Here’s a clip of the KB Project live at a benefit for the Maryland Theater in Hagerstown, MD. Thanks!!
Upon hearing the news of the passing of Paul Motian today, I decided to write a little about what his records, especially the recordings in the 1960′s with Bill Evans, have meant to me. The first time I heard the Bill Evans Trio “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” was the first time I ever heard any “broken swing” and, also, the first time I heard Paul Motian. When I brought home the record, I didn’t quite understand what was going on musically, but the more I listened the more I was amazed at the interplay between the musicians, and the beauty of the phrases that were being played on the drums. As a young player at the time, I listened to that recording of the Bill Evans Trio over and over, and wanted to hear more. I picked up other recordings of that particular trio and started to also get into some of the more modern recordings that Paul Motian had made. I truly admire the playing of Paul Motian. As I have heard others say, he was a poet on the drums. He was a musician (and a drummer), and his legacy of musicianship will live on in those that his approach and creativity has touched. The very unique way he played can never be duplicated, but the energy and thoughtfulness that his music provides will live on as long as musicians search for inspiration.
“Music, it’s good to have in the house; just like having flowers in the house, it’s beautiful. We should listen to all kinds of music- everything.” -Art Blakey, 1985
As a musician, it is important to learn and listen to different styles of music for many reasons. In this article I’d like to share some of my thoughts on playing different styles of music and why, as a teacher, I think it is necessary for every musician’s growth. As a drummer and percussionist, I think that all players of my instrument have a lot to gain from listening to and performing all styles of music. The more you listen to and play different styles of music; the more rhythms and rhythmic patterns you can learn, develop, and perform. Even though rhythm can be somewhat limited, this will help you make new discoveries and give you a chance to be more creative. For example, if you like to play rock or funk you have a lot to gain from learning how to play jazz or latin styles because you have to view and use the instrument differently to play those styles when compared to the styles you like. Check out these examples of players that developed different styles of music.
Michel Petrucciani Trio-Take the A Train (Steve Gadd-Jazz example)
Eric Clapton-Bell Bottom Blues (Steve Gadd-Rock example)
Hancock,Carter,Cobham-Eye Of The Hurricane (Billy Cobham-Jazz example)
Billy Cobham-Red Baron (Funk example)
I believe that developing different styles of music helps you to develop your own voice. The process of listening to and working on various styles of music helps you gain experience and use your instrument in ways that you wouldn’t if you never go through the process. As you learn new styles, you will incorporate what you like from those styles into your own playing: it’s inevitable. This will help you create your own sound because you’ll take patterns from various styles and begin to put them together in ways that you enjoy. Learning more about music will always give you new ideas and aid your development as a musician. Check out these examples of players who have clearly developed different styles of music and have developed their own voice in the process.
Medeski,Martin&Wood-Rise Up (Billy Martin)
Stanton Moore- (Don’t Be Comin’ With No) Weak Sauce
The Bad Plus- Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Dave King)
New ways to use your instrument makes you a stronger player because in each style of music you develop you will use your hands and feet in new ways. This, in turn, will give you better body control and coordination. Coordination, or balance, helps your reaction time and your overall feeling of comfort when playing the instrument. Feeling of comfortable at the drums is extremely important for your musical and technical approach: the more relaxed you feel, the easier everything becomes. Movement to the different instruments of the set and your musical use of those instruments are both made simpler if you feel solid and balanced in your approach. For more information on coordination, check out my blog on “Balance” on how to gain a better approach.
Music, like any art form, can be very opinionated, so to insure a good relationship with music it is important to develop a healthy opinion. In developing your opinion, it is good to keep an open mind and try to listen to various genres, even ones that you don’t have any experience playing. Another part of developing your musical opinion is finding a mentor or industry professional that can help you grow. Finding the right teacher is something that helps you develop musically, technically, and in your knowledge of music past and present. I truly thank all of my teachers for the musical knowledge they have given me on a performing and a listening level. Without help from my mentors I wouldn’t have found some of my musical heroes and favorites. I’d like to close with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite drummers, Art Blakey, who in a 1985 video called “Jazzmakers” said this: “Music, it’s good to have in the house; just like having flowers in the house, it’s beautiful. We should listen to all kinds of music- everything. Mostly what we do is done to some kind of music. If a child is born they play music. If you die, they play music. They play when you march off to war. Music is a very important thing. Music to wake up by, music to sleep by, music to dance by, all kinds of music.” Fill your head and heart with song and you’ll be sure to create your own music in life.
Please check out this article/interview that the wonderful folks at weareyep.com have put together for me! Their site is fantastic and, although they are just getting started, I am expecting great things from them! Check out my feature here, Yep’s spotlight.
How you set up your drum set is personal and unique, and, musically speaking, can make everything that you do easier. The difference between players lies in the placement and spacing of the individual instruments of the set. Some players like the drums and cymbals closer together than others, so figuring out what works best for you and playing with a comfortable arrangement of your drum set is very important. The tips that I will be giving you in this article relate to how you already set up your drums, and will be ideas for you to test while you hit the drums.
