Wanna Know the Pocket? Listen to Me Create It!
From feedback I have gotten from aspiring and even professional drummers, this studio session I did on an EP I recorded is the epitome of the pocket and what eventually fueled my passion to get this program and system in place. Using ghost notes, accents and syncopation, I defined what I have always considered a “the pocket”, establishing slices of time into which all band menbers fall and which creates the essence of solidness of rhythm.
How Did I Discover the BeatSmarts System?
The success in the development of the BeatSmarts program is the result of my forty years (as of 2018) of drumming experience. First-grade music theory sparked my interest. Watching my dad practice rudiments and drumming basics on the practice pad sharpened that interest.
Strangely enough, keen understanding of mathematics unlocked the complexity of rhythms and enabled my mastery of advanced time signatures and rhythmic constructs. A natural ability to duplicate rhythm by listening opened the door to the art of playing. Finally, my powers of observation allowed me to note a fluidity and finesse in accomplished musicians, giving me an ideal for which to strive.
My Driving Force: Competition
Once completing my rudimental “basic training” at age ten, competition drumming kept me interested and motivated to strive for each next level. It allowed me to observe the best performers as well as receive critiques by accomplished, professional musicians, carefully sifting out the good advice and using it to my further advancement.
I auditioned at county, area and state levels, landing me in groups of advanced-level players. As young as eleven, I was voted one of the top drummers in my county and in subsequent years was rated among the best in even broader areas. Having accomplished such a level, I began teaching privately while still attending high school and I, later, served as an adjudicator for county band auditions.
My Most Favorite Subject: The Drum Kit
Though my earliest training was in traditional methods such as classical and marching-band, jazz and rock remained my interest. Influenced by my father’s affinity for jazz drumming phenom Buddy Rich, my exposure to jazz drumming on old hi-fi records kept me focused on mastering the drum kit.
Growing up in the 70’s, my older sister’s interest in pop music influenced my listening habits. Michael Jackson and other influential pop sensations gave me a keen insight into real rhythm and groove.
From Quincy’s Jones’ theme to TV’s “Sanford and Son” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album to Nat King Cole and Dave Brubeck, I gained quite a repertoire of influences.
Through this, I discovered a “feel” for rhythm. Though it wasn’t until years later that I would understand the breadth of this, I knew I would be “in the driver’s seat” of a band someday.
Another In the Pocket Studio Moment
Listen to this studio session I did on drums with a very uptempo version of “Get Ready” by Rare Earth.
My Greatest Teacher: The Audience
Stage performance was, perhaps, the farthest leap in progress I made in my studies. In 1982, I joined my high school jazz ensemble as a freshman with mostly seniors as peers. With my drumming counterparts losing interest quickly, I was soon sitting first chair, an opportunity which I seized.
With a 6-band high school jazz competition with an audience of about 1,000 people as my first gig, I quickly learned the ropes, and it didn’t take me long to reap the real benefits of the situation.
I soon realized that audience reaction was a true gauge of my effectiveness. I found that to the degree I played with feeling, expression and pure drive, the more the audience would enjoy the performance. After a few drum solos and audience cheers, I soon lost the “butterflies” and lived for the stage. I discovered I wasn’t any longer playing music for myself, if I ever was at all.
The Secret to Success: Just Keep Playing
No matter what went on in my life, I always made sure music was part and parcel to my existence. Even as an Engineering major, I was sure to include Jazz Improv and Jazz Ensemble as part of my crowded and busy schedule. Concerts and rehearsals were as normal to my schedule as study and exams.
The Halls of Learning, Pivotal In My Experiential Journey
In 1986, studying jazz improvisation under college professor, Chris Parker, a jazz piano recording artist, I took my studies beyond drumming. Already having mastered jazz drumming by age 15, I increased my somewhat limited knowledge of music theory in order to escape the label of “drummer” and replace it with “musician” and “songwriter.”
A 1-Take Session of STP
Here’s one of my favorite studio sessions on drums covering artists I love.
A Paradiddle of East and West
I headed to Tucson, AZ in 1989 to study music at the University of Arizona, having decided that music was my first choice for a career. With an inadequate GPA for the University program, I began attending Pima Community college. There, I found talented music staff where I least expected, studying with two accomplished saxophonists and an experienced big-band drummer!
Drumming On Into the Sunset
With the Arizona desert as my backdrop, I continued to expand my horizons and develop my drumming topography, exploring new depths and elevations of my interest and taste in music. Joining an alternative rock band called “Pagan Love Song”, I was introduced to yet another style of playing.
Befriending an opera major further exposed me to basic voice training, while a class in basic music theory allowed me to learn technology I lacked such as chords, progressions, scales and composition. I even began singing back-ups in my band, something which I never thought I could do. Using what I learned from each experience, I gradually expanded his skills and ability.
Plugged In and Electrified In the Music Matrix
In a new, burgeoning paradigm of music electronics and MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), a musical “rise of the machines”, my interest in rhythm inspired me to “plug in” with a drum machine.
Fueled by a desire to write full-length songs and a new-found interest in poetic meter, I acquired an electronic sequencer and digital recording machine.
Digitally generated music, though only in it’s infancy, somehow made a long-time “unapproachable” subject easy. And, “straight out of the box”, I was fast producing my first songs. As an unexpected benefit, all the “perfect meter” generated by the electronics added an element of solidarity to my drumming.
Stringing Along the Groove to Find the Pocket
Picking up the guitar was arguably the most climactic moment in my travels. Always fascinated by acoustic guitar players, I found it was the rhythmic quality of the guitar which caught my fancy. Once deciding to learn a couple of chords, I began to write full-length songs.
I found I had a flair for writing modern pop melodies, lyric lines, etc. and played samples of my recordings for friends, all of whom took interest in my writing style. It was then that I recalled the value of an audience in gauging the effectiveness of music so, I soon took to the open mic circuit, as well as the New York City subway system, and found I had done the impossible:
I arrived as a songwriter.
A Degree in BeatSmarts and the Story of My Today
My undying desire to entertain and move audiences is something which continues to drive me to this day. From drumming within rock bands to working on original projects, session drumming to building my songwriting catalog, I continue to build on the solid foundation of experience to achieve my goals and purposes.
Making My Drumming Future Your Future Too!
As a result of what I have discovered and mastered, I’m bent on making rhythm attainable by people of all levels of understanding through simple drills anyone can follow, no matter their musical training or lack of it. Using simple drills and a pair of drumsticks, I break down all barriers, real or false, to anyone taking up any instrument, pursuing a career in music etc., so that they too may know the joy of making music.
The BeatSmarts program is the first and most important step of my plan to make it so. The second step involves you!