Sunday, May 04, 2014

Gladstone (et al) method for Stick Control

I stumbled across this piece of drumming lore, posted in 2006 on the Drummerworld discussion forum: Billy Gladstone's way of practicing Stick Control. According to a guy posting anonymously on the Internet. It does sound like he learned the routine from a reliable source; it's entirely possible that there are only 1-3 degrees of separation between him and Gladstone himself. Or he could be just a misinformed individual with out-of-whack priorities— you be the judge. I've never done this regime— and never will do it, because I can already kind of play the drums, and life is too short— but here it is, for posterity, and your consideration:

“This is by no means the only way to do [Stick Control], but this is a proven way to get some serious technique together. It requires A LOT of patience, and I don’t suggest starting it if you aren’t going to finish it. It’s EXTREMELY difficult sometimes. And also, the method takes about 3-5 years to complete. And you only practice the first page of the book.


Set your metronome to an 8th note of about 100. Most drummers should be able to do anything on the first page at that tempo after a few minutes of messing around. Now spend an entire week working [text is garbled— sounds like he means Stick Control, page 4, exercises 1-5]. Just singles, doubles, and the first paradiddle exercise. Only those [exercises], extremely slow. The doubles and paradiddles should sound EXACTLY like singles. It’s good to go over this method with a teacher, or to record yourself doing it on a snare drum to make sure everything is perfect. Then, one week later, you practice single, doubles, and the next exercise, inverted paradiddles (RLLRLRRL). If it takes you two weeks to get it perfect, fine. Give youself time on these excercises. 
Another difficult part of the exercise is that every minute or so you should raise your stick to at least a 12-16 inch height and play at that height for 8 measures. Then you bring in back down. You must do this perfectly in time and make sure all the strokes are still uniform in dynamic and tonal quality and all that jibba jabba. This will give you “good pain” after a while, your muscles WILL get sore, but they will never give you terrible pain. 
Remember, just like G.L. Stone said, stay relaxed 100% of the time, even when you go up. You should be putting at least 30 minutes a day into these excercises. 
So you spend 2 months, going through excercises 5-24 or something at tempo 100. Done now? Great! Now you do it all over again at 104! and 108! and 112! and 116! and so on!. Never go up more then one click on a metronome when starting the page over. 
The reason this exercise method is so difficult is because you have to be so patient. A lot of younger drummers especially want to start faster, speed up the next day, blah blah blah. If you do that you WILL NOT IMPROVE AS QUICKLY. This exercise really seriously does require patience. It apparently takes an entire year to get from 200 to 208. 
The reasons this exercise is GREAT are numerous. First of all, you are always working on singles and doubles. Singles and doubles are what most of drumming is made of. Second of all, spending a couple weeks on only one combination of 8 notes makes you completely intimate with the pattern, and you will be able to interchange it in time with any feel you want. I guarantee you that by the time you finish this exercise (in 2112 or so) you will have some SERIOUS technique. One of my drum teacher’s older students is on 176 or something(he's been doing for 3 1/2 years) and has some crazy technical abilities.

Good technique means you can learn parts faster.
Yay for good technique! 
p.s. do these excercises on a practice pad with LOTS of rebound. Don't worry, you won't need a pillow to "feel the burn" once you get to about 138 or so.”

Yay, indeed. But what do we do with that? This sort of simplicity is appealing to a lot of people— they're attracted to simple, rigorous-seeming practice philosophies, but which demand what I consider to be impossibly vast reserves of time and patience. Since there are many, many other things in drumming at least as important as stellar snare drum technique, we have to take it on faith that results of this very narrow, virtually content-free, regime will be much greater than the sum of its parts. I would also caution novices against self-teaching this regime— do not attempt it until you have spend some time with a good, professional teacher, and you have a pretty good idea of correct technique.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I remember when I first found this post back when I was in college. I've attempted a slightly different version (I actually posted it in this thread many years after jazzsnob posted this version), but I always ended up going off track due to time constraints and a lack of discipline. I do plan to attempt it again very soon though. The main difference in my version is incorporating the feet, which to not do this and still invest this kind of time is ludicrous in my opinion. I simply do the standard jazz bass drum/hihat ostinato underneath while playing the sticking exercises evenly with my hands and keeping everything under control. I do each exercise for 5 minutes and no more than 6 exercises a day. It's a nice 30 minute workout that's great for loosening up.