Features Archives Of DRUM! Magazine | drummagazine.com https://drummagazine.com/category/features/ Play Better Now Wed, 22 Jun 2022 01:41:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.4.2 https://drummagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/cropped-balck-favicon-drum-32x32.png Features Archives Of DRUM! Magazine | drummagazine.com https://drummagazine.com/category/features/ 32 32 115209015 16 Best Female Drummers of Today https://drummagazine.com/16-best-female-drummers-of-today/ Fri, 16 Jul 2021 16:00:00 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=24097
Although male drummers dominate the drumming world, this doesn’t diminish the fact women can play drums equally well as men. All the women from our list are renowned world-class drummers who can play almost any type of music. So who are the best female drummers in the world right now? Some of them are Instagram […]

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Although male drummers dominate the drumming world, this doesn’t diminish the fact women can play drums equally well as men. All the women from our list are renowned world-class drummers who can play almost any type of music. So who are the best female drummers in the world right now?

Some of them are Instagram or YouTube sensations, but some are session musicians who played with artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Prince, Beyonce, and many more.

Here’s a list of the best female drummers of today.

Best female drummers list

Anika Niles

Anikka, considered the world’s best female drummer today by many drummers. She has a personal life that is as interesting and creative as her drumming style.

She started playing drums when she was just nine years old; since then, it’s been nothing but success for this German native.

From rankings in the top 10 to viral fame with over 8 million views on YouTube alone – Anikka deserves our admiration and respect! She made a breakthrough after her first video went viral.

The track is named “Wild Boy” and although the crowd remarkably accepted it, her second video, “Alter Ego” brought endorsements and the well-deserved place among drummers.

Sarah Thawer

Sarah Thawer
Photo from Drumeo

Sarah’s father, a well-known musician himself, introduced her to the drums, and she never looked back.

At just 16 years old, Sarah Thawer has already played in big festivals like Calcutta Jazz Festival, where she performed among names such as Benny Greb.

She is one of few female drummers that have this much talent but also an equally creative personality.

In 2021 Sarah was nominated for Juno Awards! She worked with artists such as George Watsky, Jon Batiste, Sheila E., AR Rahman, Steve Weingart, Mark Lettieri, to name a few.

Thanks to her incredible drumming style, Sarah got endorsements from Yamaha, Remo, Istanbul, Gruv Gear, and 64 Audio.

Cindy Blackman

Cindy Blackman
Photo from Cindy Blackman

Some of you may know Cindy Blackman as a drummer for Lenny Kravitz, some as the wife of legendary guitarist Carlos Santana. Still, in the drumming community, she is widely popular as one of the best female drummers worldwide.

Cindy Blackman made a name playing with artists such as Buckethead and Joss Stone before branching out to work with artists like Pharoah Sanders, Sonny Simmons, Ron Carter (who’s also her husband), Sam Rivers, and Cassandra Wilson, among others.

Even though Art Blakey was an idol when it came to jazz drums, he didn’t make much impact on how she plays rock music

Sheila E

Sheila E
Photo from NYPost

Sheila E. is an icon in the music industry and one of the most famous female drummers.

She started playing drums at 17, working with Prince, who was impressed by her drumming skills, so he gave Sheila a chance to perform on his award show for their Eighties category back when this was still relatively new territory.

Since then, we have seen many different phases in Sheila’s career, including singing which has given us plenty of opportunities to hear some gems that never made it onto The Glamorous Life but are worth checking out if you’re into R&B/Jazz vibes from the ’80s era!

Cora Coleman Dunham

Cora Coleman Dunham
Photo from Sabian

Cora Coleman is an accomplished female drummer and entrepreneur. As a child, she played with her drum line from the time she was five years old until North Texas State University when it became clear to everyone around her just how talented this woman is!

She has performed with many well-known artists like Prince, Roger Nelson, Beyoncé Knowles, and Zucchero during their career peaks.

In 2013 Cora founded The VIVO Club, which provides “educational opportunities for girls 8 – 18.” Cora’s first introduction to music came at age five as part of the school rock band in San Antonio, where he grew up before playing on stage professionally by age 16.

Senri Kawaguchi

Senri Kawaguchi
Photo from DrummerWorld

Senri Kawaguchi was born in Tokyo, Japan. She began playing the drums at age 13 after encouragement from her father, and by 15, she had been accepted to the High School of Music & Art in New York City, where she was a member of the school’s top drumline for four years.

In Japan, she is known as a pioneer in the all-girl band movement.

Senri Kawaguchi has performed at various venues throughout New York City and was also invited to play with The Brand New Heavies. In addition, Senry’s talents have been featured in numerous magazines, including Modern Drummer.

Madden Klass

Maden Klass is a drumming sensation whose popularity was catapulted when she released her first video on Instagram. She is very popular,  with a following of over 100k and has drummed for bands like The Flaming Lips.

When she isn’t practicing drums or attending classes at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Maden’s main influences include John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Steve Ferrone, Joey Waronker.

Maden is currently working as a touring drummer for Mike Doughty (of Soul Coughing).

Nikkie Glaspie

Nikkie Glaspie
Photo from Flickr

After her appearance on Zildjian Live, people were amazed by her incredible skill. For some musicians she was unknown, but for musicians in the RnB world, she is a widely known drummer.

She has been touring with Janelle Monae since 2010 and had the pleasure of playing with Prince, Erykah Badu, M83.

In 2014 she was featured in a video by DigiTech, which captured her drumming skills from multiple angles so everyone could see what fantastic talent this woman possesses!

