Drum Beat 8— Drummers should learn piano


Hello and welcome to Column 8.
This column’s fundamental for drumming is learn to play the piano and then use it to learn music theory.
I should have talked about this in the first column. I once saw an Art Blakey clinic where he had everyone who played drums raise thier hands, which was everyone. He then had everyone who knew how to play piano raise their hands. Only a few raised their hands, including me. He then told us all to go home and learn to play the piano before we played the drums.

I ignored this for many years like a fool. It was not until I learned about the piano, (I would not say I can play it, but I can find and make all chords and hear notes, etc) that I understood what he was talking about. All drummers should know at least how to play chords and find notes on the piano. In fact if you cannot play the piano then stop practicing the drums exclusively and devote half of your practice time to learning the piano. Once you have a basic understanding of the piano then practice and learn music theory while increasing your skills.

Please do not get me wrong but you do not need to be a virtuoso or even a brilliant player on the piano. By having a knowledge of it, how to make chords on it and hear notes that are being played by your ear you will develop a greater understanding of musical concepts. You can expand your ear, learn rhythm and make yourself a better drummer because you will have a greater understanding and knowledge of music.

Knowing the basics of music, making chords, and knowing the names of notes, etc, enables you to play in the context of music.  You can relate to the other players because you have training on an instrument other than just drums. This especially helps in playing jazz in the sense if you get lost in a song you can just hear where the band is at. You will understand what the other players are talking about when they discuss chords, arrangements and structure of a song. Additionally when other players make jokes about drummers you can sit down and make fun of them. Most of them THINK they can play the drums. (Its so sad).
The best benefit is when you have developed an understanding of the piano and music theory it gains you credibility and leads to more gigs.

 Drumming Concept 8 — Focus Freedom Flow

Let’s discuss the concept of  focus freedom flow  as it applies to drumming. When playing, try to balance these three elements in order to play with an ease that allows you to get into a "ZONE". First become focused. Block out all of the stage drama as this can arise quickly and often in some musical situations. Forget the days worries as finally you are where you are most comfortable without your daily life distractions. When you have done this you have achieved the freedom to play from within. You are free of your daily distractions that cause blockage that prohibit the playing with expression and feeling. Once you have arrived at this space you not only will achieve flow with your playing but you can then provide the rest of the band a great rhythm to play to.
Lesson 8— Foot placement

For this column’s lesson let's focus on foot placement on your bass drum. Some players play flat footed and some play with their heel in the air. Both techniques work so this is what I suggest. When practicing do both and see which works for you. I prefer to have my heel in the air so I can get more control. This also allows me to play faster bass drum patterns without the muscle above my ankle getting fatigued.

If I have not played in a live situation for awhile this is always a problem. Have you ever had you leg quit working. It is not fun at all. Do what you can to make your leg muscle stronger. While sitting around in your daily life you can mimic the action of playing your bass drum so that this does not happen to you. When you have your heel in the air, I like to have my toes and foot at an angle as well. This allows for many techniques to be used such as sliding my foot up and down on the pedal to create a faster continuous beat. You can simulate a double bass drum sound by doing this although it takes quite a bit of practice. You can achieve the same effect by slightly swinging your foot back and forth. Experiment with these techniques and see what works for you. There are not rules, so again, just experiment. When playing slow swing jazz, I like to play flat footed as it keeps me from playing too many notes. It helps you swing with taste instead of being the jazz guy who overplays the bass drum.
Have a great rest of April and enjoy the Spring.

—  By Stanley Jackson Special to L.A. Beat
{jcomments on}