Friday, December 31, 2021

There Will Never Be Another You

In another one of those "you never know when you're being filmed nowadays so give it your all" moments, someone shot this video of "There Will Never Be Another You" from a recent trio gig I did at The Black Bear Pub with Kirk MacDonald, Roberto Occhipinti, and sitting in, Andrew McNash. I like this because the arrangement develops as we go (i.e. The drum solo after the head was decided on collectively, and the back and forth between Sax/Drums and Bass/Trumpet was just something that Kirk thought of in the moment.)

This is really what these sort of "pick-up" gigs are like. Ironically, I don't generally play with any of these people that often,  but as long as one knows the repertoire and listens, everything usually works out.

So, Happy New Year and let's hear it for a much improved 2022! :) 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Yuletide Grab Bag!

Here's a few things that cam up recently so consider them an early gift from me to you.
First,  the always energetic Stanton Moore offers some tips on how to practice while on the road. yes, I realize that many of us aren't traveling much lately, but there's some good advice here for when we are working more.

Next is a tune of mine (Maximum) written for Max Roach and performed by my new band, Camera Pigeons. The volume is a little low on this so either crank your computer or use headphones…..

And here's a fun version of a Christmas tune I did with some friends. If I'd known they were going to use the video I would have worn a Santa hat to go with my red shirt! Oh well, next year……

And finally, here is my (by my own deluded opinion) classic holiday tune, "The Leaning Tower of Treeza"! 

This is going to be the year this song really catches on! I can feel it……...

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Brush flam ideas

Here's an older video I made regarding different applications of my brush flam concept. Please note: the choice of drum heads is by the studio I was practicing in then and does not reflect my current relationship with Attack heads, whom I work with and are always my first choice on my personal instruments. I also encourage everyone to install them on drums I am renting/practicing on. Thanks.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Lead Voice Uptempo Swing Ideas

 This is a concept that helped my playing in terms of loosening up faster tempos. Hopefully, you'll find it helpful too.

Monday, December 13, 2021

12/8 Hand/Foot Ideas

 Hello all,

Here's some ideas using 12/8 patterns. In the hands, and then the feet.

And here's the 12/8 foot, 5-beat idea in hands written out, which was the only way I could learn it! :) 

These aren't perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. The feel is a bit on top for my taste and I can't play it many times yet without it crashing and burning, but that's what the practice room is for. Happy trails…...

Sunday, December 12, 2021

What Anthony Said (for Tony Williams)

Happy birthday and thank you, for everything………...

Friday, December 10, 2021

The unstoppable Cuphead!

Happy Friday everyone!
I thought I would share this preview of the music from the latest version of the game "Cuphead" (due to be released this June. I first got involved with my only game soundtrack credit (so far) through percussionist and fellow Regina Saskatchewan native Kris Madigan, who wrote all the music. It's so much fun to hear this because we recorded it all separately, due to COVID concerns.

In addition, it's very cool to be involved in something that has reached so many people. Gamers are a very loyal lot, and they have embraced the soundtrack as much as the game itself! For someone who mainly plays, writes , and records Jazz, it's amazing to be on a recording this many people like! :) 
Finally, it's heartening to be involved in something where EVERYONE involved went for quality rather than take any shortcuts. Well done all. :) 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Camera Pigeons at the Rex!


More articulation exercises

Hey all,
As part of my continuing obsession with HOW one plays just as much as WHAT and WHY one plays, I was working on some buzz and dead stroke ideas and recorded them.
This first one is using a buzz stroke quarter note along with 2  regular 8th notes to get a quasi-guiro type vibe. The LH is just playing backbeats and the BD is doing a Bo Diddley beat…..

Next, we're simply moving dead strokes around, alternating between playing them w/ the RH, LH, and BD, while maintaining a simple Rock beat…

And finally, this isn't really about articulation but fun nevertheless. It's a straight Rock beat with the hands and a quasi-shuffle off of the dotted quarter note with the feet…..

Keep practicing, keep listening, keep creating beauty! 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Episode 62: Live From My Drum Room - The Beatles "Get Back" Ringo's Cymb...

Warning: NERD ALERT! 

Not that John DeChristopher, Dave Mattacks, or again of the great panelists from this great discussion of Ringo and his gear on the "Get Back" sessions are nerds, far from it. I would say, however, this is for serious students of the Beatles and Ringo! Fascinating.

I will also say, in closing, that despite all the analysis of Mr. Starkey's instruments, the greatest instrument, of course, is Ringo himself. :) 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Lesson 5: Creating a narrative

Hi all,
This is the 5th in my series of online lesson modules, offered here as a free sample. I also cover such subjects as Odd Groupings, Melodic soloing and timekeeping, and more are being created all the time! Please message me here or email for details and pricing.

Monday, November 29, 2021

The greatest gift you can give the music is your commitment!

 Hey all,

I recently was comped a couple of tickets to a concert by a drummer friend of mine. Obviously, for the last year and a half I haven't played much much, but I also haven't seen any either! The headliner was a well known Canadian singer/songwriter with an excellent band, and the opening act was a country singer playing duo, and that was outstanding as well. The concert was well paced, both artists communicated with the audience well, and you could really feel the gratitude the artists felt for this chance to perform for an appreciative audience.


There was one member of the headliner's band, and I won't mention their name, I'll just say their instrument rhymes with case! This individual didn't move to the music, acknowledge the rest of the band or audience in any way, or give off anything but a really negative, standoffish vibe. This person certainly played their instrument well, but they didn't really even dress the part of the gig, and a t-shirt and jeans would have fit the bill for that nicely! You couldn't even see their face because they had a big floppy hat on and looked at their shoes the whole time, AND THEY WEREN'T EVEN INTERESTING LOOKING SHOES!!! :) 

This weirded out a musician friend that came to see the show with me, but even more so both of our wives, who had less professional bias clouding what they saw. This person was giving the impression that they were doing a favour playing for us! This is doubly galling considering, even though we were comped, the tickets weren't cheap, people have been starved for live music lately, and it was a vocal, appreciative audience!

I don't want to give anyone the impression that it wasn't a great night of music and the band (especially my drummer friend) didn't play wonderfully. But the energy you send out to the audience means a lot! I can think off the top of my head at least a dozen musicians on the same instrument that would sound just as good, be VERY happy to be there, and match the energy of the rest of the group, which was positive and exciting!

I think sometimes musicians lose sight of the fact that people come to see us as well as listen to us, and it's our privilege that they do so.

Really, there's only one way to play, and that's with everything we have! :) 

And speaking of which, here's Billy Joel and his band circa 1997, this could easily have been included on my songwriting post from last week, but I held it back because I wanted to use drummer Liberty Devitto as an example of someone who sounds (and looks) like someone who's whole existence is channeled into every note he plays! Talk about commitment! 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Beatles: Get Back and the creative process…...

Unless you're living under a rock someplace, you're aware that Peter Jackson's new movie using archival footage of the Beatles is out on Disneyplus today….
Here's the preview….

