As I gain more and more experience working with young drummers, I notice different trends. One major factor that influences everything is weather or not there is passion for the music. It is the fuel that powers it all.
If a student has true passion for the music, it is immediately apparent in all that they do: their pursuit of the music, the passion and "go for it" attitude, having fun, not getting discouraged when things do not go their way.
Here in NJ where I work with students, the atmosphere can be very competitive. It's the most densely populated state in the country, therefore, the competition is thick and fierce. Band directors put a lot on these kids and auditioning can be really stressful, it can become so much of an "end-all be-all" experience that the music itself gets lost.
I've seen kids get crushed by not getting into a certain band at school or not getting a fair shot at a position because a band director decides to change the rules of the band so that their star player gets all the attention, leaving the less experienced players to sit out. I've also seen kids schedules be overwhelmed by a high demand of their time by band directors and what gets lost in the middle of it all? THE MUSIC!
I've seen some of the older students in college get discouraged when they haven't become a wunderkind by a certain age and they feel like they'll never stack up against the prodigy type kids out there.
So, I see all this and I think, If they could just keep the music front and center, all that other stuff would just fall away. It really would.
It's gotta be about the music.
Love of the music makes time stand still. "Practice" is not a chore. "Achievements" are really secondary to the actual music itself.
I've seen some students absolutely obsess over the achievement part of music. Then, others could care less and love music purely because... well, they LOVE music. The ones who really love music seem to be the ones who have longevity and a healthy attitude.
I've had to tell students over and over... "Music does not live under the fluorescent lights of a school classroom. It lives in you!"
For instance: a student came to me about a year ago wanting to switch from piano to drums in their school jazz/concert band, yet had never held a pair of sticks! And, they'd set some lofty goals: to be the #1 drummer in the jazz band and also to make the "regional" concert band (which consisted of a big audition on snare and a battery of percussion instruments.)
OK. I love the ambition, but I warned them that there was a lot of work to be done on their basics and they may not get into those band with only a few months to prepare.
We dug in. Hour lessons. Hard work. And we made it happen. They got into the regionals, they made the school jazz band. Yay!
Something was missing though. I kept asking questions like "What's your favorite song?" No favorite songs. "What do you love about jazz that makes you want to play it?" No real answer there either. "What's your favorite jazz song?" No answer there.
So then, the student goes to high school the next year and is totally overwhelmed by how good the drummers are. Discouragement sets in. They do not make the drum set chair in jazz band because the audition required skills that take YEARS to develop, not something you can just practice up in a few weeks.
The wind goes out of this student's sails. I spend most of a lesson trying to explain the situation. Finally I ask: "Well, are you going to quit loving music then?"
Oh! Now we get to the crux.
Of course they're not going to quit. They just got so enamored with the "achievement" that the music got lost, if, in fact, the love of the actual music was really there. Time will tell.
If you love the music, you're unstoppable. If you don't, and you're just in it for the "achievement", then you're going to hit a wall and it won't be enjoyable.
My advice to young musicians is simple: "Drink from the well of the music and you can't go wrong."
The Other Side of the Story
No story is complete when you just hear one side. The great philosopher Herbert Spencer in his book “First Principals” speaks of the truth as being “two truths” meaning that no one side of a truth is wholly true. I find this highly intriguing!
“If both have (truths) have bases in the reality of things, then between them there must be a fundamental harmony”
“Fundamental Harmony” I like that.
One side of my story is that I am known as a drummer. I started playing as a sideman, supporting the band, when I was fifteen. When I was 25 I led my first gig at a jazz club in Kansas City because I wanted to play the music I loved, the stuff that excited me most. I wanted to play what I wanted to play. So I did.
There was only one problem: I hadn’t written any of my own music. After a while, I became uncomfortable with playing covers, even if they were the hippest, coolest songs I could find. I felt incomplete as an artist unless I was out there presenting my own musical vision.
I wanted to present the other side of my story.
