Back To The Woodshed
When I returned to drumming after almost a 14 year hiatus, I made a very clear decision to start my drum training from the beginning. I had no intention of resuming where I had left off. There was no focus placed on revisiting old patterns or songs. It was to be a clear, clean start.
I was rediscovering myself and the instrument and felt a definite need to address the effort from the ground up. Rebuilding all the skills needed to be an effective force behind the kit; a capable and accomplished practitioner that could hold their own under as many circumstances as humanly possible. Someone who could both unite, as well as propel them to new heights.
First Step: The Rudiments
In my previous drumming life, I didn’t maintain these drum training fundamental tools or building blocks of the art. I was caught up in trying to thrive and survive. Failing to recognize that these fundamentals must be practiced on an ongoing basis!
Yes, they are many years old and originally written only for the snare drum. They are still totally applicable to today’s complete drum kit.
The fundamentals are what every sports team, athlete, performer and competitor continues to address, maintain and wrestle with throughout their careers. The rudiments continue to provide a consistent and effective means to maintaining and developing our edge. They are an extremely valuable set of weapons in our tool box when applied musically and creatively. We’ll explore these more in a future post.
Second Step: Books and Study Material
I wanted to be current with what the drum training and teaching industries were currently promoting. It had been almost 14 years. Surely, there were new techniques and literature that had been developed and adopted.
Much to my surprise, I learned that the same three books were still considered the foundation and pillars of our trade! They were still found in abundance on the shelves of music stores everywhere.
My Top Three Drum Training Books
Syncopation by Ted Reed
Without question one of the most foundational and consistently relevant study materials for drummers of all styles. The secret to Syncopation is applying the exercises in a more versatile manner than communicated in the ‘Forward’ of the book. By all means start by using the book as suggested in the ‘Forward’.
However, where Syncopation really shines is as a guide for the development of all four limbs.
The enhanced approach should involve taking a line of melody as written in the snare drum space and applying it separately to all four limbs; initially to the snare (playing with one hand), followed by the ride cymbal, followed by the bass drum and finally by the hi-hat (played with the foot). While each limb is taking its turn on the melody, the remaining limbs should work together in playing straight time.
This will introduce all limbs to a more functional and independent approach for more advanced and creative playing.
Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone
The ultimate book for development of your hands. Use the book as suggested in the ‘Preface’. An enhanced approach should include accompanying your hands by keeping time with your feet. First a line of the hand exercise while keeping time with your right foot, then a line while keeping time with your left and then a line alternating between your left and right.
A second approach could involve splitting the left and right hands between two components of the drum set as opposed to just the snare. For example, a snare (or rim click) with your left hand and the closed hi-hat (with your stick) using your right.
The book is as relevant today as it was in 1935. By using an enhanced approach, you’ll hear elements of Latin and Hip Hop.
4-Way Coordination my Marvin Dahlgren and Elliot Fine
A real gem! As the title states, “A Method Book for Development of Complete Independence On the DRUM SET”.
You’ll be amazed at how instantly the authors have you playing using all four limbs independently and melodically!
Use it exactly as stated in the ‘Introduction’ and throughout the book. No point in messing with perfection.
Why These Books?
The secret to the longevity of these books in not merely the continuing purpose they serve in developing a fundamentally strong drumming foundation. Their added and perhaps even bigger benefit is the versatility and diversity they can add to your playing. They teach us the importance of execution, as well as being both consistent and creative in growing our drumming skills.
Their use as development, study and training tools go far beyond the written notes.
As communicated in each book; start the exercises by playing slowly. This will serve your subconscious abilities to play them at will forming the basis of muscle memory. Increase your speed as you progress but start slow.
Have fun and keep moving!
James Flowers says
I enjoy your articles very much. I am a 58 year old beginner haha and have much to learn. I appreciate the time and effort involved in keeping us informed.
Steve Feldman says
Thank you for your time, comments and reaching out.. Would like to hear more about your personal journey when your time permits.
Bravo to you for throwing your hat into the drumming ring! The rewards are many and there is always much to learn regardless of our stage or age.
Please feel free to connect again if you feel I can be of any assistance or have any questions.
There are more articles coming!
