Saturday, October 6, 2012

Vintage Drums

This blog started like with a focus on snare drums, many of which were vintage. I have always had a strong affinity for vintage instruments. This is evidenced by some of my earlier posts, such as my 13 January 2010 piece titled Vintage Drum Resources, and two follow-on posts titled Researching Vintage Drums - a resource and the companion, Evaluating, Cleaning and Restoring Vintage Drums.

Since it's quickly nearing three years since I posted those pieces, I thought I would rekindle interest in vintage drums and [briefly] return to this blog's roots with a set of videos hosted my Jim Messina of Vintage Drums Talk and his interviews with Mike Curotto, a highly respected collector and educator. Both Jim and Mike are significant figures in the vintage drum collection world, making this series of videos all the more valuable. Mr. Curotto's book, Vintage Snare Drums - The Curotto Collection: Volume 1: Rare American-Made 1900s to 1940s, is a highly regarded reference.

Here are the interviews in two parts (embedding has been disabled for these videos): Part One and the second half of the series, Part Two.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

For drum history buffs

I am cross-posting this from my Music for Drummers blog because it is a topic that would interest readers here as well as there:

Good news for drummers who are also historians: Daniel Glass has completed The Century Project and it's available for sale (click the link.) Here is a short summary of what the project is based on an early pitch for the video:

Also released and currently being previewed in major cities is Jeff Kauffman's wonderful bio of Chick Webb. I posted this piece about the movie two years ago. I finally had the privilege and pleasure of watching it last week and it is everything Jeff promised - and more! More information is at the film's web site. Here is the trailer:

If history is an interest I recommend some of my previous posts, including Digging into our history, as well as Oral Histories: Louis Bellson, Chico Hamilton & Roy Haynes and a collection of video recommendations in this post. Of course, searching for some of the greats and pioneers by name at Music for Drummers will yield some solid results too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Instructional material recap

This blog started out to be a catalog of my snare drum collection. Slowly my interest turned from gear to music and technique, spawning my pet project, Music for Drummers, as well as a different direction in this blog. While I still write about gear here, I prefer to write about technique and I think the trend towards that aspect adds a lot more value than promoting GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome.) Of course, value is a relative term. This is a hobby for me - no, a labor of love - and some folks will find the content valuable and others probably will not.

What has happened is my posts are becoming increasingly more difficult to track, so periodically I aggregate related topics in a single post. In fact, I am starting off with one from the past to anchor this blog entry: Get a Grip. That entry pulled together a lot of related material, as did My Favorite Instructional Videos: Grooves and Woodshedding! to name a few.

Today's recap will attempt to play catch-up again by citing recent instructional and technique entries, as well as introducing some new material that is related to recent posts.

First up is a DVD and book/CD combination by Ed Soph. Ed's vidios are scattered throughout this blog:

His DVD and book/CD material is an excellent set of tools to obtain basic jazz chops. I will cover them backwards since that is how I used them back in 2004.

The DVD, Musical Time, is an excellent starting point for getting jazz chops.

While this DVD may seem too basic for experienced drummers who have some jazz chops, it is perfect for those who have spent their career playing something else and want to add some jazz chops to their vocabulary. Granted, those experienced, non-jazz drummers may find some aspects boring (like adjusting bass drum pedals), but the beginners who get this DVD will find all of the information and instruction useful.

In truth, this DVD was published to augment Ed's book/CD combination, Musical Time (Book & CD):

Reading and working through the book/CD first is the ideal situation. However, when I started playing drums again after a 37 year break (1967-2004) this is one of the videos that I used, and I purchased it before I knew of the book/CD. I found it to be immensely helpful, and when I eventually did purchase the book/CD it was icing on the cake. So, while I went about it backwards this was exactly the instruction I wanted and it made a major difference in my getting back up to speed after a 37 year break.

Ed Soph's style is straightforward and at times you get a sense that he's gruff and obstinate. However, he has a knack for imparting a lot of knowledge efficiently and effectively, wasting no time. He gets to the essentials - the foundational stuff - and leads you through mastering it. Bottom line: is this for you?

  • If you have jazz chops and know how to swing, then perhaps your money would be better spent elsewhere.
  • However, if you are a beginning drummer who wants to play jazz this is a great video (with his book/CD, of course), because it quickly imparts the basics as well as pointing out bad habits and how to avoid them.
  • If you are an experienced drummer who has been playing rock, country, or anything but jazz and want to add that to your vocabulary, this is a very good starting place. Be patient when Ed is giving tips to beginners and throw yourself into the lessons.
Next is a DVD set that augments the one I mentioned in New book/DVD: The Complete Guide to Playing Brushes. The author, Florian Alexandru-Zorn, recently released The Brush Secret: How to Apply Your Own Voice to the Brushes:

Other instructional and technique posts I have written include two featuring Peter Erskine and one featuring Derrick Pope. Erskine's videos are in Comping and off-beat grooves versus mindlessly hitting on 2 and 4 and a great presentation titled The Role of Rhythm in Popular Music. Derrick Pope's videos are must-watch for any serious drummer and are in Moeller Technique (and other tips by Derrick Pope).