First, you should set up your drums and cymbals and get them into an arrangement that is how you currently like to play. We will start by taking a look at the position of your seat. You should center your body on the snare drum and make sure that your feet are an equal distance apart when you place them on the pedals. If your feet are not an equal distance apart; then try moving the hi hat to a position that helps you sit that way. There is more information on seat placement in my “Balance” article from a few months ago, so check that out.
Next, we’ll look at the height of the snare drum. The snare should be at a level that is easy to play. You don’t want the snare drum too high or too low, so make sure that it is at a height that doesn’t make you feel that you have to change the angle of your arms to play it. You should keep your forearm flat from your elbow to your wrist when playing the snare. If the drum is too high; you’ll feel cramped, and if the drum is too low; you’ll end up hitting your legs a good bit. The way to judge the height of the snare is to adjust it to be about belt height: a few inches above or below your waist.
“Playing all the drums should have a nice flow and an easy feeling when you have the instruments arranged comfortably, no matter what speed you are playing.”
Now that we’ve taken care of your seat and snare drum, let’s look at the tom drums. The toms above the bass drum, or mounted toms, should be fairly close together in order to play them comfortably. Their angle, distance from you, and height are what we can change to get a more fluid playing position. The toms should be at an angle and distance that is easy to play, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to lean into or away from the drum set to play them. The mounted toms should also be at a height that relates to one another and allows for a smooth transition when playing from one to the other. You should only have to raise your forearms and extend your arms a little to hit each mounted tom. Try playing from the snare to the mounted toms, and back and forth a little, to test the angle, distance, and height of this relationship. If the position of these three drums feels good; then move on to the floor tom. The floor tom should be kept at a height that is similar to the snare drum. It doesn’t have to be the same exact height, but it shouldn’t be higher than the snare. The distance from the snare that you keep the floor tom is also something to take a look at and make sure it isn’t too far away. Some players only leave a space that is large enough for their leg to fit through to the bass pedal; while others like the space larger between the floor tom and snare so that it is more to the side of the bass drum. Where you place your’s is something to evaluate to make sure that it feels connected to the other drums of the set. Try playing around the drums in a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction to test out all the drums, and then make small adjustments to the angle, distance, or height that you might want. Playing all the drums should have a nice flow and an easy feeling when you have the instruments arranged comfortably, no matter what speed you are playing.
When you have gotten the drums into a comfortable playing arrangement, move on to the cymbals. Cymbal placement is even more player specific than the placement of the drums. There is really no right or wrong place to keep the cymbals on your set, except for the hi hat. The hi hat cymbal needs to relate to the bass drum pedal, your seat, and to the snare drum, as mentioned above. Since you have already placed the pedal/stand in a spot that relates to the rest of your set up, you should test the relationship between the hi hat and the snare drum. To do this, play a beat pattern and make sure that you can keep your hands, wrists, or arms over one another while playing the hi hat and the snare. If you can’t or don’t have your hands in this spot; then you should make some adjustments by moving the hi hat. Use your judgement to figure out which direction to move the hi hat stand: just make sure that where ever you move it is still a comfortable place for your feet. When you can comfortably play a beat between hi hat, snare and bass, then take a look at your other cymbals. Overall, you should have the cymbals close enough to the drums, both in height and distance from the set, so that you don’t have to extend your arms too much to play them. You should feel comfortable when you play all the cymbals on your set and not like you have to reach to hit individual instruments. Mostly, you should get the cymbals to positions over the drums that make sense and give you the ability to play them whenever the musical idea strikes you. The ride cymbal should be between the second mounted tom and the floor tom, or on the right side of the drum set, and at a height that is as low as possible. You should keep the ride low to be able to play on top of the cymbal comfortably and be able to access the bell of the cymbal easier. The crash cymbal or cymbals are important to place where they are easy to use, but there is no area that they need to be positioned as it relates to the rest of the set. Test out the placement of your cymbals by playing some beats or rhythms that include all of the cymbals you have, and make any adjustments you might want to get each to the best possible placement for you to use them musically.
I haven’t forgotten the bass drum but the main arrangement of your drum set is all about the drums and cymbals, and the bass drum is not really adjustable. However, there are some adjustments that you can make to your pedal to make playing the bass drum more comfortable. The main adjustment that you can make to the bass drum pedal is the tension on the spring. Your foot and the pedal should work together, and the tension on the pedal partially controls the way this can happen. The other part of controlling the pedal is how you play it, but we’ll concentrate on the tension. To find out what setting works best for you, play the pedal a little and pay close attention to the movement of your foot and the pedal. If your foot and the pedal don’t follow each other entirely or if you feel that the pedal pushes your foot after hitting the drum; then you may want to adjust the tension on the spring. If the pedal lags or doesn’t follow your foot; then tighten the tension. If the pedal feels like it’s pushing your foot; then loosen the tension. No matter which technique you use to play the bass drum, heel down or heel up, the tension of the pedal can make you more comfortable when playing the drum. Make sure to test the tension setting to get the best possible pedal movement for your foot.
I hope that the tips and hints have helped you get more comfortable with your drum set. It is important to keep in mind that your set up is always a fluid arrangement. You can always reposition any of the instruments of your drum set, and it is good to make sure the instrument still feel fluid as you add pieces. Finally, since you have taken the time to evaluate the arrangement of your drum set and position the instruments to get as comfortable as possible with them: go have some fun and hit ‘em!