1 Aug 2012

Voice Of Drums!

We need to talk about drumming.

Basically, I've dabbled with drums for a fairly long time, but I've never really pushed myself.  And being self-taught, I've found I've tended to work around my shortcomings rather than try and fix them.  So lately I've decided to take the drums a little more seriously, and this led me to my latest musical adventure!

At the beginning of this week I attended the three day Voice of Drums summer school, run by acclaimed drummer and percussionist Terl Bryant (John Paul Jones; Iona; Sadie And The Hotheads).

The purpose of the school was not just to help people with their technique, or to learn dozens and dozens of new patterns, but to think differently about how to express meaning through drumming.  In other words, not just keeping a beat - though that of course is vitally important!

So on the first day we went through various warm up techniques and rudiments, followed by a session with another excellent drummer Stu Roberts, who introduced us to various Latin rhythms and co-ordination exercises.

Stu Roberts, teaching like nobody's business.

At the end of each day was a recording session, where each student would learn a little more about mic choice and placement, playing to a click track, and how to create a drum part that would fit in with a track appropriately.

The second day started again with warm ups and rudiments, before moving onto the kit to start exploring how to express different emotions and concepts with the drums.  The idea behind this is that in any great recording, whatever meaning the song has should be reflected in every instrument - not just the vocals.  That may sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but there are so many producers who treat the drums like a glorified metronome, when they could be so much more.  Similarly, there are too many drummers (we've all worked with them) who don't think so much about the meaning of the song as they do about getting the next really cool fill they've learnt in there somewhere, whether it works or not.

Terl in the driving seat

The third and final day featured amongst other things a workshop with Hungarian drumming superstar Gabor Dornyei.  Gabor is primarily a jazz fusion drummer, and he taught us a great mix of musicality, playing technique and practice methods that gave us yet more things to think about at the end of three days of fantastic teaching.

Oh, you're going to play all those? Ok...

So what did I get out of it?  Well first, it was a great opportunity to work up close with some top working drummers - all three have staggering lists of credits on stage shows, live acts and studio albums.  Not only were there plenty of new techniques, and ideas on how to practise, as well as what to practise (which I found particularly helpful), but also that constant reminder that the drums should be treated as an integral part of the music, not just a timekeeper. 

Not only that, but there was a draw at the end of the course, which I won! And here I am with my prize - a Hardcase snare case!

Grinning like a fucking idiot. I never win raffles!

Voice Of Drums runs every year down in West Sussex - you should check it out if you're in the area (though some students travelled down from as far afield as Darby).  Whether it's drumming, dancing or juggling, I always think any kind of immersion camp like this is great for people wanting to get themselves kickstarted, intermediates wanting to really get going with the things they've already learnt, and more advanced learners who have plateaued a bit and want to shake things up.  So yeah, check it right out!

Thanks again to Terl for organising the whole thing - it was a great success as far as I was concerned, and I know the other students had a blast too.  Got a great deal out of it, and I'll definitely be back next year!


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