I’ve always been writing. Luckily, I documented most of it. Either on cassettes, mini-discs, hard disc recorders or just plain ol’ pencil and paper. By 2016 there were an enormous amount of ideas. So I sifted through them all, finding the most promising stuff. Most of them were grooves or vampy ideas.
I desperately wanted to finish these ideas and hit the bandstand with all my own original music. The distance between where I was and where I wanted to go was vast; melodies and arrangements needed to be written, charts for the band (ones they could read easily)
I knuckled down and started working; piano study with a local great, Bob Himmelberger, made a huge difference in the possibilities I could realize as a composer and after two years of piano lessons, several rough drafts and revisions, I had 13 new songs to record.
Before I recorded them though, I took them out to KC and played a show of my music with a great group of young cats. The response was amazing. People liked my music! Not to mention the band played my stuff well, and that was a great feeling. The show went really well and I found the confidence to go record the music with my NYC band.
I chose to work with Michael Carvin as the producer. As soon as Carvin signed on, the project took on an intensity. He picked Systems Two studios in Brooklyn, a legendary studio with amazing people running it. We sat down and read through the music, discussing the concept. A lot of planning went into it and we left no stone unturned.
These days, especially in NYC, when you want to work with great musicians, you’re usually going to have one or two who are busy and can’t commit. It’s the bandleader’s quandary. Luckily, all of the musicians I wanted to work with were available.
Mark Peterson: A wonderful spirit and human being. He's played with Stevie Wonder, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Sharrock.... how's that for a resume? Being around Mark is always elevating and optimistic. Mark plays incredible electric and upright bass. I knew he’d bring the anchor that I needed. Oh, and he’s from Missouri, too, so we have that geographical connection which is an intangible that's difficult to find..
Klaus Mueller: I met Klaus at the New School in NYC. We were playing in the brazilian ensemble, playing a lot of Hermeto Pascoal and Jovino Santos Neto music. We made a connection immediately and I have always loved playing with him. His touch and rhythm are impeccable and his harmonic thing is quite deep. Klaus doesn’t miss a thing. On top of all this, he’s adventurous and daring in the music, but never to the point of dropping the ball. A real gem of a player.
Vic Juris: Vic is sometimes touted as "unsung" but if you ask any musician around New York about Vic, they will respond with respect and props. My first experience with Vic was when we recorded Steve LaSpina’s “Destiny” album on the SteepleChase label. I have been a fan since. In my opinion, Vic has created his own vocabulary, which is the ultimate for a musician and few ever get there. Vic’s experience and sensibilities were perfect for my music, especially since I wrote most of it on guitar. Vic brought life to the songs and added nuances that I could’ve never dreamed of. That’s why he’s Vic!
Peter Schlamb: I met Peter in Kansas City in like, 2013 or something like that. He was all over those vibes. Then I heard his album “Electric Tinks” and I loved his vision as an artist, so I called him to play my music when I debuted it in KC in 2017. He really brought a lot of imagination to the music and I couldn’t consider doing a record without him. Peter brought it all to the session and then some. I am extremely grateful that he was in NYC to be on the album. He’s a one of a kind, like all the cats on the record.
The Producer: Michael Carvin
In this session I learned what a real producer does. Carvin has made a lot of records. As a Motown studio drummer, he learned from Barry Gordy. We’re talking HITS! I 100% trusted him, yet I had didn't exactly what to expect, only that it would be all business and that we would have fun, too.
Carvin guided us through the music with a decisive hand. He kept us on point. Sometimes, musicians need a no nonsense decision maker who is thinking of the sound of the album, the way it’s going to make people feel. Keeping the musicians from getting too wrapped up in the minutia of their individual sound and thinking about the big sound, the group sound. With Carvin, it's all about SOUND.
Through two days of recording, Carvin worked respectfully, with intensity, with discipline, with humor, with love. It was really something else. After many years of studying with Carvin as a drummer, in the studio many of those lessons came to fruition. I learned what a real producer is. I learned how to handle musicians, engineers, studio owners. I even learned more about myself; how to trust myself.
