Friday, December 04, 2020

New Joel Rothman book - Ambidexterity

So new I have to use this
crappy scan I did myself.
I just received a new book in the mail:

The Holy Grail for Total Independence At The Drum Set 
by Joel Rothman
41 pages. 

Joel Rothman has got to be the most prolific drum author in the world. He must have written at least 100 books in approximately the last 60 years. Many of them are micro-focused on one issue, others are extremely expansive— to the extent that they sometimes duplicate each other's material. Surprisingly(?) a lot of his stuff is quite modern, and he has a lot of good materials for developing an Elvin Jones type of thing, an ECM feel, and Jack Dejohnette's playing-fast-at-slow-tempos thing. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with his catalog, and don't hesitate to order any titles related to you your current interests. 

Rothman and I share a practical focus, and we agree on a number of basic principles— one of which is that writing practice ideas different ways, in a different context, helps you practice more productively. So the idea for this book is not necessarily new, but it's written in a way that should be useful for people getting deep into a certain thing— putting it in a single volume is a major help in developing this one idea. 

This book has the look of a technical library, with a lot of patterns written as two drumming voices, on opposite stems— as you see on the cover of the book. The rhythms generally overlap, and swap each other in the second measure or beat. There are some linear patterns with no unisons, which are more ordinary; I imagine they're included as warmups. Patterns are mostly written as 8th/16th note combinations in 4/4 or 2/4. There are also patterns with 16th note triplets; and with 8ths in 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8. And with 8ths and 16ths in 5/8 and 7/8.    

The idea is that you practice the patterns with every combination of individual hands/feet, and with unisons of both hands and both feet vs. the remaining single limbs. I would suggest also doing them with right hand/right foot unisons, and left hand/left foot unisons.

This would be a good book for anyone developing an independence-heavy way of playing. There's plenty of that going around the drumming world. Jazz drummers working on an Ed Blackwell kind of thing will like it— you could play the hands on the tom toms with a simple rhythm in the feet for a crash course in that type of playing. It could also just function as a Stick Control like “conditioning” manual.

It seems like a rather dense, abstract book, but I think it's pretty accessible for ambitious students, and it stays within the realm of musical reality. The right student or teacher to do a lot of useful practice with it. As with any purely technical study, students should have an idea of where to go with it musically— played with a funk interpretation, or Latin interpretation, or ECM-like interpretation, mainly. 

Get Ambidexterity and other books from

UPDATE A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER: I've been practicing this book a bit, and it's quite enjoyable. It's an alternative kind of independence study, that's a little different from everything else I do. There are some interesting things happening with resolving these patterns and playing them— it exercises your brain in a special way. 


Anonymous said...

Mr Rothman is like 82 and he's still writing drum books! Impressive!

joe_dumars said...

Thank you for this review. It does remind me the Dante Agostini Solfege Rythmique no 5 which is based on the same concept. Will order the book as I like this kind of stuff.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least Mr Rothman knows some international publication...
In the end 70ies French Author/drum teacher Dante Agostini published (among many other books) his "Methode de Batterie Vol 4. In this book you can find many - maybe all? exercises of Mr. Rothman's book.

As joe_dumars already mentioned Dante Agostini Solfege Rythmique no5 also offers very indeep studies of this topic.

I know some of Mr Rothman's books - unfortunately the only thing I can say about him: he is a very busy writer, but you can find all of his stuff in other books.
In my eyess Mr Rothman is just a 'copycat'.