Now, anyone that has even the slightest acquaintance with me knows I am a massive Beatles fan, so anything associated with them will fascinate me. I have, however, been reading about people grousing that it's too long, too detailed etc..
I get it, " A Hard Day's Night", it's not. What it is,  however, is an honest look at a band writing and rehearsing new material, and figuring out how they're going to perform it. Yes, they play through material a bunch of times. That's actually how it works when bands do this! Yes, they sometimes quarrel, are dismissive of each other, and ignore each other. Again, that's actually fairly typical in any creative group dynamic. They jam on and on looking for ideas. This is a very common method of songwriting!

I'm only halfway through the first episode, but I've already learned so much! it's like getting songwriting classes with the Beatles! 

So, in short, if you are a casual Beatles fan looking for lots of dazzle-dazzle and pizzazz, this may not be for you. If, on the other hand, you can appreciate some major insights into the working method of one of history's greatest musical units, I highly recommend it! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

We are all songwriters

Musicians have a tendency to put themselves into boxes sometimes. I'm a drummer, I'm a singer, I'm an arranger, etc. when we really do all these things. Case in point, most musicians I know want to do memorable, compelling (dare I say "catchy") things that engage the audience, take us on a journey, and tell us a story. In fact, great songwriters do this all the time! So, let's check out Rick Beato's interfere with Sting and his guitarist and writing partner, Dominic Miller. Unlike other interviews where I've seen Mr. Sumner being cagey ( Soul Cagey?) about his writing process, Mr. Beato's well thought out questions help us gain a lot of insight. Enjoy! 

However you feel about Sting and his music, there's a lot of great information here we can apply to our own writing/playing process.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Zen Guitar

 Thanks to my always inspiring colleague Max Sent for this. He hipped me to a great book entitled "Zen Guitar" by Philip Toshio Sudo. Don't let the title fool you. It could just as easily be called "Zen Drums", or "Zen Auto Mechanics" or "Zen Muffin Baking" for that matter! It's hard to describe, but it's basically about becoming the best YOU at whatever activity you decide.

Here's a few quotes:

“So many different formulas can work that there’s no real formula. What’s important is to learn from whomever or whatever you can, at your own rate, in your own way. How or when you learn doesn’t matter, so long as the learning occurs.”

“There are musicians who, in the name of artistic freedom, espouse violence, racial hatred, and sexism, then disavow the ripple effects of their actions. Many more exploit the media to gain fame, yet refuse to accept that they serve as role models for young people. This is not the Way of Zen Guitar.”

Anyone who has studied martial arts, even casually, will recognize some of the concepts in the book, yet, similarly to playing guitar, one does not have to have studied Kung Fu to benefit from the wisdom presented here. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve in any area of their life. :) 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Performance vs. Practice

 I have a suspicion I have dealt with this subject before, but review is always good! 

It's important not to practice when you're playing. That would include things like:

- Shoehorning an idea or lick into someplace not because the music told you, but because your ego wants to justify the work you've done.

-Obsessing about micro issues like the placement of one's gear, rather than the sound and feel of the ensemble as a whole and making adjustments to the room you're playing in.

-Thinking about tunes and parts of tunes rather than concentrating on how these parts fit into the architecture of the set/evening of music.

Equally important is to not play when you're practicing. Elements of this would include:

- Playing things in the practice room you can already play.

-Play along to recordings in a non concentrating and inauthentic way. ( Practicing your double bass drum chops while playing along to The Stones, for example!) 

-Not being focused, and not really hearing what you're playing. (E.g. Balance of instruments. Quality of sound on cymbals and drums etc.) 

In conclusion, playing and practicing are 2 very important  but completely different disciplines. If you confuse them, you will fail to get the benefit of either of them.

Happy Playing/Practicing! 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Rhythmic currency

 Recently, a heard a young band playing this beautiful Kenny Wheeler tune… (ED Note: The link is now broken but do yourself a favour and look up, or better yet buy, a recording of the Kenny Wheeler tune, "Kind Folk".)

One of my favourites! The band played it very well, although there was one thing I found very strange. The feel of this piece is very 9/8, although it also could be thought of as triplets in 3/4. The rhythm section I heard, however,  was tending to play this feel as a Jazz Waltz, especially during the blowing. Now, this isn't necessarily wrong, but it is sort of discounting all the great sort of feel/atmosphere info contained in the tune. ( Check out the intro/bass line. The 9/8 starts from the first note). Also, with this tune, playing more off the triplets in the bar can fill in some of the gaping holes that are created if we're just playing off the quarter notes. Again, obviously one can play a tune anyway one wants, but if we ignore the song's information without some sort of concept behind it, we lose all the things that make the composition unique…….

Let's look at another example…..

 It's a Bossa Nova, and if we listen to it, the currency of 8th notes is everywhere! The guitar is comping off of all the 8th notes in the bar while the drummer usually plays all of them! This results in a nice smooth, sensuous feel. Yet I often hear drummers playing quarter note or very broken up 8th note grooves at this tempo. For a player with any amount of experience, playing all the 8th notes in the bar isn't much of a technical challenge. So why break up the 8ths without a good reason to do so? I think we sometimes feel that breaking up the rhythm is the "hip" thing to do, but often the hippest thing to do is to really commit to the rhythmic currency of the tune, whether it's 8th note, 16th, swing, or shuffle. Let the music help you have a strong concept for a tune that helps you make it unique, and as always, have fun! 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Fast and Light, that's the way to do it, see?

This title is a variation on the classic line from this Flintstones episode……

Upon further consideration, this would probably better to use in a post on ballads, but no matter, the 'Stones can do no wrong, as far as I'm concerned! 

Also concerning me lately is developing a lighter touch, especially while playing quick tempos. I'm focusing on not lifting my sticks higher than needed etc. Also working on balancing my flat ride with my other cymbals, which I have always found challenging…..

Here's an attempt from yesterday. I'm thinking of the tune Cherokee.

I've always found it rather ironic that a comfortable feeling volume at the drums is usually too loud for most acoustic instruments and environments. Just one of our crosses to bear, but it does get better with practice. Try it and you'll see! :) 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band - Stoner Hill (Live on KEXP)

It's funny how things tend to come along at the right time. I was thinking about creating more nuance and use of my low dynamic range and then stumbled onto this footage of the great Brian Blade doing just that, as usual! 

As well, here's some footage of Brian playing my drums on a TVO program from some years back. It was so great to meet him. Not surprisingly, I found out this sensitive, considerate drummer is also a sensitive, considerate human being. Enjoy! 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Camera Pigeons at the Jazz Bistro!

Hey everyone! Here is footage of the first set of my band, Camera Pigeons's, first gig last Wednesday. The music isn't perfect and we're still developing our collective sound, but that is now something I find exciting rather than stressful! :) Thanks to Mark, Dan, and Kelsley for playing so beautifully. To be continued…………...


Wednesday, October 20, 2021



If you're in the GTA, please join me for the FIRST PERFORMANCE of my new band, Camera Pigeons!  We'll be playing a lot of my music as well as a standard or two, and I think the unusual instrumentation will give us a really fun sonic toy box to play in!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Why bother hiring a teacher?

 Hey all,

Since I am currently looking for and accepting new students, I thought I would share what I feel are the most important reasons for taking private drum lessons.

