Book Reviews - August 2012
Book Reviews - August 2012
Daily Drumset Workout – Claus Hessler
Practice routine and work ethic are arguably the most important factors in every drummer’s career. Everyone at some stage has fallen behind on their practice or sat down to practice and merely ‘played’. Motivation and routine are interdependent and once a routine is established and good quality practice becomes habit then you will progress rapidly. Claus Hessler’s ‘Daily Drumset Workout’ gives exercises and sets goals for every daily practice session and is the perfect companion and motivator for good quality practice.
In the preface, the prolific educator Dom Famularo sums up the potential of this book; “My dream was to be the best drummer I could be. I wanted to push myself and I needed a plan to get there. How I wish the ‘Daily Drumset Workout’ was available when I was younger!”
Through dedicated 30 minute daily practice sessions this book will expand on and perfect the student drummer’s basic independence, accents, single strokes, double strokes, inverted doubles, buzz rolls, flams, syncopated concepts, various ostinato patterns, three-note groupings and five-note groupings.
The book begins with a section titled ‘User Instructions’ which sets forth the all important elements which separate proper practice from just ‘playing’. Repetition, using a metronome and self-evaluation are some of these key elements.
The daily workout begins with a section on basic groove independence using the framework of a basic rock groove. It is explained in a clear and concise manner with some helpful practice pointers alongside. There are 16 pages dedicated to basic independence each with a table to be filled in by the student and mark their progress. This section explores rock, shuffle and triplet independence exercises covering many facets of study within the first section.
This blend of key information, exercises and progress chart continues throughout punctuated by useful information on some of the core drum texts that compliment and expand on the concepts in this book.
The addition of an MP3 play-along CD seamlessly integrates the live application of the exercises with the books content and adds further depth to the overall study. With styles from rock and funk to tumbao and second line the student is given a well rounded insight into the world of drumming.
As Dom Famularo points out, we all have dreams as drummers, but dreams without plans and goals can remain out of our grasp. The system and wide-ranging content of this daily workout will give the student drummer the necessary path to realising their potential and perhaps even their dream.
Alfred Music Publishing
Essential Drum Lessons with the Greats – John Xepoleas
Alfred Music Publishing’s ‘Essential Drum Lessons with the Greats’ is a book that takes the world of private lessons to a new level. This book gives the reader the chance to sit under the direction of some of the most influential drummers of the past 50 years. This chance alone is inspiring and coupled with the concepts this book delivers it fuels this inspiration and encourages the reader to “grab your sticks and dig in, as these world class drummers candidly, discuss, explain and demonstrate the drumming concepts they are best known for.”
The drummers involved in contributing to this book are, Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Kenny Aronoff, Gregg Bissonette, Peter Erskine, Neil Peart, Tim Alexander and Mike Portnoy. I imagine the hardest part of putting this book together and making it effective would be trying to compact each musicians wealth of understanding and experience into three lesson blocks (with the exception of Portnoys five lesson series on odd time). This book has taken concepts from each of these players repertoires (concepts that most drummers will have already been aware of to some degree) and helped to give us a deeper insight into the thought and development behind them. It is this thought and development that has been worked at over decades by the greats.
Weckl can be seen leading the three part lessons with a combination of triplet hand and foot exercises, his signature six stroke fills and working on double strokes on the drum set. These types of trade mark topics continue throughout the book seeing Peter Erskine giving a detailed insight into sound and subdivisions while Steve Smith looks at the development of linear fills and Neil Peart brings out some interesting vocabulary for the drum set in one of his topics; exploring fills. The wealth of experience and understanding each of these players has makes the book extremely hard to put down.
The layout of the book is structured and detailed beginning with a paragraph explaining the nature and desired outcome of the lessons. The notated diagrams are easy to follow and detailed with a notation key for each experts series of lessons.
Essential Drum Lessons with the Greats is an inspiring publication with a personal look at the techniques, concepts, grooves and fills of some of the world’s greatest drummers.
The Level System - Jeffrey W. Johnson
Alfred Music Publishing bring us Jeffrey W. Johnson’s ‘The Level System’, which is described as ‘a natural drum technique method for developing control of accents and dynamics’.
Many studies on stick technique exist, from Moeller to George Lawrence Stone, yet much of these studies can seem at times daunting and too academic to be accessible to the student drummer.
The goal of these technical studies was to examine the relationship between movement and sound. As Johnson writes; “(Technique)…itself when referenced to drumming is the ability to direct the sticks using the energy provided by the hands along with the facility to control and manipulate the stick after the rebound has occurred. Through the use of this book, the drummer will learn to work with the body not against it.” Ultimately these technical studies empower the drummer to play with fluidity and consistency throughout their playing with minimal psychical exertion.
Many student drummers will come across these studies within the first few years of playing yet not truly understand them until much later. The often convoluted nature of these studies can deter students from fully understanding and exploring these methods at the early stage of learning when they are most relevant. Jeffrey W. Johnson has in this book combined key elements of the aforementioned studies and presented them in a way that bridges the gap between the academic and the core components.
Focusing more so on the system taught by George Lawrence Stone and Joe Morello, ‘The Level System’ sets out these concepts in a user friendly and easily digestible format.
The book begins using clear diagrams to explain the basic starting positions of the hands relevant to the consequent exercises. It then sets out the four component strokes which are integral to the application of this technique/level system. Full, tap, up and down strokes are explored using various rhythmic exercises before combining the strokes using varying dynamics. It is the depth in which dynamics are explored which really sets this book aside from other stick technique studies.
One of the most successful elements within this book is the application of the level system technique to rudiments. All drummers know and use rudiments but through this study you can get more out of your rudimental playing than ever before. The book is rounded off beautifully with an in depth look at the use of this technique to drum set playing as a whole. With styles varying from New Orleans Second Line to Samba Batucada, the drum set section alone will keep you glued to your drum stool as you perfect these exercises.
Jeffrey W. Johnson has delivered a refreshing and unique take on stick technique and its application and through a clear and accessible system has opened this up to a new generation of drummers.
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