Her influences are Tony Williams (who also plays drums), Clyde Stubblefield (famous James Brown’s band member who played on “Funky Drummer”), Al Jackson Jr., Arto Lindsay

Hanah Welton

Hanah Welton
Photo from Ziljan

Prince loved girl drummers; that’s why they’re a couple of drummers on our list who played with him. Hannah is one of them.

She played for Bellevue Suite when she got a call to join Prince’s band 3rdeyegirl.

That’s where she met her husband Joshua, who co-produced 3 of Prince’s albums and played live with him.

First professional experience as a drummer was at the age of 12 with her father’s band. She studied at the Chicago College of Performing Arts.

Terry Lyne Carrington

Terry Lyne Carrington
Photo from London Jazz News

Terry was always interested in music as a child. She first discovered jazz when she and her family attended the Monterey Jazz Festival, which inspired Terry to start studying piano at age 8.

Though it took several years of hard work for Terry to become proficient on the instrument, by high school, she had begun playing professionally with Dizzy Gillespie’s band; this experience led to an invitation from Wayne Shorter that helped launch her career into international fame.

Terry is best known for working with legendary pianist Herbie Hancock during the 1997-2007 time period.

Camellia Akhami Kies

Camellia Akhami Kies
Photo from Beings of Rythm

Camelia is one of the top female drummers on Instagram and an entrepreneur. She is known for her drum covers on Instagram that feature various musical styles, from acoustic to electronic sounds with percussion incorporated into each song.

Camelia’s most recent project has been Akhamie Music, where she offers classes for children and adults who are interested in learning how to play drums or other instruments such as guitar or piano!

She uses Roland samplers – which allows you “to manipulate digital audio files beyond standard editing functions.

Emanuelle Caplete

Emanuelle is a percussionist, drummer, sound artist, and composer born in 1981. She holds an honors degree from the “Conservatorio di Musica” of Pesaro (Italy), where she studied with Massimo Minini.

In 2013 Andy Summers’s band Circa Zero hired Emanuelle as their musical director and drummer after hearing her play live at The Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. After that, they toured America together for three weeks before heading to Europe on November 8 that same year.

Since then, Emanuelle has played drums alongside Stephane Rousseau (2013-2015), Giorgio Gaslini (2014), Fernanda Abbate (2012).

Taylor Gordon, aka Pocket queen

Taylor Gordon, aka Pocket queen
Photo from AfroPunk

Taylor Gordon is a young and successful drummer from Virginia. At age 10, she picked up her first drum set for the very first time after practicing drums on pots in her kitchen with rubber gloves for months before that.

She took some years off to finish school but never lost sight of music as an essential part of life!

At only 16, Taylor went on tour with several artists, including Andrea Bocelli, and opened his Boston show.

This experience led to many more incredible opportunities like sharing stages alongside Beyonce, Musiq Soulchild, or Robert Glasper, to name a few.

Kimberly Thompson

Kimberly Thompson
Photo from Nord Keyboards

Most of you might not know, but hardly any girl in the history of music made as much a mark on drums as Kimberly Thompson.

In her early days, Thompson used to play with Mike Stern (jazz guitarist) and became widely known for playing alongside Beyonce, Jay Z, and Kanye West.

She is currently president of KTMUSICPRODUCTIONS (music label company) based in New York City. She graduated from Manhattan School for Music’s prestigious Jazz Composition & Education program with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Arts.

Bianca Richardson

Bianca Richardson
Photo from Reverb

If you are not familiar with Bianca Richardson, you are missing out. The drumming community first heard about Bianca after she won Stanley Clarke’s contest.

After that, she won 2nd place in the “Hit like a girl” contest which opened many doors. She was on a cover of Drum Mag, Top Tom Mag, featured on a Drum Channel by DW.

She performed with artists such as Selena Gomez, James David (Davie), Art Menezes, Prime Writez, Genevieve Artadi, Nick Walker, Marcus Miller, and many more!

Wiktoria Bialic

Wiktoria Bialic

Wiktoria is a polish female drummer who started with classical music before she got into jazz and rock. She was the champion in the “Rock for people” contest, finalist in many other contests such as the “Erica Dallmann trophy” “New drums generation Poland.”

Bialic won the “Hit like a girl” contest in 2021. A year before, she was a finalist of the same contest. She had the opportunity to record single Dark Dark Days alongside Ash Soan.

The Polish drummer also recorded for Grammy-winning musicians such as Ondre J. Pavic.


Ranging from jazz to rock, the best female drummers in music are as diverse as their musical influences.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite musicians who have made significant contributions to the world of drums and percussion through not only their talent but also by being trailblazers for other women looking for careers in this male-dominated industry.

Who is your favorite female drummer?

Let us know in the comments!

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60 Best Rock Drummers of All Time https://drummagazine.com/60-best-rock-drummers-of-all-time/ Wed, 07 Jul 2021 17:08:00 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=24016 In rock music, the list of most famous drummers who became part of history is enormous. You might even say that trying to complete a list of the best rock drummers of all time is a difficult task due to the sheer number of notable people you could think of. As a true rock fan, you […]

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In rock music, the list of most famous drummers who became part of history is enormous. You might even say that trying to complete a list of the best rock drummers of all time is a difficult task due to the sheer number of notable people you could think of.

As a true rock fan, you should know about these legendary drummers because they played on nine out of ten records you listened to.

They shaped the rock and roll music we know today. With this article, we pay respect to some of the best drummers of all time, whether it’s because of their technical skills or the footprint they left in rock history.

Some of these great drummers introduced licks, rhythms and songs we still play today.

Besides music, they shaped rock drumming with instructional videos, books, clinics and inspirational performances. 

Here are some of the best rock drummers of all time.