Most of all, the session reinforced the maxim: Surround yourself with the best possible and good things will happen.
As the session came to a close and cats were packing up, everybody had a sense of “what just happened?” about them. In a good way. They all had a grin on their face. It hadn’t been like work. In fact, it felt like nobody wanted it to end.
Systems Two Recording Studio: A Family Affair...
We recorded "The Other Side of the Story" at Systems Two Recording Studio in Brooklyn. Nancy and Joe have been running this legendary studio since 1974. I met with Nancy before the recording and I could hardly contain my excitement and was awestruck at the vibe and layout. This studio had it exactly right. High ceilings, wonderful drum booth, visibility, breathing room... And talk about microphones, woah! Max Ross is also a beautiful cat, wonderful engineer and positive spirit to have in the studio. It makes a big difference.
Mixing with Dave Darlington at Bass Hit Studios, NYC
Every now and then you meet a person who has all the combined qualities you’re looking for: optimism, work ethic, cool personality, experience, creativity. Dave Darlington is the best engineer I’ve ever met. I don't like tagging him with the label of "engineer" because he's a composer and musician, too. His experience speaks for itself, winning Grammys with people like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock and Sting. He’s like one of the “secret weapons” of NYC musicians. Cats “in the know” go to Dave.
I have a 15 year history with Dave, I met him in 2005 when I was mixing a hip-hop record and his knowledge and depth struck me instantly. This dude knows music. After a few mixing sessions with Dave, my standards for sound were forever changed. I learned a lot from watching him and just being around such a craftsman of sound, I tried to absorb as much of that magic as I could.
Since then, I've work with Dave on several albums: "Acknowledgement" "Progressive Jump Rope Beats" are two of them. I also played drums on his album "D-Tour".
Carvin and Dave have a history, too, and they worked in tandem like clockwork. Dave took Carvin’s descriptions of the sounds he wanted and realized them into the mix. It was uncanny! No matter how abstract Carvin’s suggestions could seem, Dave turned into into tangible sound.
I’m beginning to think that mixing is my favorite part of making a record. It’s just so rewarding to hear that album come together and then sit back and listen to a beautifully crafted SOUND.
I could go on about Dave, but I’ll just say that when you hear “The Other Side of the Story”, you’ll know. Trust me.
Artist: Debra Marleen Smith
I didn’t know what I wanted for the cover of this album, but I knew what I didn’t want. Not another picture of myself! Something artistic, something interesting to look at. Something that can resonate with the music.
My search ended one day when I was looking at Instagram. A friend from high school who now lives in Kansas City, Debra Marleen Smith, had posted something that was infinitely interesting. I couldn’t stop looking at it. And, I’d never seen anything like it.
Debra has her own fingerprint as an artist. That’s difficult to realize, weather it’s in music or visual art or whatever… To get out of our own way and allow ourselves to be who we are, can sometimes take a lifetime. Debra has become true artist, all the way. She has an identity. She stands for something.
Just in the way Debra creates her art is intriguing; Textiles. Fabrics. All cut up and reassembled, composed. Statements. Improvisations. Embracing what she loves and going with it.
I asked Debra if she’d be interested in working with me on an album cover and she said yes.
Photography and Design: Chris Drukker
Anybody who has an insight into life is going to have an insight into art. I’m typically impressed with people who are somewhat obsessed with life’s intricacies, especially when the obsession is music. I met Chris Drukker one time when he was photographing two of my students. When I saw the photos, I was knocked out because he captured them in such majesty, honesty, optimism and poignancy. He captured them as DRUMMERS. It was beautiful and I knew I wanted to work with him.
Through the past few years I’ve gotten to know Chris and come to be almost in awe of his knowledge of music and musicians. He knows everybody on the scene. He’s photographed ‘em all. And so, when I chose to have Chris come to the studio while we were recording, I trusted him because I knew he’d respect the vibe. And he did.
Chris captured the session beautifully. You could feel his respect for the musicians and the music.
