How to Build Drum Speed, Part 4: Bass Drum Speed

When it comes to improving your drum speed, especially bass drum speed, you’re going to have good days and bad days. Be patient as your leg muscles grow and stretch. Keep it mind that the legs and feet have more muscles and larger muscles than the hands and arms.

One thing that I always have to remind my own students is that your feet will never go as fast as your hands. It’s just how we’re built. Before you can develop bass drum speed, it’s good to work on bass drum exercises that help you develop control. A great resource for bass drum exercises is Colin Bailey’s book,
Bass Drum Control (affiliate link).

The Drumming System (affiliate link) says that one of the secrets to bass drum speed is to wear ankle weights while you practice. This well help you develop the muscles in your legs. After a practicing with them, go back and practice without the weights. You will notice results immediately. Another tip for developing bass drum speed is to try playing as loud as you can for a long period of time while wearing ankle weights.

A great exercise is to practice playing singles on your feet heel down and heel up. Playing heel down, you will feel the burn. If you find this boring, put a practice pad on the snare and play along. Years ago, my teacher Chet Doboe, the founder and musical director of the Hip Pickles Drum Band, taught me to practice the samba to develop my foot technique. The samba is great exercise because it allows you to work on controlling two notes in a row.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) recommends Hansenfutz (affiliate link) pedals for training. These are great because you practice in any chair that you are sitting in. You can even them under the desk in your office.

Review of Mike Michalkow’s Drumming System, Part 3

As a professional drummer, I would totally use the Drumming System (affiliate link). In fact, watching it for the purpose of doing this review taught me so much.

It really refreshed me on some fundamentals that I take for granted. It also reminded me about some details that I had forgotten about. As a drum teacher,  it gave me a new ideas on how to approach certain material in my lessons.

I have incorporated the course’s Practice Routine Generator (affiliate link) into my practice routine. In fact, there is an entire DVD dedicated to practice. It emphasized the importance of practice in a fun way and how to go about structuring your practice routine.

The foot technique DVD really explained bass drum technique very well. For years, I have been curious about the slide technique and heel toe technique. Since watching that DVD, I have now incorporated both into my playing. The speed DVD gave me a few tips that have improved my overall speed.

The folk drumming videos really helped me and I felt the rock section was a great review for me. I play rock a lot and it reminded me about the subtle nuances that you need to play in each style. For example, grunge, alternative, heavy metal, and speed metal all require different types of details.

For weeks I had these DVD’s playing on my television. And then one day I actually called Jared Falk, the producer of course. I congratulated him on such an excellent product, but I mentioned it was LONG! He laughed and said, “You didn’t realize what you signed up for when you ordered it, huh?”

In the future, I plan on reviewing it every so often, just to stay on top of the basics. I’ve learned the hard way that as you excel in your drumming, it’s easy to forget certain fundamentals.

Learn more about Mike Michalkow’s Drumming System (affiliate link).

The Blues Shuffle for Drums

While the shuffle is mostly associated with the blues, it’s a pattern that can be played in any style of music. As a drummer, it’s important to this pattern and all of its variations. While in high school, I studied drums with Chet Doboe. He told me that ability to play a good shuffle would allow me to make more money as a professional drummer. While I can’t draw a direct correlation between my ability to play this groove and my income, I will say that it has come in handy on many occasions.

Here are the basics:

  1. The cymbal pattern is based on triplets.
  2. You play the first and last triplet of every quarter note.
    1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let 1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let
  3. As it gets quicker, you’ll eventually stop counting and feel it.

To learn more about the basics, check out this article on blues drumming.

My friend, fellow drummer and drum teacher, Chris Scherer said to me once that he felt people get thrown off when learning to play triplets. There is something about adding that third note to the rhythm that makes it a lot more difficult than counting eighth or sixteenth notes. As a drum teacher, I couldn’t agree more.

It’s important to get comfortable counting and feeling triplets.

While the groove itself might seem simple, it can be quite difficult to execute. It’s important to count out loud, go slow, and use a metronome.

According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), the following grooves are important to know:

Jump Shuffle

This is a fast pattern. It’s mostly about what is going on with the hi hat.

  1. The hi hat opens on beats 1 and 3, while closing on 2 and 4.
  2. Next, eliminate the “let” of beats 1 and 3.
  3. This essentially becomes your standard jazz cymbal pattern.
  4. Accent the snare on beats 2 and 4.
  5. The bass drum can play a variety of patterns.