Hello. I’m CJ. I played drums in high school and college. I had a set for a time but didn’t do much with them. Then Life took over. Although over the years I wanted to return to drumming there always seemed to be an obstacle. Children to raise, parents to take care of, needed money for other things, the list goes on. Well here I am at 67 and retiring In December. I’m excited about that because I’m taking up drumming. I want to be a legitimate drummer. I bought a set of Sonor SQ2’s and a Jojo foot pedal and I’m giving myself a year of intense practice (4-6) hours a day. After all, I’m used to working more that 8 hours every day anyway.. I’m going to find a good teacher. I don’t expect to morph into an aged Jojo, lol. I might not be fast, but maybe I can be good. Cindy
It does my heart good to hear of someone who has never let their love of music and playing die. Even after all of these years! Your story is an inspiration for anybody (like myself) who has let “life” get in the way. I was a vocal student and choir member throughout high school and into college. I just decided (at my distinguished age of 19) that music education was just not practical or some such nonsense. Got a degree in music business but never really was interested in that either. So, almost 40 years later, I’ve finally gotten back into learning piano and starting to work with my voice again.
The fact that you never let it die says you are EXACTLY where you need to be right now. Don’t let the past ruin the present and beat yourself up about what you haven’t done. Just praise yourself every day for your insight and determination to pick up where you left off.
I am a believer in the power of music to heal and transform lives at ANY age. That is why I feel people at our age should try an instrument even if they’ve never played anything before. The things musicians see that others can’t are available to anybody who is open to it.
I think this community would really benefit from hearing your story from the beginning until now. Please contact me if you would be interested in taking part in an email interview at the very least. Then, I could publish updates on how you’re doing and the challenges you’re facing. I know others would love to know they are NOT alone and that getting back into music is not a silly idea or attempt to reclaim their childhoods. Even if that’s exactly what happens-LOL!
Finally, I applaud your determination to practice daily but please ease into this so you don’t burn out before you get settled on a direction.
Just drop me a line from the contact page if you’d like to pursue this story further.
Hello Jeff, thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I don’t think my life has been much different than others who might have missed out on their “calling” somewhere in the course of just living. I encounter people all the time who had a dream that was never realized. I don’t mean to imply that my life was a disaster because i didn’t clearly see the path I should have taken or just missed the opportunity. Like everyone I have experiences I wouldn’t now trade for a whole truckload of drums. It just is what it is. But, here I am finally at a time when I can do whatever I want to do. I still have other things trying to take first seat as usual. But this time it won’t work. This thing I long for comes first now. No one will be neglected or ignored, but they just might have to wait a minute while I finish my drumming and they just might have to tolerate a bit of what THEY might consider noise, lol. I’m just gonna put on my head phones and jam.
Check out Shinedown’s “Black Cadillac”.
Awesome and new to me! Thanks!
Having a serious drummer friend from an early age here is an example of the stuff I grew up with. Putting these guys together was a dream come true for me.
You’ve touched on something that cuts to the very heart of what we call being human. The experiences that we’ve had growing up that we wouldn’t trade for anything just highlights why we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about our imagined “other” path. My firm belief is unless we are people who have been afraid to do anything (listening to the amygdala protection voice in our heads) we should just drop all that mental baggage and realize we are exactly where we need to be right now. It’s not psychobabble either. I talk to people all the time who deeply regret so many things that it keeps them from seeing opportunities because they’re afraid they’ll “mess up” again.
You deciding that this is what you’re going to do right now is a perfect example of this too. I really believe if we’re able to just see ourselves as the future self that has accomplished whatever huge goal is ahead of is the journey goes much smoother.
Hoping you’ll consider my offer to document where you’ve come from and where you’re going.
Cynthia Rupe says
Hello Jeff, I don’t have a clue what there is about me to document. Right now I’m shopping cymbals. I had started with Zildjian in mind. Everybody knows them. Then I ran I to Meinl Byzance. Than Istanbul. Now I’m intrigued with Bosphorus 15” Black Pearl Hi Hats. Granted I have only heard any of them over speakers,. But I have good speakers, Allison one’s. I’m on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, access is extremely limited. Zildjian I can hear first hand. The others not so much. Do you have experience with any of the others? And what do you think? I won’t get my drums till Thanksgiving when my son brings them. I’m chomping at the bit. I would at least like to have a hi hat when they arrive but I’m stuck in indecision.
Do you have access to a Guitar Center near you? They are great places to go see and hear equipment in person.
I’m not the drummer in the family so my experience is limited to those of my drumming friends. As I’ve written in the about page, I try to do the research on any piece of gear I review from a number of sources and compile it for my readers. I think it’s good because you don’t get just MY opinion on anything we review.
Perhaps Steve, who wrote this story might be able to offer his insights? What say you, Steve?