John Bonham

One of the best and most influential drummers ever, John Bonham helped redefine what a drummer does. His grooves were simple yet effective, which made him one of the best drummers ever! He’s best known for being a member of the band Led Zeppelin from 1968-1980, but he also played with other groups like The Band and Bad Company until 1980, when he died due to alcohol poisoning at age 32.

Keith Moon

A founding member and original drummer for The Who, Keith Moon was one of the pioneers of the rock drum solos. He is best remembered for smashing his kit at the end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” He was also known to have a wild personality and addictions that led him into trouble with the law which ultimately contributed to his death at the age of 32, from an overdose of barbiturates in 1978.

Neil Peart

One of the greatest drummers ever, Neil Peart, is best known for being a founding member and drummer for the Canadian rock group Rush. He has been with them since 1974, when they released their self-titled debut album to present day 2017’s “Clockwork Angels Tour.” His unique style helped form one of the best hard rock groups in history!

Jeff Porcaro

Jeff is one of the founding members of Toto. Toto helped pioneer the best soft rock sound. Porcaro’s most famous for his drumming on their best-selling album “Africa.” His most iconic rhythm is in the song “Rosanna“. He took the famous “Purdie shuffle” and adapted it to a rock situation. 

Jeff Porcaro died young, at the age of 38, from a heart attack. He was using pesticides in his garden that caused an allergic reaction. Later, it was discovered that he had a serious heart problem.

Tommy Aldridge

He is best known for his time with Whitesnake and Black Oak Arkansas and his contribution in Dio’s band and Ozzy Osbourne’s band from 1977 to 1979. Tommy Aldridge has also played drums on many other artists’ albums, including Queensryche, Thin Lizzy, etc. Tommy is a self-taught drummer who bought his first drum kit at the age of thirteen.

Ginger Baker

The co-founder of the rock band Cream. Baker’s first solo album, “Ginger Baker and Friends,” features many guest stars such as guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler and Johnny Winter. In the drumming world, he is most known for incorporating jazz playing into rock music and his long-form drum solos.

Ian Paice

Best known for his work as the drummer for Deep Purple. He has also played with Gary Moore, Whitesnake and Black Sabbath (on their album “Live Evil”). Paice is a self-taught musician who began playing drums at age thirteen. The Song “Burn” by Deep Purple was written by Paice in 1969 and featured his best-known drum solo. He is a left-handed drummer who began playing drums at age thirteen.

Jim Keltner

The unknown fact is that Jim Keltner is the most recorded drummer in history. He played on over 600 albums, movie scores and singles. He is best known for his work with the Rolling Stones, John Lennon and George Harrison. Jim Keltner has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame twice – as a member of The Band (1994) and then again as a solo performer (1999).

Kenny Aronoff

One of the studio greats. He’s been working as a studio musician for over 35 years. He played for Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Sting, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Dave Grohl, Elton John, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Jon Bon Jovi, Steven Tyler, Meatloaf, B.B. King, Rod Stewart, The Smashing Pumpkins. If you want to learn more about Kenny, we suggest checking out his book called “SEX, DRUMS, ROCK’ N’ ROLL”.

Cozy Powel

Cozy is one of the greatest drummers coming from England. He played with rock bands such as Jethro Tull and Uriah Heep, The Jeff Beck Group, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath and others. Cozy Powel is best known for his drumming style that blends jazz, rock and pop. He died young, at the age of 51, on July 18th, 1996, in a car accident. What you may not know is that his real name was Colin Trevor Flooks.

Chad Smith

A truly unique drummer that brought funk to a big rock stage. Chad Smith’s best solo album was in 1995, called “Give me back my balls.” He’s best known as the drummer for The Red Hot Chili Peppers. He uses a lot of cymbals and percussion for his fills. Chad Smith is one of the best drummers in history because he’s been able to keep up with all these different genres over time. Check out his playing on songs like “Suck My Kiss,” “Pretty Little Ditty,” and “Give It Away”; it’s truly unique.

Terry Bozzio

The man behind the biggest drum kit on the planet. His kit incorporates a lot of unorthodox sounds that will blow your mind. At the age of 13, he started taking drum lessons from Todd Fletcher and Ken Blewer. He’s best known for his work with Frank Zappa and Missing Persons. Terry Bozzio played on records like “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” or “Stink Foot”. Not so known fact is that Terry played on Korn’s eighth studio album.

Mitch Mitchell

Most known as a drummer for Jimmy Hendrix, He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2009. His best-known drumming work is the song “All Along The Watchtower”. He started showing interest in drums while working at Jim Marshall’s drum shop. Interestingly, he was chosen to be a part of Jimi Hendrix Experience in a coin toss, the guy who was less fortunate than Mitch was Aynsley Dunbar.

Roger Taylor

Not the most technical drummer, but his enormous contribution as a musician can’t be neglected. Taylor played in front of thousands and thousands of people and became a part of history with one of the best rock bands ever, Queen. 

He is not only a drummer but a songwriter and a singer. He was a part of Queen from the very beginning, and with them, he co-wrote songs like “Innuendo,” “Under Pressure,” “Radio Ga-Ga,” “These Are the Days of Our Lives,” and many others.

Danny Carey

Carey is best known as the drummer from the band Tool. His sound and style are incomparable. If you want to hear it, just listen to “Third Eye” or “Lateralus”. Odd time signatures and polyrhythms are a natural thing for Danny, and if you like musical drummers, you will love him. He started as a jazz drummer, which allowed him to develop his musicality. Carey is not only an amazing drummer but also a songwriter and vocalist of the band.

