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Tips for the newly gigging drummer...

June 25th, 2017

Hi Guys,


I hope that you are all well and that life is good!

It has been a little while since I posted my last blog, so I have had plenty of time to decide what this blog post would be about.


Recently I have spoken with lots of young players who have started to explore the heady world of the live gigging scene. As we spoke something became apparent to me, which was that many of these very talented and enthusiastic players are turning up to gigs with very little idea of the potential challenges and problems that come as part of playing live.


It is only after years of making mistakes that we can start to be fully prepared to cover all eventualities and predict the pitfalls that await the unwary drummer - learn from my mistakes and not by making your own by reading this blog!


As drummers we face certain challenges that some of our other band members may not encounter such as having to kit share, or to be told that our instrument will be provided for us in the form of a "House Kit" that will be shared by the various bands on the bill.

I will now guide you on the best way to prepare and overcome these problems and will divide them into separate headings for the most common scenarios...


1. "We have a kit for you to use at the Venue!"


Be wary when a promoter or organiser tells you to just turn up and play the house kit. One of my students recently went to a jam night and was advised to leave all of his gear at home as the house kit was in good shape...safe to say when he got there he was confronted with a poorly maintained, out of tune budget kit with one cymbal that would have made a bin lid sound good.

This is not the ideal start to your performance and there are certain steps we can take avoid this situation and ensure that we are as comfortable as possible - these steps are as follows:


* ALWAYS bring your own snare drum, cymbals and bass drum pedal and drum stool as these are all key components that will have a sound and feel that you will have grown very used to. They are also very quick and easy to substitute for the equipment at the venue and will ensure that you feel a bit more at home even when sitting at a kit that feels generally alien to you.


* Take some time to adjust the tuning of a kit so it is at least similar in tone and feel to your own kit - it is definitely worth practicing tuning regularly so you develop your ear and get a feel as to how you like a skin to be tensioned. This will have a big impact on the musicality of your performance and will also make the kit sound more aligned to your expectation.


* Make sure you adjust the kit to be comfortable and at the right height - it is always going to be a problem if you are having to play a kit that is not setup ergonomically for you. Try to get this right during your sound check and be aware that if you are kit sharing you may have to adjust again before you play if other drummers use the equipment in the meantime.


2. "Can I get more drums in my monitor?!!"


I have lost count of the times that I have watched a young band turn up to a gig and start conducting themselves like the rockstars that they perceive themselves to be. Whilst initially amusing, this act wears thin very quickly, particularly with experienced and salty sound engineers who have seen enough egos to last a lifetime and have simply run out of patience with bad attitudes.


* DONT make an enemy of the the sound engineer , he or she is the one person, aside from your bandmates that can make or break your gig. Be polite, patient and try to see things from their point of view - if a sound engineer seems to be unhelpful it may not be the case, sometimes there are technical constraints in place that limit how they can support you. Thinking the sound engineer is somebody you can throw a tantrum at because things don't sound quite the way you would like is a recipe for disaster and is likely to get you a reputation for being difficult and unprofessional.


* If you play in a band that has a requirement for a large number of instruments, it is well worth sending a stage plan in advance of your gig. This will allow you to clarify your requirements and also to confirm if the venues mixing desk has enough inputs and outputs to support your lineup. This level of planning can circumvent misunderstanding with the sound engineer on the day of the gig.


* If you are taking your own kit to a gig, it is worth knowing what kind of surface you will be setting up on. If the stage is not covered in carpet or a tactile material, you may find your kit sliding away from you as you play it - this can really ruin the gig for us drummers. I always take a rug with me to gigs on which to setup my kit, I also always carry a roll of gaffer tape with which to secure the rug to the stage if it is particularly slippery.


* Play simply in your sound check as going all out and playing a full-blown solo does not make for an easy mixing job for the sound engineer. They want to be able to hear each voice of the kit independently and then want to be able to adjust the volumes so the kit sounds balanced - to many fast fills and licks can make this difficult and may end up working against your final drum mix.


3. "we are having technical problems!"


Sometimes things are going to break during the course of a gig. This could cover everything from a drumstick or drum skin to a more serious problem like a bass drum pedal chain snapping - this is a rarity but it has happened to me twice.