The author of the post, Steve, has graciously agreed to respond to your question early next week. Make sure and look for that.
Great to hear you’re throwing your hat back into the ring after a prolonged absence. No substitutes exist for passion and purpose.
As you may have discovered the cymbal search is a very different than a drum search. With drums, their sound can be changed more to suite your style. This can be done through selection of heads and tension. With cymbals this isn’t the case. The fundamental sound of the cymbal out of the box must appeal to you then and there.
All the brands you’ve mentioned are reputable brands. You’ll need to decide the type of sound you’re after and go in that direction with any of them.
With that in mind you may find the greatest selection with Zildjian.
I’ll give you an example. My taste in cymbals is that of a vintage sound. In particular my ride cymbal for the most part needs to have ‘Vintage’ sound quality. A warmer, darker sound that represents an abundance of harmonics and frequencies when played; similar to pop music we heard in the 60’s & 70’s. The bottom end of the ride sonic spectrum should be present. In short, a very wide dynamic range.
With that in mind, if I were to own one set of cymbals it would be the Sabian AA series. I’ve used my 20 inch AA Medium Ride on rock, pop and jazz gigs, as well as in the studio. I also like the AAX series for the same ‘one set of cymbals’ application. The AAX series has a slightly more modern sound…a brighter sound. These series run about the middle of the pack in price for Sabian. I have lots of other cymbals both Sabian & Zildjian that I’ve accumulated but the AA/AAX is a very versatile cymbal series.
With the ‘one set of cymbals’ theme in mind, I would also recommend Zildjian. Explore something you can actually hear in person if possible and as you’ve stated Zildjian gives you the best shot. All cymbal manufacturers provide cymbals in sonically matched cymbal packs. A ride, crash and set of hi hats in a box. This may be your best option for your first set. Manufactures have created a lot of niche sounds and cymbals to stimulate their market, however we’ve reached a time where you can purchase a quality set of cymbals in a pack.
Cymbal selection and manufacturing has also come a long way in the last couple of decades. You don’t have to break the bank to get decent sounding cymbals, but they should sound pleasing to you on the first few strokes. Their sound will vary very slightly over the years if you do a lot of playing. Not enough to go from questionable to ‘now I like them’.
If you stay on the ‘Medium’ path in terms of weight, as opposed to Heavy or Light, you’ll be just fine in terms of purchasing your first set of cymbals with maximum versatility. You can always purchase other types and sizes as time goes on.
Hope this helps Cynthia. Feel free to reach out or connect any time.
Cynthia Rupe says
Hello Steve, thank you for your cymbal info. I just now got back In And found your message. Yes, I’ve discovered buying them is much different than drums. It’s driven be about crazy as you will see. I’ve listened to cymbals till I’m blue in the face as I really don’t know what kind of sound I’m looking for. Just listening to them I tend to lean toward the darker end. I did find a 22” Sabian AAX ride on sale and snatched that one. I then bought an Istanbul Agop 20” Sultan crash cymbal. Then just because I took a fancy to it for some reason I bought a Meinl Byzance 24” dark big Apple ride, it’s really dark and I love it. I know I have a hodge lodge here. For a Hi Hat I bought a Bosporus , I think 15”.. I know, I keep thinking I should have gotten a pack, I wish I’d gotten to your message sooner. Life got a bit nuts at home and work and I’ve been off the site for a bit. As you can see I got a little crazy with it. I’m sure out of these there will be a couple I’ll Gravitate toward and in the process define the sound I most like In Cymbals. I’m definitely not into the trashy sound, lol. Well, thank you for responding. I will definitely keep your good advice in mind when I start trying to get this menagerie of different sounds to work together. Im thinking I might have to separate them and create two different sets. We’ll see. Thank you again, have a great day.
Cynthia Rupe says
Hello Jeff, sorry I’ve been out for a bit. Thank you for asking Steve for his input. I got the message a bit late and that’s my fault for not checking back in sooner. It’s been a bit crazy here. Calming down now. As you will read from my response to Steve, my selection of cymbals is bit of a hodge lodge. I do like all of their sounds but I don’t know how they will fit together. But, I’m not opposed to separating them into two sets and filling in The gaps in each set with a more comparable cymbal. I have no idea what sound I’m looking for in a cymbal. I grew up listening to everything from big band, to swing, early rock-n-roll, the music my parents and my older sister were in to. Then the hard rock and hippy scene in my teen and young adult years. Then I was a music major and got into classical. From there, when my son started playing sax and got into music there came all the new music of his era and now my taste in music runs the full gamut. Presently I’m listening to Seether, Linkin Park, Two Steps From Hell, Three Days Grace, Theory of a Dead Man, Shinedown and I absolutely love Hu (Mongolia). They are definitely different, lol. You get the idea. Only thing you won’t find much of In my library is Country. I like some but not much. So you see, what sound do I like? I don’t know, I like them all !! How are you doing now days?
