What’s On My Music Stand / Little Epiphany

Posted on September 10, 2011


In this installment of davebrogansdrumblog I’d like to share what I’ve been working on in the windowless South San Francisco rehearsal studio I call my woodshed. But first a little epiphany:


To successfully learn something difficult you must first simply commit to learning it. You have to have a truthful feeling that, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes, you will not stop working on said pattern, lick, beat, concept, rudiment or whatever it may be, until it is tight and up to speed. After that you only need two things: patience, which allows you to practice in a relaxed way without giving up, and faith, which allows you to press on even if the skill is coming slow, because you know that eventually you will have it and people will love it.


Now onto the main topic. That credit card company has their “what’s in your wallet” ad campaign, so I though I’d do “what’s on my music stand.” I love my music stand. It’s a good old Manhasset (like the ones in band class) with an authentic Manhasset stand light on it. It’s like being in the orchestra pit of the civic light opera all over again. (I played for the Santa Barbara C.L.O. while in college. Seven shows a week on top of a full course load. By the end of the first season I was an overworked wreck. I’d walk down to Tommy’s during intermission and slam two gin and tonics, then head back to finish the show. Ridiculous.)

I took pictures of the books I’m working out of opened to the appropriate pages. They’re just sitting on the stand. Here they are with a little write-up about each one. Many of you will recognize some of these as they are classics of the drumming canon of study.


Not a classic- THEE classic. Carmine Appice’s Realistic Rock came with my first drum set: a 1969 red (not sparkle) Ludwig four piece. As a kid I took to Realistic Rock right away. The beauty of the book is that the beats are badass and, therefore, really fun to play. That’s why I like to use it with my younger students, too. The page pictured here is not that as funky as some- I was using these exercises to work on hi hat consistency and my 16th note subdivisions (see my blog from July 31 for more on that subject). You could take most of the beats in this book, loop them and build a killer track right over the top.


I use the etude on the right (page 37) to work on double stops (playing both hands at the same time on various surfaces), independence (various limbs playing different patterns) and interlocking Moeller strokes. My main freak with this page is playing a cascara beat on the ride cymbal and bass drum while playing the etude as written in the left hand. Of course, switching limbs is always beneficial- left hand cascara, right hand etude. If fact, that is where commitment to a study and patience really plays a part, because we really should be practicing anything we’re trying to own with both right and left hand leads. But, that takes more than twice the amount of effort and time because not only do you have to read the exercise down with the left hand but the left also has to catch up to the right. Not many drummers in history have developed the skill of being truly ambidextrous. Simon Phillips was probably the first to get it. Nowadays I see a lot of R&B drummers rocking left hand hi hat for beats.


Page 42 from the legendary Jim Chapin’s book Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer. I took a lesson with Jim once. He gave me a sheet on the Moeller technique. I don’t think I have it any more. He also told a lot of stories about jazz drummers. He felt that Tony Williams didn’t count. That instead of 1-2-3-4 everything was just 1-1-1-1. I think I see what he means. Even if that was what was really going on in Williams’ head (and I think he was referring to the early, Miles Davis stuff) how revolutionary is that? Instead of looping a cycle of four, everything is just- “one.”

What I’m doing with this page is something Pete Magadini showed me. You forget about the ride and play the kick as-is and the snare with both hands, using double strokes whenever practical. It makes for a nice little jazz piece. The amazing thing about the exercises in this book is how much melodicism Chapin was able to express just with the snare and bass drum. That’s why it’s nice to orchestrate some of them as hand-to-hand solos.

It’s amazing how much drum teachers have milked just a few books- Chapin’s, Stick Control, Progressive Syncopation, etc. In a way, those early drum books became the main books for 60 years of drum study, adapted in hundreds of different ways to work for dozens of playing styles.


I’ve written before about my work with Bay Area teacher Pete Magadini on his book, Polyrhythms for the Drum Set. These are the last two pages of the first half of the book- sixteenths in four between the kick and snare while swinging in six on the left page. The right page is three polyrhythmic solos. The cymbal swings in six and the left hand and foot just sort of float around different subdivisions, almost like they are playing out of time. Wild, wacky stuff. I love it. Ultimately I want to be able to do something like be playing a regular, 16th note funk groove and then have one of the limbs subtly slip into triplets while the rest of the limbs continue 16ths. Without a glitch. Mind melting… That’s why they’re called TRIP-lettes.


On these pages of my notebook I just write down all of the linear licks I stumble across while practicing. Every once in a while I’ll go back and draw from the well. My big endeavor from this, lately, is working on fast 16ths and 16th note triplets between one hand and the bass drum. I saw the drummer for Zap Mama do this in a drum solo and it is a crowd pleaser. He even “toweled-off” while his right hand zoomed around the toms- filled in with kick. This lick has proved to be very difficult to learn, prompting the “patience epiphany.”


I just cracked open Steve Houghton’s Drumset Soloist book recently. It comes with a CD and corresponding charts, sort of like a Jamie Abersol book for drummers. A group of studio musicians loops a groove so you can blow solos in the privacy of your own practice room. Drum licks-a-plenty. Nobody gets hurt.

What are some of your favorite books? Talk to the blog, we love to hear your comments.

Thanks for reading…