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
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!