1.  We are all self-taught, and none of us are self-taught.

It's easy to get into the romance of being "self-taught" and worrying that a teacher will destroy our individualism. Nothing could be further from the truth. A good teacher will direct you towards concepts and ideas you wouldn't have dreamed of, yet at the same time, it's still the student who is doing the work and deciding how to apply these discoveries. All the teacher is doing is saving you from wasting valuable time. Speaking of which……

2. A good teacher will help you avoid bad technical habits.

A instructor worth their salt will help you play in the most natural and relaxed way you can. If you start playing the drums this way, you won't have anything to "undo" later on.

3. A teacher can help you get the most out of your practice time.

Working with your teacher, you can prioritize what you work on in each practice session, and for how long.

4. There are many styles and types of teachers to choose from.

There are so many people out there playing and teaching the drums, that you are bound to find the one that focuses on what you want to learn. Be prepared to shop around and don't hesitate to ask questions of a potential instructor. Even personality and communication style can be a factor, so don't just go with the first ad you see, or who charges the least.

In closing, Tony Williams studied with Alan Dawson. But so did Vinnie Colaiuta, Cifford Jarvis, and Gerry Hemingway. None of these great player sound like Dawson, or each other! So, find a great teacher and get cracking! 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Lifting solos and the DeJohnette Lick

I frequently work with a fantastic world class pianist. As he is also very interested in the drums and has been practicing them, we share a lot of common ground, although my relationship with both instruments would be the inverse of his. One day he invited me to hear his Jack DeJohnette "lick' and then proceeded to splash the hi-hat cymbal once with his left foot! :) Not a particularly difficult physical move, but very evocative of a lot of Jack's playing.

This reminded me of my own struggles to lift ideas from recordings and play them on piano. At this point, I really have no hope of playing solos from many of the pianists I love ( Chick Corea, Red Garland, Bill Evans,  Hampton Hawes, etc.) because I just don't have much technical ability. So, I tend to lift horn player's solos. These solos are often too difficult as well, but I often find a short idea or 2 that I can use. I have frequently found vocabulary from altoist Jackie McLean and Trumpeter Blue Mitchell, for example. Are these streams of fast double time 8th notes? Nope, not by a long shot. What I can gather usually, is short melodic and rhythmic fragments, and then apply them to as many chords/tunes as I can. These little melodic gems have helped my soloing immensely, and frequently help me from getting "stuck" in a tune.

What does this have to do with playing drums? Plenty, I think. Both of the examples I've mentioned here help prove that when learning another artist's vocabulary, you don't have to learn the most difficult stuff (at first) or tons of material. First learning about Jazz and learning a Tony Williams solo? Learn what's manageable, to start. Yes, it's great to learn whole solos to learn about motivic development etc., but just get started with anything. I guarantee it will help you.

Now go splash that hi-hat, and thank Jack while you're at it! 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Open for Business!

Have you ever dreamed about playing drums? Are you transfixed at concerts by the musician in the back creating rhythm with two pieces of wood? Do your ears perk up to the sound patterns of rain, your washing machine or windshield wipers? If so, you are a drummer in hiding and it's time to stop dreaming and start drumming. 

With over 35 years' experience as a professional musician and private teacher, I can help you enliven your passion for music and drums.  I offer personalized lessons for teens and adults at all levels and aim to bring out your unique expression. 

In-person private lessons are held at Royal City Studios in Guelph — a professional, clean and COVID-safe environment. Online sessions are also available. If you're serious about being playful, send me an email to book a free consult to find out more: 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

 This weekend I am reflecting on many things I am thankful for. Family, friends and all the great musicians who have inspired me! 

Here's a quick thing I was fooling around with the other day. It's just the first half of a paradiddle (RLRR) but the L is a dead stroke which sets up the last 2 Rs to be stick shots. I then add one bass drum stroke to make in a 5 beat thing. I play it here while singing "A Train" although it's hard to hear, and switch the idea to triplets in the bridge. Also note, that even though the switch back to 8th notes in the last A isn't super smooth, I kept my place in the tune, which is definitely more important…….

Have a great holiday everyone……...

Friday, October 8, 2021

Klook and Elvin two-fer!

Once again, thank goodness for European film crews! Here's some great footage of Kenny Clark playing with Bud Powell and Clarke Terry in Paris in 1959…..

Up next is some great footage of Elvin Jones playing with the Ellington band… Here's some background info I found…..

It's no secret Elvin Jones played for a minute with Duke Ellington after leaving Coltrane, but this is the first I've ever heard a tape. January 29, 1966.  Ed. note: There's also an audio recording of the whole gig.

Context: Elvin to Whitney Balliett in 1968. (The second drummer Elvin refers to is Skeets Marsh):

"I joined him in Frankfurt, and my stay with him lasted just a week and a half, through Nuremberg and Paris and Italy and Switzerland. I was new. It was difficult for the band to adapt to my style and I had to do everything in a big hurry, trying to adapt to them. Then the bass player started playing games with me by lowering and raising tempos to make it look like I was unsteady, and finally I had to speak to him and he stopped. Hodges and Cat Anderson and Gonsalves and Mercer Ellington knew what was going on, but Duke didn't. And I guess I didn't connect with the anchormen, because they complained about my playing to Duke. I don't know whether Cootie who kept giving me the fisheye, wanted me to call him Mr. Williams and shine his shoes or what. Also, Duke had a second drummer in the band and he was an egomaniac. So Duke and I talked at Orly Aiport and I told him to send a telegram to Sam Woodyard and tell him to get himself over there, because he knew the whole book. I saw Duke later, after he'd found out what had been going on, and everything was fine -- no sweat. He told me I could come back with the band any time I wanted. He's such a great man. Given more time under different circumstances -- being left alone and all -- it might have been a beautiful thing for me."

Regardless of the tension between these individuals, it's great to have a document of this part of Elvin's career.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Ted Giola on Criticism

 Check out this recent post from great writer Ted Giola on how to deal with critics and their opinions…..


10 Rules for Musicians (and Everybody Else) on How to Deal with Criticism

Ted Gioia

Sep 26

Even I felt awkward about this.

An interviewer recently asked Rickie Lee Jones to respond to something I wrote about her. I’m grateful that the journalist quoted some of the more positive things I’d said in a very long essay on Jones’s music and career—there were other passages not quite so flattering, which were quietly ignored. Even so, I found the whole situation a little unsettling.

After all, I’m writing for readers, and not to interrogate musicians. In fact, I came to the sad conclusion long ago that my vocation as a music writer makes it almost impossible—except in rare instances—to have genuine friendships with the artists I write about. So if Paul McCartney phones and asks me to join him for dinner, I simply must refuse.

Just joking there. I’m actually having dinner with Paul tomorrow.

In all seriousness, there are trade-offs in any vocation. I wish I didn’t have to be so professional in my dealing with many musicians, but the implicit covenant between a music writer and the reader imposes legitimate constraints. A writer’s responsibility to the reader comes first, overriding all other agendas—at least that’s how I see it. And that’s that.

But I have to say I loved Rickie Lee Jones’s response to the interviewer—which was, more or less, that she didn’t give a rat’s ass what Ted Gioia thinks.

