Tag Archives: Drum Education

Be Prepared – October Blog 2015

Be prepared – October Blog 2015.

There’s an old quote that says ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. It’s a saying that can be applied to most aspects of life, but can be particularly true for musicians, whether they’re hoping to be viewed as sidemen in other people’s projects or as musical artists themselves.

If you’re a regular reader of these blogs you’d know that practise is a topic that I’ve written about many times over the last year. It’s a subject that I’m extremely passionate about because simply put, I really enjoy the way that practising and working on ‘myself’ makes me feel. The reality though, is that while some people do spend time on trying to make their craft better, there are many musicians who find the process boring and mundane.

While that’s perfectly ok, (each to their own at the end of the day), I often wonder how prepared these types of musicians might be if they were to suddenly have the opportunity to play in a musical situation away from their usual musical comfort zones.

Hypothetically (and purely for example purposes) lets’ say that you are a hard rock drummer.Your band just finished touring and you’re going through a bit of a quiet period. Money is running a little low and you’re super close to taking a part time labouring kind of job before next year’s tour begins, when suddenly you get a call to tour as the drummer for a new emerging reggae type act. Would you be ready?

If the answer is yes, then my friend you have done your homework. You’ve put in the time and should feel confident that you can take on some work out of your usual comfort zones and do a good job while doing so. If the answer is no, well then you should get back in that practise room because you have unfortunately done no preparation and will end up ‘winging’ the gig should you accept to take it. In which case you make yourself and the musicians who hired you look extremely amateur, which isn’t even the worst part. The worst part is once the gig (or tour, or whatever they were hoping you could do) is over, they will never call again because there will be someone out there who is simply better prepared and suited for their situation. You’ll then feel terrible about yourself and probably go take that part time job you were dreading having to take while your own band was taking some down time, because mentally you might convince yourself that music simply isn’t meant for you.

So what can we do to try and be as prepared as possible, should that random call (or email) come one day?

Practice.
I’m not going to preach about this one, if you don’t know what it is, go check out the previous blogs.

Broaden Your Horizons.
Stop playing or practicing that John Bonham chop that you’re so great at and start focusing on things that you’re perhaps not too good at. If you’re a punk drummer and struggle to play slow, try playing along to some ballads. Likewise if you’re a jazzer, listen to and start trying to play along to some Megadeth etc, etc. It’s all going to make you better and a more rounded player, which will ultimately make you more prepared for gigs out of your comfort zone.

Focus On Your Weaknesses.
But don’t beat yourself up about them. Make notes about the aspects of your playing that really need work and well, work on them. Eventually, you’ll find that the mistakes you frequently make are no longer mistakes and you’ll feel pretty good for it. Don’t get too cocky though, because there is always room for improvement.

Find Your Own Voice.
It’s tough out there, and many drummers are after the same gigs. While it’s great to be after the sideman job as drummer for the latest popstar, there might already be someone who gets those calls before you do. Instead focus on a few aspects of your playing that give you your own voice that people will want to call you for. But while developing this voice, make sure you continue to broaden your horizons in case that random gig does come about.

Only Be A Yes Man If You Can Really Do The Job.
While we all want to believe that we’re drummers of all styles, if you do get a call to do a gig that you don’t feel you can truly do justice, please don’t do it ! You’re going to embarrass yourself and tarnish what might be an already established reputation. Rather recommend the gig to someone who you know, could do the job. Trust me, people will remember this type of honesty and start to trust your judgement should your recommendation check out. Plus (more often than not) if the person you recommended got the gig ever gets a call for a gig they can’t do the favour might be returned.

Good luck, and I’ll chat to you all next month. Keep rocking.

Travis Marc.

Common Courtesy – August Blog 2015

Common Courtesy… Remember that? – August Blog 2015.

So I recently viewed a video that was making the rounds on social media where, as a social experiment, a guy pretends to be disabled and reliant on crutches. He is going to keeps drop his keys near people to see how they might react. No big deal. Th idea is that the bystanders (not knowing that they’re being filmed) will see that he can’t bend down to pick up his keys and as such they will simply pick the keys up for him. I mean that’s common courtesy right? Well, thats what I thought was going to happen, but it didn’t…

I was totally shocked to see that most people that this guy would drop his keys near, simply refused to pick them up for him. Almost as if picking up this guys keys was ‘beneath them’, or that they might somehow catch this man’s disability by touching something of his. This same (sad) reaction was repeated time and time again, until eventually the man pretending to be disabled drops them near a homeless man sitting on the street and without hesitation, the homeless man picks up his keys and hands them to him. Crazy huh, video or not, it potentially says a lot about where we’re headed as a civilisation (or ‘uncivilisation’, if such a word exists).

