able to "talk to each other" . Apparently these syncing issues are not uncommon, so they're something to be aware of. Just another example of how we can think that a good take is an absolute "truth" and the time can't be messed with after the fact. But nowadays, anything's possible! :)

Stay groovy! :)

UPDATE: Here is the final video without all the issues. It was great fun to play with these people and I feel like I've made some new musical friends! :) 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Todd's Sticking 2

Hey folks, here's another sticking I adopted from Todd Bishop. In this case the sticking is RLRLLLRR which I'm playing in 8th notes with half notes on the BD and the hi-hat doing dotted quarters, first closed, then open, and finally alternating open and closed. I put the sticking on the snare with snares off and it gives it a sort of completely unauthentic but fun Calypso vibe. Later……

Sunday, November 15, 2020


 Like many life-long musicians (or really anybody), not everything in my career has turned out exactly as I wanted or expected, One gets gigs, one loses gigs, one isn't called for certain gigs, one interviews for gigs and doesn't get them etc. etc. etc. I don't think I'm alone in that I can get quite obsessed with the things that didn't happen. This is far from productive, so I decided to approach things differently when these thoughts come up. I simply switch my thoughts to "what am I grateful for?". It's easy to focus on the negative, and the music business can be extremely heartbreaking, but it's important to not let that paralyze our creative impulses. Feeling super down and can't think of anything to be grateful for? Here's some examples….

-Your health

-your family and/or friends

-music you love to play or listen to

-the weather and the natural world

-your resilience in a difficult life-path

I could go on, but you get the picture. Also, often in hindsight, we realize that gig we wanted and thought would be perfect for us wasn't at all, and maybe something better came along (or we avoided something worse) by not getting it. Without getting into it too heavily, I feel that all of us have a higher purpose that we might not be aware of!

The fact that we have been isolation for so long is something that many musicians would see as totally negative, but even that has been very beneficial for me. For sure, COVID 19 is a terrible disease that has killed and compromised the health of many people, and I would never want anyone to think I wish the virus hadn't happened and the effects of the quarantine had been achieved some other way. The quarantine (again, not the virus itself) has changed me for the better in quite a few ways.

-My drumming and piano playing has improved a lot. I can't remember a stretch of time when I've practiced daily so consistently.

-My health has improved. As of this writing, I haven't had any alcohol or refined sugar in months and I'm down 2 pant sizes. I also have been regularly walking 10,000 steps and have also enjoyed swimming and bike riding.

-I have had a chance to listen to a TON of music of all kinds

-I have become somewhat more computer and recording savvy due to remote teaching and recording.

-I have had more time to blog, as my post-lockdown output attests to!

I think a big part of being a creative person is being able to see the potential in something that initially is negative, and like anything else in the arts, it gets better with practice. I implore you to try it. What do you have to lose? I believe we are all destined for great things! :) 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Todd's Sticking plus clave

Hi folks, just a quick post showing something I've been working on lately. I really like the idea of treating RH and LF functions with the hi-hat separately, and then putting them together to see what I've come up with. In this case I've taken a RRRR LLRL sticking lifted from a recent, great  Cruise Ship Drummer post. I then played a 3:2 Rhumba Clave with my left foot while keeping the RH part of the sticking on the hi-hat as well. The bass drum part was supposed to be the tumbao, but when I pressed record on my phone, my RF did something else, and I think like it better! The next step for me will be doing this kind of thing with various bass drum ideas…..


I also wanted to pass on my congratulations to all my American friends on the recent election and hope that this is a new day dawning for your great country and that you get the democracy you so very much deserve.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Soloing and Context

Well, it's been awhile SO IT'S TIME FOR A RANT!!!!!!!

I've never been one of those " I hate drum solos,  I only want to support the band"-type people. I enjoy the challenges soloing on the drums requires.
That said, I don't like many of the drum solos I hear. Why? Because there's usually very little context to them, or the context is, to my ears, flawed….
let me elaborate on things a good solo (on drums or ANY instrument) requires…

1. Thematic material/storytelling
So much of what I see and hear these days involves playing something fast/technically difficult, and then moving onto to some other fast/technically difficult thing and THAT'S THE ONLY THING THAT LINKS THE TWO IDEAS! It's like telling a story that only has a bunch of different endings, or a joke that's only several punchlines! You have to get the audience from A to B to C, and sometimes that involves playing things that aren't necessarily hard to play!

2. A reason for the material to exist
This is crucial, and should probably be item #1. What's the reason for what you're playing? If the only reason is because it's difficult and impressive, that's not much to base your narrative on. I think that's why I often find drum solos and clinics ESPECIALLY boring, because they exist only to impress, and really don't take me on any sort of musical journey. ( See item #1)

3. Energy/Interest created from the solo itself
So much of what I hear is a bunch of drum "stuff" played against something, whether it be a (questionable) recorded track, or some sort of vamp. I don't hear a lot of soloing that is compositionally sound in and of itself. Remember, you can use the tones of the drums and cymbals themselves to make melodies, or you can abstractly "represent" a tune through thematic playing etc. Don't get me wrong, soloing over something can be very beautiful, but should never be an excuse to have poor architecture in one's solo.

Now, let's pause for a short intermission while I play one of the great examples of soloing over a vamp Chick Corea's "Quartet No. 2" with Steve Gadd singing/crying/wailing over the vamp! Fantastic! Listen to how it builds!

4. Space, the final Drum Frontier
Mr. Gadd, as usual, provided a perfect segue. The music/solo needs to breathe, so LEAVE SPACE. It makes everything played so much more powerful!

Okay, that's enough grumpy old man stuff for now. Remember when you solo, PLAY MUSIC!!!!!

Monday, November 2, 2020

At Home With Ted Podcasts

During isolation, my lovely wife Heather interviewed me about various aspects of music. Here are 3 of the episodes….