It can’t be an easy job, to come into a dark recording studio and capture musicians on film while they are at their highest concentration. I don’t envy that. It takes a special temperament; a tenacity mixed with compulsion to create art, to capture the rarest of rare moments that tell the story.
And lastly, Chris Drukker has done the graphic design art for “The Other Side of the Story” and that’s the finishing touch. When I saw his design, it LOOKED like a Chris Drukker fingerprint. There’s a good reason he’s done 700+ albums in his time. He’s got the touch. That’s for sure.
Making an album is a very personal process and one reveals oneself; good, bad or otherwise. In my mind, an artist is one who realizes their creativity honestly and in alignment with who they are. That's what I set out to do here and I hope you all enjoy listening to "The Other Side of the Story".
A quick blog post on the cycling topic. If you're here reading this blog, there's pretty good chance you know I'm a drummer by trade and cycling is one of my hobbies. Recently I discovered something interesting on the effect of cycling on my drumming.
I found after a few long distance rides of 40 miles that my endurance had increased significantly and my mental focus and momentum could be held for longer periods of time while playing.
When you're cycling long distances, once you get out there 20 miles or more, well, you have no choice but to ride back. Unless you wanna call an uber. Which I don't. Anyways, cycling kind of forces you to deal with it. and that mentality, once you've broken thru a few mental walls that tell you to stop, you'll likely find that on the other side of that wall you can go a lot further than you might have thought.
Bring that mindset to the drums and holding a groove. Cyclists hold what they call a cadence for hours. It's hypnotizing. After a few rides, I sat down at the drums and that hypnotizing feeling was still there. It was like I was already totally in a pocket, and I think that's maybe because I HAD been in a pocket for hours at a time already.
I don't have any other major revelations to add. I'm still sussing it all out. This is my first summer back on a bike in many years. But Hey! Nevermind that, the important thing is that "groove sports" like cycling, jump rope, speed bag... that kind of stuff, is very interesting to me and I have found them all to be beneficial to my playing physicality.
More to come on this topic soon...
A breakdown of the songs from the album
People are often interested in where songs come from, especially the titles. They like to hear about the circumstances in which the song was written, or the inspiration. So here's a breakdown of the songs on "The Other Side of the Story"
Eureka Springs is a beautiful little village nestled up in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas. In the 90’s I performed there with Ahmad Alaadeen’s band, The Dean’s of Swing. The town had a magical quality to it and we were treated very well by the locals. I wrote this when I got back to KC, it’s actually the first "jazz" song I ever wrote. We played it a lot in my KC bands of the 90s and the cats seemed to really like it, it’s fun for them to solo on and has a few feel changes that are fun to play.
Viewpoints: is a song that I wrote on guitar and it came out in it’s entirety, all at once. I call it Viewpoints because the melodic theme is viewed from several different angles within the tune. I first called it “Wayne-ish” because it reminded me a little of Wayne Shorter. But I later renamed out of respect for Mr. Shorter.
Infinite Six: My favorite rhythms are usually in a three or six beat feel. I feel like triplicate beats have an infinite quality, meaning they can go on forever. With that as the basis I wrote the melody on guitar, which is my favorite instrument to write on, and it came out like what you hear on the song.
Hannibalian: The definition of that word would be “One who was born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri” No matter how far I have travelled from my Missouri hometown, I will always be a Hannibalian. To be honest, for many years I didn’t even claim to be from Hannibal because nobody knew where it was and they’d make a joke about Hannibal Lecter, so I claimed KC as my home. Which, to me, KC is my musical home. Hannibal is my hometown and I claim it. To be from Hannibal IS special; to grow up on the river, running through cornfields, playing in creeks and streams, fishing for catfish… it was a dream.
Drive: This song has two main influences. I was playing the bass, just having fun, and the bass line came about and I really liked it. The melody came from an inspiration when I was watching the movie “Tron” which has a brilliant score written by Wendy Carlos. The melodies in Tron are very angular, which I love, so I used some of the intervallic ideas from Tron to compose this melody.