The video (which you an find here – https://www.facebook.com/Oli96.8FM/videos/881108125312633/?pnref=story) really got me thinking about people. Is this truly how we act now? Are compassion and courtesy traits that a lot of us no longer have? Do they make us appear weak? I had so many questions going through my mind. Surely as humans, we haven’t stooped so low?

Then I started to think about music and how the music industry has changed over the years, how we all interact now etc. Could the way that we want to be perceived online (via our social media accounts) contribute towards how self indulged a lot of us are now? I mean every second person is a mini celeb of some kind right? So maybe that makes us feel entitled in some way. I’m not sure, maybe the truth is that we simply don’t care anymore?

Now I’m sure that some of you might be thinking – ‘dude, what has this got to do with music or drumming’, but it’s got loads to do with it. How many times as a musician have you sent out an email without a response? Or left a voicemail on someones phone only for them to not get back to you? Often, when the person you left the voicemail with does get back to you, the common excuse is how sorry they were and that they’ve simply been so busy blah, blah, blah. My personal favourite is the ‘sorry I never had the time to learn that song for tonights gig excuse’ .Aren’t these all just different forms of excuses which could fall under the ‘we don’t care, or have no common courtesy umbrella’?

Sure, maybe they’re not as hardcore or selfish as not wanting to pick up a disabled mans keys but in some shape of form I personally regard the above behaviour as really rude .Maybe we all need to take a little step back from our own lives (I’m sure our Instagram Model careers won’t suffer), and remember what it’s like to be good humans again, to interact using our voices and eye contact rather than status updates and help those in need out in hopes that should we ourselves ever need some help, that our fellow man might be there. Be courteous people, try do something nice for someone at least once a day and you’ll see the world change. We’re better than this.

No one wants to be in a band with someone they can’t stand. Be courteous, be friendly, be on time and work hard. Till next time.

Travis Marc.

Clem Cattini Interview

Clem Cattini Interview by Travis Marc. 2015

British drumming icon Clem Cattini was kind enough to give us some of his time recently to do the below interview. Clem is on record for playing on over 44 British number one singles and was part of the group ‘The Tornados’ who were the original backing band for Bill Fury. Clem also became one of the most in demand session drummers from the 1960’s onwards and has played and recorded with artists such as Lou Reed, Cliff Richard and The Kinks (just to name a few). Here’s what Clem had to say.
ClemCattiniDrums1Let’s start at the beginning. What initially made you want to play the drums?

Truthfully, I never really had any real desires to start playing and actually started as a joke after I saw the movie ‘Blackboard Jungle, which Bill Hayley had done the music for. Myself and two of my friends (who happened to be guitarists) went to go and see the film and after it finished and we were leaving the cinema they started joking around and saying that we should form a rock n roll group, and that I should play the drums. So, I said ok and the rest is history really. At the start (with the first group I was in) I was originally playing skiffle board but I progressed from there and eventually started playing the drums.

When would you say that you really started taking it seriously, rather than just doing it for fun?

I was working at quite a fancy place in London called The 2i’s Coffee Bar and a lot of the big stars from that time would often come and do shows there. Myself, and Brian Bennet were kind of like the house drummers at the venue so I think I started really taking it seriously around then. Before this I was working for my father at his restaurant and we had a bit of an argument the one day so I quit and became and decided to become pro from there.

In my opinion, you’re like the UK version of Hal Blaine as you’ve played drums on over forty UK number one singles. What do you regard as your first big break?

That’s such a big compliment I must admit, thank you. Well, I was really enjoying myself with the group that I was playing with at the time so I just decided to stick with it. I got myself a copy of the Buddy Rich drum tutor book and started practicing all the rudiments from there etc. My first big break was really just working down at the 2i’s Coffee bar. After that, I got a nine month tour with a comedian named Max Moore and it kind of snow balled from there. I was then offered a position with a guy name Terry Dean who was a mega star in those days and it kinda just kept going.

Can you tell us about about what the session scene was like back when you were coming up (the 60’s and 70’s). Was it very competitive in regards to other drummers trying to get the same work?

I was really lucky because I was only about seventeen year old at the time and because of the constriction laws plus the fact that I have flat feet I didn’t have to go to the army while a lot of my friends and peers had to, or were enrolled already. I offered to go in for three years purely to study music but because of my flat feet, I was regarded as a liability and they didn’t want me. So I really didn’t have to compete with to many people because there just weren’t that many people about.