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See, she grasps that her vocation also has its demands. And the last thing any musician should do is construct songs in order to please critics. Her responsibility is to her art, just as mine is to speak honestly and forthrightly to my reader. The only genuine, heartfelt advice I’d give to talented musicians is to have the courage of their convictions, and pursue their projects at the highest level they can achieve. Only they know how to do that, and what demands it imposes.

But this raises a much larger question—which is how musicians should deal with criticism. I’m claiming this is a bigger subject, because it’s relevant for everyone, whether you’re a rock star or a factory worker on the assembly line. Everybody gets criticized in this world. (And if you’re active on social media, get ready for a triple dose of it.) None of us can change that, but we can adjust how we respond to criticism.

I consider it a great advantage (although sometimes a painful one) that I have been criticized in public regularly over the years. Unlike many music writers, I have focused most of my energy on writing books, not articles. When you write books, you must deal with the reviews. And after you’ve written as many books as I have, you have learned to deal with every kind of review—harsh, kind, glowing, cruel, fastidious, dishonest, erudite, reductionist, and every other flavor.

The Art Critic by Georges Croegaert,1848–1923 (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve had the unadulterated joy of reading a few reviewers who seemed to understand what I wrote even better than I did—they explain my viewpoint so much better than I did myself, that I wish I had hired them to write parts of the book. On the other extreme, I’ve dealt with reviewers who attribute all sorts of ridiculous viewpoints to me, filling their reviews with supposed paraphrases of my work that have no resemblance to what I wrote. The mismatch is so great that even I walk away from the review saying to myself: “This Gioia dude is a total idiot—how can that damned fool hold such nonsensical opinions?”

But the simple fact that I’ve been reviewed hundreds of times has had a sobering impact on my own reviewing. I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of these journalistic exercises. This unwanted education has made me a better critic, or at least a less clumsy and heavy-handed one.

Having experienced the process on both sides, let me offer some suggestions on how musicians (and others) ought to deal with criticism. Here are ten rules I try to live by in my own experiences with harsh feedback.

(1) Never let a total stranger control or define your sense of who you are, and what your mission in life is. Of course, there are some people whose criticisms I must take to heart—starting with my wife, and close family members. But it’s not a large number of people. And it certainly doesn’t include the reviewer at the Poughkeepsie Times.

(2) That said, you can’t just ignore criticism. I applaud writers who claim never to read reviews, but I don’t suggest you emulate them. And for the simple reason that critics impact your life, and you often need to deal with the fallout. That’s true if your boss takes you to task. (“Ted, you’re not making enough widgets on the widget assembly line—I’m taking away your overtime hours.”) And it’s also true if a hit piece on you runs in the New York Times. So you pay attention to the criticism, not because it defines you (it doesn’t), but because as a professional you responsibly deal with the consequences of your actions, whether deserved or not.

(3) Absolutely try to learn from every bit of criticism, if at all possible—although you shouldn’t assume the critic understands what you do better than you do yourself. In general, people are overly polite in our day-to-day lives, and will avoid telling us unpleasant truths. So it’s a great favor to us when they speak bluntly and honestly. Receiving tough feedback is never fun, but it can be one of the most productive experiences in your life. However. . . .

(4) Much of what passes for criticism can be safely ignored because—and I hate to say this—it isn’t honest criticism. So it’s impossible to get much useful feedback from it. It pains me to make that admission. As a critic, I like to think highly of my tribe. But so much of what is published nowadays is grandstanding, posturing, click-chasing, score-settling, spin, hot takes, and the exact opposite of the frank, honest guidance we want and deserve from critics. This is sad for many reasons, but one of them is that it limits our ability to learn and genuinely benefit from criticism.

(5) It’s almost never a good idea to respond to a critic. Don’t do this unless it is absolutely unavoidable. If the original criticism is valid, you learn from it and move on. But if the criticism is dishonest or angry or openly hostile, follow-up exchanges won’t be any better.

I can only recall two times in my entire life when I wrote a response to a negative review. And it might have been better to let even those two instances pass by unnoticed. I do believe it’s acceptable to clarify specific factual errors in someone’s account of your work. But just debating opinions—which, after all, are the reviewer’s stock in trade—is almost pointless. Let people who disagree with you have their chance to speak their mind, and live with it.

(6) If your creative work is taking you in new and bold directions, don't let critics see it until it’s ready for their feedback. I’ve learned this the hard way. I won’t even whisper about the books and essays I’m writing nowadays until they are almost completely finished. I’ve had promising projects destroyed because I let outsiders critique them too soon. You can’t judge a vacation by the plane trip to the destination, and no critic can fairly assess your work if it’s still in embryonic (or even post-embryonic) condition. So protect yourself by keeping the engine room of your creativity well guarded.

(7)  Don’t let your emotions rule you when dealing with criticism. I saw this at work in my early years. The boss would walk in the door and scream in people’s faces. Some of my colleagues would fume for days after these incidents, but I saw that as letting the boss live rent-free inside your head. Just on principle, you shouldn’t let anybody do that, whether a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a teacher in school, or even a columnist at the Altoona Daily News.

(8) Even unfair criticism can make you stronger. The world is far gentler today than it once was, but back in the day, I encountered sports coaches, bosses, teachers, and other people in positions of authority whose criticism was as subtle as a hand grenade in a foxhole. They often crossed the line, and I absolutely don’t condone their techniques. They espoused a theory of criticsm that would get you fired in the current day, and legitimately so. But here’s the good news: almost nothing phases me at this stage in my life. I couldn’t have gotten to that rare place without having lived through those over-the-top experiences. Like the boy named Sue, you can benefit from even the most unfair labels and critiques.

(9) And consider this: If criticism is getting more intense, it’s often a sign that you’re having an impact and some success. During the first decade of my work as a musician and writer, no one ever criticized what I did—and for the simple fact that nobody paid the slightest attention to it. But when I started selling books in larger quantities, the intensity of criticism increased in direct proportion to my royalty checks.

I didn’t experience my first genuine hatchet job until the age of 40—what a shock that was! But it’s no coincidence that this hostile rant came in response to the breakout book that would give me access to a large global audience. I now grasp that this is a fairly common rite of passage. And, as far as I can tell, it’s the same in every sphere of life. If you shoot hoops at the gym, no one cares, but if you play in the NBA Finals, a million people criticize your every move. And it’s just as true in everyday work environments—the more responsibility you take on, the more you will be scrutinized and found wanting. So at least comfort yourself with the realization that tough and even unwarranted criticism is typically a sign that you’ve made some genuine progress.

And, finally. . .

(10) The only way to avoid criticism completely is to say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.  If you go down that path, the critics will disappear. But don’t ever give them that much power over you.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Curating Your Work

"Sure Warren's use of perspective is good, but where are all the double kick chops and blast beats, Maaannn?

Step 1- Learn to play something
Step 2- Go to the gig and don't play it.