Friday, October 30, 2020

AptiTUDE Blues

Hi.  This is a short improvised piece dedicated to my adventures in attempting to expand my employment beyond matters music-related. Enjoy!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Hear Ye Hear Ye! + More Ranting + KJ

 From henceforth, individuals who  play pads more than drums OR post more than 2 incidences of them playing said pads, they will be hereby referred to as "padders" and the activity they are involved in will be named "padding"……..

Thank you, carry on……..


Okay, this first update is sort of rant-y and slightly negative but I think it will be leavened somewhat by the next one. I wanted to talk about a couple of things I've heard lately. Firstly, it was of a young and very talented drummer filmed playing along to a movement form a Bartok string quartet. I've always loved Bartok's music, especially his string quartets, and actually have played with recordings of it as well, although I wouldn't claim to know any of them nearly as well as this drummer does. That's the good part. What I don't care for so much is that he seems like he's hearing it as a track to play to rather than a piece of music to interact with. He is always playing beats, and even fills I'm pretty sure he's memorized and doesn't deviate from, and the result to my ears sounds like a Prog-Rock duet for string quartet and drums…..

Item 2 that got me thinking is a young instagram drumming star. He has LOTS of velocity on the drums and in the first few videos I've seen of him, most of his concept and vocabulary seems to come from Buddy Rich, including his posture and the faces he makes while playing. In his latest video, he is actually playing along with one of Buddy's solos, note for note.

So, why am I complaining about these to particular items? Well, for one thing, no new content is being created. For another, these types of videos seem to be further evidence of a world where the drums are something that plays along to something else to create context, rather than context coming directly from the drums.

I can't help but feel that some of the great pioneers of the drums, including Buddy, Max Roach, Papa Jo, Tony Williams, Sunny Murray etc., would be disappointed by this turn of events, and at least in popular culture, the drum set feels like it's evolution is going a bit backwards. Of course, this is my opinion and my opinion alone…….


Between writing this post and it being published I found out that the great Keith Jarrett, after suffering a series of strokes has lost the use of his left hand and likely will never play again in public. While the news of this is undeniably devastating, it got me thinking about the act of playing music and how temporary in ultimately is for all of us……

Jarrett was arguably one of the world's greatest improvisors, and like many musicians like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins (who is also not playing anymore),  and Elvin, seemed indestructible and it felt like he would always be around, playing at the same high level. Of course like all of us, he's human, and in a human body that eventually ages and weakens over time. This, on the quick heels of Eddie Van Halen's passing, is coming at a time when my practice on piano and drums seems at its most productive ever. Please don't get me wrong, I am not comparing myself in any way to the above artists I mentioned. I am, however, feeling like I am still growing and improving as a musician and look forward to every practice session/jam/(occasional)gig etc. I approach. With the events of the last couple of weeks I am also acutely aware that my playing music, and indeed my life, is finite. One of the things that creates beauty is that it is transient. I truly believe that. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring so I will endeavour to make the most of my remaining time as a musician and human, and I would encourage you to do the same. :)

See? First negative, and then positive! :) 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Linkedin Advice

Hey all, short post today.
I found this on Linkedin. I generally find I don't get a ton out of this particular platform but I did like the following…..

                                                                                     I think I have a tendency to not only attach, but to get attached so this is very good advice for me in a discipline that constantly changes. You get gigs, you lose gigs, venues open, venues close etc. Stay safe! :) 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Eddie Van Halen Has an Important Message for You

     Like many people of my generation, I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of Eddie Van Halen's death last week. As I checked out a lot of media and reflected on his life and legacy, I was struck by how in any photos of him with his guitar, or in any videos, he's always smiling. He always seems to be having the time of his life and be super in touch with the joy of making music. Further to this, this short video has been making the rounds……



I think no matter what happened with money, fame, or possibly more negative influences in his life, he seemed to be somebody who was completely in love with music his whole life.

Thank you for the music Mr. Van Halen, you will be missed but not forgotten.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Happy Birthday Art Blakey

 Hey all, I was lucky enough to stumble upon this footage of , to the best of my knowledge, a version of The Jazz Messengers that didn't release any recordings. They are playing "Crisis"; one of my favourite Freddie Hubbard compositions. What can you say? This is Jazz. Jazz is a process as much as a product. It's not meant to be perfect. It is music played in the moment and Mr. Blakey sounds fantastic! Enjoy!


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Jeff Watts Clinic: Some Takeaways

 Recently I was able to attend an online clinic of Jeff Watts' put on by the Drummer's Collective in NY. it was hosted by fine drummer in his own right, Ian Froman, who did a great job, fielding questions for Mr. Watts, and asking some very intelligent ones of his own. I was only able to attend the first hour, but I came away with some concepts and exercises that I will "share with the class" for those that missed it.

1. On speaking generally about playing metric modulations, Watts stressed the idea of really knowing where own is in the home tempo, and creating a strong resolution when the modulation ends. Without this, he said it would be better to have played strong time rather than any resolution at all.

2. Specific idea for working on modulations. Play any sort of time feel, then the pulse off the half note triplet, halftime, and then dotted 8ths. 4 bars for each modulation (including the original groove/tempo) Play it while singing/hearing a blues form, and whatever modulation you play will show up in a different part of the form because it's a 16 bar cycle over a 12 bar form.

3. Play every rhythm/beat you play in its 8th note and triplet form. Playing Songs? Play it as shuffled 8ths. Triplets? Play the closest str. 8th rhythm you can figure out. 

I'm sure there was lots more but, as I mentioned, I had to leave partway through. 

I would recommend anyone check out the many online clinics being offered in our current environment. Inspiration is often just a click away! :) 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Creative Practice

I have never believed that some people are creative and others aren't.  I do, however, feel that creativity is akin to a muscle, and muscles that aren't exercised atrophy. Now, if one hasn't worked on this before, it can seem a little daunting, but keep in mind creative thinking and acting is often done in small ways.  We could apply this to our practicing by doing our routine ( if we have one) backwards, or out of the usual order. Another simple way to get us out of our usual patterns would be to change the placement of components of the drum set. Ride cymbal on the right, crash on the left? Reverse them! I guarantee your usual movements around the cymbals will sound different, and it will take some thought and physical shifts to do them the way you usually do! I recently set up a five piece kit at my practice space and, borrowing an idea I got from Max Roach, reversed the order of the tom mounted toms, like so…..