Try to be prepared and mitigate the impact by having the following equipment with you on a gig:


* Gaffer tape (a drummers best friend!) - good for holding things together and patching broken bass drum heads - it won't sound as good, but it will get you out of trouble.


* At least a couple of spare sets of drumsticks


* A spare snare drum batter head - The snare is a pivotal voice in the kit, you need to have the ability to fix it if it breaks


* A drum tuning key


* A multi-tool such as a Leatherman or Gerber - you may need pliers or screwdrivers to affect certain repairs


* A spare Hi-Hat clutch


* Spare low cost bass pedal (if possible)


With these items close to hand, there are few technical issues that you cannot overcome - at least from a drum kit point of view. Breakages and having to repair on the fly are inconvenient, but they need not be gig ending problems if you have the above equipment in your arsenal.


I hope that this list of tips will be helpful and will help you to sidestep some of the problems that I have fallen foul of over the years.

Thanks again for reading this blog, please feel free to drop me a line if you have any tips you would like to add to this list!


Much love and future drumming success!


Joe X

Can you feel the music?

June 25th, 2017

Hi Guys,


I hope that this post finds you well and that life is good!

I have been working with many students recently who are either studying for their grading exams or learning songs for live performances and a common challenge has reared its head as a part of this process.


It can be easy to mistake "playing the notes" for "playing the music"

When reading a chart or notation it is possible that we can pay so much attention to the action of reading and processing the information that we can forget to listen to how our interpretation of the notes is connecting with the overall track.


This can lead to some accurate but mechanical sounding performances where all the right notes are been played but they some how just don't feel right to the listener.

The "Feel" of a piece of music can sound like a rather mysterious concept to a novice drummer. It describes the nuances such as dynamics, placement of the beat, stylistic authenticity and the ability for a player to really connect with the material that he or she may be playing and to deliver the performance in a way that captures the spirit of the song.


Understanding the "Feel" of a groove or a style of music can be greatly enhanced by immersing oneself in the playing of great musicians and listening to great recordings. To practice the right moves without context is not enough. It is important to understand the space between the beats and the contributions of all of the musicians who are playing on the track so that you can really hear the drummers role within the music and to replicate this sound.


"Feel" can be learned, but it does take a lot of dedication and listening - it is also important to bear in mind that the "Feel" of one genre of music can be wildly different to another and require a very different approach. Having a great Jazz feel does not mean that you will necessarily be an authentic Rock player and vice versa.


Listen to any great musician and you are likely to be struck by the fact that they are able to write and perform parts that perfectly complement the music that they are performing. Whether you are influenced by Jazz legends like Joe Morello and Buddy Rich or if you love the playing of a Metal player like Joey Jordison they all have something in common, that their playing embodies an awareness and commitment to their chosen genre that makes the music that they are part of feel so good.


"Feel" is something that some players seem to have without trying, and it is true that just as every player is an individual, so too is their approach to playing music. Some of us will struggle with certain styles because they may not come as naturally to us as they do to someone else. Be patient and persevere, remember that it is the small things that can make all the difference and the placement of a specific beat in the bar can really affect the way a groove is perceived.


Above all immerse yourself in music that you love and play like you mean it - passion always comes across in any performance and it is also a big part of the black art that is the "Feel".


Thanks again guys for your time, please drop me a line if you have any drumming related questions!


Much love,


Joe X

Welcome to the new JR Drumming Site!

June 25th, 2017

Hi Guys,


I hope this blog finds you all well!

There has been a lot going on over the last couple of months - what with lots of gradings, gigs and recording it has been a very busy time!


I felt that it was time to refresh the website, subsequently here is the all new JR Drumming  site! - I hope that you will find it easy to navigate and full of relevant information and shiny new media...with more to follow very soon!


I am proud to say that The Hallows are in the process of putting together our first UK tour and that we have been offered slots on festivals up and down the country, which we are really looking forward to - stay tuned for the release of tour dates very soon...


We have started the promotion for our new single "Angel" which has now racked up over 140,000 views on our Facebook account - which is a first for us. Please follow the below link if you fancy seeing lots of musical instruments on fire...


https://youtu.be/6Z-vXV93_8Q


I will be making some more announcements in the near future and aiming to add some more videos to the media page of this site...just selecting the tracks to record at the moment.