 Sometimes it's good to be reminded of what practice is, and why it's different from performance. This happened when I checked out a recent Four On the Floor post. The great John Riley was featured, and as I watched and listened to him play through some very challenging material, I was struck by a few things. Firstly, I realized how well he knew the material as he went from one challenging coordination pattern to another without changing the ride beat & groove at all, and playing each example flawlessly. Secondly, actions speak louder than words so let's check out a relatively recent performance of Mr. Riley playing with a quartet.

What do I notice? Well, great time, ideas, and dynamic control for one thing. What do I NOT notice? He doesn't appear to be playing a bunch of planned out licks, especially related to the material in the Four On the Floor post. Nope, despite all the work that went into getting MANY things together on the drums, when he's playing, Mr. Riley is simply letting all the things he's practiced come through him in an organic way while he's listening and reacting to the music around him. In short, he's a great example of working hard in the woodshed and then being willing to let it go on the bandstand. We represent the music best when we have a context for what we're playing rather than justifying something we worked on to merely satisfy our ego. :) 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Ted Warren describes his approach to teaching

In this video I briefly discuss my teaching philosophy and how I assist students of all ages, temperaments, and backgrounds in becoming the drummer of their dreams…..

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Quote via Gary Husband

 ′′ My jump isn't high enough, my spins aren't perfect, I can't put my leg behind my ear Please don't do that. Sometimes there is such an obsession with technique that it can kill your best impulses. Remember that communicating with an art form means being vulnerable, being imperfect. And most of the time it's much more interesting. Believe me ".



Friday, September 17, 2021

Developing A Great Practise Routine

Hello everyone,
Posting has been a little light lately. I was working for Elections Canada and then I got injured. So, here's great bassist and musical thinker Rich Brown with some great advice on practicing, that definitely applies to all instruments!

And here's Rich, practicing what he's preaching in a performance of my tune "Shipwrecked" with Broadview (trio with myself and Mike Murley) from a gig about 10 years ago. I have to get this band some more work! :) 

Alright! That's it for now…….

Monday, September 6, 2021

Mindfullness and Concentration

 Lately, my wife and I have been enjoying Marc Lesser's teaching on mindfulness. Check out how he relates his experiences with high school wrestling with a greater understanding of concentration….

I was captain of my high school wrestling team during my senior year of Colonia High School in north-central New Jersey. One of the teams we regularly faced was J. P. Stevens High School from Edison. They were consistently one of the top-rated teams in the state and often sent wrestlers to the state championship. During the warm-up period, my team behaved like most high school wrestling teams. We ran briskly onto the mats, did some exercises, and made a lot of noise. The main objective of our warm-up was to demonstrate our prowess to the opposing team.

In contrast, the J. P. Stevens team walked out slowly and quietly onto the wrestling mat. They were poised, focused, and concentrated, preparing themselves for the task ahead by settling and quieting their minds. They seemed disinterested in our team. Their uniforms were black, and their heads were nearly shaved. They didn’t talk or smile. I knew right away that this was the team I wanted to be on. I think of this as an early sign of my desire to be a Zen student (and at times a Zen monk.)

One of the things that intrigued me in high school wrestling was the power, passion, and complexity of concentration. I noticed that my desire to win and my fear of losing often interfered with my performance, my concentration, and my enjoyment. I knew that something very important was going on, and I also felt that something very vital was missing. By my senior year I was a fairly good wrestler, having faced some of the better competition in the state. Competing with the best in the state was, as my coach proclaimed, a good way to develop. Our coach used to ask, “Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond, or a big fish in a large pond?” This was his way of explaining that although we were a new and inexperienced team, it was useful to wrestle against the best teams in the state, even if it meant being utterly demolished and embarrassed.

In watching other wrestlers, I noticed that the good ones were usually strong and athletic and really wanted to win. The best wrestlers, those who became state champions, seemed different. They weren’t always the strongest or quickest or the most athletic looking. They certainly cared about winning, but they did not seem caught up in winning and losing. Rather, they appeared focused on what they were doing. They seemed to move and act from a deeper place than the good wrestlers. They often seemed a little odd and appeared not to care what others thought of them. I knew that there was something to learn from these wrestlers and that the lessons to be learned would translate far beyond the wrestling mat.

Lots for us musicians to chew on as well. Why are we doing this? If it's just to be the fastest/loudest/most impressive we're not going to be doing this as deeply as someone who is just fascinated by every part of making music………...


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Gary Burton Quintet 1974 feat Metheny Goodrick Swallow Moses - HQ audio

Wow. Here's some great footage of Gary Burton's quintet in 1974. Bob Moses sounds so good!
I'm aware that a lot of these youtube embeds are rather ephemeral, so if even in the future, if this link is broken, go get the album "Ring' which is this band plus Eberhard Weber. A lot of Jazz from the '70s, particularly coming out of the states, gets maligned a lot. True, it was a strange time for Jazz, but then there's great stuff like this! Enjoy! 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Old Dog, Meet New Tricks

 This coming September, I will have been playing the drums for 45 years, and man are my arms tired! 

Seriously, it amazes me after all this time, experience, listening, and frankly hard work, there is still so much to learn.

Case in point. I have been using a hybrid "push/pull" technique to play streams of notes, especially in my right hand, but I've never been super satisfied with the results, and it tends to feel very inconsistent. I stumbled across Rick Dior demonstrating Peavey drums. As he aptly showed in that video, he is a great drummer with very good technique. So, when I saw he had some videos involving push/pull, I had to check it out. NOTE: This is not his first video on the subject, so if you're just starting to develop this, I would advise you to watch his beginning video first.

So, there's lots of great info here. I have decided to work the concepts he's talking about here to clean up my technique. I'm vowing to work on it at least a half hour a day, but also to make sure to play along with recordings, jam etc. as well so I don't get obsessed with this one technical idea. ( I have done this in the past, and the results weren't pretty.) When this post is published, I'll have been working on this for about a month, so I'll let you know of my progress. Oh, I also wanted to mention that I like his demonstration because he also mentions how to apply this technique, because without application, what's the point?  

So, it's not really a trick I'm working on, but a technique that hopefully will open new paths to creativity. Stay tuned……


It's only been 3 or 4 days, but it's starting to feel a LOT better, particularly in the left hand. I'm also trying to be equally comfortable with the technique in French and german grips, so I've got my work cut out for me!

Another set of factors when learning something new within a skill set one has are proactive and retroactive interference ( thank you university 1st year Psychology! ). The proactive interference (my new learning being affected by my old learning ) is that I use so much rebound, I now have to control it in a different way to make this technique work, and it makes it challenging for sure. The retroactive interference I have to manage is that the old way I use rebound works very well for things, particularly playing a fast Jazz ride rhythm, so I don't want this new technique to affect what I already am happy with. Okay, back to the shed………


It's subtle, but I think this technique is starting to influence my sound. Because rebound is part of this technique, I find that in general I am playing more up off the drums rather than down into them and getting off the drum head slightly quicker. Not that I'm comparing myself to them at all, but the sound and feeling is more bright and ringy like Buddy Rich or Louis Bellson and I'm digging it a lot!!!


A couple of weeks later. It's coming along slowly. But then Guelph fine drummer Sam Cino posts this!!!!!!!