I understand that you were initially on Jimmy Page’s shortlist when he was considering drummers before starting Led Zeppelin? Can you tell us a bit about that?

I was with a group called Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and had first worked with Jimmy when he was about fourteen years old. Jimmy worked in a band that used to support us, and because of his musical talent he started to work on a lot of the sessions that I was on. His manager, Peter Grant phoned me one day and said that he wanted to take me for lunch because he had a proposition for me, but because of my session commitments I just never had the chance to meet him for lunch. Anyway, about nine to twelve months later I heard Led Zeppelin on the radio. I ran into Peter Grant a short while after that and asked him if the proposition he had originally mentioned involved the band and he said that it had and that I was on Jimmy’s original shortlist for potential drummers. That’s just life though you know. In fairness I couldn’t realistically have seen myself doing it and travelling up and down the country for months on end because I was doing so many other things and had my own family by this time, plus while I could’ve been living in a mansion right now had I actually done the gig the truth is that you can only drive one car at a time, sleep in one bed at a time, and only live in one house at a time, so I have no regrets. Plus, I never originally started playing the drums to make money anyway, I don’t think any of us do. We do it because we love it and it feels good and we just want to play.

When I met you in person a few weeks ago I asked you if Keith Moon was really as mad as everyone says that he was. Away from our brief chat then have you got any personal kind of stories that you could share with us regarding late great drummers such as Keith Moon, John Bonham or any other really notable drummers?

Brian Bennett and myself kind of grew up together and had worked together at ‘The 2i’s’, he was with Marty Wild and I was with Bill Fury and although our careers kind of went parallel to each other until Brian joined ‘The Shadows’ and became a star. The nearest I got was while I was with ‘The Tonados” which shot up very high but came down very quickly too ha ha. The thing with drummers is that you don’t really get the opportunity to hang out with each other a lot because the band or artist you’re working with usually only need one drummer, where there are usually more than one guitarist on a lot of sessions etc. So yeah, funny situation because although I ran into all these guys and we spoke etc, none of us really got to close because we were always on the road doing our thing with the artists that we were playing with.

Out of all the artists that you’ve played and recorded with, what work do you think you’re most proud of and why? (Clem has played on over 44 UK no 1 singles for those who weren’t aware).

I think that Hurdy Gurdy Man by Donovan is something I’m fairly proud of, simply because people keep mentioning it to me and that they didn’t realise that I was the drummer on it. I was also in the orchestra on Top of The Pops for roughly twelve years and had the experience of backing artists such as The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder which was great. For me, it’s really a case of – I did what I did as best as I could do it, and tried to play as well as I could depending on what the situation was. My philosophy was always one in which my attitude was that the day I thought I was good enough would be the day I’d give up.

Who would you say your influences are, both back then and now?

Elvis Presley’s drummer Ronnie Tutt was obviously a huge influence on me because most of the records we had in England at the time were American records and Elvis was the biggest star during that period. Buddy Rich was of course another one and I would’ve really loved to play in a real big band like he had. Today’s guys would have to be drummers like Gavin Harrison, Elliot Henshaw and Steve Gadd. Oh, Ralph Simmons is another great player. Thomas Lang, Steve Smith and Dave Weckl,. There’s so many great drummers out there and you could learn something from all of them. Steve Smith recently did a book all about British Rock Drummers and I’m really honoured to be featured in there. I really appreciate how good some drummers are and it’s amazing how great their technique is but I think that a lot of young drummers need to spend some time focusing on feel again as you need to be able to play with songs and make it feel good too, not just play chops all over the place. We’re drummers and grooving is our job.

Do you still spend a lot of time playing, and if so what do you like to play?

No, not really. I have a few problems physically now days. I have arthritis in my hands and arms, and recently had a hip replacement so it’s a little tricky trying to work the hi hat pedal. I’m also at an age where I can’t really carry a lot of my gear around anymore. So I think it’s time to say goodbye really. Again, there are so many good drummers out now that there’s no real need for me. I’ve always been very grateful to have done the things that I did and make some of the contributions people tell me I made. It was a complete honour being able to play with some of the amazing musicians that I got to play with. I feel really lucky.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start drumming and doesn’t know where or how to start?