Once again, habits are broken and "regular" tom patterns take on a whole new challenge.

Other possibilities like changing dynamics, rhythmic grids, and tempos of anything I've gone on about at length before, but what about playing with two different utensils in your hands? Again, a beat you played using two sticks will sound VERY different with a stick & a brush, a mallet & your hand, etc. Along similar lines is using different parts of the drum set than we normally do as send sources. Ever played an idea using the shell of one of the drums? How about the cymbal stand? Moving the snares on and off? These sort of things can be very fun to explore and come in handy, especially in more open/free music settings.

Another really good way to begin a session at the drums is to play something, anything, at the drums and try to make a short composition out of it. By short, I mean it can be a minute long, if you like. The idea, is to take the first thing you played and then develop it so it has a beginning, middle and end. The main thing is not to judge the thing you played, just to work with it. I got this idea from Ari Hoenig, and it can be a great help to developing improvisational skills.

The whole point is, always ask yourself, " How could this be different/changed/varied"? As you make a habit of this, creative thinking and action will come automatically.

Have fun on your creative journey!

Friday, October 2, 2020

Just another brush off

Filmed this awhile ago just exploring some sounds. I realize it's a little ironic, me playing on snare drum only, after I give a lot of people grief for their "retro-snare-y" solos, but sometimes it's nice to explore the colours in one part of the drum set, especially with brushes. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Short Solo

        Hey, here's a short solo I did at the practice studio I am currently using ( hence the "brand Ls"  ). It can be fun to play different drums and cymbals than usual, with different tunings etc., because you will play different stuff. I quite enjoy playing on lower pitched toms and bass drum sometimes. Sorry my head was cut off but except for my Mom, I don't think anyone is going to complain!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Attack Drumheads

As I mentioned when the global pandemic first started, I spent the extra time while not working to re-evaluate aspects of my sound. One thing I wanted to look at was my selection of drumheads. I have used both Evans and Remo in the past (as well as the great things Canadian company Bovid was doing with animal skins, although i soon realized they were too expensive and also not quite versatile enough for my needs). I did, however, want to give Attack heads a go. I almost started endorsing them in 2007, then the economic downturn hit, and we never really regained the momentum we had earlier. Attack is now under new ownership and, with the incentive of some very reasonable pricing from Canadian Attack rep Tim Harquail, it was time for me to check it out!
Because economics are still a factor, I wasn't able to outfit all my drums but hope to do so once I'm working more again. I did change all the top heads on the Yamaha drums I've been playing since high school.  This kit is generally my workhorse. It consists of 12" & 16" toms, a 20" bass drum, and is usually paired with a 6" deep Tama Artstar snare. I also changed both heads on a 5" '59 Leedy drum I recently had some work done on.
The heads I decided on were the the Royal 1 series, and comparable to Ambassadors in weight. Wow! On the snare and toms they articulated very well, with a nice combination of brightness and warmth. They really sing, and I can't wait to get them on all the bottom heads too! I opted for new batter and front heads for the bass drum. I have always struggled getting the bass drum sound I want, which is halfway between wide open and a thump that doesn't have a discernible tone. For a long time on my 20" drum I used a combo of thicker batter heads and a plain coated head with 2 felt strips between the skin and the shell of the front of the bass drum. It worked but they were a serious drag to deal with! With Attack, I tried a combo of a no overtone coated and clear head. The placement of the clear head on the batter and the coated on the front worked great, with not too much ring but lots of warmth and tone, and NO MORE FELT STRIPS! Hallelujah!!!!
Finally, the combo of the of coated Royal 1 and the clear super thin snare bottom head brought life to the Leedy drum that I didn't realize it had. It helps the drum retain it's vintage qualities while still delivering enough high-end to cut nicely. The coating seems to last quite well too!
I feel I should reiterate that I bought all the heads I tried, and whether I work with Attack in an official capacity or not, I think they'll be Attack heads on all my drums for a long time from now! :) 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Ratamacue Variations

 Hey all,

I have an article in the just published issue of Canadian Musician magazine. It deals with Ratamacues and can be found at

Have a lovely day! 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The best lessons your teacher may be offering

I would like to relate a couple of things that happened to me this last summer that made me think about teachers and our relationship to them.
The first thing that happened is a well known drummer (forgive me, I can't remember if it was Adam Nussbaum or Joe La Barbera)  was posting photos of drummers that inspired him, and so he put Alan Dawson on his feed. What followed were many posts about his teaching and the rudimental ritual, but no mention of seeing him live or on video performing, or some of the great recordings he made.
I had a similar experience a few weeks later with the tragic death of my friend and great vocalist Shannon Gunn. Shannon also had taught at Capilano  and Humber colleges, respectively. As tributes came out to this wonderful musician on the scene, I was shocked at the number of young student musicians who had never seen her perform live, even though she had been doing so fairly consistently her whole career.

In both these cases, people were missing the best lesson of all, seeing these great artists perform!
When you get to see someone live, you get to see how they interact with the audience, their fellow musicians, and even the management of the venue. You can check out their body language, hear how they sound in the room, etc. Now, I'm aware that sometimes checking someone out live is impossible ( Mr. Dawson passed away in the 90s) but often there is available video footage and recordings. In short, if you are involved in the performing arts and your teacher is out there "on the scene', check them out! I guarantee you will get things from it you won't get from lessons alone! 

So, here's some great footage of Alan Dawson performing and TEACHING us all while playing with Sonny Rollins


Unfortunately, there's isn't much footage of Shannon Gunn online but here she is singing "Who Sang the Songs We Always Sing", dedicated to Frank Sinatra.