Mr. Montagner has really mastered this, and without using his fingers!!!! Also, he shows a lot of other great techniques. I think as far as a lot of this extreme technique stuff goes, I'm most attracted to the Brazilian take on it because it always seems to be about representing the music. Okay, back to the drawing board…...

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Charlie Watts and the Art of Simplicity

 There are no coincidences. Just before Charlie Watts' death, I had been trying to capture Phil Rudd's feel on "It's a Long Way to the Top" and failing miserably. I was also cooking up a typically brainy/complicated bunch of exercises. Then I found out about Watts' death, and it's made me really think about simplicity and directness in music, two things Charlie Watts was brilliant at.

Firstly, anyone who thinks that anyone could do what he did doesn't know much about drumming, or music, for that matter. Anyone could probably technically manage the notes, but very few can make it feel that beautiful and swinging. And playing without artifice and flash ( an increasingly rare commodity ) takes patience, skill, lack of ego, and a lot of guts!

I didn't denigrate Charlie's playing when I was younger, but I also didn't appreciate it or understand it either. I have no doubt the Stones wouldn't have lasted nearly as long without his steering their ship. Even his lack of interest in most of the Rock Star trappings kept him on course to play beautifully and consistently from the early 60s to his last gigs with the band in 2019.

I met Mr. Watts once at the Montreal Jazz Festival. He noticed my cymbal bag and I grabbed his hand and shook it, saying " Hey Charlie Watts. I'm a drummer too. I've got a gig tonight!", and then rode up to my hotel room in a later elevator because I felt so foolish about what I'd said. No matter. Even if I had been the coolest I had ever been in my life, I still wouldn't be half as cool as Charlie Watts was every day of his.

Thanks so much for the music Charlie, and safe journey.

UPDATE: I have seen a lot of posts lately making a big deal over whether Charlie was a "Jazz Drummer" or a "Rock Drummer". I really think what he did was way beyond any sort of style. Check out this article in The Guardian , especially the part where Max Weinberg talks about bringing Joe Morello and Mel Lewis to see the Stones. Both Morello and Lewis realized Charlie was great at playing the drums appropriately and kicking the band, in other words, BEYOND STYLE!!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

RIP Charlie Watts

 Just got the terrible news that Charlie Watts has passed at the age of 80. I will do a feature on him and his work in the next few days. Rest well sir, and thank you for all the music. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Tony Williams Punk Rock Beat #1 (Broken Double in RH)

Couple of beats I cooked up using broken doubles. First in the RH with backbeats on snare, then the broken double is with the LH between HH & snare. HH on all 4 beats w/ LF in both.
I call them Tony Punk beats because they feel like they have a lot of attitude, just like Tony! :) 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Stewart Copeland – The Police Stories

Fantastic! Mr. Copeland explains the process in which a lot of those classic Police drum tracks were recorded! 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Back at it

 This past weekend I had 2 gigs booked (which turned into 3) They were all out of town. (Including a last minute replacement job in Toronto, which is still almost an hour from my place.)

Now, there are some issues with these performances that in the past  I would have complained about , including:

-the sound. First gig on Friday night was on a very boomy room, so it was challenging to not have the drums over balance everything. Ironically, the second gig was outside so the sound disappeared. :) 

-the driving. Within 2 days I probably spent at least 8 hours in the car.

-the shlep. I needed to bring my drums into 2 of the gigs and the load in on the first one was quite challenging….( The last minute replacement gig had house drums, but I had to bring my drums inside because I had no time to drop them off between gigs.) Speaking of which……….

-I got to the replacement gig w/ only about 30 minutes before we started. By my standards, that's cutting it pretty close.

-I got caught in a traffic jam at midnight on the way home because of construction.

But you know what? I have felt was GRATEFUL! Let me count the ways….

- I got to play with a bunch of great musicians (including vocalists) that are great at what they do, listen carefully, and are lovely souls to hang out with.

-The gigs paid between good, and very good. No complaints there either.

-The audiences were very warm and appreciative.

-The staff and organizers of all the gigs treated us with kindness and respect.

-my new (for me)  Premier snare drum sounds and feels killer! 

-I got to play drums with real live musicians again! 

So, what I'm trying to say is, from now on, I'm going to take nothing for granted.  Any day above ground is a good day. Any day above ground and playing drums is an excellent day! :) Let's all be grateful!

UPDATE: TODAY'S THE DAY!  COME CHECK OUT SWITCHEROO TOO ( Dave Restivo- Drums, Rob McBride-Bass, Ted Warren-Piano) on a livestream from Silence in Guelph. 8PM-EST Donations made via e-transfer or PayPal to

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Switcheroo Too Livestream Thursday Aug. 19 @ 8PM via FACEBOOK.COM/JAZZINTORONTO

I'm afraid where ever one goes these days, one finds FAKE NEWS!!!! Now, it is true that  David Restivo, Rob McBride and I are playing trio in a streaming only concert from Silence in Guelph via the jazzintoronto page. What's FAKE NEWS IS THIS PIC BECAUSE DAVE is going to be PLAYING DRUMS and I'M PLAYING PIANO!!!! Come witness the fun, laughter, tears, and potential carnage this Thursday Aug. 19th at 8PM EST. Donations via paypal and e-transfer accepted via


Monday, August 16, 2021

4 stroke ideas

Just a few quick ideas on creative ways to use 4 strokes. So, either sticking it RLRL or LRLR, we can:

-Make the last note a dead stroke 
-Make the last note a buzz
-Make the last note a double
-Make the last note a flam
-same as the example above, but put an extra note after the flam and the it makes it a 5 beat idea
-voice these around the drums any way you wish
(Examples of all this in the video. My apologies for the low volume of the talking.)

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Dexter Gordon Denmark 1967

Got into him in high school and felt like I "got it" immediately. That big sound. His laconic way of walking, talking, AND playing!
Here he is with a fantastic band in Europe. Tootie Heath smokes the whole set, and it's interesting how he plays on a lot of tunes that were recorded with other drummers, and makes them his own!
Everything that's great about music, and nothing that isn't! Enjoy! 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Philly's trades on "Gnid" and transcribing verses lifting

Hey Folks, we often see a lot of transcribed drum solos, trades, and grooves online. By transcribed, I mean the performances are written down in musical notation. While transcribing can sometimes help us analyze material and help to remember it or show it to others, it's not without it's drawbacks. I have always had the most success with "lifting" drum material, meaning I learn it by ear, then put it on the drum set. There are many reasons I think this is superior. If we leave the written page out of the process, we tend to learn it in a deeper way, and it tends to stay in out memory a long time. Also, the more we develop the ability to hear something on a recording and transfer it to the drums with no intermediary steps, we start to be able to move from our ears to our hands and feet much quicker.

Here's a great example of something I recently lifted. It's Philly Joe Jones trading 2 bar phrases on the tune "Gnid" from Tadd Dameron's Mating Call. It's cool in so many ways. Philly starts the trading. It's short because they are short phrases and they only trade on the first 2 As of the tune. Best of all, none of what Philly plays is super fast or difficult, just wonderful examples of the great swinging vocabulary he had. :) 
So, it's  actually only 8 bars of material. Learn it by ear, and then put it on the drums, I guarantee you'll get a lot of good out of it.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Us (Live At The Jazz Workshop, San Francisco / 1961) - Or, Art Taylor and his Wacky Left Foot!

