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L.A. Beat

Drum Beat #5— Get in Shape

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Welcome to Column Number 5. I thought it was pertinent to discuss the value of exercise and being in shape to play the drums in a live setting. Do not get me wrong, you do not have to become a steroid infested muscle pusher.  In fact I would venture to say that is counterproductive unless it is part of your look.  For example who wants a skinny metal drummer with small muscles dressed in his indie rock clothing their mother bought for them.
Play metal, get big muscles,  lol. No not really but I hope you see my point. Drums are about fitness and fluidity.  Set yourself a workout regime that is balanced and benefits you for drumming. Over the years I have always used the following as an exercise routine before practicing. It helps clear the mind, gets the blood flowing and prepares your body for the pounding it takes to be a nightly gigging drummer. Start by doing 30 minutes of Yoga. This builds strength as well as inner balance and will aid you in developing yourself to be in harmony both physically and mentally which obviously will translate to your drumming. Next run for two miles or jog.
I am not a big fan of this kind of cardio as it is so high impact. If you have an exercise bike handy use it.  
Find some way to put in some cardio work that best fits you and your body.
Yoga will aid in cardio development but it is not enough to have the proper cardio capacity for a three hour gig full of fast beats.  
When you are done with your run,  do yoga for another 15 minutes and you are good to go. There are not any rules only the opportunity to increase your playing ability while actually getting healthy.
In summary, get in shape but do not hurt yourself let it inhibit your drumming. Instead, fitness should be  and enhancement of your drumming.

Conceptual Thought #5— Hear Yourself

This column’s conceptual thought centers around hearing yourself in the context of the band. The greatest teacher I ever had discussed this one day in a lesson while we were just talking. I am not sure he even knew I was listening but among the countless lessons he taught me, this advice was the most valuable. I asked him what he meant by “Hearing yourself in the context of the band.”

He said it was hard to explain, but one day I would be playing and would begin to hear myself and what I was playing as a whole sound instead of the just hearing the drums and how they were fitting the music.  It was not until I was 35 years old that this happened. I mention this because I am not sure drummers are aware of this or know it is something  they can strive for. Hearing yourself as part of the music being played does not have an instant gratification component to it. It is something that is earned over countless hours of practice and playing. It is different for everyone but be aware this is achievable and is well worth the time, effort, patience and persistence it takes to achieve this level. When you reach this point your playing begins to become very gratifying.

Lesson #5— Let that cymbal ride
This lesson we will focus on your ride cymbal. In my opinion your ride cymbal is the basis of your sound. Every cymbal has a different sound. You play this cymbal constantly so obviously it needs to have a sound you like.  
I prefer to have a dark K Zildjian ride cymbal. It took me over a year to replace the ride cymbal I had for 20 years.  
A great ride cymbal will purr when you hit it. Play as many of them as you can until you find the right one.  
When you hit the right cymbal for you, you will know it. There is such a thing as chemistry between a drummer and his cymbals.
Now there are several things you can do to get many sounds from your ride. Of course hitting it with the tip of the stick is a given. As you do for the drums bring the sound out of the cymbal instead of hitting into it.  Another technique is to hit the cymbal with the flank of the stick.  It gives you a different sound which is effective in many situations. One of my favorite accents to play in a jazz tune is hitting a rim shot on the snare at the same time as hitting the ride cymbal just under the tip of the stick about a 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the ride cymbal.
Swiping the stick across the  the cymbal gives you a great swishing sound.  The metal end of a brush swished across it is a great effective ballad tool.  
Basically there are many ways to hit the cymbal.  Experiment with hitting in different ways.  Use the bell by hitting it in different places and you will be amazed at all of the sounds you can get.
Now as I said before there are many different  kinds of ride cymbals.  A nice dark cymbal works great for jazz.  A light A Zildjian is great for folk rock.  
 A heavy A Zildjian rock ride works for rock, funk, metal, etc.  Again the ride cymbal is your signature.  Do not just go out and buy a ride cymbal.  Never order a cymbal from a catalog or on-line.  How do you know what it is  truly going to sound like? Take the time to put together a set of crashes and hi-hats that match the sound of your ride.  
Do not take this lightly. Build a set of cymbals. All great drummers have awesome cymbals. If you are inclined go to Youtube and look up Miles Davis - Tony Williams and just watch Tony Williams.  His ride cymbal work will blow you away.  
He plays the ride like nobody else.
Thanks for reading.
— By Stanley Jackson, special to L.A. Beat
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