trentrenshawdrums.com Blog

New Instructional Video

I’d like to thank my friends at Woodwind & Brasswind for helping me put together this short instructional video on some of the most important rudiments for all drummers! It was a blast working with these folks and I hope to be doing some more videos with them in the coming months! This video covers single strokes, double stroke roll variations, paradiddle variations and flam variations. All of these can help any style or musical situation that a drummer may find him or herself in! Please take a few minutes and check it out! Also feel free to comment below with any questions you might have about the techniques used in this video!

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Follow That Sound – a journey in technique (part 3)

In trying to document my technical and musical journey, I’ve thought about all of the things I’ve learned and practiced, and how that has influenced me. I’d like to talk about my progression in hand technique some more in this article, and specifically how I’ve incorporated matched grip into my musical performances.

I’ve always enjoyed playing multiple styles of music and, through that, I’ve incorporated matched grip to play certain styles more comfortably. The decision to play some styles traditional and some matched has been a personal one. I don’t think that there’s much technical reasoning or importance for it in general, but I feel that it makes sense for my hands and for the way I hear music. I grew up playing traditional grip and performed only that way for about ten years. I was teaching matched grip to all students in those years, but didn’t feel the need to bring it into my personal playing until I started studying and developing certain rhythms that just felt more comfortable while playing matched. I had begun to open my mind up to the idea of incorporating the grip into my personal playing, but I knew there would be work involved to fully gain comfort using matched in my performances.

“No matter how complex the exercise or the rate of speed that you may be working on, choosing to fully dedicate your mind to the task at hand is one of the main factors in the success of what your are trying to technically work out.”

In the initial stages, my hands didn’t function the way I was accustomed while using traditional grip. I dusted off a couple of books and started building my dexterity while using matched. I wanted my hands to be completely interchangeable. I was trying to be very mindful of my approach because I wanted to make sure that I was applying all the techniques that I’d practiced over the years of studying and playing traditional. It took me about a year to truly get comfortable, but since then I feel that I have gotten my hands to that even place I wanted them to be. Simple hand exercises and a single focus has reaped all the benefits that I sought.

There’s something to be said for a level of concentration when approaching the instrument in a technical way. No matter how complex the exercise or the rate of speed that you may be working on, choosing to fully dedicate your mind to the task at hand is one of the main factors in the success of what your are trying to technically work out. I’m not necessarily advocating a meditative state, but you should be intently focused. This focus makes a huge difference in the time that it will take you to become fluent or successful at that specific task. Very early in playing I had an influential teacher that would say, “Drumming is 75% mental and 25% physical.” That has stuck with me throughout my playing and I find it to hold a lot of weight in my personal successes. I do not feel like this journey is complete but with advise like that and teachers that are giving: I feel like I’m on the right track.

Here’s an in studio video of an example of a style that I play matched currently

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Follow That Sound! – a journey in technique (part 2)

In this installment, I’d like to talk about my feet. In drum set playing, we use our feet just the same as our hands. Getting comfortable with certain foot techniques has improved my playing as much as anything. When I started on the kit, I wasn’t concentrated on my foot technique, but as I developed I noticed more limitations from my feet than my hands.

Beginners have trouble separating their feet and their hands, that’s common, but there are some beats and exercises that can really help to gain balance between the hands and feet, and balanced is the place that every drummer wants to be. I had gotten comfortable with the balance between my limbs by doing exercises, but I noticed that the sound I was getting from the bass drum and the strength of the hi hat “chick” wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I started to think about the work I was doing with my hands and wrists, and applied that to my feet and my ankles. I started to train with some simple foot movements, in heel down and heel up bass drum techniques, and found that I could apply the same idea that I was using with my hands, about velocity, to my foot. I could make quick precise movements without a lot of effort and get a great sound. I also found that I could apply these techniques to my left foot. In addition to working on ankle strength and relaxed movement in my feet, I also started to develop a good feeling of pulse with my left foot in multiple styles. To do this, I applied a technique that I learned from my teacher, in jazz patterns, to other styles and patterns. In this technique you use your heel to keep a steady pulse while the ankle and ball of your foot, with a little weight from your leg, actually play the pedal. This technique enables you to really lock into a tempo, gives you more stability and a stronger “chick” sound.

