Follow That Sound! – a journey in technique (part 1)

In this series of articles I’d like to explain my journey a little, and comment on what I think it means to be a performing musician. As a performer, I am constantly working on technique to better express my ideas. My hands (and feet) are always trying to keep up with my mind. I’ve found that if I can stay relaxed, both physically and mentally, in a solo or group situation; then I can usually achieve this goal. My ideas don’t always work out the way that I hear them, but I’m getting closer through personal practice and listening.

“…if you are a musician, a craftsman, an artist, you are never really satisfied.”

When I was younger I was a traditional grip player. I was very focused on getting a relaxed grip on the stick: to be comfortable playing at multiple speeds, and to get a nice thick sound from the drum. I used some snare drum books and some personally developed exercises to do this, and I spent about five or six years, with my first teacher and mentor, really zeroing-in on how my hands worked in various, usable, patterns. Leaving some space in my hand for the stick became very important to me, especially when playing faster speeds. In addition to leaving some space for the stick, I also was very focused on wrist movement. I was trying to use a quick, downward only, movement with my wrist and allow the stick to rebound back to the height that the movement started. These techniques helped me get a full sound from the drum with less effort and stick height. Moving less and sounding fatter was the thing I was after and with the watchful eye of my teacher and some diligent practice, I mostly achieved that goal. I use the word mostly because if you are a musician, a craftsman, an artist, you are never really satisfied. There’s always improvement to be made and something new out there to learn or gain from personal practice. A painter paints. There isn’t only one masterpiece but a body of work to be seen, or, in my case, heard by an audience.

In certain styles, like swing, I still play with traditional grip. Here’s a short solo groove that I did in that style.

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