You should get yourself a good teacher. I taught myself because when I started playing there were really no teachers about, so I got myself a practice pad and a Buddy Rich tuition book and just tried my best, but now there are some really great teachers in this country so there’s really no reason not to get together with one for a bit of guidance and help. Away from that there are no quick fixes, you simply have to practice ! When I started really getting into it, I was practicing around five to six hours a day because I had made the decision to try and get better. The best practice of course is when you’re actually doing it too, so get out there, play and do whatever you can to spend time with your instrument.

What would you say has been the best piece of advice you have ever received?

‘Ignore the string players’ ha ha – just kidding. When I first started I met a guy named Nicki Wilson who was a musical director. He was very good to me and actually said to me that no matter what the situation as long as I keep my eyes on the MD and make them feel good that everything else would be fine. It’s all about making people feel comfortable. Another thing I would say would be to get yourself a metronome. It’s so good for you, and helps you relax. Keep your ears on what the bass player is doing and you should be able to lock everything in together. You want it to feel good. Oh, and remember – less is more.

If you could do it all again, would you change anything?

As I’ve already said, I’ve been so honoured to do the things I’ve done. So no, I wouldn’t change a thing. Perhaps I’d think a little more about the money side of things, but apart from that I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m a strong believer that you should always honour your decisions, it says a lot about you as a person.
ClemCattiniDrums2                                                                  (Clem in his HeyDay)

Any last thoughts or advice?

If you’re going to play an instrument you should enjoy it because it’s truly a wonderful gift to be able to do it. Stick with it, practice and forget all the unimportant stuff. Yes, you need technique but you should know when to use it, but more then anything just enjoy yourself. Oh, and remember that when you’re doing interviews that although you can sometimes say something as a joke that there is no tones regarding jokes in print, so just be careful what you might have to say sometimes.

Please note that we do not own any of the images used in this interview and they remain the property of the photographers that actually took them.

Inspiration away from your Instrument – May Blog 2015

Inspiration away from your Instrument – May Blog 2015.

Anyone who’s ever really taken their instrument seriously will probably tell you that practice is the key to truly defining what you are able to do musically while performing. It’s like that old mantra says ‘practice makes perfect’. It really does. I suppose it just depends on what you define as perfection.

Sometimes though, practice itself is not the hard part for a lot of us musicians. The hard part is actually finding the inspiration/motivation to want to practice when we know that getting better can be a very long, lonely and boring task. For me personally, if I set my mind to it I find it quite easy to get into a routine that allows me to work on the things I’m trying to achieve, and even if there’s not enough time in the day to do it all I believe that visualising the things I’m trying to play can be just as beneficial and rewarding. But, just because I’m able to do this and feel that I have a strong sense of self discipline doesn’t mean it’s always something I want to do and finding the motivation can be difficult sometimes.

A few years ago a friend of mine (who happens to be an incredible drummer) decided that he no longer wanted to do music professionally and wanted to rather focus on a normal 9 to 5 type career as the pressures and uncertainties that can come with being a full-time musician had made him loose some of the passion he had for his instrument. He was really excited about his decision, and happy that he could once again play drums on his own terms and not just because he had to keep someone else in a band happy or follow ever changing drumming trends just to be regarded as a good drummer. After a few months he even started to tell me how it was the best thing he’d ever done and that I should try find something away from music to inspire myself the way he was somehow doing with his new hobby drumming career.

And so, after months of trying to think of different things that might interest me I came to the conclusion that away from music, there really wasn’t much that I felt happy giving my time up for (family and dogs aside of course). I decided to take a slightly different approach and use the things that were inspiring me as a guitarist to motivate me on the drums, and the things that were inspiring me as a drummer, motivate the way I approached my drumming. I decided to start paying more attention to tones and sounds on my drums in the same way a guitarist would mess about with pedals and different amps. On guitar I tried to think more about how drummers would play specific rhythms I was trying to play and started to sequence drum rudiments in the same way that a guitarist might sequence chords or scales. I found all of this extremely motivating and started listening to music in a completely different way, which kept the inspiration flowing.

The above approach started making me think about how a lot of actors get into certain characters that they’re playing and only ‘change back to who they really are’ after filming various movies (think of actors like Leonardo DiCaprio or Al Pacino), and I tried to start ‘playing certain characters’ while on my instrument. If I was playing a ‘Beatles’ song as a drummer – I tried to be Ringo. If I was trying to play a really heart felt guitar solo, I’d pretend I was Clapton’ etc, etc. It all helped to keep me motivated and become a better musician.

