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Ok, so first off… I dropped the ball on this blog series. Last entry 2016 = fail. So I’m getting things back on track by talking about the autobiography of Bill Bruford. You can pick it up on Amazon, (Prime) or if you get lucky like me, the shelves of Cheap Thrills here in Montreal.

I’m listening to King Crimson Red while I write this. Bruford spends a great deal of time writing about this album in the book, saying ” I love Red. It was my third attempt at recording with the band, and despite the confused and genuinely upsetting circumstances surrounding its creation, the record has a coherence and a gritty consistency that has translated well across several decades of rock and an influence beyond the pain of its making.” Intrigued?! You must read on!

Have you wondered about the trashy cymbal in the track “One More Red Nightmare“? It was a cymbal Bruford found in a rehearsal room trash can, left by the group before them. It was turned up on one side just to fit in the bin and “it had seen better days… I have no idea what happened to it. Its maltreatment had bequeathed it this fabulous trashy sound with very short decay. It looked so sad; I took pity on it and we fell in love.”

Ok need I say more? We all can relate to this deep love for our instrument, the hidden gems, the broken down yet magical sounds we find.

Another highlight for me was Bruford’s description of original drummer Jamie Muir‘s drumset for the album Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. Clearly inspired by the vast sounds Muir used, Bruford began to approach his kit in new ways, comparing it to the ‘prepared’ piano approach of Cage and Nancarrow. He states “what if you got rid of all the toms, and substituted oil barrels instead? What if you put baking trays in the bass drum and chains all over the toms?… Jamie Muir had done just that in his Larks’ Tongues In Aspic period to produce the divine clattering on the album’s title track.”

The book is personable and insightful, critical and endearing.  One of the greatest progressive rock drummers of all time, Bruford draws you into his world, his impressions on music and approach to drumming.

(p.s. I love Bill Bruford’s Earthworks album All Heavan Broke Loose… and that’s another story.)

Best, Ben

Want to read more? Check out my last post: Books for Drummers: The Complete Ludwig Guide

DTX Dances

Feb 18

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aka Drum Dances Mov. 1 by John Psathas

Having very recently picked up my first electronic drumset, the Yamaha DTX920k, I thought I’d record Drum Dances, a piece I originally recorded acoustically for my album ‘Katana of Choice – Music for Drumset Soloist‘.

My acoustic setup included a collection of Splash cymbals, China, 2 Crashes and a Ride, so… with the DTX I made the 2 Crashes activate Splash cymbals when struck on edge and the Ride sounds a China when it is struck on edge. I’m using the Oak Custom kit, tuned to match my acoustic Oak Customs. I reduced the sustain and took off things like chorus and reverb that are automatic with the presets.

Tweaking things will continue as I’m sure there are still deep settings that will improve even more the feel and response of the pads.. but I think this is a great start! Check out the video and stay tuned for more:

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Recording for Katana of Choice by Nicole Lizée is just around the corner.  The title track to my solo drumset album is a concerto for drumset and percussion quartet. I’ll be joined by the one and only TorQ Percussion ensemble with Ray Dillard producing at Canterbury Music Company studio in Toronto.

Here’s a clip of my solo part featuring some acoustic guitar goodness:

I’ve been doing the same drumset warm up for the past 5 years and probably will continue for as long as I can hold sticks. I figure, don’t mess with a good thing!

My initial interest in this particular exercise came from my decision to learn the drumset solo Ti-Re-Ti-Ke-Dha (1979) by James Dillon (check out my performance here). At this early stage of my doctoral studies (2011) I realized my ability to perform excessive polyrhythmic variations was in serious need of improvement.

Enter Marc Atkinson’s The UnReel Drum Book. While the book is packed with grooves and charts featuring the drumming of the great Vinnie Colaiuta, the real draw for me are the Rhythm Scale exercises featured in my video below. From the basic approach found in the book, I have been able to shape the exercise to meet my various technical needs (which have been many!) over the years, helping with not only polyrhythms and independence but also hand and feet speed.

In this video I first play the basic rhythm scales from eight notes (2) to thirty-second notes (8) over one of the ostinatos (#5) recommended in the UnReel Drum Book. I then do two of the many possible variations that I have come up with. There are so many possibilities for these and it really depends on what I am focusing on from one day to the next.

The Rhythm Scales really changed everything for me and opened up so many possibilities in my performance. I highly recommend checking them out.

Enjoy.

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One session down (I’ll post clips from the Ligeti/Cossin session soon) and I’m pumped to be onto the next one this Monday. Up next is Architek‘s (well… really Ben Duinker‘s) arrangement of Drum Dances by John Psathas.

Back in the day I recorded two movements of this work with my friend and killer pianist Andy Costello. Check out our recording:

Architek’s version that we are recording next week is for drumset and 3 mallet percussionists (2 five-octave marimbas and vibraphone). There are plenty of heavy hitting drumset moments for the soloist, but one of my favourite parts has to be the 2nd movement featuring a delicate glockenspiel melody overtop kick and hi-hat pulses. I decided to have fun with my new Zoom camera and split screen with this video:

Also check out this sweet groove from Movement 4:

I’ll be working with engineer/producer John Klepko and my Architek boys at Oscar Peterson Hall in Montreal. I’ll share footage from these sessions for sure!

– b

 

 

I am thrilled to be including a new arrangement of “Drum Dances” by John Psathas on my upcoming album Katana of Choice: New Works for Drumset Soloist. Originally for drumset and piano, this will be the premiere recording of Architek Percussion‘s very own arrangement for drumset and keyboard percussion. Architek member Ben Duinker has done an amazing job putting this arrangement together.

