Friday, August 11, 2017

Give The Drummer Some

Clyde Stubblefied...the man!
'Give the drummer some' was a shout out by James Brown in the song The Funky Drummer. James also guides drummer extraordinaire, Clyde Stubblefield at the beginning of the solo.

He tells him, "Don't turn it loose, just keep doin' what you're doin' cause it's a mother..."

James was giving his drummer some love and baby he had it right!

I've got an amazing drum student named Logan. Not only is he an amazing player, he's got a truly strong character and what you'd call, grit. I want to put the spotlight on a particular situation that he handled--masterfully.

He's sixteen years old, which makes him the oldest member of his hard rock band. The band has a unique situation where one of the parents manages the band; they have a paid band coach and all parents get together with the band at rehearsals. Is this helicopter parenting? Or is this a level of support that all young rockers deserve? You decide. I'm not getting into that here.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to see the band live and was blown away. These kids are playing challenging material and doing it very well--better than some bands with cats in their twenties. They cover everything from Deep Purple to Metallica to Van Halen and beyond.

At our first drum lesson after the show I told Logan he should be doing a drum solo. It's hard rock music and in my semi-biased (and scientifically based) opinion Logan is the most proficient on his instrument. Logan, the ever fearless cat that he is smiled and said, "O.k."

We discussed his set list and found the ideal spot in the set for Logan to rip it up. He'd come out of Black Sabbath's War Pigs and go into his solo. Then he'd open Van Halen's Hot For Teacher, which is perfect because the Halen song starts with drums. At the following week's drum lesson he told me that the manager or (Mom-ager) and band coach tensed up and gave him the empty calorie response,

"Ah, not on this gig maybe on the next one..."

I dropped a few expletives then immediately apologized to Logan--he was cool with it. I was not surprised by the response Logan got from his camp because this is a typical response we drummers get.

I pondered it and thought perhaps this goes back to a time of bebop free-jazz where everyone took twenty minute solos and when it came around to the drummer audiences just got burned out. Or perhaps it was during 60's acid rock where drummers took, again, twenty minute solos because, well, they were on acid and time just sort of flies...or drags on acid. (Or so I'm told).

Either way people's eyes glaze over when 'drum solo' is mentioned. To be fair it's also due to the fact a lot of drum solos are poorly executed.

"How many guitar solos are there in your two sets of music?" I asked Logan.

"Every single song."

"Precisely," I said. "Yet a brother can't get a two minute drum solo."

Logan and I discussed the solo, the art of building the solo. I stressed how it's necessary to have one ready because P.A. systems and guitar electronics go down all the time at shows, so the acoustic drum solo keeps the show rolling while roadies figure their sh** out.

I then let the issue drop and we carried on with the lesson. What I didn't realize was that Logan looked at the problem and took initiative. He grabbed the bull by the horns. This didn't surprise me. Logan is a confident, intelligent and thoughtful little (6 ft. tall) dude.

During the week he prepared a drum solo. Then at the next rehearsal with band members, parents and coach he told everyone of the idea and where to put the solo. He then said,

"Can I at least show you my idea? I'll play it for you and if you don't like it we'll move on."

The coach and Mom-ager agreed. 'Oh how big of them...don't get me started!'

Logan clued the boys in on the transition between the songs and played the solo. Everyone in the room went nuts. Logan was then granted permission to play the solo at the gig. This is a victory for all drummers but still the situation is pathetic. He initially was told 'no' based on prejudice and preconceived notions. Human nature 101: I don't understand therefore I say no! Oh, how I grow weary of the small minded.

I admire how Logan didn't give up yet did not bully his way into a solo. And never once did he take the typical millennial route and claim entitlement to his idea. No, he essentially created an audition situation for himself. It was a very mature move not to mention downright shrewd. The cat's a stud, I'm telling you.

Note to: parents, teachers, band members, soundwomen, soundmen, producers etc: Use your ears first before you strike down a drum solo or any musical idea for that matter...ya friggin' dummies!

I was unable to attend the gig as my nephew was in town playing in a basketball tournament. But I turned Tyler, one of my other younger students onto Logan's band and both Tyler and his parents said Logan 'killed it' with his solo. Tyler and his guitar shredder brother, Noah have a gig coming up and guess what's been added to their set? You got it baby...a drum solo. (Tyler played it for me, it's awesome).

We all know the old phrase 'act your age not your shoe size' right? Well in music,  'use your ears not your pea brain'. James Brown had it right back in 1970 and ain't nothin' changed today folks, you gots ta give the drummer some!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


As I was training a client this morning during a boxing workout we had the local news station on in the background. Unfortunately the stories wouldn't stay in the background. In between rounds we'd glance at the news.

The first visual showed a woman that had been abducted escaping out of the trunk of a speeding vehicle. She then ran into a gas station in search of safety.

"Who could even conceive of kidnapping someone?" My client asked. The question obviously rhetorical, I didn't answer. Next break we saw a brutal hit and run caught on surveillance camera, the break after that showed a shooting during road rage.