Thanks again for all the support that I have received over the years, its going from strength to strength and I am really pleased that so many students are now reaching advanced grades and are working so hard to up their game - you only get out what you put in!


Please feel free to drop me a line if you have any drumming related questions, I will be very happy to assist you.


Have a great day and I will look forward to hearing from you!


Much love X


Joe

Gradings Success!!

June 25th, 2017

Hi Guys,

I hope that this post finds you all well!


I am very happy to announce that my students absolutely smashed it in the last round of examinations!! - I can't speak highly enough of their dedication and work ethic and I think the results speak for themselves.


So without further ado, please see below the fantastic results that these students have achieved:


Jamie Lambros - Grade 5 - Distinction


Alex McEwan - Grade 5 - Merit


Jake Lewis - Grade 1 - Distinction


Joel Edwards - Grade 2 - Distinction


Finn Johnson - Grade 2 - Merit


Abhinav Bew - Grade Debut - Distinction


Dusan Novakovic - Grade 3 - Distinction


Michael Bradley - Grade 6 - Distinction


Alex McEwan - Grade 6 - Merit


I would like to thank all of my students for their handwork - I am really looking forward to starting the next stage of the grading syllabus - heres to new challenges and further success!


I am also really excited to announce that my band, The Hallows will be starting our very first UK tour on 12th August - we will be playing all around the country and can't wait to visit so many new towns and venues - I will hope to catch you at a gig!


Much love


Joe X

Do your drums need some love?

June 25th, 2017

Hi Guys,

I hope that this post finds you all well!


I have spoken to quite a few students recently regarding problems that they are having with their kits and hardware due to the sheer wear and tear that they experience due to gigging and transit.


It appears that a lot of people are living with damage to their instruments simply because they don't really know who to speak to with a view to getting them repaired. I am pleased to say that I recently found out that a good friend of mine has decided to apply his substantial drum kit and engineering knowledge to provide a wonderful service for those of us who would do more harm than good to our kits if we tried to fix them ourselves... I would put myself firmly in this category.


Dave Passera is the general manager of one of my favourite drum shops (Wembley Drum Centre) and as such I have had dealings with him for many years. He has always been incredibly helpful when I have been looking to purchase new equipment and has 30 years of drumming experience which means that he truly understands what is important to the musicians visiting the store.


Dave is also a highly skilled engineer who has been doing a lot of repair work for some of the largest Drum manufacturers in the world (both acoustic and electronic) and is now the designated UK repair contact for both DW and Roland... so it is safe to say you are in good hands...

Dave has launched his own website that offers repair services to drummers UK wide and having had many conversations around the challenges of finding reputable drum repair specialists, I thought I should share this with my students base and website visitors. So please find the link to Dave's repair business:

www.drumkitrepair.co.uk

So if you are struggling with any aspect of your kits or hardwares condition just drop this fine chap a line and he will be well positioned to help you!


Thanks once again for taking the time to read this blog, please drop me a line if you know of any other exceptional people who are providing great services to the drumming community, I will always be happy to spread the word!


Much love


Joe X

Grading time again!

June 25th, 2017

Hi Guys,

I hope that this post finds you all well!

Its that time when I have the absolute pleasure of shouting out about some amazing student achievements that have taken place over the last couple of months!

So without further ado, here they are:


Jake Lewis - Grade 2 - Distinction


Aditya Aggarwal - Grade 1 - Distinction


Alexandra Lambert - Grade 2 - Merit


Joel Edwards - Grade 4 - Merit


Dusan Novakovic - Grade 4 - Merit


Caden Poulton - Grade 3 - Merit


Krishanu Desai Thakore - Grade 1 - Merit


Arav Deshpande - Bedford Grammar Music Scholarship


Every one of these students has worked remarkably hard to secure their success and I am very proud of them! - now onto the next challenge!


Alongside these results, I am also very proud that I am working with more and more students that have special learning requirements - it is part of being a teacher that is really good for the soul and really enriches my days. Many of the students that I support who have been diagnosed with ADHD, Aspergers, Tourettes or behavioural challenges have been achieving incredible results and progress, something which I put down to the absolute magic that is making music and having a safe an supportive environment in which to experiment and to develop their musical identity. Music is inclusive and open to everyone so never let there be a barrier between you and the pursuit of learning to play whichever instrument you love!!