The Distance: Sitting in my NYC apartment in the days and weeks following 9/11, there was no music that would comfort me, so I wrote this on guitar and sang the melody, it was about the only way to make myself feel any better. I put the song away for many years because I felt it was too personal to play in public. I included it for this album because it really worked in the studio, thanks to producer Michael Carvin who guided us to the “Other Side”. The title, The Distance, refers to the distance I felt, personally, between myself and the horror of the event. Even tho we watched it from our doorstep in NYC, in an obtuse way life went on and there was a distance between us and the actual horror.
Jump Rope Dance: I have long been obsessed with the jump rope and the way it makes me feel. I especially love jumping rope to music. The bass line came first, written on bass, then the melody was inspired by a Horace Silver line, which also sounds like a lick I’ve heard some guitar player use and the bridge is a total departure melodically. The final result is this song Jump Rope Dance.
Ozark Flight: This song is me imagining what it would be like to fly over the Ozark Mountains. At the time this was written I was listing a lot of Pat Metheny’s album “Bright Size Life” and also Stevie Wonder. I wrote it on guitar way back in 1999 and put it away because it never sounded right with horns playing the melody, but now with vibes/guitar it really sounds the way I intended it to.
Ascent: The most recent of all the songs, Ascent was written completely on piano. After studying piano for a couple years, I began to understand harmonic movement better, so this tune came from that. I call it Ascent because it has this feeling of rising up. I like it when chords change, but there is one note that can work with all the chords. I plan on developing this concept further in the future.
Start of the Change: This tune was first written on guitar using minor 9 chords. I first recorded it as a hip-hop song, tricking it out with a lot of production to make up for the fact that it was only a couple chords. Recently I revisited it and wrote the bridge and melody on piano. The result is what you hear now. The title comes from a period in my life when I felt a big change coming on, getting away from playing jazz of the past and getting to my own music.
Vistas: The guitar has been a loyal and truthful friend since I first picked one up and began learning chords. Through guitar, I came to appreciate guitarists/composers. My favorite one is a guy named Toninho Horta. Toninho is a genius of music, pure and simple. His chord voicings are so cool. I learned some of them and put this tune together, it took a year trying to find the right resolutions and such, but eventually I got something I liked. I performed it as a solo piece on this album because the guitar is such a personal instrument to me and because the song represents the optimistic spirit in which I made this record. The title, Vistas, refers to an image I see of flying over mountain tops and across vistas into the horizon.
The Other Side of the Story: No story is complete when you just hear one side. The great philosopher Herbert Spencer in his book “First Principals” speaks of the truth as being “two truths” meaning that no one side of a truth is wholly true.
“If both have (truths) have bases in the reality of things, then between them there must be a fundamental harmony”
“Fundamental Harmony” I like that.
As a drummer, I always felt I needed to master the instrument before I considered working on anything else. Endless hours in the practice room dominated my time, seeking to get a hold on this "four limbed monster" called the drum kit.
At the UMKC Conservatory of Music, I took piano classes and began to experiment with my own ideas, but the drums called for most of my time and focus. My knowledge of harmony was pretty limited, although my ears were expanding every day, hanging with friends and listening to records, learning more and more tunes by ear.
My roommates had guitars around the house and I started learning chords. It was very difficult, contorting my hand into positions that seemed nearly impossible for a human hand. But, eventually, I could play major, minor and dominant chords enough to be able to begin assembling my own ideas.
It was liberating. I could play the guitar with no expectations. It was pure fun. Soon, a few tunes were born. Mostly country-ish jams that were super simple, yet very rewarding for me. Then a while later I took guitar classes at the New School and opened up my chord vocabulary. More tunes were born, but mostly the basic germ of the tune, just a foundational idea or starting point.
With help of friends who would suggest chords to go with my melodies, I completed a batch of tunes. But I wasn't really satisfied with them. I recorded them on a few occasions. Two of them are on my album "Suit-up!" which was produced by Dave Stryker and also featured Kyle Koehler on B-3.