Today, while rehearsing the 4th movement, I could not decide on what Ride Cymbal was best for the job. So I have made a video of two Ride heavy moments in “Drum Dances” in hopes that you all can help me choose.

I have narrowed it down to the following three options. Each Ride is unique with complex tones and colour, while also having a distinct bell sound. The composer has specifically written in every bell hit you hear, so a clear, sharp bell attack is a must. The cymbals are:

Sabian 22″ Prototype (#1), Sabian 21″ Vault Crossover and another 22″ Sabian Prototype (#2)

Check out this video and let me know what sounds best by commenting here or on Facebook.

Thanks for your help!

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This morning I’ve been re-exploring the amazing collection of The Ludwig Drummer magazines that were compiled and reissued by Centerbook Publishing.

As mentioned in the preface, The Ludwig Drummer was published intermittently for over fifty years, starting in the mid-1920s. Articles focus on many areas of percussion: performance, pedagogy, percussion ensemble, orchestral, marching, drumset, keyboard, recording techniques. I became obsessed with this collection while working on the historical content of my dissertation Defining the Role of Drumset Performance in Contemporary Music (2013).

One of the highlights was learning more about the term faker. In Vol. 1 No, 10 written by William F. Ludwig, he comments that the early players between 1880 and 1897 where not allowed to improvise. “If a drummer attempted to improve on the part, that is to play the so-called rhythm beats of today or fill in, he would be stopped, termed a faker and politely requested to discontinue.” 

My favourite article is probably “How I Pounded My Way to Glory” by the bizarre, fictional drummer and regular contributor to the magazine, “Swat” Sticka. Here, as shown in the image above, Sway tells of his double drumming days, “before the advent of the foot-pedal” and describes himself as “king of the triple threat beats on snare drum, bass drum and cymbal” and continues to say “the stuff you hot dance drummers are now doing is a steal from our good old double-drumming days.”

What a great commentary on some of the attitudes and opinions that existed towards the early transitions in drumming. From the rigid, accompaniment role of the late 1800s double drummers to the improvisational and more expressive style that would follow, the change clearly did not come without controversy.

This collection gives amazing insight into the development of our instrument, the performance practices and trends and so much more. Check it out.

Now to end with one more quote from Swat, “One fellow wrote that he thought I was a faker – that I never really drummed in my life. Say, I’ve drummed to SAVE my life (but that’s another story).

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I’m gearing up for my first of many recording sessions for my upcoming album Katana of Choice: New Works for Drumset Soloist. On May 6th I’ll join David Cossin at his home studio in New York City to record the drumset duetLakoni in Kazonnde” by composer, Lukas Ligeti.

David and I have performed this work twice – the premiere at the Bang On A Can Marathon in 2013 (short clip here) and more recently at the Lukas Ligeti birthday concert. This past week, while practicing in  preparation for the recording, I came to the realization (or allowed myself to admit) that I really had not learned some sections of the piece properly. As a result, I was struggling to play a few of the more complex moments with any consistency.

Considering why this was the case, where I had gone wrong, the solution was almost embarrassingly obvious… I hadn’t taken my own advice. For years I have been telling students, from beginning kit players to Master’s level contemporary percussionists that they have to develop and rely on their inner pulse. Maintaining our inner pulse, that ability to feel a constant, steady beat, no matter how complex the music is, should be at the core of everything we play.

This probably seems really obvious, especially to drummers. It is the foundation of what we do. Yet I have found that in the world of contemporary percussion performance, when a player finds themselves in a multi-percussion setup or behind a 5 octave marimba, basic principles of the inner pulse can be forgotten. No matter how complex the music, no matter how many layers upon layers of polyrhythms we are confronted with, if you can’t feel an inner pulse while playing, you don’t really know the material. Can you tap your foot to that? Can you physically feel the pulse while playing? If not, there is still work to do.

Ok, so back to me in the practice room with “Lakoni in Kazonnde”. There is a section where hands are playing quintuplets between cymbals, toms and a melodic cowbell pattern, while the right foot is accenting different parts of each quint on the bass drum. Now my left foot isn’t doing anything in this section… and that was the problem. The music was so complex that I couldn’t naturally beat the quartet pulse, which is something I was doing in the measures before and after this particular section. I was ignoring the importance of the inner pulse and there was clearly still work to do.

So I slowed everything down, started from scratch and trained my left foot to feel the pulse again. This section went from being a moment where I held my breath and hoped for the best, to being really fun to play and actually feeling kind of easy. Yes!

You can check out a video of this section below.

If you are interested in developing you inner pulse, I highly recommend the “rhythm scale” exercises from Marc Atkinson’s book “The Unreel Drum Book”. These changed my life… and if you want to hear about my own variations of these, send me a message or email.

That’s all for now. Stayed tuned for more posts as I prepared for and record my drumset album in the coming months.

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It is finally going to happen… I begin recording my first album of drumset repertoire in a few months! Thanks to the support of The Canada Council, my new album “Katana of Choice – New works for solo drumset” will be available hopefully by fall 2016.

Music and performers will include:

Train Set by Eliot Britton – solo drumset and electronics; Lakoni in Zazonnde by Lukas Ligeti – for drumset duet (w/ David Cossin); Full Grown by Scott Edward Godin – solo drusmet; Drum Dances by John Psathas – drumset solo with percussion trio (arrangement by Ben Duinker and performances by Architek Percussion); Ringer by Nicole Lizée – solo drumset; Katana of Choice by Nicole Lizée – drumset solo with percussion quartet (performance by TorQ)

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Golden Arms

Feb 28

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It has been 2 months since the release of Nicole Lizée’s “Bookburners” LP and CD. Check out “Son of the Man with the Golden Arms” here:

and get the studio version here:
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/nicole-lizee-bookburners/id938762960