Independence and Co-ordination pt. 2

This is a quick follow up to the previous blog.

Having been giving the triplet exercises to some of my students this week, I thought of something I should make clear.

The exercise is first and foremost about the use of the hi-hat. The main aim of this exercise is to give freedom to the hi-hat, both as an individual limb, but also as an anchor for the other limbs. Whether you are playing jazz, latin, rock or disco, the hi-hat can be invaluable as a time keeper. For me it’s second nature now to set the hi hat going on 1/4s or 1/8ths at the start of the song and just let it run. Obviously I am conscious of it but it’s not taking any effort to keep it going and, more importantly, it doesn’t interfere with what I want to do with my other limbs.

So, the thing to focus on in the exercises from the previous blog is ensuring that the hi-hat maintains a steady pulse. Keep doing the exercise until your left foot activity becomes natural and easy, and feels truly separate from the other limbs.

I should at this stage clarify that this is something I find useful. It may not suit everyone. I also think that it’s important that you go through similar exercises with other limbs (more of them to follow) and that you use your hi hat like you would your bass drum or hands. This for me is one of the joys of drumming, the huge almost limitless variety of approaches and techniques that one can explore.

Cheers

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Independence and co-ordination pt.1

I can’t stress how important I think it is to develop independence and co-ordination between all the limbs. Not only does this give you more freedom in terms of drum fills and solos, but it also makes it much easier to focus on the groove.

Something I say to all of my students is to not focus on locking limbs to one another for consistency, but rather focusing on locking each limb to the beat. As drummers, we are slaves (in a good way) to the metronome. By having independence we can ensure that each limb is individually, consistently on the beat. By having co-ordination we make sure that our limbs don’t get in each other’s way whilst doing this.

Needless to say, this stuff should all take place in the rehearsal space rather than on a gig, but that shouldn’t stop you from being conscious of it at all times.

Some independence comes easier than others. I find that most people can split the hands fairly easily. Right hand and foot can take a while, but the real toughy tends to be splitting the 2 feet successfully.

This is a fun warm-up I’ve been doing that’s good for hi hat independence.

Set the hi hat going on each beat with your left foot. This should remain constant.

Now play the a triplet between the other 3 limbs e.g.

1       2      3

RH   LH   RF

LF

(It’s interesting at this point to find out which variation you find the most natural – some people automatically lead with the foot, others with one of the hands)

Play this 8, 16 or however many times you need until it’s really comfortable.

To swap to the next variation without stopping, keep the hi hat going and play a double with the limb on beat one e..g

1       2       3       1

RH   RH   LH   RF

LF                    LF

Now the right foot is on beat 1. Again, play this until it feels comfortable, then do a double on the right foot so that the left hand is leading.

This creates a circle of 3 variations. Play the circle round and round, focusing on keeping the hi hat constant and the rhythm regular and even. I would do this at 60bpm until you are comfortable then speed it up!

Once you’re used to this one, swap the leading limb around. In other words, if you started by going RH, LH, RF, start again going LH RH RF.

Once you’ve got all 6, play them one after the other. Begin with 8 of each, then 4, then 2. this gives you less time to think and really strengthens the left foot independence.

I’ve listed the full 6 options below as a check list.

RH LH RF

RF RH LH

LH RF RH

LH RH RF

RF LH RH

RH RF LH

As with lots of these independence exercises, there is no need to be on the kit to do it. Try doing it on tube journeys, when you’re watching TV, important board meeting… just about anywhere really!

Good Luck!


Paradiddles in 24th notes

I’ve been messing around with putting classic stickings into less regular subdivisions recently.

My favourite is to play 6 single paradiddles over a bar at a subdivision of 24th notes.

A good way to get there is to play 3 bars of a basic 4/4 beat at 60bpm and then play a one bar fill of 24th notes, hand to hand.

Then change the sticking to double paradiddles, which is fairly standard stuff.

Then, simply change the sticking to single paradiddles. Focus on keeping the 24th notes even and in time.

This becomes interesting when you play the accents on toms or cymbals.

If you find it tough to get the timing with the different stickings, try singing the fill out loud whilst you play it. Also, go back to the hand to hand and play that a couple of times before returning to the alternate stickings.

Obviously, the paradiddles sticking is the tip of the iceberg. If you like the wonky feeling it gives, try the same thing with a sticking of 5 (4×5 with a 4 at the end), again hitting accents on other sound sources.

Have fun!


Why the blog?

I’ve begun this blog as a way to share the musical side of drums with the world. I never fail to be amazed at the sheer variety, beauty and magic that I find in the drums, both in my own drumming and in others’.

As an instrument the drums are unmatched in terms of their timbre, their range and their diversity.

As a drummer, I have both skills unknown to other musicians and a view that non-drummers don’t have and will rarely understand.

I spent much of my early teenage years yearning after stardom – “fame, fortune and everything that goes with it”, but I never felt comfortable, or confident when I moved out from behind the kit. I knew how to communicate using the drums and I knew how to make music!

What took me longer to get my head around was ‘the second position’. How the world views me as a drummer, whether on or off stage. It would be true to say that when a teenager I found it very difficult to deal with being almost entirely ignored, whilst someone only 3 feet away from me playing exactly the same music received rapturous applause (or at least the attention of the 5 people sat in the pub)! For a long time I thought that this was because I wasn’t good enough, or I wasn’t playing loud enough (that was a popular decision!), but it turned out that the world simply sees music and musicians in a different way to musicians themselves. For better or worse, the listening public have created a complex hierarchy of musicians based upon little knowledge but lots of opinions!

If it sounds like I’m moaning, please believe me that I’m not, though I am perhaps raising a shout for my confused and frustrated 13 year old self.

I think that I’m simply trying to explore a bit of the wonderful world of music that I haven’t heard anyone else speak about.

It’s easy for musicians to get typecast, and often with good reason. I’ve met a few egoless singers, but generally they do like people looking at them and fair play to them, it’s a great feeling. But how do the singers feel and view themselves, not in their songs, but as performers and musicians? How about guitarists, violinists or keyboard players?

As a drummer, I sit in what most musicians will tell you is the most important place on the stage. If that seems unlikely go and watch a band. The singer might stop unexpectedly, maybe for a drink of water or simply for dramatic effect. The bassist might stop, but then no one notices him anyway :). Either way, they’ll probably not be booed off stage. However, see what happens if the drummer stops unexpectedly. Everything grinds to a halt, song’s over, go home…

Despite my place on this lofty pedestal, I’m also in the place where I get ‘noticed’ the least and see the most. A comment that is often made at drum shows and clinics is about the wonderful warmth and brotherhood shared by drummers, that seems to be fairly individual amongst the many instrumental families. The very act of being on stage is almost guaranteed to create a level of self-belief, confidence and dare I say it arrogance. What I think the drum throne brings us is a sense of perspective. There’s little more humbling that walking off stage after making people dance for 2 hours to have a wedding guest come up and try to order drinks from you whilst you are standing by the bar! Of course, perspective only goes so far, but you get the point (I hope).

I should also point out that I’m not cussing the audience and I’m not saying that everyone is the same. I have no doubt that my views and opinions of ballerinas, police people, astronauts and politicians are both skewed and probably miss-informed and inaccurate. (aside from the politicians, about whom I’m fairly certain I’m right…).

It is this sense of perspective and the understanding that it gives us of both ourselves and the people who listen and watch us that make us buy 17 tom toms, 4 bass drums, a huge rack and 28 cymbals… I mean give us the humility to share and enjoy our art with other drummers. It also means that when we get on stage, regardless of the audience, that we are there for the only thing that matters… the music.