At the end of the workout we chatted about the world's current state of 'heading to hell in a hand
Weapons of Peace

As I drove away I moved my thoughts to the positive. Recently a neighbor of mine who is a pastor brought his grandson to me for drum lessons. As of late I'd been considering moving on from teaching. Most of my students are Middle schoolers and Highschool kids. But the drum pool has been thinning mostly because D.J.'s are on the rise and much of modern music is built at the computer, not behind the drum set or on the guitar. (This could be an entirely separate blog post b.t.w.)

But I accepted because my neighbor actually approached me over 5 years ago and I promised him I'd be there when he's ready. His grandson is an amazing dude and extremely enthusiastic about the drums. To ask him he'd probably say he's 'stoked.' As a result of his 'stokeage' I too am stoked.

Two weeks into his lessons his mother called and asked if I'd take another student. Turns out a friend of my student heard how much he'd improved in such a short time and wanted to start.

"By all means," I said. "Bring him over."

Fast forward to present day and I've now got 5 students all from the same church. I got them all because each drummer heard the improvement in the other. I take very little credit in how well these boys are doing because they all love drums; practice daily and dig music all around. Did I mention, I'm stoked? I love teaching again! I owe these lads. It's a refreshing sight to see one lad finish his lesson, walk outside and embrace his buddy (and his parents) that's up next. This is what community is all about: drums, family, friendship and huggin' it out.

When I was coming up in the 70's grownups often preached wholesome living. As kids we acted as wholesome as we could but we never admitted to it on the playground because--come on man, being wholesome wasn't cool. Still, we dotted our i's and crossed our t's baby, you best believe that.

If one enters the word Wholesome into the Google machine the second definition reads: conducive to or promoting moral well being. That is the word I'd use to describe these kids. They are all so polite. Some even shake my hand at the beginning and end of each lesson! And these cats are ages 8-16. That's just cool baby, that's just old skool!

Are they wholesome because they attend church? I'd say that's a big part of it. Are they young gentlemen with great manners due to good parenting? You're darn skippy. It's a breath of fresh air in these violent times.

The point of this post if you haven't picked up what I'm putting down is that good old fashioned wholesome living is going on right here on my block and I'm blessed to be part of it.

Finally, if ever you get the urge to shoot a passing vehicle during road rage; flee the scene after you've driven your car into somebody or get a hankering to kidnap someone, give me a call. We'll set up a lesson and I'll show you how to work it out behind the drum set. Or I'll hold the focus pads, you put on the gloves and blow off that steam. Until then, get out there and be kind to someone!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Alternative Facts

Hard working, blue collar dad, Bob Sims, was outraged. "Timmy Simms, you better get down here right now!

Dutiful son nine year old Timmy slammed his bedroom door and vaulted down the stairs. His grin is huge. He looks up to his dad. "Hey daddy, what's going on?"

"What's going on? Your school emailed me a copy of your Current Affairs test today. You didn't get a single question right. Zero percent. How do you explain this?"

Timmy kept his chin high and met his dad's stare eye to eye. "Actually dad, I got a hundred per cent on the test."

"Timmy, I'm warning you," Bob scowled. "Look at this, every answer is wrong."

Timmy pumped up his little chest as big as he could. "With all due respect daddy I gave alternative facts, therefor every answer is correct."

Bob ran a hand through his graying hair. "Timmy, I'm just about out of patience here. There are facts and there is fiction and your answers were one hundred per cent fiction--total crap!"

"Where have you been Pop? Alternative facts are the new facts...or are also facts so I nailed it daddy, I nailed it."

"Son, where are you getting this stuff?"

Alternative facts are hot!
"We studied it in class daddy, a woman named Kellyanne Conway who's very close to the most powerful man on the planet said so."

"Look Timmy, you're only nine and maybe you're getting a little confused. Sometimes in politics people say--"

"But neither the President or Kellyanne walked the statement back. And if they're my role models and he's the most powerful guy on the planet, why can't I use alternative facts on my test?"

"Oh boy," Bob sighed and began pacing. "Son, the President and his staff aren't always right ok."

"So why did you vote for him daddy?"

"Well that's because--I didn't know the--you see, the choices in the race--which is to say that if I could do it again--"

"Are you ok daddy, you're kinda sweating"

"Yes, yes I'm fine. Let's get back to this test," the proud father said rolling up his shirt sleeves. "Level with me here Timmy, how could you get every question wrong?"

"I learned in my class that when that Sean Spicer man said the President's inauguration was the biggest of all time, he was wrong."

"That's right Timmy, he was wrong."

"But then Spicer-Man said the President believes...what he believes. And so, well, I believe in the
alternative facts that I wrote on my test."

"Holy-moly. O.K. Timmy in's getting late let's pick this up tomorrow."

"O.k. daddy. Do you want me to Brexit back up to my room?"

"Hardy-har-har son," Bob said hugging the boy. "By the way son, what do you think of your Current Affairs teacher?'

"I like her. She's very pretty. I think I might grab her by the pu--"