In closing, I certainly in no way want to denigrate or minimize the influence a great teacher can have, even if that teacher never performs. I just want to emphasize that we can learn a lot from our teachers/mentors when we observe them in "battle' conditions. Stay safe all……..

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Swiss triplet brushes

 Hey all,

Just a quick application of the classic Swiss triplet sticking ( RLL ) except with brushes. For all the Rs that are on the beat, we'll sweep to the right. For the 2 Ls, we'll sweep the middle note of the triplet toward us, and the last L away from us. I've also used taps with the Right hand to create the Jazz Ride Rhythm or shuffle, and have included some alternate sounds at the end. make sure all your swept notes are nice & legato.


The next example has me warbling "Blue Bossa" while playing a variation of the idea as well as the original 3 beat idea, all in straight 8th notes.


That's it. Nothing especially earth shattering here, but it is a nice chance to work on some motions and coordination with the brushes that might be new for some of us. :)                                              

Monday, September 7, 2020

Michael Brecker and the flat tire

I can't remember if I've told this story on here or not. If I have, not recently.
When I was teaching at Humber College, Michael Brecker was artist in residence. The head of the percussion department, Roger Flock, I think considered himself more of a percussionist than a drum set player, so performances with these guests would be famed out to one of the drum set specialists on the part time faculty. Mark Kelso was on the pat time faculty at this time, and with Mr. Brecker playing a handful of concerts during his residency, Mark was certainly keen to perform with him, as was I. The residencies usually featured the guest artist playing with various configurations of faculty and students, in a variety of musical settings. The faculty performances were to be Brecker with an acoustic group, an electric/fusion band, as well as some other things that escape me. ( I vaguely remember doing some sort of 2 tenor thing with Pat LaBarbera .) What was sort of cool was that because Mark was going to be away most of that week he wanted to play the first concert , which was the "straight ahead acoustic Jazz' one. So, I was to play the "Fusion" concert the next day. I relished the idea of both Mark and I playing "against type", and hopefully, yet slightly nervously looked forward to playing with Michael Brecker the next day. The next morning I got up early to make the hour long journey to Humber for the noon hour concert. I walked into the garage and realized I had a flat tire. There was a possibility of getting the motor club to fix it but, by the time they got to my place, time would be a little tight. So, I decided to change the tire myself. This was a while ago so, 1) the spare tire was an actual regulation tire so driving to Toronto and back on it wouldn't be a problem and 2) I used the owner's manual as my guide as this was pre-Google and Youtube. I followed the instructions carefully and methodically and soon I was on the road towards the college. I'd never changed a tire before, and i found the new experience satisfying and even sort of fun.

I got to the school, parked and then headed with my cymbals and sticks to the auditorium. Brecker wasn't there but the rest of the musicians  were there going over the music, which leaned heavily on some of Steps Ahead's music, most of which I was familiar with. As I was setting in and discussing what we were going to play, I couldn't help but notice how nervous and uptight most of the other players seemed, and also how I wasn't feeling that way.. Then it hit me, I had just changed my own tire which I had never done before. I was now going to play drums. Something I had been doing for decades. What could go wrong? IT WAS GOING TO BE FUN!

It was fun! The concert was a success. Brecker turned around to me at one point and said loudly, "You guys can play"! As I mentioned, I played with him again later that week, with similar results. The takeaway for me? No matter who you're playing with, listen, have fun, and give it your all, without self-consciousness. it usually goes well after that………..Thank you Mr. Brecker ( and flat tire) for this great lesson.

To close,  here's Brecker playing on Pat Metheny's Two Folk Songs" from then 40 Year old recording, 80/81. Still sounds as fantastic as the day it was released!

Saturday, September 5, 2020

It adds up….

 Quick post. I just realized that since the quarantine began, most days I have practiced at least an hour of piano and an hour of drums. So, just to be on the conservative side, say I practiced 5 days a week, and started in earnest by April. That means by now I will have practiced at least a 100 hours of each instrument. I'm not telling you this to brag or anything. In fact, there are many people who practice WAY more than this, as I have earlier in my career. My point is, I have seen a lot of improvement in my flexibility and comfort with both instruments as of late. I've said it before, but if you spend enough time with an instrument, it will start to whisper in your ear, telling you its secrets. The thing is, this is available to everyone! All you need to do is put in the time.

What are you waiting for???????

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Machine Age

                                                                                                                                                                           To say that we live in interesting times would be a vast understatement, even if we are looking at pre-pandemic. We musicians are aided by many modern inventions, from tuning apps, to electronic metronomes, to recording software we can use on a laptop or phone. For sure, we have gained much. But, have we ever given though to what we might be losing? A case in point is the history of the drum machine. In the early 80s, drum machines were developed as an aid to the recording process. Many drummers weren't happy about this, but some realized it could be an important tool. Many great recordings , especially in the Pop world, featured live drummer/machine hybrids that were very interesting. As we headed into the next decade, Drum n' Bass and Electronica used this machine in new and exciting ways. it's at this point something unprecedented happened. Drummers started imitating the machines rather than the other way around.
Now, this is not even remotely intended to denigrate the great things people like Jojo Mayer, Questlove, and others have done to take the best parts of drum machines and sequencers and add it to their musical palette. No, the problem is with the drummers that were influenced by these innovators.  and as a result, we live in a world where "machine-like" precision and execution has become the gold standard. Super tight, clean, playing is seen as the only way to play. If Elvin Jones had started recording now, I'm afraid there would likely be a lot of talk about how "sloppy" he plays, rather than how swinging, expressive, and beautiful it is. You can see the problem, right? There can be a beautiful looseness to how many drummers operate, especially when playing swing. I actually had a person tell me when he saw Lewis Nash for the first time how "tidy" his playing was. Now, Mr. Nash has very formidable and clean technique when he wants to use it, but it seems to me that focusing on the speed or evenness of his hands when he's painting such beautiful musical pictures strikes me a weird thing to focus on. I've been checking out a lot of Billy Higgins lately, and I love the relaxed looseness and joy that he brings to everything he plays. Check this out and I'm sure you'll agree with me…..