Bob Albiston says
A pair of 16″ Bosphorous Black Pearl hi hats, 1000g and 1210g, arrived last week for a change up from my ’57-’59 Zildjian Paper Thins. They sound excellent and are visually stunning. I wanted the best ears I know to hear them, so had the finest jazz drummer of the region come by (world class and performs and records often with same), He clearly stated he’d keep them and appraised their sound as beautiful. There is a depth of wash and the nicest sizzling shoosh around. The stick definition is clear, the “chick” is both musical and solid, but not shrill or sharp (a must for close miking and recording). My friend was expecting something too thick and heavy as most are these days. For loud, I’ll keep my Paiste Sound Edge from my trip-hammering days of the CBGB stage in in the closed for the foreseeable future. I am a senior guy who does jazz, Latin, R&B, jazzy blues, and ultra modern drumming. Yeah, these aren’t for unmiked loud performances. But for more nuanced musicality and recording, they are one of those “at the end of the day” instruments. Sound sampling and a brief trial period are key. These took about five days to really learn. Got mine from Memphis Drum Shop as there aren’t any local shops around here and GC doesn’t have anything quite like them. Oh, Seether is very good.
Steve Feldman says
Hey Bob, it sounds like you’ve acquired a new opportunity to add to your sonic spectrum. I’ve seen those 16” Bosphorous online and they are stunning indeed. Hi hats of that diameter definitely give you a new world of sounds over the traditional 14” hats. With guys from our era there’s never enough snare drums and never enough cymbals/hi hats. Bosphorous makes a high quality product and it’s great that you’re excited with your purchase and pleased with their sound right out of the box.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Thanks for reaching out, Steve. You have a nice project here. I tried to be descriptive of the Bosphorus hats, knowing there isn’t much written about them out there. They are breathing fresh elements into the flow. At the same time, tastes, applications, and stylistic needs make the quest a fascinating challenge. This relaxed forum should be helpful to lots of folks.
Happy Thanksgiving all!
Guitar Lessons Auckland says
Thank you for sharing about how i got back into drum training, these will be really helpful for me. I love reading this blog; it talks so much about planning a great idea about it. Keep sharing such informative articles in future, will be appreciated.
Thanks for stopping by! Glad you were able to find us in the Auckland! We’ll do our best to keep bringing content that helps our community. Steve did a wonderful job on this piece!
John Deay says
I come from Bonnie Scotland and was taught by a man called GEORGE DRENNAN of Kilmarnock . He taught me how to play and read music and I became a session drummer . I was taught by his method and the famous BUDDY RICH s . I played on the boats toured with cabaret acts and what we call THE PIT in Scotland doing PANTOMIMES which you had to read music to do . I wonder if there is room in this modern day for drummers as there is so much techno. you wonder if the people on stage are playing or not . I was never a rock drummer but I think these guys really play . Jay
Steve Feldman says
Hi Jay, and thank you for sharing your story. Most drummers I know including myself would consider themselves fortunate to have received the training and professional exposure that you have through the efforts of Mr. George Drennan.
I personally try to promote to all drummers I come in contact with (both young and old) to pursue reading if they haven’t already done so. It’s a gateway to unprecedented musical growth that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to take advantage of.
I think that as musicians grow, they become aware of the wealth of musical forms out there regardless of forms that existed when they began. I would like to think that reading plays a part in that. Even learning the 40 P.A.S. Rudiments could not be accomplished without reading. They may have been originally written for the snare drum, but they are most definitely applicable to the drum kit through some creative expression.
As for technology and drumming; It really began in the 1980’s with electronic looping and sequencing. It was then that many drummers were forced to play to a “click” both in the studio and live, and it was then that the act of drumming took a huge hit in studio produced music.
Although much of what is being produced today is nowhere near as organic as it was prior to the 80’s, there continues to be a lot of great drummers out there who continue to stretch the boundaries of our art form and through necessity incorporate technology into their repertoire to remain current.
But I do agree…most of these guys can and do play.