So proud to have been featured
on the cover of Drums Etc!
TIME = GROOVE! Time is the fabric between our rhythm and pulse. Let’s go into two essential tools for creating good time: Subdivisions and Space. (To get deeper into this concept, check out Benny Greb’s new DVD ’The Art And Science Of Groove’, or Victor Wooten’s book ‘The Music Lesson’!)
This is the ‘stuff’ between the pulse, the ingredients of rhythm! The GRID. A week is a grid of 7 days, and day a grid of 24 hours, we use grids all the time. Let’s look at Joe Morello’s classic book ‘Master Studies’, to the Table Of Time. We need a way to speak the rhythms, because if we can say it, we can play it! Your voice is your secret weapon as a drummer. Counting ‘1234567..’ etc will just not work, it doesn’t flow. Two tools I use are the ‘Not Quite Doubled’ counting system, and Konnokol, rhythmic spoken syllables used in Indian music. With both methods we will be able to play legato and musically, with very little effort. I was able to use both of these techniques to figure out the infamous drum solo ‘The Black Page’ by Frank Zappa. These tools were invaluable, I don’t know if I would have had it otherwise! I needed to speak, then feel the rhythms and subdivisions before they were in my hands. Remember: Brain to Voice to Muscles.
‘Not Quite Doubled’ is a way to count any odd number, adding the ands and ‘almost’ cutting it in half. We will now count 5 as ‘1 & 2 & 3’, 7 as ‘1 & 2 & 3 & 4’, and 9 as ‘1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5’, and so on. All of a sudden we can hear, feel, and most importantly speak all the subdivisions on the Table Of Time.
With Konnokol, instead of numbers we will use rhythmic syllables. There are many different way to do this, India is a huge country with a vast and fascinating musical history! So we will use simplicity to get to our goals quickly. In konnokol ‘Ta-Ka-Di-Mi’ is 4, ‘Ta-Ki-Ta’ is 3, and ‘Ta-Ka’ is 2. 8 would be 4 + 4, 7 would be 4 + 3 (or 3 + 4), 6 is 3 + 3, 5 is 2 + 3 (or 3 + 2) and so on. Move these phrases to the drumset and see what you come up with! The best players always have teachers and coaches, so if you would like to go further into this fascinating study of rhythm, be sure to find a mentor that inspires you. My own personal journey took me to spending some time traveling to India and having incredible experiences learning at the source. The training never stops!
Music is created from the space between the notes! My game changing moment was studying with Jim Blackey. The first thing he asks many of his students to play is quarter notes on the ride cymbal, while singing it out loud (‘ding’… ‘ding’) for 10 minutes straight at 40bpm! At first your ‘monkey mind’ is going crazy; ‘why do I have to do this, this is boring’, etc. But if you can make it through, your awareness of space will grow. Authority and confidence flows through the pulse in your groove. Remember, ‘slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.’ The feel of time is also going to come from how you are moving in that space. What is your body doing? Drummers rock their knees, move their shoulders, bob their heads. Drumming is a dance! How you move in the space between the notes, will create or kill your groove. Stay loose and relaxed! This is one of the great benefits of learning the Moeller Stroke. The space between the notes becomes a dance, a curved line you can control, allowing your personal voice to shine. There are no straight lines in nature, so you don’t want to be a ‘cave man’ striking the drum stiffly. You must find your ‘drummer’s dance’, and your groove will come out like your own unique fingerprint.
Breathing is the rhythm of life! This can be a great way to physically feel the space between the notes, while staying centered, strong, and relaxed. So many drummers hold their breath or shallow breathe, which will make you anxious and rush. Lack of breathing is a lack of groove. Breathe deeply and enjoy the moment!
LTR: The ‘Life Through Rhythm’ Concept
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln.
Timing is everything! I look at this as everything from time management, punctuality, and having great timing in life! This is also about taking the time to forge your skills, and go for excellence in all you do. You have your best timing when you listen to your intuition, and when you are over prepared. Practice hard, don’t waste time, and enjoy every moment having fun playing drums!