                                                In conclusion, I think it's important to remember that the reason nobody has successfully programmed a machine to sound like Elvin, Billy Higgins, Keith Moon, or many others is there is humanity and personality there that can't be copied.  By all means, work on your "perfect' playing, but also be ready to go for it and be yourself! :) 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Time, fills, and other myths

I  really wouldn't be surprised if anyone reading my blog thinks that I have a personal vendetta against Instagram. I don't. I just feel that the Instagram part of the social media neighbourhood has a lot of sensational qualities that can lead musicians, especially drummers, down the wrong path. Take this idea of "killer fill"-type posts I see constantly. I really feel, after one has been playing a couple of years, there is no point in differentiating between "time" and "fills".       
I mean, if we're not keeping time while playing fills we've got a problem. Also, as soon as we're playing anything, including a patterned beat, we are filling up a sonic space in the music.
Another problematic element is the idea that somehow playing some sort of pattern or groove, especially a hypnotic, repeating one, is boring, and the "fills" are where we get to shine . I must admit when I was younger I too, suffered from this limited thinking. No wonder when I listen back to old recordings I hear that impatience and lack of maturity in the grooves I was attempting to play. If all I was thinking about while I was keeping time was about how I was going to dazzle everyone when I played a fill, I wasn't truly in the present, where most great music lives. 
Yes, I admit there are times in the music where it makes sense to stay on one area of the drum set and play something solid that doesn't change constantly. ( Philly Joe on "Milestones', anyone? ) Then there are times when the music requests the excitement that moving around the drums and cymbals creates.
Some music requires no fills, some music requires so much moving around the instrument that one can't tell where the "time" stops and the "fills" start. In short, figure out what the music needs and judge yourself accordingly.

As a great example of someone to appears not to be worried and/or making value judgments about the dreaded time and fills, I give you the wonderful Paul DeLong. Yes, sometimes he spends more time on the toms and other locations in the music he's focused on the hi-hat, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, he's always playing and representing the flow of the music. Beautiful. See you soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Kenny Clarke Interview

 I just stumbled upon this. Eloquent, sophisticated,  and intelligent. Whether playing or speaking, that's Kenny Clarke. Enjoy! 

Thursday, August 20, 2020


One of the current ideas that's floating around in this time of Covid/Lockdown is creating challenges online.. You know, for 1 month I'll only cook with tofu/exercise an hour a day/stop watching reality shows etc. But in our daily practice sessions, we can challenge ourselves in more practical ways, no matter what it is we're working on…..

1. Change the tempo
Whatever you're working on, play it after several different tempos, especially slow ones. That's where you'll find out if you really have something together or not…..

2. Change the dynamic
A very similar concept to #1, but now we're working on varying the volume of what we're working on, and not just playing it FF and then pp, but utilizing crescendos and decrescendos too!

3. Change the articulation
Okay, so now you can play the lick faster or slower and louder or softer, but how about the whole thing as dead strokes? Doubles? Buzzes?  Or combinations of the aforementioned and the original idea? This will really kick your behind, believe me!

So, as we can see, there are many ways to vary any idea we're practicing to learn it in a more complete way. One of the other benefits of this is, the idea we've been practicing becomes much more available to us in a playing situation if it doesn't rely on a specific tempo, dynamic, or articulation. We can even revisit old ideas and breathe new life into them by practicing this way.
Have fun and good luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Simon Phillips Video

hey all,
I stumbled onto this great footage of Simon Phillips the other day. For me, he's my favourite of the post Cobham open handed drummers. I always get the feeling from him that he's using his impressive technique to serve a higher musical purpose and this well-constructed solo is no exception. Enjoy.

Wow! he even played the hi-hat with his RIGHT hand for a second there……    :)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

3/4 Variation on John Riley Brush Pattern

Well , the youtube title describes it accurately, if not that artfully. This is a 3/.4 version of one of the fast brush patterns found in John Riley's Art of Bop Drumming book. I like it because the movement of both hands alternating a left to right line across the drum for me was a new one, and so much of brush playing is getting comfortable with new movements. Funnily enough, I never found the 4/4 version worked so great on fast tempos for me, but I use it a lot with medium grooves. I play the pattern first with the skip beat on the + of one, and then with the + of 3, with a couple of variations thrown in at the end for good measure. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Words of Wisdom from Steve Jordan (Now with extra Porcaro)

I'm posting a short video with Steve Jordan.

 I'm especially struck by his comments on paying homage, and also his ideas on bigger hi-hats. I have to admit, I sometimes thought that was just a fad, but he makes a lot of sense.

Hmmmmm…. anybody got a set of 19" New Beats?  :)

UPDATE: As this was about to be published, I got hipped to this footage of Jeff Porcaro in his prime tracking for a Steve Lukather album. Fantastic!!!!! He is so missed …..

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Art Taylor, Al Foster, and the ride cymbal

Hello folks,
I stumbled onto this great footage of Art Taylor playing with Dizzy, Johnny Griffin and Stan Getz playing Stella By Starlight in "71, so let's start with that…..


Great, right? It's so awesome to hear Art Taylor playing, and the great big sound he gets when he's comping but here's the thing, it's very easy in a swing situation to get obsessed with all the independent stuff and ignore our main voice in the situation. That would be the ride cymbal of course. Rewind to earlier today when Dan Weiss was talking on his instagram page about practicing only ride cymbal. I have done this as well, and I think if one is serious about getting their Jazz ride cymbal playing together, it's well worth doing.

As I was mentioning before, it's easy to get distracted by the other parts of the drum set. When we play ride cymbal alone, we're getting to the heart of the time. There is nowhere to hide, and no way to wow people into thinking the time is strong with a bunch of chops-based baloney! We also have to really feel the space between the ride cymbal notes. Check it out, it'll totally change your playing.