While I haven't gotten around to reviewing Pat Petrillo's Learn To Read Rhythms Better, I intend to in the near future. I want to introduce this DVD ahead of time in case you want to check it out. If ever you wanted to learn how to read music, this is the video to get.

As a parting shot I want to reemphasize two things:

  1. It's not the gear, it's the drummer - see this post for my reasons.
  2. Do not get lost in a quest for technique to the exclusion of larger world of music itself - we are, after all, musicians.
At some point I'll aggregate all of the brush-related topics here. In the meantime, use the search function.

Some quick jazz brush lessons

Sometimes I think I should have named this blog Brush Addict because of the large number of brush-related posts. This one, though, is inspired by and related to some recent posts here (see my last post), as well as in my other blog. See Recommended Papa Jo Jones albums Part 1 and the follow on Part 2.

This post is a quick set of brush lessons by one of my favorite instructors, Ed Soph. If you perform a search here for Soph you will be treated to a number of posts containing his quick tips and other topics. Here are the lessons in seven parts:

If brush playing, including actual brush reviews, head selection and related topics, interests you do a search here using brush as a keyword, Also, in my Music for Drummers blog using the same keyword in a search will yield many musical examples.

Monday, October 1, 2012

New book/DVD: The Complete Guide to Playing Brushes

Scattered throughout this blog are posts about playing brushes, plus the following reviews of what I consider to be some outstanding instructional videos on mastering brushes:I have just discovered a new instructional package: The Complete Guide to Playing Brushes: Brush Skills for Playing Jazz and Pop Music (Book & DVD)

What distinguishes this book/DVD set from the videos I cited above are two things:

  1. It is not jazz-centric
  2. The instructor, Florian Alexandru-Zorn, uses match grip when demonstrating exercises and techniques
Let me back up and state up front that I am a jazz drummer and I use traditional grip exclusively. I think it's folks like myself who sometimes are the barriers to pop drummers learning how to play with brushes. This set removes those barriers in my opinion.

For one thing the instructor and material clearly demonstrate how to employ brushes in pop music, which can extend to I-IV-V rock some call blues, as well as country, Americana and roots music. And, of course, rock (especially some forms of alternative rock). For that reason this package should make a lot of sense to non-jazz drummers. From personal experience I can say that every other package on the market falls far short in that respect, and is a barrier to non-jazz drummers even considering learning how to play with brushes.

Another barrier this package breaks is proving that playing brushes using match grip is perfectly fine. Most drummers play match grip, yet most brush instructional videos are demonstrated with traditional grip. If nothing else that is a psychological barrier to many drummers who play strictly match grip.

Here are a few clips from the package, plus the instructor, Florian Alexandru-Zorn, in action at a workshop:

One performance clip shows how Florian applies his lessons in a real musical setting. Granted this is a jazz number, but Caraven has been covered by rock groups like the Ventures.

In addition, here is a preview of the book that comes with the package: Table of Contents and sample lesson. Dig around this blog as well as my other one, Music for Drummers for reviews of brush models and heads, examples of solid brush playing and related subjects.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

SKB Deluxe Stick Bag

In my 22 May 2012 post titled Stick bags - function and vanity I discussed the difference between vanity stick bags and practical ones. On the practical end of the spectrum I just came across what may be the best stick bag on the market when you consider price, capacity and construction: SKB Deluxe Drum Stick Bag (model 1SKB-SB300)

If you read Stick bags - function and vanity then you know what I mean by vanity bags (the Reunion Blues, Anthology Gear Wear and a handful of others I own.)

This SKB Deluxe Drum Stick Bag on the other hand can hold more sticks, brushes and mallets and other implements than any of the above bags and is built to last almost as long as any of the leather models. What makes it practical is when you factor in cost, construction and capacity this is the best value on the market [that I have come across] that meets all three of those factors.

While the 600 denier nylon construction is not as sexy as leather used in the vanity bags I mentioned, it is built to last. Probably the first thing to go on this bag would be the zippers and I am betting those will have a long, useful life.

It's the capacity that sets this bag apart from anything on the market except the DW Peter Erskine Stand-Alone Stick Bag. I will be perfectly honest: most drum kit players will probably not need the capacity, while percussionists who play a variety of instruments from traditional drum kits to mallets will find this bag to be more than adequate.

I especially like the shoulder straps and the form factor of the bag, including the front, zippered pouch and inside mesh pockets. You can not only store your sticks, mallets and brushes, but can also store a variety of tools (keys, wrenches, hex wrenches and small spare parts like felts, etc.)

As a comparison, this bag is half the price of the Peter Erskine one I mentioned (at the time of this post) with comparable capacity. It is significantly less expensive than the Reunion Blues Extra Large Stick & Mallet Bag which does not come close to the same capacity, and a fraction of the three hundred dollar price tag of the Anthology Gear Wear bag I wrote about in this post. Granted, there is probably not a more beautiful bag on the market than the Anthology Gear Wear, and especially in the Black Whiskey leather finish, but there is probably no bag as expensive. I love mine and it is pure vanity. For practical folks who want a bag that will last for at least a decade though, this SKB model is the one I recommend. Not that there is anything wrong with vanity. Cool is a valuable factor ... it can get expensive though.