Alex Van Halen

Van Halen has played drums professionally since he was 14 years old, first in local bands then with his brother’s group Mammoth that later changed name to Van Halen. He played on Van Halen’s debut album when he was only 18 years old. Through Alex’s drumming you can hear his biggest influences:  Billy Cobham, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon and John Bonham.

The funny fact is that Eddie Van Halen started as a drummer, but he switched to guitar when he heard Alex’s drumming skills. 

Ringo Starr

Some drummers love Ringo while others don’t find him a talented drummer, but one thing is sure: Ringo Starr has been a part of the best-selling album ever, “The Beatles,” and he was inducted into every major drumming hall of fame. 

Ringo Starr has been playing drums since the age of 13, and as a member of the Beatles, he has recorded more number one hits than any other act in the history of music. While being one of the greatest drummers, Ringo is the richest drummer globally, with a net worth of $350 million.

Matt Sorum

Matt is best known for his work with the hard rock band Guns N’ Roses. He has been active in various forms of popular music since 1980.  He was a member of The Cult and Velvet Revolver. He joined Guns N’ Roses back in 1990 after their departure with Steven Adler. Slash was the one who saw Sorum playing with Cult a year before that.

His playing was captured on famous albums such as “Use Your Illusion I”, “Use your illusion II”, “Spaghetti incident”. He is a true hard hitter. For their Paris concert in 1992, Matt hit the crash cymbal so hard that it caused temporary ear damage to guitarist Jeff Beck.

Mark Schulman

A drummer best known for his work with Billy Idol, Cher, Foreigner, Velvet Revolver, Sheryl Crow, Frank Gambale, Tina Turner and the list goes on. For the past decade, he’s been a sideman for Pink. The unknown facts are that Mark plays cello, holds motivational speeches and co-owns West Triad Studios in Venice, California. His professional career started with Simple Minds back in 1990, and up to this day, Mark Schulman is one of the most demanding studio drummers for rock and pop sessions.

Simon Phillips

It’s needless to say that every drummer who ever worked with Toto is a master. Simon is no different. His incredible talent can be heard on albums such as “Falling in-between” and “Toto IV”. He is known as a studio legend and drummer with the best dynamic around the kit. Except for Toto, he recorded albums for David Coverdale, Whitesnake, Michael Schenker, Mick Jagger, Mike Oldfield, Joe Satriani and many more. In addition, we suggest checking out Simon’s fusion drumming with Hiromi Uehara.

Vinnie Colaiuta

Inventive drummer and studio legend. He can’t be classified as a classic rock n roll drummer but can’t be missed from any best drummer list. He is best known for his work with Frank Zappa, Sting and Joe Jackson. Vinnie has also played on albums for Megadeth, John McLaughlin, Joe Pesci, Jeff Beck, Toto, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion and many more.

He is known as a chameleon who can play any genre equally well. It’s not uncommon for Vinnie to record Miley Cyrus’s album and then Megadeth’s album. Many drummers claim that Vinnie is the greatest drummer in recent history.

Ash Soan

In 2017, he was declared the best studio drummer by the Modern Drummer Magazine readers poll. He is best known for his work with The Stone Roses. Ash played on their debut album, “The Stone Roses”.

He also toured as a Bryan Adams backing band member and worked briefly with Oasis before rejoining The Stone Roses. Ash Soan played on hit records of artists like Adele, Billy Idol, Dua Lipa, Alicia Keys, Robbie Williams, Rod Stewart, Dermot Kennedy, Eros Ramazzotti, and the list goes on.

Nicko Mcbrain

One of the great British drummers. Mcbrain is a drummer for the band Iron Maiden. He played on their 13 albums. “The Number Of The Beast” album is considered the best-selling album in UK history; 

He also toured with other bands like Gary Moore Band and Whitesnake. Nicko McBrain has won many awards and become an inevitable part of rock history. In the drumming community, he is best known for his tom fills and fast right foot. 

Mike Portnoy

Mike Portnoy is best known as the drummer of the band Dream Theater. He was also a member of Liquid Tension Experiment, which released two albums in 1996 and 1997, respectively. 

Mike Portnoy is one of the best fusion rock artists who won many awards during his long career in music, including Best rock drummer by Modern Drummer Magazine in 2015. 

After departing from Dream Theater, Mike Portnoy played with Avenged Sevenfold, The Winery Dogs, Transatlantic, Neil Morse. Today, many of the fills drummers play are his signature fills, like four with the hands, two with the feet. 

Dave Grohl

Dave Grohl played on 11 Nirvana and 13 Foo Fighters albums. He became a part of rock history as a member of two iconic bands, first Nirvana and later Foo Fighters. In Nirvana, he played only drums, while in Foo Fighters, he sings and plays the guitar. 

Dave also produced music for bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails. He was nominated for a Grammy 39 times and won 16 times.

Phil Collins

If we could name one superstar drummer, then this is definitely Phil. He is the most famous drummer on our list. But despite the fact he is a great rock n roll drummer and creator of a famous fill from “In the air tonight.”

Phil is most known for his mega hits, singing and composing. Except for the Phil Collins and Genesis albums, he composed music for animated movies such as Tarzan, Brother Bear, etc. The song from Tarzan, “You’ll be in my heart, dedicated to his daughter, won him and Oscar.

Bill Ward

Bill Ward played with Black Sabbath from 1969 to 1983. After leaving the band, he also worked on several projects, including albums by Rainbow and Dio in 1987-1990s and Geezer Butler’s solo album “G” in 2005. 

He is one of the founding members of Black Sabbath, along with guitarist Tony Iommi and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Many famous pranks from that period nearly cost him his life, but he rejoined the band on more than one occasion. 