The response to my tunes was very encouraging. One of them played on XM Radio and I got some royalty checks in the mail. Wow! OK. Let's do more.
I sat down with almost 20 years of ideas that I'd documented on cassettes, mini-discs and on the computer. Many of them were unfinished, but had potential. But, like Charles Bukowski said: Potential doesn't mean anything... You've got to DO IT."
So I searched and found a local piano teacher, Bob Himmelberger, who listened to my whole life story about never really getting my piano thing together and started me on a path to being able to finish my tunes. It was not going to be easy, but at this point, what else am I going to do? What's to lose?
I learned scales in all 12 keys. Minor, Major and Dominant chords in root position. This took a minute, but so far so good. Then all the chords using A and B voicings. The anty was raised and this took quite a while. Then 2-5-1 progressions in all 12 keys using the new voicings. Then 2-5-2 Tri tone subs. Then standards like "Lady Bird" and "Confirmation".
Soon, I understood how to use chord tones and I sat down with my collection of ideas and started adding melodies, then new sections to the tunes, then finally, finishing some of them. This was quite possibly the most rewarding thing ever!
I took the tunes to sessions and played them down with the cats. It was like going back to school! Some of the tunes clunked along like cars with a wheel missing, but at least now I knew what to do. I went back and fourth to the drawing board, until finally I had 12 new tunes!
This was quite a thing for me. Drummers are often stigmatized with not being complete musicians, which can be true in some cases if the drummer is not hearing the harmony. A drummer may not know the complete theory behind a 2-5-1, but if you can hear it, then you can play accordingly. But now really knowing what's going on, theoretically and sonically with the piano, I felt a big change in my playing and hearing.
Anyways, I write about all this because it has been such a journey for me and has opened up a lot of doors. I understand music itself much better now and even tho I have a long way to go, it feels really good to have my own book of music to play and record.
If you're a drummer and you're reading this, maybe you are thinking about those piano lessons, or wondering how to get started writing your own music.
One of the best ways to get started is to do just that: get started. And take it from there.
There is an artist inside you. Composition reveals that. Especially when you're absolutely true to yourself. Yeah, you could use someone else's chord changes and melodies, but when you're true to your ear, you'll have your own sound. I really believe that.
Anyways, that's a little piece of what I've been experience in writing. It's getting better all the time and there ain't nothing to it but to do it. Write. learn. And write some more.
Little By Little Makes Big
Learning the skill of jumping rope is different than putting that skill to use in your workout routine. Learn the skill first.
Use the little by little principle by following these small and attainable, but very important steps.
- Buy the right rope. Make sure it’s going to be adjustable.
The time frame for this process is not the same for everybody, one maybe able to attain sustained jumping immediately, others may take a week. I suggest that everybody takes their time in practicing the skill so that it is engrained in a relaxed fashion, not in a tight or spastic out of control way.
Big By Big can equal failure with the rope. One maybe able to sustain jumping for a good while right off the bat, however maybe they are straining to keep it going, their breath is out of synch and ultimately cannot keep it going for long.
Little by little will allow you to learn the skill slowly, thoroughly and confidently with a healthy and patient attitude towards the jump rope that will keep it loose and fun.
Learn something new!
There are hundreds of exercise options out there to chose from, we are all but pelted with hot new routines and ideas, and that’s a good thing, however I am left to wonder, do they teach a skill?
Learning the skill of jumping rope will add a fresh dimension to your workout, and the ways in which the rope can be used are many, thus expanding your exercise vocabulary.
Learning a new skill benefits many areas of your brain and the jump rope in particular is a full-body exercise that can increase synapse strength and neurological connection.
Jumping Rope is a skill you can take with you whereever you go. All you need is your rope, a clear space, your sneakers and you.
Once you know how to do it, you will never forget. You may have to dust off your skills after a lay off, but it will come right back to you.
Before I went full-bore into a music career I explored all kinds of other interests: baseball, BMX racing, soccer, wrestling, karate and boxing. Of all of these, boxing left the biggest impression on me. While, yes, taking a punch to the face will certainly leave a lasting mental impression, and hopefully not a physical one, the aspect of boxing that has stayed with me for life has been.... THE JUMP ROPE.
