Thursday, May 31, 2012

Joe Morello's Natural Approach - Part 2

In my last post I discussed Joe Morello: Drum Method 1--The Natural Approach to Technique. This post will discuss the companion video, Joe Morello: Drum Method 2--Around the Kit.

I'll say up front that this video has poor sound quality. However, that is a small barrier to overcome when you consider the invaluable information and tips Joe imparts.

First off, let me state that I do not believe this is a video that new drummers should tackle first. Not that drummers of every skill level will not benefit, but the focus of this particular video is crafting solos and mastering each component of the drum kit. I personally believe this is secondary to timekeeping and groove, which are - to me - the essence of drum kit playing. To that end I would encourage new drummers to focus on Tommy Igoe's Groove Essentials, which will not only expose drummers at all skill levels to an encyclopedic range of grooves, but will provide a solid foundation of technique that can be leveraged in the lessons Joe gives in this DVD.

Second, this, like Joe Morello: Drum Method 1--The Natural Approach to Technique, is not an easy set of lessons and exercises to get through. One reason is Joe's on camera instructional technique is deceptively informal and quick. He has a habit of tossing off tips and advice in such a casual manner that you find yourself dismissing them as unimportant - and that is not the case in anything he utters. Also, many of the 40 exercises in this video are explained in a minute or less, with very quick reinforcing examples. This requires you to pay careful attention to what he is saying and demonstrating. Moreover, in the parts where he explains how to play, for example, a bass drum or hi-hat, he is scratching the surface, providing enough information to an alert viewer to take and expand on his or her own, without going too deeply into the topic. For drummers who are used to slicker presentations that are designed to ensure that even the slowest or least experienced student will get it, Joe's approach can be disconcerting and frustrating.

The solution is to make your remote control your best friend by pausing after each exercise and spending at least 20 minutes working through the exercise (less if you have already mastered it and more if not.) That is 800 minutes of work you need to be prepared to do if you truly want to benefit from this DVD - and benefit you will because while the exercises seem trivial when explained, they are anything but when you are working through them.

For example, the last exercise on substitutions can be extremely difficult for even the most experienced drummers, and could warrant hours and hours of work to become merely proficient, but not an expert. Also, this exercise is a great example of how Joe teaches. He provides a fairly simple example or exercise that has behind it many combinations and permutations, and expects you to figure out your own practice plan. The goal, of course, is to build muscle memory of these many variations until you can perform them automatically. By definition, this is boring and physically exhausting, which in the larger scheme of things are small inconveniences to achieve the chops that will result from your hard work. Some of the exercises will require very well developed chops, so I recommend either Joe Morello: Drum Method 1--The Natural Approach to Technique, or Tommy Igoe's Great Hands for a Lifetime, (or both!)

If you are seeking an easy path to improving your skills, you are not going to like this video. However, if you are willing to diligently work through the exercises, and are also willing to engage your brain to build upon the tips Joe provides, you will dramatically improve your drumming skills.

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