Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Rock drill

Here's a rock drumming practice system, that is related to my harmonic coordination improved method, and also this post on developing rock fills. I've been using it with students of all ages, and have been doing it myself for getting in the zone for a rock recording session later in the week.

I'm finding it to be an extremely effective method for learning rock as an open texture, moving around the drums and using the whole instrument. The way people learn rock drumming is typically centered around learning beats, learning “parts” to songs, and learning fills. It's all very segregated, and way too nailed down, so I see a lot of students who are afraid to move off of the hihat, afraid to deviate from learned parts, and prone to panicking when attempting fills. This method gets us into a freer, more Keith Moon-like approach, with a driving 8th note pulse.

We'll be playing two kinds of notes in this system:

Cymbal and bass drum in unison. Any cymbal(s), played with either hand, or both hands.

Snare and toms in unison. Any two drums played at the same time, or flams on any one drum. Using both hands obviously.

You can get your practice patterns from several sources:

Using the accented 8th note exercises in Syncopation on pp.47-49. Play the written accents on a cymbal + bass drum, play unaccented notes on the snare/toms. As always, ignore the stems-down bass drum part written in the book.

Using any page of 8th note and quarter note rhythms in Syncopation, e.g. pp. 10-11, 30-32, or 34-45. Play the book rhythm on the cymbal + bass drum, and fill in the spaces in the rhythm on the snare/toms, to make a constant 8th note rhythm:

I also use my special page of 3/4 rhythms, while playing with a practice loop in 4/4.

Using the first pages of Stick Control. Play R notes on cymbal + bass drum, play L notes on the snare/toms:

Since both hands are playing the drums portion, the only sticking decision we have to make is which hand to use on the cymbals. Start by playing them all with the right hand; then all with the left hand:

Then play the cymbal notes both hands in unison, on two different cymbals:

You could also alternate hands on the cymbal notes:

Having your cymbal moves too worked-out looks contrived, goofy— see YouTube “drum cover” star Cobus whatshisface and others like him for endless examples of that. You don't need to work it to death. There are other things to think about than am I able to follow a difficult sticking system on the cymbal portion.

Every drum and combination of drums you play has a specific effect. Spend some time exploring the possibilities moving around the toms, and figure out what sounds cool to you. With only two tom toms, the moves are kind of limited when you have your hands on two different drums. There's more room to experiment when you're playing both hands on the same drum, as flams. For example:

When doing the flams, do them rock & roll style, with both hands at roughly an even volume. I suggest playing them all left-handed— meaning the right hand falls first:

 Then you can turn them into 16th notes just by displacing the left hand a little bit. The entire time you've been doing this system, you've been practicing getting your 16th note fills in time.

The idea here is to cover a lot of easy patterns, that are easy to move around the drums and cymbals, focusing on the timing, the sound, and the energy. I think you should do these with a practice loop or song, alternating measures (or several measures, or partial measures) of the drill with whatever rock beat you like for the song. No pressure at all to make the changes on the 1, or to follow a repetitive practice phrase exactly. Scroll through my practice loops and see if you can find one that is a good tempo and feel for you.


Unknown said...

thank you for this ... easy fills and beats are right up my street if it then gives me the mental space to really put some expression ,energy and control of the sound i'm producing into a band vibe .. I've visited your site many times because it's quality ,a lot of what you suggest is beyond me and therefore your nod to the basics of rock is much appreciated .. think its about time I bought a couple of your books!

Todd Bishop said...

Thanks, I appreciate it! And thanks for buying the books! tb