Tommy Lee

Many of the greatest drummers on our list set various standards over the years. Tommy Lee, however, set a standard for a drum solo that can hardly be surpassed. Along with his team, he constructed crazy construction for his drum solos so his drum kit can twirl, go up and down, above the crowd etc. 

His best-known performance is on the 1986 hit “Tommy’s Drum Solo,” which helped make him a celebrity. Tommy is most known for his work with Motley Crue in the 80s and 90s and his marriage with Pamela Anderson. 

Carmine Appice

Here is the drummer who served as an influence for John Bonham when he was young. This went in-depth into rock drumming with his book The Realistic Rock Drum Method. He is most known for his work with Black Sabbath and Ronnie James Dio. 

He showed his versatility by working with Rod Stewart. He is not the only member of the Appice family that became part of rock history. Carmine’s brother Vinnie is also one of the greatest rock drummers in recent history.

Vinny Appice

Same as his brother, he also worked with Ronnie James Dio and Black Sabbath. He started playing drums at the age of nine. In 1980, he replaced Billy Ward in Black Sabbath and became recognizable in the rock world. 

Vinny Appice was the last drummer to play with Ronnie James Dio, and yes, Vinnie played on the Holy Diver album. In 2017 he was inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History.

Hal Blaine

Hal was a member of the Wrecking Crew. The group was a collection of session musicians who played on many recordings from the 1960s to the 1980s. 

Hal Blaine is one of the most recorded drummers in history. In 1965, he became the only non-Beatle to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Wrecking Crew member. According to our research, Hal recorded over 380 albums and singles.

Phil Rudd

Iconic drummer known for his rock-solid groove. Phil Rudd is best known for working with the Australian hard rock band AC/DC from 1975 to 1983 and again from 1994 to 2015. His drumming style has been described as “staccato”, “hard-driving,” “(hit) heavy,” and “powerful.” 

He’s best known in the Rock world for being a member of AC/DC during their golden years – “Back In Black” and “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)”.

Jack Bruno

Maybe one of the most underrated drummers ever. We say underrated cause he is not so famous in the drumming community, but he played the biggest rock shows with Tina Turner and Joe Cocker.

If you want to know what it’s like to play in front of 190 000 at Rock in Rio or 300 000 in Woodstock, ask Jack. Besides these two giants, he played with Elton John, Cher, LeAnn Rimes and John Miles.

John Jr Robinson

Whether or not you heard about this studio legend’s name, you must have heard his iconic drum beats such as “Ain’t Nobody” by Chaka Khan that brought him a Grammy or “Rock with you” by Michael Jackson. His drumming can be heard on 50 Grammy winners. 

John has been working with the list of people, but let’s name a few: Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Seal, Rod Stewart. He also works on the movie soundtracks with guys like Hanz Zimmer.

Ray Luzier

Although Ray Luzier is more into Nu Metal with Korn in recent years, he spent his whole life being a rock n roll drummer. Before Korn, he played on albums for the guys like Billy Sheehan, David Lee Roth and others. He played in David Lee Roth’s band from 1997 to 2005. A funny fact that you might not know is that he was a member of Steel Panther for six years.

Mike Bordin

Anyone who knows anything about rock music should know Mike Bordin. He is best known for being the drummer of Black Sabbath and Faith No more. He also played with Ozzy Osbourne, Korn, Black Label Society, Primus. 

The cool fact is that Mike Bordin played with all three Metallica bassists over the years. He played with Cliff Burton in the EZ-Street band and with Jason Newsted and Rob Trujilo with Ozzy Osbourne and Jerry Cantrell.

Vinnie Paul

Vinnie was one of the co-founders for the band Panthera, together with his brother Dimebag. Vinnie Paul played on all ten of their albums and is best known for his work as a songwriter and producer in Dimebag’s projects Rebel Meets Rebel, The Great Southern Trendkill, Reinventing the Steel, Cowboys from Hell, Vulgar display of power. Unfortunately, Vinnie passed away in 2018 due to coronary artery disease. He was 54

Dave Elitch

Many of us first heard about Elitch when he started playing with The Mars Volta in 2005. He played there all until 2011. He also played drums in At the Drive-In and Sparta, both of which have disbanded (2001 – 2011). He spends most of his free time working as a drum teacher in LA and conducting masterclasses. The fun fact is that one of Dave’s students is famous comedian Bill Burr.

Nick Mason

The heritage Nick Mason left in music is enormous. He is the only member to appear on every Pink Floyd album. He has received many awards for his work, including an Ivor Novello award in 1997 for International Achievement, five Grammy Awards—one with Pink Floyd, and four as a solo artist. As a race fanatic, he competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He is the owner of a Ten Tenths company and many race cars including more than 40 ferraris.

Gavin Harrison

Gavin Harrison is a well-known member of the drumming community, thanks to his unique sound and polyrhythm grooves. It’s hard to describe Gavin as a classic rock n roll drummer because of his versatility and advanced technique. 

However, his contribution to rock goes through the bands Porcupine Tree and King Crimson. In addition, he has played on albums by artists such as Jethro Tull, XTC and Peter Gabriel. His first solo album was released in 2007.

Larry Mullen Jr.

You all probably know Larry as a drummer for U2. But an uncommon fact is that he worked on many projects outside the U2. For example, he recorded the soundtrack for Mission Impossible, co-wrote the anthem for the Fifa World cup, worked with artists such as  Emmylou Harris, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, Maria McKee

Besides his drumming career, Larry won several prizes as an actor. He even played a role in Man on the Train with Donald Sutherland.