…And what i mean by practicing ride cymbal is to play just that instrument along to recordings and make it strong and groovy.
Right after i checked out the Dizzy vid, a Joe Henderson came up with Al Foster playing. Here it is. They are also playing "Stella"

  Also great. Working on copying the ride feels of Air Taylor and Al Foster would be a great way to start to design one's ride feel. Enjoy and have fun!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Teaching available: Online and In Person

Just letting everyone know I'm available to teach either via internet or in person ( with social distancing and with my trusty mask pictured below ) . Whether you're a novice, intermediate or professional drummer, I can help you reach your full potential. Contact me here or through

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Joy of Practice

As one continues through life as a musician, two general types of players tend to emerge. The first type tend to be constantly practicing, learning new ways of dealing with their instrument. I would say often this sort of player can get into things that aren't even completely useful in a musical setting, and that's one of the major pitfalls of this sort of approach.
 The second type of player tends to either work towards some specific gig coming up ( a lot of classical musicians work this way ) or sort of keep loose on the gigs, and listen to music to "stay in the game". This is a valid approach, especially if someone has been playing for a long time, or one's style of playing doesn't necessarily require a lot of velocity, or both.
  Although I have spent most of my life fitting into the first category, about 8 years ago I found myself really not having any desire to practice. At the time, I thought I had "graduated" to this approach due to the fact I had been playing a long time. I later discovered my lack of interest in practicing had been due to clinical depression and that my life was in a shambles. As soon as my personal life improved, my desire to explore the drums, and piano, and even harmonica, blossomed to a level it hadn't been to in years. This is even in spite of the fact that in my current living situation, having access to drums and acoustic piano is limited, but even this has had the paradoxical effect of making practice even more precious and fruitful! :)

Why am I going on about this? Well, in this time of extremely limited gig opportunities, I think we all have to think of ways to keep the music in our lives, even if we're not performing. So here are some ways to think about keeping supple and close to the music.

1. Practice new, and maybe esoteric and challenging things…..
If you are a "practising" type, by all means, keep at it! You can also, however, use this opportunity to practise things that don't normally come up on gigs, and therefore you're too busy to work on them. Don't get a chance to work on modulations and odd groupings with your country band? Now's the time, baby!
2. Check out music you normally don't listen to.
This is something that can apply to both types of players I've mentioned. if you're a metal drummer, check out some Nat Cole. If you play Jazz, check out some music from a far-away culture. etc.
3. Play-a-longs!
By this, I really mean, play along to recordings. This is the closest you can get to playing a gig without playing a gig and will help keep your instincts sharp, especially if it's improvised music.
4. Check out other forms of art and story telling.
Look at art online, read book, and watch movies and dance to get an idea how artists in those forms reach their audience.
5. Mental practice!
I won't go into detail on this because I've talked about it at length before. I will mention that for folks like me that have limited access to instruments, this can be a real aid to mental wellness and a positive outlook, as well as helping us feel fresh and loose.

In conclusion, I want to state that we can all view this "pause" on performing live as an opportunity. I'm not sure if I'll come out of this period necessarily a more financially successful musician, but I certainly will be a more sensitive and skilled one, as well as a better human being!

Finally, here's a short snare/cymbal solo I recorded in my apartment recently. :)

Friday, July 17, 2020


This is a short solo I improvised before doing a project for some friends in Montreal…..
Short, but (hopefully) sweet!

Monday, July 13, 2020


This is another sort of commercial, mainly for the many types of musical services I offer…

Online Lessons
I have gotten my technology together and I am offering lessons on Skype, FaceTime, Messenger, or any platform you prefer. $60 an hour. Times/days negotiable

Recording tracks
I have been recording for other people's projects, as well as a few things up my sleeve that I'll be announcing soon. Price negotiable.

Article/Book Editing
Want to get your drum-related work published? I can clean it up, make it clearer, and help you get noticed by major drum/music publications. $60 an hour.

Send me your tracks, pre-production rehearsals, ideas to be arranged, etc. and I can help you make your recording the best it can be. Price negotiable.

Contact me here or at

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Worst Jazz Solo of all time

Hi all,
Here is some food for thought regarding taste and minimalism in music. I found it quite thought-provoking. I hope you do too.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Modern Drummer Article

Hey all,
Just letting you know an article I wrote on developing a modern Jazz straight 8th note concept inspired by Jon Christiansen is in the August issue of Modern Drummer. My thanks to Mike Dawson for accepting and publishing it.

 And speaking of articles, I am now doing edits and offering advice for those of you interested in getting your drum-related work published. Very reasonable rates. Contact me here or at for details.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

What? More ads?

Yup. Quick commercial.
Ted Quinlan's quartet, one of the most enjoyable musician aggregations I've ever been fortunate to be a part of, is playing live to air tomorrow ( Friday July 3rd ) on JazzFM 91.1. You can find it online, on your radio, or JazzFM's Facebook page. 5-6PM EST.
                                                                          And here's a sample of some of the music we'll be playing…..

Check it out if you're available. :) 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

If God was a Canadian, he'd be sorry!

The title is in reference to the apologetic nature of Canadians! Happy Canada Day. I am proud to be Canadian and am very grateful to be living here. I don't say that in any smug way either, because I believe that we have many of the same issues as our friends to the south, we are just fortunate to have better leadership and some of our problems are smaller. This is mainly because we have a smaller population. I sincerely hope things improve in the US, and their potential healing can be an example for us all.

Also, please check out Four On The Floor today for a special Canada Day post featuring  some of the best of this country's Jazz Drumming talent. I was very pleased to be involved, and I think it turned out great! Thanks Jon!

Here's one of the "outtakes" from my contribution to that video. Here I am playing my version of our national anthem….

And here's the Boss Brass playing "O Canada' some years ago. Maybe doing an arrangement of this song was Rob McConnell's way of making sure we got a standing ovation! :) Seriously though, Rob was a very proud Canadian.

