Friday, February 18, 2011

Best books: Rudimental Patterns by Joe Cusatis

Rudimental Patterns
Full Drum Set Studies for the Modern Drummer
by Joe Cusatis

This book represents pretty much everything I've always felt is wrong with the traditional approach to learning the drums, and I LIKE IT. For the better part of my study I've always looked for ways to multiply my practice efforts: if I worked on something, I wanted it to work on several levels at once- reading, hand technique, four-way coordination, orchestration on the fly, musical interpretation- as many things as I could fit in, I would. Things like pure, mindless calistenics, and pre-packaged licks (especially out of that traditional Krupa-like bag) were verboten. If it could not be learned through a quasi-musical application, it was not worth learning.

What I'm finding in working through this book (and a few others like it) is that not only do calisthenics actually work, they may be necessary. At the very least they're better for isolating a move and learning it completely and quickly, something more difficult (or easy to gloss over) when you're dealing with several issues at once. What I've found in my own playing is that there is a little bit of an Darwinian process at work, with some moves getting unconsciously weeded out of my playing through never having been learned thoroughly. Now, nobody cares if your left is a little slow making it to your floor tom, but I feel I have a little more freedom for not having to explicitly tell my hands to make certain things.


Many of the licks in the book are very cliche, and will be instantly recognizable if you're at all familiar with the more "drummery" drummers coming out of rock in the 60's- your Ian Paices and Ron Bushys- and your more bush-league Krupa clones. But I've found I actually prefer doing my calisthenics in the context of cliches rather than in the nearly content-free, purely logical/mechanical mode of some newer books (Rod Morgenstein's Drum Set Warm-Ups comes to mind)- I'm learning the moves and learning history at the same time. So far it has not caused me to start regurgitating jive licks verbatim.

I'm not wild about the archaic notation system, which uses a kind of exploded staff-for-dummies, which may have been easier for barely-literate drummers of the past to puzzle through, but is difficult for others to read quickly. It's a minor thing.

 So, another cherished ideal bites the dust. This book is recommended for anyone studying the drums- artist types like me will appreciate it filling in some technical gaps, and novices will appreciate someone giving them something to play.

Get Rudimental Patterns from Steve Weiss Music.

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