So, let's check out this great tune by Kenny Dorham (also known as "Una Mas" on a recording from a few years later) with the great Art Taylor on drums.

Let's look at what Taylor is doing on most of the tune. Hi-hat on 2, and the + of 3 & 4. Rather unusual for him, so it really caught my ear! So, I started thinking thinking of and working on ways to incorporate this idea, and you can try them too!

1. Play along with the recording. This is a great way of going between Taylor's pattern and the figures played at the end of every chorus.

2. Experiment with the hi-hat lick plus 4 on the BD, plus various comping patterns in the LH like all the upbeats in the bar, last 2 triplets of every beat, first 2 triplets of every beat, quarter note triplets, displaced quarter note triplets etc.

3. Same as 2 but reverse BD and LH parts

4. Keep Hi-Hat pattern but play str. 8ths and play bossa in other 3 limbs.

5. Same as 4 but play cascara/salsa patterns in other 3 limbs.

6. Etc. etc. etc until death and even after! 

I would encourage anyone interested in Jazz drumming to check out a LOT of Art Taylor. He's a great time player and imaginative soloist. He always gets a big, beautiful snare and hi-hat sound and he's always swinging! :) 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Mick Fleetwood Variations

 My article on a set of exercises I developed from a Mick Fleetwood idea was just published in Canadian Musician Magazine.  (Pg. 62.) Check it out ! :) 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Seven Steps to Heaven (Tony William's solo) & Anthropology - Greg Lewis & Joe La Barbera

Here's a couple of wonderful drum duets from Joe La Barbera and Greg Lewis. Now, anyone who knows me at all would find it odd for me raving about 2 drum set players playing together but these pieces are so well arranged and played, with room for individual expression for each player, it's fantastic!

First up is "Seven Steps to Heaven" where the duo plays the intro, head and classic Tony Williams solo. They also trade phrases and give us a great feel for their individual styles. ( I have been following Joe for many years now, but getting to hear Greg Lewis' great playing is a real treat too!) Great stuff! 

Second on the bill is "Anthropology" with these two great drummers playing not only the head to the Parker classic, but a host of other Rhythm Changes tunes as well. They also do some great trades on this one too.

This really proves how musical 2 drum sets can be if approached musically. Also, Joe seems to improve every time I hear him. As much as he's done in music, he keeps evolving! Thanks gentlemen! It's been a pleasure…...

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

RIP Jerry Granelli

From the Granelli family's FB page…..

We are so sad to report that Jerry Granelli passed away at his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia around 9am Atlantic time this morning. This December, just before his 80th birthday, as some of you might know, Jerry suffered a near fatal case of internal bleeding. He was rushed to the hospital where he spent the next two months in ICU. After finally being stabilized, there were still more time spent in hospital as he slowly recovered while dealing with a number of other long term health issues exacerbated by his initial issue. He recovered enough to finally return home. He has been getting better, going out for longer and longer walks, going to the Y, making friends with a crew of scooter & walker users.

Jerry was a true force of nature, he will be greatly missed by his three children, five grand children and all of the countless people he touched through his music and spirit.

This past Sunday he put on a Workshop: Art In Everyday Life - The Creative Process, as part of the Creative Music Workshop program at this year’s Halifax Jazz Festival. It was attended by people, in person, as well as being simulcast- here it is:

 “One reason why people like improvised music is that it’s a direct reflection of life, not something we thought up. It scares you…makes you think you’re going to die for a moment…do you have the courage to play? Can I move out of my desires and wants, and into compositional choices?”

Jerry was already making plans for a number of new recordings, to produce a play about his life and of course he was looking forward to performing Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas this coming December in Halifax. Next year the plan was another cross Canada tour as well as a tour in Europe. His career spanned 60+ years and Jerry has had the opportunity to perform with the likes of Charlie Haden, Mose Allison, Sonny Stitt, Sly Stone, Ornette Coleman and Vince Guaraldi. Jerry has recorded over 30 albums, his last a tribute to mentors Mose Allison and Vince Guaraldi. His compositions have been recognized by institutions such as the ECMAs, the Junos, The Grammy Awards, the National Library of Congress Sound Archives, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Jerry has spent his life dedicated to the art of improvisation, helping young musicians see the connection between life and the art they create and the ordinary magic of living a spontaneous life. A long time practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism Jerry has been an important proponent for people in all walks of life of meditation practice and living one's life awakened and fearlessly.

A large network of both music and Dharma students will miss his fierce spirit and compassion.

His life and work live on through them.

The only thing I would add to this statement is that Granelli, like Paul Motian and Guy Nadon, was a drummer who pretty much lived the evolution of Jazz in his own playing. He started out playing fairly straight ahead piano trio, but went on to play very open form music.  No matter the style, he always played with taste and imagination. I saw him playing about 5 years ago, and he performed with the fire and energy of a person in his 20s. He will be missed, but not forgotten…….

Fashion show!

Thanks Four on the Floor blog  for the rad shirt! I will wear it with pride! :) 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Can't play something? Transform it!

 This was inspired by a recent post by Joe Farnsworth on Facebook. I can't post it here but I would highly recommend checking it out. He says he's demonstrating some ideas that Art Taylor was shown by Kenny Clarke. He then proceeds to play A LOT of brushes. :) A fair amount of it went by so quickly I just grabbed a couple of things. ( There was certainly lots more to learn but I had a limited amount of time to watch it.) 

So, the following 3 videos deal with what i got from it. Some of it might not even be correct. Mr. Farnsworth plays a different grip than me, has more together on the brushes than me and is much better dressed than me, for a start! Okay, here they are:

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Bits & Pieces ( doubles)

So, I've talked about this before. Don't feel you have to learn a whole ton of material from another player to enable you to create something interesting. This first clip is the results of me playing dotted quarter, dotted quarter and quarter note in a bar with a double stop between my feet. I heard Marcus Gilmore do this on a recording with Chick Corea and thought, "That's something I never do". Then I added doubles in 8th notes with my hands, Voiced between hi-hat & snare , it has a bit of a Tony Allen Afrobeat vibe (although it's significantly easier to play than most of his beats! ) 

Not only is it not necessary to lift a whole big idea, but even if you get the lick incorrect it can lead to some cool things. I saw a Dan Weiss post on Instagram where he was using broken doubles (double strokes where each part of the double is on a different surface) and playing "melody" notes on the snare. For this, I used the melody to Monk's "Oska T" on the snare and the non-melody notes with RH on floor tom, LH on small tom. Remember, the sticking is RR LL throughout, no matter where the snare melody notes fall.

And of course there are 10 bazillion ways to vary these ideas. Thanks! :) 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Al Jackson Jr.

 Here's some great footage of Al Jackson Jr. playing with Booker T & the MGs. 

A few observations:

Check out the big dynamic range! 

Even when he's chocking the cymbal on his left side, he switches hands and brings his RH to the snare to keep the backbeat going.