Texas Shuffle

This can be challenging to play at first because both hands play at the exact same time. One is on the ride (or hi hat), the other on the snare. Then accent beats 2 and 4 on the snare. The bass drum can be on beats 1 and 3 or on every quarter note. This is a driving groove! Check out music by Stevie Ray Vaughn with Chris Layton on drums.

Kansas City Shuffle

Like the Texas variation, this is a double shuffle (both ands play the exact same time). It’s a lot faster than the Texas variation. Played on the ride, it sounds happier.

Other Variations

Learn & Master Drums (affiliate link) teaches even more grooves, such as the Flat Tire Shuffle, the Driving Shuffle, and the Charleston Shuffle.

Become a Studio Drummer and Make Money

Many drummers set the goal of becoming full-time studio drummers. It’s very rare that someone has a full-time job as a professional studio drummer these days. Back in the 1970’s drummers, such as John “JR” Robinson, Steve Gadd, and Jim Keltner were busy drumming for television commercials, television soundtracks, movie soundtracks, and top artists. Studio drumming work is still available, but not nearly as much as it was 20 or 30 years ago.

Nowadays, many professional studio drummers, such as myself, do recording sessions with local artists. Making a good sounding recording is very affordable for a singer/songwriter.

Here are some tips that I picked up from the Drumming System (affiliate link) and mistakes I have made:

  1. Live drumming and studio drumming are two completely different animals. With recording, you can listen back to what you did. There is a final product forever.
  2. Unlike live playing, you’re alone in a silent room.The microphones are highly sensitive (even to an air conditioner in the room or garbage truck outside). If other people are with you, it’s important for them to stay quiet when the microphones are on.
  3. Recording sessions can be full of stress and pressure. There is no time to waste in a studio. Most studios charge by the hour.
  4. It’s important for you to relax. You don’t want to sound rigid and tight. Also, you have to be able to comfortably play along with a click track at a variety of tempos.
  5. Be prepared with your music.
  6. Whether or not you have a top of the line drum set, get brand new heads (top and bottom). If not, it will be a waste of time. Tune your heads perfectly to the style you are playing.
  7. Set up your equipment so microphones can be placed on your drums.
  8. Bring extra muffling, tape, extra drum heads, towels, and drum keys.
  9. Bring an extra snare drum or two. You have no clue what your snare drum will sound like in the studio. Many of the top studios have a whole library of snare drums for you to choose from that include wood, steel, brass, copper, and snare drums of different depths.
  10. Strive for perfection, but be patient with yourself.
  11. Cooperate with the engineer. The engineer is trying to get the best possible drum sound.
  12. Have great attitude and give it your best. A job well done in the studio may lead to you getting more live work from the person that hired you.
  13. Know that as time goes on, you will get better and better at studio drumming.

Be sure to read these additional studio drumming tips.

How to Become a Professional Drummer and Find Jobs, Part 6

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has an entire section dedicated to dealing with drum sound checks. Whether you are performing with your band for the first or 500th time, you’ll have to do a this before you perform. The sound person will meet you hours before your performance to make sure everything sounds good for you, your band members, and the audience.

Here are some tips:

  1. This can take a while and requires patience. In fact, it’s tedious and boring.
  2. Once the sound person arrives, you want to become his or her friend. It’s important to break the ice.
    Sometimes they can be incredibly cool. Sometimes they can be incredibly cruel.
  3. Remember that this person is in control of how you sound.
  4. When your asked to hit a drum, play slow quarter notes until you are told to stop. Don’t show off your chops. Sound checking one drum can take up to 45 minutes. Most good sound people can get a good sound in less than 5 minutes.
  5. Hit the drums as hard as you will in the show.
  6. After finishing one drum, you will be asked to do the same on the next drum.
  7. If there is a problem with the sound of a drum, be prepared to tune it and/or muffle it. Therefore it’s important to have a drum key and muffling on you.
  8. Play as many sounds as possible with your hi hat.
  9. When asked to play the whole kit, play the whole kit! Many drummers play the snare bass and hi hat. Also, keep it simple.
  10. When your sound check is done, you might not be needed for a while.
    This is a good time to warm up on a drum pad.
  11. After the other band members get sound checked, you will have to play as entire band. This is the time to make sure sound levels are good and you can hear everyone. If you need something, ask for it.
  12. In most cases, sound check won’t take that long, but sometimes it will. Again, be patient.