Rich Redmond

Nashville introduced many studio legends, and Rich Redmond is one of them. His numbers speak for themselves. Rich played drums on more than 28 number one hit records and sold over 20 million records. He is not a classic rock drummer, but he leans toward the country. 

Here are some of the shows he worked on: The Voice, American Idol, The Grammy Awards, The Tonight Show (with Leno, O’Brien and Fallon), The Today Show, Conan O’ Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson show.

Shannon Forrest

Shannon was the drummer for Toto on their last tour. We all know Toto always had prolific drummers, and they didn’t pick Shanon by accident. He joined the band in 2015, but he was and still is a successful studio musician for many years. 

He records tracks for artists such as Taylor Swift, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood, Michael Mcdonald, etc. He won the Academy of Country Music Award for Drummer of the Year seven times.

Tico Torres

The longtime drummer for Bon Jovi. He joined the band in 1983, and he has been with them ever since. Before joining the band, he auditioned for the Kiss in 1980. In 2008, Tico was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame as a member of Bon Jovi. 

As a young jazz drummer, Tico studied with Joe Morello. Before joining Bon Jovi, he played in the psychedelic rock band Six Feet Under. Besides, Bon Jovi worked in the studio with Cher, Alice Cooper, Steve Nicks.

Gergo Borlai

Gergo is versatile, but his playing is mostly related to fusion and experimental rock. He is one of the technically most advanced drummers of today. He is best known for his work with the Hungarian progressive rock band Omega. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain, but he originally comes from Hungary. Among the many awards he won in his career, he appeared on more than 300 albums and singles.

Stewart Copeland

The co-founder of the band Police, along with Sting and Andy Summers. He is a multi-instrumentalist who played drums on every one of the band’s songs, including hits like “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “Every Breath You Take.” 

Copeland now spends much of his time composing soundtracks for orchestra, ballet and opera. In addition, he composed soundtracks for the movies and tv series such as Wall Street, Good Burger, The Equalizer and games like  Alone in the Dark 4 and the Spyro.

Steve Gadd

It’s hard to talk about the world’s greatest drummers of all time without mentioning this legend. We can’t classify Gadd as a rock-only drummer because of his versatility and footprint as a jazz drummer. 

He’s known for his work with Steely Dan and James Taylor. In the ’90s, Gadd was a member of Eric Clapton’s backing band, and he stills plays with Eric. Steve Gadd recorded many iconic rock and roll and blues albums with Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Art Garfunke, BB King, Paul McCartney. 

Todd Sucherman

If you are into rock drumming, you must have heard about Todd Sucherman so far or listen to his playing with the rock band Styx. In addition to Styx, he played with artists like Brian Culbertson, Spinal Tap, Briand Wilson and many more. 

Todd showed his capabilities in a drum video two years ago. He played a couple of tracks on top of the mountain in rainy weather and showed what a monster he is. In May 2020, he released his 1st solo album, “Last Flight Home”.

Mikkey Dee

He spent most of his career being the moving force behind Motorhead. While on tour with King Diamond, Lemmy, the frontman of Motorhead, asked him to join the band and replace Phil Taylor. In 1992, Dee accepted the invitation and was with Motorhead until Lemmy Kilmister passed away in 2015. 

In 2016 Mikkey Dee joined the German band Scorpions. He also played temporarily with the German metal band Halloween. In addition, Dee is best known for his extensive work with the Swedish hard rock band Europe.

Glen Sobel

Glen Sobel has been playing drums since he was 11 years old. He is best known for his work with Alice Cooper, Motley Crue, Hollywood Vampires, Impellitteri, Sammy Hagar, Steven Tyler, Tony MacAlpine, etc. 

He started playing in marching bands, then switched to rap/rock and finally signed his first contract with Beautiful Creatures, where he met guitarist DJ Ashba with whom he played later in a band called Six AM. He filled in for Tommy Lee on Motley Crue’s farewell tour in 2015.

Scott Travis

Did you ever hear the famous drum intro from the song “Painkiller” by Judas Priest? If yes, then you heard Scott Travis playing style; if not, we suggest you check it out. Scott worked with Judas Priest and Racer X. 

He is world-known for his heavy metal drumming. Scott Travis first sat behind the drum kit in the early 1970s when he was only 15 years old. In 1981, Scott joined forces with guitarist Larry LaLonde to form a band called Racer X. The group disbanded soon after it released its first album due to conflicts.

Lars Urlich

Lars Ulrich is a superstar drummer and member of a best-selling metal band of all time – Metallica. Lars began to play drums in 1979 and, together with James Hetfield, lead vocal formed Metallica in 1981. They started as a thrash metal band but soon began a lot more than that. His drum set included two bass drums from the start, and he’s widely known for his bass drum use.

The drumming world is divided in terms of Lars’s drumming. Many don’t find Lars such a great drummer, and while there are better drummers than Lars in terms of technique, no one can deny his unique and recognizable style.

Deen Castranovo

Deen Castranovo is best known as the drummer for hard rock band Journey. He joined in 2002, taking over from Steve Smith who left to join progressive metal act OSI (though he returned briefly in 2005).

Castranovo was born and raised on Long Island New York but lived much of his childhood near San Francisco California. Deen joined Dead Daises few years ago and recorded the album with them in 2017. He left the band in 2021 due to minor back surgery.

Jeremy Colson

This hard-hitter is most known for his cooperation with guitar legends such as Steve Vai, Marty Freedman and Michael Schenker. However, he spent most of his career (almost 20 years) playing with Steve Vai. In 1995, Jeremy won 3rd place on the famous Guitar Center Drum-Off. 