Even though it's a shuffle feel, he keeps his timekeeping to quarter notes and occasionally goes to triplets in his fills. Very elemental, in the best way! 

Also he's bending the pitch on the small tom near the end of the tune. he was a colourist while still taking care you the groove! Enjoy! 

Friday, July 9, 2021

E.E. Cummings inspiration...

 In an interesting example of serendipity, I was listening to an interview with Colin Moulding ( ex-XTC ) where he mentioned the quote below as inspiration for his newest single and the same day Dan Weiss featured the quote on his IG page. Great minds think alike. Anyway, here it is…..

To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.

- E.E. Cummings

There you go. Lots to chew on there……………..

Monday, July 5, 2021

Levels of Interaction

 Peter Erskine's Infinity Drummers List is the gift that keeps on giving. recently, he posted this great track from The Yellowjackets featuring the incredible Will Kennedy on drums…….

Cool groove, huh? And here's Mr. Kennedy explaining the main beat he played…..

Also worth mentioning is how Peter Erskine described the performance on the recording.  please note how Will keeps things bubbling and interesting without ever losing focus or the groove. He is a master at improvising within the "fusion" rhythm section arena ... exciting without blowing his cool.

Of course Mr. Erskine is absolutely right, and that got me thinking about how we as drummers have balance different amounts of keeping the form, groove, and interaction with the soloist depending of the style/situation we're in.

Let's take a look at a very different example. Here's Rashied Ali playing with John Coltrane on Trane's tune "Ogunde"

Now, there's definitely a "Head" in the sense that there's a melody that's played at the beginning and end, but the band plays rubato throughout so they're not necessarily thinking of a groove, more like keeping the momentum going while filling up the sonic space. And as far as the blowing goes, they're playing off the spirit of the melody, but otherwise it's definitely open….If you don't generally play styles like this, it's good to play along with open form music to figure out ways to support the soloist and create variety without necessarily playing in a strict tempo.

Now, here's an example that plays against type. Although Tony Williams was very at home in Avant Garde  musical situations, he also knew when a tune needed a relentless groove as a "hook". I won't tell you what the tune is, but if you've heard it more than once, you will recognize it from the first couple of bars….

Also note that Tony doesn't really deviate much from that groove the whole performance through. Certainly he follows the dynamics inherent in the tune and the soloist's needs, but for a drummer who could play lots of crazy things, HE DOESN'T. Why? Because that doesn't suit this tune…….

I think what we can conclude is that we as drummers are constantly navigating how attention we're putting on the form/arrangement, the groove, and the soloist and/or vocalist. There is no "one size fits all". it totally is situation dependent. As always, use your ears, both when enjoying other's performances as well as when you're in the driver's seat! 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Today is a day to listen, learn, and reflect

It's no secret that the first people who lived in the land we now call Canada (and still do. See diagram showing percentages of population by province/territory)) have been treated horribly by the Europeans that "settled" this nation. 

It is time for the descendants of the settlers to listen, learn, and make reparations. We have to do so much better………

UPDATE: Please join me in this course (you can take it for free online) from the University of Alberta). I started it a few days ago and I've already learned so much!

Monday, June 28, 2021

Extreme Listening

 Extreme listening is probably a misnomer, but I wanted to talk about focused listening today. Simply put, it can be as basic as listening with no distractions. I like to practice listening (to recordings) at home as intensely as I would on gig, and try to give it the same sense of responsibility. Try to learn everything you can each time through the recording. As an example, I randomly pulled up this recording from my library.

Wow! Fantastic. Louis Hayes is someone I really have slept on, and I'm going to address that! But here are some brief notes I made on one pass through the recording. I can't say I'd never heard it before, but I don't think I'd listened to it in such an active way before. Okay, here goes…

Notes on Phineas Newborn Jr. “Juicy Lucy” 

Trio, Pno, bass, drums,

4 bar piano intro

AABA tune, 

2 feel on the As in head, 4 to the bar on bridge

higher dynamic on bridge in head

4 feel for solos

Piano solos first

plays 8ves, busy stuff too 

four on snare and  piano comping in second chorus of piano solo for first 2 As

bass solo 2nd, dynamic in piano and drums significantly lower 2As

“Shout”in B section

Last A back to the head

2 bars tagged 3xs

4 choruses in total

So, not bad. As you can see, the first listens are about a lot of the macro issues of the recording. These include things like form, how many solos, instrumentation, overall dynamics etc. But this is just the beginning. In subsequent listenings you can get to things like dynamic curve and interaction between soloist and drums, and specific drum things you want to lift, is the tune a contrafact of another tune, listening to each player individually all the way through, etc. This is where the real deep learning takes place and of course, can be a great alternative to physical practice as it's easily as, if not more important.

Happy EXTREME listening, but don't be chicken about it! :) 

Friday, June 25, 2021

4 (On The Floor ) Way Coordination Variations (To go with summer libations!* )

 So, why create content when you can just steal someone else's hard work? :) 

Seriously, before you read any further you need to go to this recent 4 on the Floor post.

Now, check that out and get that together, which is a tall order in itself! As I was doing that myself , I came up with some variations on Mr. McCaslin's thought-provoking and challenging material. Let me be clear, this is not about "one-uppersonship", but rather a demonstration of how the creative process is often a collective one, where ideas are shared and discussed, even if it is only in an online fashion.

Okay, so once you've got Jon's exercises reasonably well in hand you can…..

1) Make all LF notes splashed hi-hat. 

2) "      ""     "       alternating splashed and closed hi-hat.

3) Make all non-cymbal or bass drum notes either buzzes or dead strokes.

4)  Make all bass drum notes muted (sticking the  beat into the bass drum head).

5) "" "" "" alternated muted and open notes.

6) Divide the triplet ideas between RH and LH. Snare plays dotted quarters. BD plays quarter notes.

7) "" "" "" Snare and bass drum alternate dotted quarter notes, either start w/ snare or bass drum.

8) "   ""       """     Snare and bass drum play dotted quarters in unison.

9)  "" "" Snare and bass drum play dotted quarters in doubles.

10) Same as 9) but sn & bd play the pattern in paradiddles.

11) As originally written but left hand moves to another drum or cymbal every stroke

12) As any above but sing any blues head while doing it. You will notice that the dotted quarters work out over a blues evenly, so it's also a way of checking if you're playing it accurately.

13) Oops! Lucky 13! I almost forgot. Practice as is but experiment with different ride rhythm articulations. i.e. Accent on 2& 4, accent on the skip beat, more of a dotted 8th/16th feel etc.

Obviously, these are just a small sample of the mischief one can get into with these.

Also, I realize these coordination exercises can be very challenging, but just stick with them, and as Jon rightly mentioned, play slow and steady. I often compare coordination on the drum set as like a series of rooms with doors at either end. One struggles to get a door open, you then get comfortable with it, and then the next door appears! 

Rinse and repeat for the rest of your life!

Much thanks to Jon for these great exercises. Remember, when another musician gives you a challenge, it really is a gift! :)

* I haven't had any alcohol or sugar in a year and a half, so please enjoy whatever refreshes you! I highly recommend one of the naturally flavoured soda waters currently available! 

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……..