How to Become a Professional Drummer and Find Jobs, Part 3

As a professional drummer, it’s important to completely prepared for performances and rehearsals. In addition to having your music down, you want to have the right tools for the job.

First and foremost, you want to have a good drum set and cymbals. Be sure to invest in cases for your drums. Make sure that you have every single part of your drum kit before you leave. A checklist will help you make sure everything is accounted for.

According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), Here’s a list of some things that you will want to have on you at all times:

Stick Bag

It’s important to have a good stick bag with extra drum sticks. Not only do you have extra sticks, but you can put small tools. Here’s a list of tools you want to keep in your stick bag:

  1. Duct Tape – sometimes things break, such as cymbal stands.
  2. Muffling – Moongel (affiliate link) is great.
  3. Cymbal felts – these get lost in transit sometimes. You might take a cymbal off and the felt goes flying.
  4. Small towel – you sweat.
  5. Pens and pencils – you might need to make notes in your music or take down someone’s phone number.
  6. Business cards – always be ready to promote yourself.
  7. Drum keys – you can never have enough drum keys. Have at least 1,500… just kidding. You get the idea.
  8. Headphones or in-ear monitors – I bring my Vic Firth Isolation Headphones (affiliate link) with me and 1/4 to 1/8 inch adapters.
  9. Rubber bass drum hoop protectors – these can easily dissappear.
  10. Extra wing nuts in a few different tread sizes – make sure you buy the right wing nuts for the brand of hardware you use.
  11. Adjustable wrench – this can be used in place of a drum key and can fix anything!
  12. Extra bass drum pedal springs – if your spring breaks, your bass drum pedal will stop working completely.
  13. Sticks, brushes, and mallets – I personally prefer to keep sticks, hot rods, wire brushes, and cymbal mallets in my bag.

[Read more…]

Professional Country Drumming

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has a great section on country drumming. Country music began in in the 1920’s and continuously evolves through today. In the 1950’s, Johny Cash, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline became incredibly popular. Today’s popular artists include Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. The success of this music is demonstrated in it’s worldwide appeal. In fact, some of today’s country music is also considered to be pop music because of its universal appeal.

While the majority of today’s country music feels strikingly similar to popular rock, their are small nuances within the feel that make it “country”. One particular technique that I learned from a friend was how to hit the snare drum. In this style, many drummers throw the weight of their arm into the snare and let the stick just sit. There is no rebound and it actually makes your shoulder kind of sore. With the potential for injury aside, you get a serious country backbeat.

This is responsible for the feel of many country songs.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) starts out with beginner country beats. These are simple quarter and eighth note beats with occasional sixteenth notes. The role of the country drummer is to play simple time and keep a great groove for the band.

Intermediate and advanced beats include train beats. W.S. “Fluke” Holland, the only drummer Johnny Cash ever had, made train beats popular. You will know this type of beat when you hear it. When done correctly, it sounds like a train going down the tracks. You can play this with sticks, brushes, hot rods, etc.

On a side note, I was fortunate enough to receive a consultation from Tiffany Gifford, a celebrity stylist and image consultant. Miranda Lambert, a popular country artist, is one of Tiffany’s clients.

Also, here’s a clip of a drum solo I did at a country music concert:

Professional Progressive Rock Drumming

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has a great section on progressive rock. It’s kinda funny, but the instructor, Mike Michalkow, refers to it as wild and bizzare playing. He’s not saying this to insult the style, just stating an opinion (which I share). In fact, he’s a specialist in this style of drumming.

It’s easy to label it as wild and bizzare because it includes odd time playing, crazy fills, intricate snare and hi hat parts. Since most music is written in 4/4, any thing that is performed in an odd time signature might feel weird. Although not a progressive rock song, Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 is one of the few songs with an odd time signature that became wildly popular.

This style of rock began in late 1960’s with bands such as King Crimson, Genesis, and Yes. In the 1970’s bands like Pink Floyd and Rush became popular. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Dream Theater kept progressive rock alive. King Crimson, Rush, and Dream Theater are still actively performing today.

Neil Peart, Mike Portnoy, Chester Thompson, Phil Collins, and Bill Bruford are drummers who considered to be pioneers of progressive rock. Be sure to check out some of the incredible footage of each of them on YouTube.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has progressive rock training for drummers at every level.