Once again (as with previous blogs) I’m not in anyway trying to say that you should want to copy other players and sound like them rather than being yourself, (after all, only you can sound like you). I’m simply saying that the above method has worked for me and it might for you too.

You knows, you might find inspiration/motivation by watching the latest action movie featuring Dwayne Johnston or reading a book about a nurse who had tried her best to save dying soldiers during the war. It could even come from the way certain dancers appear to completely defy gravity. There are no rules, the choice is yours, (even Buddy Rich was inspired by Bruce Lee). So go for it, and be the best that you can be (not because it’s you job) but because you shouldn’t accept anything less for yourself.

Travis Marc.

Warm Ups – April Blog 2015

Warm Ups – April Blog 2015.

I’m one of those drummers that always preaches to up and coming drummers and students about how important warm up’s and stretches are, and how if they become part of ones everyday routine, they’ll become second nature and not even feel like extra work. I enjoy warming up and nowadays use it as a way to run through/practice various rudiments or ideas that I might not always use as much as others when I’m actually playing or performing. I find that as well as loosening up my muscles and preparing my body/joints physically, those few minutes by myself away from the rest of the band also allows me to prepare mentally and focus (or visualise) what I hope to achieve before actually getting on stage to do my gig.

The truth of the matter though is that up until about eight or nine years ago, I wasn’t really too bothered about warming up or stretching, I felt that it was a chore having to sit away from my fellow band members or friends that had come to the shows and to go and ‘warm up’ felt unsociable and rude. Plus, because I’ve always been pretty health conscious I guess I just took for granted that warming up was what the old guys did and because I didn’t (and still don’t) consider myself as an old guy, that I didn’t have to waste my time. So on the whole, warm up’s or stretches as an exercise was something I avoided for years and years.

The human body (amazing as it is) is also pretty funny and I noticed over the years that as one does age you definitely start to feel the side effects from serious injuries you might have had as a kid, or a fairly accident prone (let’s call it adventurous) teenager. For me personally, I started to notice a few issues in my right arm shortly after breaking my wrist and elbow in 2007 (never mind how I did it, that’s long enough for another blog).

The longer I drummed (in one given session) the more I started to notice that I’d get pins and needles all the way from my right wrist up to my shoulder, and although I could ignore the sensation it definitely raised some personal concern, especially as by that point I had decided that being a musician was what I wanted to do as my profession.

After seeing a physiotherapist for a few months and not seeing the results that I’d hoped for, I made the decision to attend a few appointments with a chiropractor. This turned out to be both a good and a bad thing as we managed to narrow down the problem that was affecting my arm and fix it however the issue seemed to have shifted from my arm to my lower back and right hip. Good times, ha ha.

So after losing patience (and a little hope) in others to try and rectify the issues I started to feel, I decided to rather start trying to strengthen my core, stretch out my muscles and nerves and put a small warm up routine together which I now do before I practice or perform. Here’s what I do:

For my core and general health I joined a gym. I have no aspirations to become a body builder or anything like that but I use the normal gym machinery and focus on exercises that can improve both my core and cardio. Besides helping with my above mentioned problem, my stamina level has also increased and I find that I don’t ever seem to get to fatigued while playing shows anymore. Obviously I understand that joining a gym isn’t for everyone and I’m not saying that it’s something that you should do I just like the atmosphere and find the drive I see from other gym goers energising. Plus, if gyms aren’t your scene, nothing stops you from going for a run, doing a few push up’s or simply coming up with your own thing to do at home :)

As far as the actual drum warm up’s, my personal routine involves playing some type of ostinato on my feet (for example – singles or doubles on a double pedal, or maybe a samba or songo patten) and then playing four or eight bar rudiment type drills at various tempos. I usually try to do this at least four to eight times completely before moving onto some exercises from something like George Lawrence Stones ‘Stick control book’. This of course is if I have the access to a drum kit, if I’m at a gig I usually just sit backstage (or anywhere I can) with a practice pad for my hands and the floor for my feet. I try do this for a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes before I actually perform.

The simple results I have seen (and felt) by adding a few stretches and the above mentioned steps have been amazing, and while I do still occasionally get irritation in my right hip I can only imagine how much worse the problem would be if I hadn’t adapted some kind of routine. Plus it makes perfect sense to warm up, doesn’t it? I mean drumming is a very primal and physical activity, so the better the blood flows and the muscles work, the easier it should be. You wouldn’t start your car and go on a long journey on a cold winters day without letting the engine run a little so why go in cold with your drumming?

Travis Marc.