Jumping rope has a rhythm, feel and continuity that really inspires me. One day, I was jumping rope and I thought about the African triplet rhythm and the shuffle. I heard these rhythms in my head as I worked out with the rope and thought... how can I take this further?
So, I starting creating beats in Pro Tools that felt right for the jump rope rhythm. Like a scientist, I went through draft after draft. Each time, taking the tracks to the gym to test them out and then going back to the lab.
I started this process in 2006 in my small Manhattan apartment in New York City.
As I dialed in the tracks, I began composing various programs to enhance different attributes: Endurance. Warm-up, Speed, Power. Interval training for weight loss.
Honestly, I was not thinking about enhancing my drumming with this, but I began to realize that the jump rope was working wonders for my playing.
First, it was a healthy and positive exercise. The music biz is rough, especially for drummers, who have to haul a ton of gear, set it up, play it all night, tear it down, load it up and take it home. If you add unhealthy life habits to that like drinking, getting high, sleeping in till noon... well, you're gonna hit a wall sooner than later.
I mean, ever look at a guy like Kenny Aronoff? That guy is a beast!! He's got to be in his 60s by now and look at him, he looks amazing and plays his ass off!
So anyway, I began to feel much more connected with my core rhythm and it translated into my drumming which became much more effortless and fluid. 20 minutes with the jump rope on the day of a performance paid off huge. When I sat at the drums, they seemed to play themselves.
It doesn't matter what kind of music you play. It works for any music.
Sometimes, things other than drumming can influence our playing, either good or bad. I had tried weight lifting in my younger years and it always tightened me up, so I stopped. I wanted to enhance my playing thru exercise and once I dropped the weights for the jump rope I've never looked back. Sure, I still lift light weights, but no bulking up. The rope can maintain muscle tone, too.
So, drummers, maybe you'd like to try my idea. Check out my "Progressive Jump Rope Beats" album at......
Wishing you all the best in music, health and drumming..
A few thoughts about Canopus Drums
I started hearing about these new "Canopus" drums from musicians around New York. A bassist asked me "hey man, they got a set of Canopus drums down at Cornelia St. Cafe and they sound amazing and open. You ought to check them out.." And, sure enough, the next time I played Cornelia, I was struck by how open and tonally expressive the Canopus were. I made a note of it, for sure.
In 2010 I was in Frank Ascensa's drum shop in the Bronx when I met Eliot Zigmund, the great drummer who was with Bill Evans in the 70s (Eliot is STILL great, he's at the top of his game). I had some old Sonor drums I was having the edges re-cut and I was thinking of buying some new drums. Eliot asked "Why don't you try Canopus? I think you'd like them." He invited me to his house and we played the Canopus club kit in his living room and they just sang beautifully. I was very impressed.
On the way home I stopped off to see my friend Frank Colonnato at the Long Island Drum Center shop in Nyack, NY and there was an amazing Canopus RFM kit sitting there, waiting for me. I played them, they sounded open and full, especially the snare, a beautiful 5.5x14 with die cast hoops and the Canopus Vintage snare wires, it sounded bigger than a 6" deep drum and had more guts than any snare I'd ever owned. It was perfect. So, I promptly stepped outside to call my wife and explain to her how I was going to pull off buying these new drums. "What's the name of them?!?" She kept asking.
The drums sang so much more open than any other drums I'd owned. I found the Canopus to be especially easy to tune and hear the tonalities more specifically. Granted, I had been playing on 60s vintage drums since the early 90s, this was my first "new" drum kit in quite some time, but the alignment and congruity of the Canopus allow them to sing and have tone that no other drums I'd owned ever had.
In 2011, I very gratefully and happily signed with Canopus Drums.