His drumming to an odd-time signature song called “Freak Show Excess” got him the gig with Steve Vai. As Jeremy says, he was happy enough to be able to pick the riff from the song quickly.

Virgil Donati

The madness of Virgil Donati is best described in the Dream Theater drummer audition documentary. First, they threw at him some hard odd-time signature riff. After a couple of takes, they thought he couldn’t play it, but they were wrong. 

He showed them that he got it but was trying to go a step further and make the groove more interesting. If you are a drummer interested in crazy polyrhythms and metric modulations, you should check out Virgil. 

Travis Barker

If you like punk rock, you probably come across Blink 182 and their famous drummer Travis Barker. He’s been a part of some successful bands and has played with other big names like Eminem, Lil Wayne, Rihanna. 

Rap artists dig his drumming style that isn’t very complicated, but his timing is impeccable. Travis was fortunate to survive the plane crash in 2008. Besides drumming, his business is related to the clothing company “Famous Stars and Straps”.

Thomas Lang

The drumming community became aware of Thomas Lang after his DVD “Creative Control” was released for Hudson Music in 2004. Since then, Thomas won plenty of awards not just as a drummer but as a clinical.

He played with many artists in the rock and roll world, such as Paul Gilbert, Glen Hughes, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Williams. In 2011 Thomas launched “The Big Drum Bonanza,” a five-day multi-drummer festival with featured artists Virgil Donati, Chris Coleman, Stanton Moore, George Kollias. Thomas Lang lessons on double bass drumming are truly unique, you can find them here.

Mike Mangini

Mike Mangini is the current drummer for Dream Theater, the best fusion metal band in the world. But, long before Dream Theater, Mike was the well-established drummer. He played with John McLaughlin, Joe Satriani, Annihilator, Dave Weiner. 

Mike Mangini has won plenty of awards, but his biggest achievement by far is winning the worldwide Dream Theater drummer audition. He won the audition where his competitors were:Virgin Donatti, Thomas Lang, Aquiles Priester, Derek Roddy, Marco Minnemann, Peter Wildoer.

Marco Minneman

After the Dream Theater audition, Minemann gained a substantial amount of respect in the drumming community. But, for the large part of this community, he wasn’t a new guy. 

He had the opportunity to record and play live shows with Paul Gilbert, Tony MacAlpine, Joe Satriani. For the people who truly follow his work, he is known for his own band, The Aristocrats, including Guthrie Govan, Bryan Beller, and Marco. Up to this date, he released 3 DVDs and drum-related books.

Taylor Hawkins

Known best for being the drummer of Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins has also been drumming in his band The Coattail Riders. Before Foo Fighters, he was a touring drummer for Alanis Morissette. In 2005 he was voted as best rock drummer by drumming magazine Rhythm. 

Many Foo Fighters live shows feature him on vocals. This is not odd because he is a lead vocal in his band Coattail Riders. He overdosed on heroin in 2001 and spent two weeks in a coma.


We finally reached the end of our list. As a first step from here, we suggest listening to all the drummers you haven’t got a chance to hear before. 

Check out their instructional videos, books and all the cool drum parts they played over the years.

Listen to their sound, dynamic, grooves and licks and try making it your own.

Rock n roll drummers pay attention to how the performance looks, so there is a lot to learn on that end.

Use them to help yourself in becoming a great rock drummer with a recognizable sound.

Have fun, enjoy, and let us know if you think we left out someone and we might update the list.

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Best Jazz Drummers of All Time https://drummagazine.com/best-jazz-drummers-of-all-time/ Thu, 01 Jul 2021 15:00:00 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=23981 In this article, we try to list the best jazz drummers of all time. Want to know who we think is part of the cream of the jazz drumming crop? Read below. Jazz exploded as a genre in the 1920s, and many drummers on our list come from that era. Although jazz is not that […]

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In this article, we try to list the best jazz drummers of all time. Want to know who we think is part of the cream of the jazz drumming crop? Read below.

Jazz exploded as a genre in the 1920s, and many drummers on our list come from that era. Although jazz is not that popular nowadays, the best drummers today still come from jazz.

You might ask, is jazz drumming the hardest? Jazz has many sub-genres, and only some of them are really hard to play. Many of the jazz standards are pretty straightforward.


So, can jazz drumming be harder to play than rock and are jazz drummers better than rock drummers?

Well, it depends. If you listened to rock/metal drummers such as Mike Mangini, Tomas Haake, and Matt Garstka, you know how hard it is to match that level of playing in any genre. 

Rock can be harder than jazz, and rock drummers can be way better than jazz drummers. Fantastic jazz drummers might not be able to sound good in rock and vice versa.

The main difference between jazz and rock is that rock is played in quarter notes and is straightforward as most popular music nowadays, while jazz is played swung, in triplets, so it’s a different feel.

Also, the dynamic is different. In rock, bass drum and snare drum are the loudest components, while in jazz, the ride takes the main role.

Initially, rock came out of jazz, and some of the great jazz drummers heavily influenced many rock drummers. For instance, John Bonham and many of his famous triplet licks come from jazz.

Enough said, here is who we believe are the best jazz drummers ever.

The best jazz drummers of the 20s – 60s era

Buddy Rich 

Photo from Facebook

We can’t talk about jazz without mentioning Buddy Rich. If you would ask big names in jazz to name a few of their favorite drummers, I assure you Buddy would be on everybody’s list.

He is one of the first drummers to become a bandleader and the only one who can suffer a heart attack during a drum solo, take a sip of whiskey and go to hospital afterward.

We are not kidding; he was hardcore.