One of my great memories of playing that chart is playing it on Canada Day.  Everyone stood up, I locked eyes with great bassist Neil Swainson in the audience from way across the tent we were in ( because he's so tall) and I tried desperately to get him to sing and him finding this incredibly funny.

Have a great and safe day everyone. Wherever you are!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

You play what you think……..

In the course of discussions around my post about Hilary Jones' racist rant,  I started thinking about reasons i didn't like her playing in the first place. BTW, I would never normally mention a player I didn't like by name, but I make exceptions for hate-spewers! Anyway, while doing research for this, which wasn't easy because many websites have taken her videos down. Thank you  drummerworld!  Anyway, while watching her play a sort of quasi-African groove  (oh, the irony upon irony) I found it to be not only stiff feeling, but also cold and distant sounding. I surmise this came from her distance from the actual musicial materials she was dealing with, as well as her prejudice towards many of it's innovators and practitioners. I'm not even sure if she notices this herself, but I heard it loud and clear!

I think what has been going on for me, is I think you can be a capable, maybe even good musician if you have hate in your heart, but I don't think it's possible to be a great one.

I mean, listen to Elvin Jones' performance here with John Coltrane on "Song of the Underground Railroad". Talk about joy and love emanating from the drums!

Let's conclude with wise words from a Baby Dodds interview from the '50s

  Now I know that sounds very funny to a drummer to hear me say spirit, but drummin’ is spirit!  You gotta have that in your body, in your soul.  You gotta have it even in your drumming that go along, you gotta have that spirit.  And it can’t be an evil spirit—it’s got to be a good spirit.  Now I know it puts you way back to thinkin’, why?  Because music is no good if you’re evil.  That’s no good.  If you are evil, you going to drum evil.  And when you drum evil, you goin’ to put evil in somebody else’s mind.  Now, first thing you know somebody put the evil in somebody else’s mind, well, what kind of band have you got?  Nothin’ but a evil spirit band.  That’s what I mean by spirit.


Monday, June 22, 2020

Stewart Copeland: Setting Yoursel Up For Success

Be prepared, I have a bunch of these short posts coming out soon that feature footage of someone offering the wisdom of their experience.. Here's the first of a few of them.  In it Stewart Copeland is giving some very solid advice on being a complete musician.

I couldn't agree with him more. As far as his opinions on Jazz are concerned, that's another story! :)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Count Basie '62

Thanks to great saxophonist Steve Kaldestad for hipping me to this. The Count Basie band killing it!

I made a few notes, especially since I don't know Basie or Sonny Payne's work nearly as well as I should….

Totally swinging at all times.
No matter what happens, everything Mr. Payne plays feels so amazing!
HUGE dynamic range
Payne gets so much drama out of the drums!
Four on the Hi-Hat all the way through ballad version of “Stella By Starlight” ( and all the other ballads) 
Just like Donald Bailey. he was doing this way before Tony Williams made it a "thing".
Hi-hat cymbals VERY open for big dynamic range w/foot
He really controls that band with his left foot!
Often playing same things in both bands or 4 on the snare during swing
This results in a lot of clarity. I often feel I'm comping too much in a big band setting.
Playing articulations w/horns always at the perfect volume
He really is a master at playing ensemble hits with the horns.
 Showy but never at the expense of the music
If you heard this performance on a record, it would be just as fantastic. The visuals just add to it!
Switches cymbals for different soloists
It's interesting how he manages to do everything he needs to do, yet retains a small group feel and looseness, another thing i have struggled with in big band playing.
He has all the music memorized
This is huge! He's listening rather than reading!
Lots of closed hi-hat for quiet sections
I think this is something players avoid nowadays because they feel it isn't "hip! IT IS HIP!

Okay, everyone listen to tons of Basie. Only good can come from it! :)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Rex Story Sessions # 16

Short post today. I did a short interview and solo as part of a series called " Rex Story Sessions". For those of you viewing this from far away, The Rex Hotel is Toronto's main venue for Jazz performance. It's challenging to accurately convey how important The Rex is to musicians and the music scene in general. I have been very fortunate to perform there hundreds, if not thousands of times over the years and I have never enjoyed a more respectful and encouraging relationship with a club as I have with Tom Tytel, Bob and Avi Ross, and all the great Rex staff. We are lucky to have them. Enjoy.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Bonham quantized and the beauty of the human element

Hey all,
The great Paul DeLong hipped me to this recently. It's a great video on taking John Bonham's tracks and making them "perfect". Very enlightening! :)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

My Letter to Hilary Jones Update

Hey all,
A week ago I attended a Black Lives Matter march here in Guelph. There were 5,000 people in attendance. ( I have been quarantining  and have gotten tested. Negative results. Yay! ) It was very positive and well-run, and the experience gives me hope.
What gives me even more hope is on a visit to the aforementioned Ms. Jones' site she has eliminated all references to any endorsements, because I'm sure they have all severed any ties with her. I want to thank everyone who took her to task and showed her these types of statements are completely unacceptable.
Yes, it's a small victory, but a victory nonetheless……..

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Loops, and I'm not talking Froot

Follow you nose!
                                                      So, this isn't as much a rant as much as personal confusion. I increasingly see all sorts of people recommending "loops" to play along with. I get that they can be good for working on a specific beat or idea in a sort of isolated way, over and over. Or, although this is a practice method that needs to be used sparingly, a way to practice technical things in time, with the loop taking the place of a metronome or drum machine.
There's a few problems I see with this:

1. FORM!
Navigating the structure of a piece of music is an essential part of playing it. Marking the ends and beginnings of phrases etc. A loop removes all these musical challenges.
A loop will always be the same volume, or in the case of a longer loop, always have the same dynamic curve. A whole piece of music helps us make decisions around item number 1 by using dynamics, or discovering how the person on the recording portrayed this..
If one plays along with a whole recording that wasn't done with a click, the time will have natural,  sometimes almost microscopic "dents'" in it that the person playing along with it will have to deal with. I recently played along with Weather report's " A Remark You Made" and was amazed at how far back on the time I had to sit to match the recording. What was extra interesting, however, is that the feel didn't lay back the same amount throughout the tune. This is nuance that one only gets to experience with the entire tune.

