So far I’ve only encountered some very basic drum fills in the songs I’ve been learning but they’ve still presented somewhat of a challenge to me as a new drummer. One of things that has posed a problem for me is figuring out which hands should hit which drums in the course of a fill. Sometimes I find it easier to use an alternating (RLRL or LRLR) technique and other times it seems easier to use sort of a hybrid technique (RRL or LLR, etc.). For instance, in a sixteenth/sixteenth/eighth fill, I’ve sometimes found it easier to hit the toms RRL as opposed to RLR. In some fills, I’ve found it useful to learn the fill multiple ways and then pick which way sounds best. It’s tempting to choose the method which makes the fill easier to play, but I’ve tried to go with the option that sounds most like the recording. So far, I’ve run into this issue in Don’t Tread On Me and in the fill that leads into the tom outro in Enter Sandman. Learning the rudiments has helped me quite a bit as they cover every conceivable hand pattern and allow you to more easily play the fills in multiple ways.
Well, I know now why Lars Ulrich (and other drummers I’m sure) wrap their fingers with tape when they play 3 hour sets. Since I’ve been getting back into my daily drum lessons, I’ve developed some bitchin’ blisters on my right hand from the wear and tear of hitting the hi-hat. The one at the base of my index finger actually burst the other day while I was playing Enter Sandman. As blood flowed down the sticks, I felt like it was a true metal (\m/) moment. At least until I went upstairs, used my pinky to dab some antibiotic ointment onto the leaking mess and put a pretty little band-aid on the thing. I’m sure a true metal drum god would have let the blood flow and perhaps smeared it on his cheeks while playing. In any case, I’m now taping my hands (at least my right one) when I play and soldiering on. Back to practicing, will post again soon.
I’m still plugging away with my drum lessons at home but I thought I’d take a second to mention some recent news regarding one of my favorite drummers from one of my favorite bands, Dream Theater. If you’re a fan of DT, you probably already know that founding member and one of the driving forces behind the band, Mike Portnoy, decided that he was burned out on DT and needed to take a break. He wanted the rest of the band to do so as well but when they refused, he decided to leave the band as opposed to holding them back. Mike’s one of my favorite drummers but in a way I think this may be a good thing as Dream Theater seemed to be in a bit of a rut lately and I’ve been disappointed with some of their recent releases. I’m really curious to see who they get to replace Mike, what their next album (they’re supposed to enter the studio in January 2011) will sound like, and if Mike will ever return to the band. I’ll post soon and give you an update on my drum lessons progress.
To try something different, I’ve been working on trying to write some of my own beats for fun. These are relatively simple of course but it’s a lot of fun to make up original stuff. I’ve played guitar for 20 years so I’ve been writing some riffs, recording them and then trying to put a simple drum beat to them using my admittedly limited drum knowledge. It’s definitely pretty cool and I always think it’s important to try to create something musically in addition to simply copying everyone else. Of course, the influence of what I’ve learned from the Black Album is undoubtedly coming through in the beats I’m writing but hopefully I’m adding something of my own as well. I’d encourage even beginners to give this a try…you might surprise yourself.
More kit repositioning…this time I was messing around with the height of my drum throne. What I had read online indicated that the throne should be at a height that made your thighs parallel to the floor with your knees at about a 90 degree angle or perhaps a bit larger than a 90 degree angle. I think part of the problem I was having was that I was too low so I was finding myself having to hold my shoulders up in a bit of a shrugging position when playing. Now, I’ve moved the drum throne height up so I’m more on top of the kit and looking down on it. As with the general kit repositioning I mentioned in my last post, this has seemed to help my shoulder pain but I still don’t think it’s perfect…perhaps the throne’s a bit too high now. I’ll keep experimenting…I definitely am more convinced than ever that it’s vitally important to have the kit arranged perfectly for your body to facilitate better playing and avoid muscle and joint injuries.
After rehabbing my shoulder for a few weeks, I decided that perhaps the injury I incurred was caused by the positioning and setup of the drum kit. Since the Alesis DM6 is an electronic kit, the setup is a bit different than an acoustic kit. The main thing I found is that the snare seems to be placed a bit more off to the side since the drum pad actually has to connect to the left support bar as opposed to sitting on the floor. In any case, I moved things around a bit to place the snare a bit more between my legs and started sitting further back from the kit itself while moving the kick drum closer towards me. That, and looking up some drum posture videos on YouTube, has seemed to help with the pain. Too bad I didn’t discover this before the initial injury though. Anyhow, if you’re new to drumming and are having some pain in any part of your body I’d suggest making sure your kit it properly positioned around you. It might make all the difference.
In addition to working some more on Don’t Tread On Me (I have up to the solo learned, but not flawless), I was trying to jam along with some of the preset tunes that come with the Alesis DM6 drum module. Basically they give you some preset songs that you can play along with…you can either play with their preprogrammed drum parts or with no drum parts at all. Of course, you can add in the metronome to either. My improvising ability on the drums is of course pretty limited but it’s still cool to try coming up with some original ideas. I’m still plugging away on the first three drum rudiments and I’m thinking that after I finish with Don’t Tread On Me I’ll switch gears a bit and try a Guns N’ Roses song. I’ll probably check out Sweet Child O’ Mine as I hear it’s pretty easy. I’ll keep ya posted.
I’ve finished up learning My Friend of Misery which brings my total of songs learned in roughly a month to three. Not too bad I guess. Next I’m moving on to Don’t Tread On Me. I’ve done a bit of work on it but not a ton as of yet. I’m also working on the third drum rudiment: the single stroke seven. This is another pretty straight-forward one it seems. As with the first two rudiments I’m making use of Mike Michalkow’s Complete Drumming System which I’m loving thus far. They have a very cool way of presenting the rudiments that make them fun and allow you to apply them immediately to a musical situation. If you haven’t yet and are interested, you might want to check out my review of this Drumming System. I’ve also been messing around with some of the play-along songs that come with the system although right now my ability to jam is obviously pretty limited.
Well, I was surfing around on the internet yesterday and read that if you’re drumming on an electronic kit, you should never use wood tipped drumsticks as they could splinter and severely damage the drumheads. This seems to make sense so I went out and got some nylon tipped sticks. Previously I was using Vic Firth, hickory 5A woodtips…now I’ve got Zildjian Hickory 5A’s with a nylon tip. They’ve also got sort of a black coating on the bottom part where you grip the stick which should help me hang onto them better (not that I’ve been having any trouble with that anyway). Previous to this I was also gripping the lefthand (snare stick) in reverse (holding the tip, in other words) because I had heard that’s how Mike Portnoy holds his and it seemed like that grip gave me a more powerful snare sound. With the nylon tips though, I seem to be able to get that sound holding the stick the proper way which is cool. On the playing front, I’m still working on the first two rudiments, My Friend Of Misery, Don’t Tread On Me, and nursing my recovering shoulder. Will keep you updated on my progress.