In 2012 I ordered two more Canopus kits, the Club Kit and a "pop" type kit with a 20" bass drum. I enjoyed them immensely and recorded a couple of records using those drums. I used the RFM drums on my album "Suit-up!" in 2013 and took the Club Kit out on scores of gigs, the 15" bass drum always sounded amazing, filling up the room with a full tone.
Canopus Club Kit
In 2015 I switched out my RFM series for a Neo-Vintage M1 kit. The past few years had taught me a lot about bearing edges, hoops, various woods… all kids of nuances about drums I hadn't known. After playing the Canopus kit at Smoke in NYC several times, I found I liked the Neo-Vintage drums a lot because of their tone and feel, which comes from their rounded bearing edges, die cast hoops and poplar wood in the shell design. The perfect kit for me has evolved into a Canopus Neo-Vintage kit with 12" 13" toms mounted from stands, 14" 16" floor toms, 5.5"x14" snare and 18" un-drilled bass drum. Rounded "baseball bat" edges, die cast hoops.
Canopus is doing several things aside from just their drums; the bolt tight washers, their amazing snare wire, the speed star bearing, are all examples of intelligent re-imagining of drum designs. The bolt tights change the feel of a drum, just slightly, taking a bit of the edge off, softening the feel a little bit because the hoop is resting on a bed of leather washers instead of a metal-on-metal. I feel it most in the snare drum. I also feel it gives a slight more depth to the sound of a drum. Their snare wires are the best going, artistry applied to every detail make the wires more sensitive and light, so that the drum breathes. I can't say enough for the snare wires, they are simply amazing! And the Speed-Star, I was shocked at the difference in my vintage yamaha pedals from the early 90s, the re-imagining of the bass drum spring pulley gives a pedal a major upgrade in smoothness, speed and power. You have try it!
The Speed-Star Bearing Rocks!
So that's it, I'm just psyched to be playing drums that are a total joy to play and I don't find myself wanting something more from them, they're opening me up as a player, I can relax into the drum, all the tones are there, the depth is there. I spent 20 years trying to nurse along my 60s vintage drums, carrying them around NYC banging them all up, felt like walking on eggshells. The vintage drums, they always needed work, I was always on Ebay looking for parts, and they never sounded right, even after I had them re-cut. The old drums were cool, still had a lot of soul, but they were limited. I had to move into the present! The Canopus have the soul of a drum from the past, but with all the modern design upgrades of the present. http://www.canopusdrums.com
"It's called show business.... so show up and take care of your business."
We often think of "show business" as some unruly, willy-nilly, free-for-all. We think of entertainers as these untouchable and elevated people who have nothing to think of except their performances and they live in some kind of fantasy world where, if you "make it" then you're excused from overall responsibility.
Today, more than any other time, "show business", the word "business" is just as important, if not more, than the word "show".
Why? Because if the business doesn't get handled, then the show ain't happening. Period.
So what is business? It's everything, even the playing: returning correspondence via email, phone, texts. Being on time. Being absolutely prepared. Dressing correctly. Supporting and serving the music. Doing your job. Doing what you say you are going to do. And further... maintaining a vibrant social media presence, keeping up with the trends, etc....
I am reminded of all of this as I observe musicians in various states of preparedness for performances. I am amazed at some of them, how astute and ready they are. Others, it's the total opposite, they behave as if some magical force is going to tie up all the loose ends they haven't bothered to take care of.
When I'm a bandleader, I am acutely aware of the musicians I hire and their business standard. If I hire a player, and I've sent them music in advance, it's natural to expect them the have it prepared. And if they haven't prepared, I will never call them again. If they are prepared, then their number is on my list when it comes time to make calls.
It's so simple, yet so easy to slack off. Most of the things that a musician can do to make their playing experience better, to give themselves and the band a better chance of making some actual music, are not difficult but just require caring enough to do them. In my mind and in my experience, this is what separates great musicians from so-so musicians. The ones who know that if they want to sound good, then they have to know the music well in order to have a chance at making some good music, and also to show the leader some respect.
Do yourself a big favor. Handle your business, leave no stone unturned and you'll see a big difference in your life.