So, in conclusion, just as I say to not bother playing on a pad unless a drum set  is unavailable or its volume unacceptable, I would recommend working on a whole song rather than a loop, unless the tune isn't available.

Now, because I mentioned it earlier, and more importantly, because it's a beautiful piece of music, here is the aforementioned " A Remark You Made". See you soon and stay safe! 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

My letter to Hilary Jones

I was vaguely aware of the drummer Hilary Jones through sites like drummerworld. To be honest, I wasn't a massive fan of what she did, but realized in an endeavour not exactly teeming with women   ( especially then. This was 15-20 years ago) that  she could be a good influence.
How wrong i was……
I recently became reacquainted with Ms. Jones in another way, mainly due to her racist rant originally published on her facebook page.You can read it here, but be forewarned, it is really quite disturbing and vile. I also found out that, within the music/drumming industry, her views have been known for some time.

After discussing it with my wife, I decided to email Ms. Jones through her website. While the condemnation of her ( especially through the music community ) has been swift, I decided to offer her my take on what seem to be particularly hypocritical statements on her part, especially considering the instrument and styles of music she plays.

I am a drummer living in Canada. Like many, I was shocked and saddened to read your recent comments on Facebook. If these comments were not yours and you got hacked or something. I hope you are able to do everything you can to get the truth out, But, if those indeed are your comments, I am writing to you to ask if you don’t see the irony in some of your statements.
You refer to Africa as a “sh*thole”. Do you not understand or ever have studied where modern rhythmic music comes from? That very sh*thole you describe. Now, I understand many countries in Africa have many complex  problems, but referring to that continent that has given us so much in such a disrespectful way is, in my opinion, akin to disrespect of one’s parents, especially as a drummer!
And speaking of parents and lineages, don’t you also find it ironic that you share a surname (even though many of the people I am about to reference got that name from a slave master, and yes, many of people of colour are STILL slaves, even though their chains are hidden) with many great African-American drummers such as Elvin, Papa Jo, Philly Joe, Harold, Rufus, etc.People who developed the instrument AND the music that you currently play? Don’t you think you owe them and their people (who still struggle ) at least a tiny bit of respect?
All I am saying is that as musicians we need to bond together, respect one another, and give credit where credit is due. If it wasn’t for the ancestors ( as well as the current practitioners ) of the people you speak so disparagingly, you and I would be limited to playing, symphonic music, marches, and polkas, and our instrument would be basically unrecognizable.

I sincerely hope you think about these things.

Ted Warren
Guelph, On.

I have to admit I have very little hope that my letter will even be read, much less replied to or thought about in any meaningful way. i just feel that all of us, musicians and drummers especially, have to attempt to engage in dialogue around the unacceptability of racism. We owe music and humanity that, at the very least.

Stay safe,

P.S. AND UPDATE  FOUR ON THE FLOOR did a great tribute to the recently departed master Jimmy Cobb. Please check it out.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Music is a very serious and dour endeavour

Here's more drumming to text, thanks to the brilliance of fellow Canadian Leslie Nielsen ….

Friday, May 15, 2020

You are your own curator

The definition of a curator is a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection. How does this relate to us as musicians? Well, one can view one's playing elements or style as a collection. We live an an era with a VAST amount of musical materials and ideas to work on. Some of them will be more attractive to us than others. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING! Part of what defines what we are is what we are not. In other words, as the curator, we get to decide what does or doesn't belong in our collection. For example, I have very little together in terms of playing double bass drums. This isn't because I have anything against this particular area of drumming, ( truth be told, I think it can be quite cool ) it's just that I have only so much time to work on material, plus double bass drums isn't really an essential part of most of the music I play. Conversely, my extensive work on the piano over the last 10 years or so might be seen as not the best use of my time by an avid devotee of Speed Metal drumming. But, since I am the curator of my playing, I believe my work on piano has been very valuable indeed.
I played an online solo drums concert a couple of nights ago and it involved a fair amount of specific work towards it ( mainly involving, harp, piano, and performing tracks with myself ). Once I had completed my online gig, I decided i wanted to do something different. I have been fascinated for awhile now with people who drum along to speech patterns. Dan Weiss, for example, has done quite a bit of this.
When I was deciding what to play along with, I realized I wanted something short, but also iconic. I started by looking at a John Lennon quote about how most of the drummers that he met in his early years were idiots, but I found his dry, laconic Liverpudlian delivery wasn't very dramatic, and thus didn't lend that well to the drums. But drama I found, in the form of actor/firearm enthusiast Charlton Heston, in one of his most famous performances. Check it out!

I've already learned a lot around following freer rhythm, and applying drum pitches to match vocal inflections. I also had a lot of fun, so I see myself doing more of this in the near future. Stay safe!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Monday, May 11, 2020

Avi Granite 6

Hey all, while I'm prepping my hair for my close-up via my solo concert Wednesday May 13th at 5PM EST thanks to the good folks at MusicTogether (see previous post) I'm posting this video of the Avi Granite 6 playing "Knocking at the Door" together at the Yardbird Suite and dreaming of a time I can make music whilst un-distanced from my friends and colleagues….

It also seems as a musician one increasingly is metaphorically outside people's door with a cup in one's hand but the Canadian  government's support to artists may be a fleeting thing.  In this spirit I have started a Patreon page. Please help support me and my projects if you feel so moved, and stay healthy and safe. :)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Online Concert May 13th 5PM E

Hey all,
Just letting you know I will be giving a performance on Instagram Live this coming Wednesday May the 13th at 5PM. Here's my official blurb and the link….

Doing an online solo concert next Wednesday May 13th at 5pmEST (This show is brought to you by Shopify, Arts & Crafts, and Ontario Live via Ontario Creates) Check out how much I've bitten off, and how I'm doing on the chewing front! #musictogetherON