“The sound you want is out there waiting for you to rise to it and through technical practice you can physically get the place that you’re hearing.”

I was starting to really develop the right kind of strength and balance to effectively use my feet like my hands. These techniques also helped me establish feel in my feet like I hadn’t had before and this kind of feel leads to trust. Trust that you can lock into a rhythm, a tempo, or a pattern and not have to devote thought to do so. This mental trust helps you listen to the music around you or the ideas that you have more clearly. These are times in playing when you truly grow because you’re able to let go of mental processes that slow you down and focus on movements and sounds. Technical knowledge and practice sometimes seems endless. It is hard to notice your own progress, but when you get to another plateau you can look back and see how much technique has actually given your musical ability. The sound you want is out there waiting for you to rise to it and through technical practice you can physically get the place that you’re hearing.

Here’s an example of the balance I’m talking about from a solo recorded. Check out the left foot eighth notes that stay steady while moving the other three limbs.

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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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Timekeeping

One of the roles of percussion in music is to provide a steady rhythmic pulse that accompanies the harmonic and melodic patterns of a certain arrangement. To practice this and how it applies to drum set, I have created an exercise for the player to prepare him or her to keep steady time while making some musical transitions. This exercise in “Timekeeping” will help the player accomplish a few, very important, musical elements.

It will help the player develop consistent timing with a constant beat pattern while changing the time, or cymbal, pattern that is played along with that beat. This helps the player focus on the beat pattern played as a part of the timing and not just as it relates to the cymbal pattern. This strengthens the ability to internalize the pulse, or overall timing, of any pattern that may be played.

Players do not count while performing. Concentrating on counting, while listening to yourself and others during a performance, is too difficult to maintain, and, due to this fact, it can make the player to get lost in the arrangement. This exercise will help the player develop a feeling for passing time. Transitioning through cymbal patterns in a certain way helps the player start to recognize the passing of measures. The more the player practices these transitions; the more passing measures begin to be recognized just like natural time passing in minutes and seconds. This is critical for perfecting song form or getting used to the length of sections of an arrangement, which is very important for musical performance.

Finally, this exercise will help the player to make musical transitions that are quite common in popular music by changing the cymbal pattern. More importantly, it will help the player develop a feel for each cymbal pattern so that making these changes does not affect the balance, sound, or timing of the beat pattern being played with them. Too often making these changes to the cymbal pattern can leave the player feeling off balance which affects everything that happens after the change is made. This exercise, once practiced and comfortable, can eliminate those feelings and smooth out the transitions to help the player with creative decision making, or improvisation.

This exercise can be applied to any bass drum and snare drum beat. It can also be lengthened to 8, 12, or 16 measure sections to stretch the player’s ability to “feel time” and help with musical application. When practicing it is best to start with a medium tempo that you feel very comfortable with. Don’t use a metronome. Once you feel good about the arrangement of the exercise then you should begin to try different tempo: usually faster first, and still without a metronome. Every musician should take time to work on their own internal pulse.

Once you’ve experimented with a few different tempo; then start to test yourself with a metronome. Try a three tempo approach: slow, medium, and fast. For example, slow at 60bpm, medium at 90bpm, and fast at 120bpm. When you’ve mastered these tempo; make the slow slower and the fast faster. As you test yourself with the metronome, also take the time to play the exercise without the metronome and see if you can keep the pulse steady on your own. Think of the tempo you play like you are blowing up a balloon. When you start, you are in your comfort zone: it’s a base point…the balloon is empty. As you change tempo: you are expanding that balloon in every direction. Playing all tempo and being able to internalize them will make you a better musician and make you feel more comfortable with your instrument.

Lastly, when playing this exercise it is very important to listen to your instrument. Try to make the pattern sound clear and even at all tempo. Get into the sound of the pattern you are playing and make it sing. Above all else, remember that you are playing a musical instrument, and, even though, this is an exercise- it should still be musical.

For a downloadable copy of this exercise click on the title below, Thanks!

Timekeeping Exercise

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