  1. For beginners, their are beats with snare drum notes in random spots and thirty second notes on the bass drum. It might seem difficult, but it starts off very simple.
  2. For intermediate drummers, the beats add more random snare drum notes, along with sixteenth notes on the snare and bass drum.
  3. For advanced drummers, the beats are straight up WACKY! You get stuff like broken ride cymbal patterns and two and handed sixteenth note triplet ride patterns. Really weird…but also really fun.

Learn and Master Heavy Metal Drumming

Heavy metal is a style of music that began in the late 1960’s. The style originated from blues-rock and psychedelic rock. Heavy metal is known for its thick, massive sound, that includes extremely amplified distortion, long guitar solos, emphatic beats, and sheer volume. Bands such as Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, and Metallica are some of the more popular heavy metal bands.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) contains a variety of heavy metal exercises for all levels of playing:

Beginner Exercises

These are usually eighth note based grooves with the hi hat cymbals slightly open. Maybe you might began to add sixteenth note variations on the bass drum and the snare drum. Play them at a moderate tempo and play them HEAVY.

Intermediate Exercises

Add a partial sixteenth note triplet added to the snare or bass drum. Make sure you play with a powerful bass bass drum sound, a convincing pulse on the hi hat, and a slamming 2 and 4 on the snare drum.

Advanced Exercises

These include broken ride patterns, incorporate the toms, and add quarter note triplets.

For myself, I play along to AC/DC.  I have found Phil Rudd’s grooves to be rock solid! There is an art to keeping the groove simple and solid. In terms of drum sound, Lars Ulrich (Metallica), has an incredibly clear sound that inspired many of the drummers of my generation.

Shortly after getting my first drum set, I remember seeing the “Lars Ulrich” drum set in the music store and wanting it so badly. Seeing all of those toms and cymbals looked so cool. Nowadays, I am only concerned about having the smallest drum set possible. It’s interesting how things change.

Sorry to go off on a rant, but I encourage you to check out the Drumming System (affiliate link) and work on the heavy metal exercises. If you’re new to this style, you will find these exercises challenging. If you’re a veteran of this style, you will find these exercises refreshing.

The Best Quiet Practice Drum Set

Drummers don’t have it easy. Practicing and keeping the volume low is a unique challenge every drummer will face at one point or another. Although many options are available for keeping the volume level low, I am still on the quest for the perfect “quiet drum set“.

Initially, I tried using drum mutes and cymbal mutes on a standard drum set. They felt unnatural and had no rebound.  I felt that it made me work harder and I would end up playing very tensely. Drum mutes and cymbal mutes have improved in recent years. If you want to make your acoustic drums quiet, these are be your best choice. I highly recommend Vic Firth Drum & Cymbal Mutes (affiliate link).

Just a side note: One of my drum teachers (who shall remain nameless) actually put briefs (underwear) over the cymbals to mute them. As entertaining as it was, it kinda worked.

A few years ago, I discovered mesh drumheads, which are extremely quiet drum heads. They were similar to the heads used on electronic drums. I liked them because you could actually hear the tones of the different drums. Although they were great for keeping the volume low, I easily broke though the heads on a regular basis.

I currently practice at home on a Gibraltar GPo8 Powerrack Pad Outfit (affiliate link). It takes up a small amount of space. I had to purchase a separate bass drum pedal and drum throne. I also added a hi-hat cymbal stand, hi-hat cymbals, and a hi-hat mute to use with the Gibraltar GPo8 Powerrack Pad Outfit (affiliate link). This has given me quiet practice setup that emulates an actual acoustic drum set.

Practicing on the Gibraltar GPo8 Powerrack Pad Outfit (affiliate link) combined with using my acoustic drums has actually helped me to make some significant improvements in my drumming. The drum pad set forces me to focus on precision and to really visualize the sounds that I want to come out of the instrument. When I practice on my acoustic drum set, I get to refine the sounds and feels that I have worked on at home.

Another choice is an electronic drum set. Electronic drum sets allow you practice quietly, but get real drum sounds. In fact, electronic drums made by Roland and Yamaha sound like acoustic drums. I am partial to Roland, because they feel more like acoustic drums in comparison to Yamaha.

Keep in mind that most electronic drum sets don’t come with a drum throne or bass drum pedal. The best part of having a drum set like this is that you can plug in your headphones and play all night long without disturbing any of your neighbors. There’s even a place to plug an iPod in so you can jam with your favorite music.

If you want the best electronic drum set available,invest in the
Roland TD20SX V-Pro Electronic Drum Set
(affiliate link).