I will be posting a blog shortly about our recent recording session and the progress of our new EP which we are hoping to complete in the very near future... so stay tuned for some new music and videos from The Hallows!


Much love


Joe X

Does practice make perfect?

June 25th, 2017

Hi Guys,

I hope that  you are well and that life is good!


I wanted to write a post about practice as it is something that raises questions with both new and experienced musicians - how should you go about it? How do you prioritise what to practice? Do you need a practice routine? How should you practice to get the best results?


Vince Lombardi is credited with saying "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect." and I think this is a core principal to bear in mind when undertaking any type of practice. Practicing without a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve is going to increase the chances that you don't get the end result that you are aiming for, worse still is to practice in a way that actually causes you injury or to develop bad habits due to a lack of care and attention.


I have put together a list of things that may aid you in your practice and help you to get the most out of your time at the kit!


1. Start slowly - It can be tempting to race ahead and try to play a new idea as fast as you can, however starting REALLY slowly and paying attention to detail is going to get you to a much better end result. When practicing you want to focus on achieving the best possible sound with an ease and consistency.  Give yourself a chance to play at a pace that is going to allow you to observe all aspects of your own performance and refine them.


2. Be realistic - Some techniques or patterns are going to take longer than others to master,  certain techniques are going to be the end result of hundreds or possibly thousands of hours of practice and dedication. Keep working at the things you find challenging and appreciate that slow and consistent progress is still progress.  Playing with control and consistency are key objectives so make these your main focus to begin with, the speed will come later.


3. Have a plan - Give your practice structure, knowing what you want to achieve and allocating time to meet the goal is essential in the pursuit of improvement. Try not to obsess about one particular aspect of your playing to the exclusion and possible detriment of your overall skill set. I would recommend dividing your practice time between several different exercises to ensure that you improve in multiple areas and to introduce variety that will keep you focussed and stimulated. The Metronome is a drummers best friend and it is essential to practice playing exercises at different tempos and volumes in order to strengthen you internalised timing and to reinforce control.


4. Be Kind to yourself - Frustration can sometimes creep into practice and make you question your ability to overcome the challenge that you have set for yourself. Try to remember that beating yourself up or getting angry is not going to help you move the process forward (although some students do say that frustration can be a motivator if harnessed in the right way) - give yourself a break when you hit a wall and then comeback to it 10 minutes later with a clear head and a better disposition.


5. The only person you are in competition with is yourself - Don't judge your progress by looking at other people, purely look at how you are moving forward and meeting your own needs and expectations. Music is not a competitive sport, so whilst it is good to be inspired and motivated by more experienced or capable player it is also important to see how you are improving day by day and not to take the small victories for granted.


6. Remember to practice and not just to play - We are all guilty of playing things that we like or are good at much more frequently than the things that really challenge us. Try to make the things you find most difficult a regular part of your practice.  Remember nothing grows in a comfort zone so keep stretching yourself and avoid just playing things that you are already good at.


7. Don't lose sight of what it is all about - Some musicians will pursue advanced techniques and incredible speed with a relentless drive, but will neglect musicality, feel and timing. No matter the style of music you play, it is important to make sure that you are playing it authentically and putting the needs of the music above the needs of the ego. There is little point in having incredible speed if the rest of your skills are not up to par, so work on playing your grooves and fills in a musical context and make the metronome a core part of your practice routine.


8. Listening can still be practice - Using your ears to decipher grooves or fills is a powerful skill that some players overlook. Remember that ultimately music is sound so your ears are your most powerful asset in crafting your sound and learning new ideas. By listening to great players you will come to understand the nuances of their playing that make them sound so good, this is essential for informing a well considered and progressive practice routine. Above all listening to music is a great way to be inspired and motivated to play drums for the best of all reasons, the pure love of playing the instrument and making great music.


I hope that the above information will help you to create a practice routine that helps to move your playing forward and will also be food for thought regarding the mindset and core principals behind succesful practice.


Please feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions regarding this blog post, I will be very happy to correspond.


Thanks again and much love! X


Joe