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L.A. Beat

Drum Beat 11— Know your fundamentals

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As I said last column I am switching the format. The next 10 columns are going to be random essays about drumming.
The most basic aspect of drumming starts with learning and mastering the fundamentals of drumming. This will enable you to
have complete control over what you are doing which allows for you to play from within your soul. Anyone can be a drummer but can they play with feeling and interpret music so they are adding more than just a beat to a sound or a piece of music. The basic fundamentals in my opinion of drumming are:

1. Stick Control
2. Rudiments
3. Feet control
4. Meter or "TIME"
5. Tonality
6. Know the history and study the greats
7. The drive to keep getting better.

Before you ever play a note these fundamentals should be part of your drumming vocabulary. These fundamentals have been discussed in my previous columns so you can refer to those to get a more in depth overview of them. The reason for this column is to explore why and how these form the basics of your playing that allow you to overcome obstacles and challenges as you forge forward learning to be a great drummer. It is the same for any athlete, businessman, carpenter or any vocation you choose.

Sure you can be a great drummer without ever thinking about fundamentals.

Eventually you will be beaten by someone who has history, knowledge and has a mastery of the fundamental concepts surrounding thier vocation. How many top rate professionals do you think reach the top of their respective fields without knowing the fundamentals of their business. If you plan on making a living playing the drums then it is your vocation. Let's look at some examples of this.

For an example I am going to use professional basketball players. A basketball player is very similar to being a drummer. You are an individual but in order to succeed you have to be part of a team and work with others. It is the same as being in a band as a drummer.

The fundamentals are the aspects that have set Michael Jordon, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan apart from the rest of the great players that have played in the NBA for the last 30 years or so. They all, besides being great offensive players were first team defensive players, excellent passers, great rebounders, valued the team, could shoot free throws, understood the pace of the game and had studied and wanted to be better than previous generations of players they had grown up and idolized.

They understood the value of being able to be strong in all of the basics or fundamentals of the game in order to become the best.
They knew if they mastered the fundamentals they could be free to become the greatest because they has no weaknesses to encumber them and make them fall short in crucial situations.

They can play from within themselves having eliminated any issues that might not allow them to execute at crucial times during the game. By mastering tonality, meter, stick control, rudiments, and feet control you can enable yourself to have complete control over any situation allowing for greatness. Once you have reached this level, the last two fundamentals of history and your drive enable you to progress to levels you never thought you could reach.

Knowing the history and studying the greats has many advantages. By observing and studying tendencies and techniques the greats have utilized to become successful in their field is a huge advantage. You can avoid many mistakes as well as conserve time developing your overall skills by studying the history of the greats. You are able to learn some of their techniques as well as observe how they handled different situations. When you find yourself in similar situations you are then able to draw from this knowledge the proper way to handle the situation and excel. You do not have to learn the hard way as it has been said.

You have experience without actually experiencing the situation yourself. In other words you do not have to re-invent the wheel.

Most importantly is maintaining your drive once you have reached greatness. If you do not keep up your practice and study of your drumming, your chops will fall off, your beats will become routine and you will fade quickly. There is always  someone out there ready to take your job. There is someone always working harder than you whether you want to believe it or not.
A great example of this is what Kobe Bryant did in the last off season before defending the championship this year. Instead of staying complacent during the off season, Kobe contacted Hakeem Olajuwan. He asked him if he would be willing to work with him and show him his moves he had while playing. Hakeem had the greatest moves to shed a defender of any center ever. During his playing career Hakeem's moves were innovative, smooth and awesome.

They were truly poetry. In order to expand his game Kobe took two months of the summer and worked with Hakeem every day learning these moves. The result was even though it appeared Kobe had lost some of his height in his jumps and some of his quickness he was still able to maintain being the best basketball in the world due to his increased arsenal of moves in and around the basket. He was able to still get open due to his  drive to remain great and not rest on his past accomplishments. He did not rely on or take for granted his skills would remain.
He did what it took to remain great and be prepared for any situation in the new season.

The bottom line here is you must draw from all resources to develop a vocabulary of fundamentals. This knowledge and skill will allow you to play "free" or from within your soul. Believe me if you can achieve this you will set yourself apart from the millions of other drummers out there. This allows you to have a fulfilling and rewarding career as a professional drummer.

Until the next column enjoy the summer and the long days. In fact the amount of sunlight per day is now getting shorter.

— Stanley Jackson, Special to L.A. Beat
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