If you want to start with one of the best classical jazz drummers who took this genre of music to a higher level, you should listen to Buddy Rich Big Band or any of the 400 albums that he recorded in the studio with various artists.

Jim Chapin

Jim Chapin
Photo from Quora

The man who breathed and lived “Moeller method.” Chapin was also a jazz pianist, but maybe he is best known for his writings on drumming technique which helped generations of musicians all over the world learn to play drums while at the same time being true to their musicality.

He taught the best jazz drummers such as Max Roach, Elvin Jones and many others.

Roy Haynes

Roy Haynes
Photo from Twitter

At the age of 96, Roy is one of the oldest jazz drummers on the face of the earth, and he is still playing, which deserves every respect. He started drumming at the age of 11.

Roy played with Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and many others.

Sonny Rollins said that “Roy Haynes has a lot to say about jazz music since he recorded more than 500 albums and singles.

Max Roach

It stands to be argued that Max Roach is the 4th most recorded drummer ever, having played on around 580 albums. He was known for soloing on the hi-hat, and many of his hi-hat licks and tricks are still in use today.

Max Roach performed with many famous jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Max’s idol Charlie Parker.

Joe Morello

Joe Morello
Photo from Sabian

If you wanted to learn drums and go to the source in the old days, you would go to Joe Morello. He was a drum teacher for many, including Steve Gadd.

Joe Morello is best known for his drumming with the Dave Brubeck Quartet and had a signature pattern called “the swinging thumb.” He played on the most iconic jazz song like “Take five” in 5/4 time signature.

Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa
Photo from VinylMePlease

Gene Krupa was one of the rare drummers who could stand side by side with Buddy Rich. This man played drum battles with Buddy. The ’50s and ’60s have more to offer in terms of jazz.

Many of the jazz drumming licks are from that period. This is the time when jazz enjoyed enormous popularity thanks to the Ed Sullivan show. Drummers like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich influenced the jazz music we know today.

Louie Bellson

Louie is also one of the best jazz drummers from the ’50s. By just watching a few seconds of any of his videos, it is easy to notice he is a jazz giant and technically a very advanced drummer.

Alongside Gene and Buddy, he was one of the most popular drummers of his time. Loui played with Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and others.

Unfortunately, many of his materials burned in Universal fire back in 2008, but you can easily find his classic jazz albums such as The Sacred Music of Louie Bellson and the Jazz Ballet.

Philly Joe Jones

Joe Jones
Photo from Scott K Fish

Louie Bellson named Joe Jones as one of his biggest influences on drums. He is well known for the use of brushes, which give him an almost orchestral sound on his drums.

Along with Max Roach, he became one of the best jazz drummers from the 50’s era as they both were seen playing alongside Miles Davis in many performances.

Elvin Jones

It would be hard imagining jazz drumming as we know it today without Elvin Jones. He played with John Coltrane in the 60′. After that, he started his own band known as “Elvin Jones Jazz Machine.”

Elvin Jones was one of the most recorded jazz drummers in history, and he is easily one of the best.

He recorded more than 500 albums, singles and movie scores and reserved his spot in the top 10 most recorded drummers.

Art Blakey

Art Blakey
Photo from Pinterest

Art Blakey is also one of the drum icons from the 50’s He played with many jazz legends like Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins.

He was most known for his work with The Jazz Messengers, which created a new sound in jazz music that would be crucial to developing hard bop styles and post-bop styles.

Still, many jazz drummers mention Art Blakey as one of the biggest influences.

Modern jazz era drummers

Vinnie Colaiuta

Vinnie Colaiuta
Photo from Twitter

Vinnie is the drummer’s drummer and the most versatile drummer of today.

Vinnie Colaiuta can’t be classified as a jazz drummer because he is a category for himself. Over the years, he recorded more than 600 albums, singles and movie scores.

He played with two of the greatest jazz pianists of our time, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.

If you want to start by listening to some classical jazz drummers, then I suggest you leave Vinnie for later. If you want to learn how to be a chameleon behind the drums, then definitely check out some of Vinnie’s work.

He is best known for metric modulations and playing odd time signatures in the most natural way possible. Check out: Attack Of The 20lb Pizza – I’m Tweaked

Dave Weckl 

Dave Weckl
Photo from Sabian

Dave Weckl recorded over 160 albums, singles and movie scores. Similar to Vinnie, Dave is more than a versatile drummer, but most of his work, at least in the last 15 years, is in jazz.

He played in one of the best fusion jazz bands of our time, Chick Corea Elektric Band. Dave has a lot of free material on his Youtube channel so go check it out.

Steve Gadd 

Steve Gadd
Photo from Off The Tracks

Colaiuta, Weckl and Gadd are so versatile that you could put them in any musical situation, and they would make it sound authentic.

Steve Gadd is most known for being one of the most recorded studio drummers of all time. He is the 2nd most recorded drummer, right behind Jim Keltner with 663 studio albums, singles and movie scores.

If you are into linear drumming, this should be your go-to drummer.

Peter Erskine

Peter Erskine
Photo from FedereDrummer

Erskine’s famous quote is: “It’s a good thing to have enough confidence in yourself to play simple.” It is a hard thing to overcome, and he knows it.

He recorded almost 500 albums and movie scores and played everything from fusion jazz to funk. He is most known for his work with the late Jaco Pastorius and the Weather Report.

Tony Williams 

Tony Williams
Photo from XWhos

The one of the technically most advanced drummers ever lived. Many drummers such as Dennis Chambers still mention Tony Williams as one of the biggest influences.

Still, up to this day, his approach to playing ride cymbals it’s been studied. Tony Williams played with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins. He recorded more than 400 studio albums and singles.

Steve Smith 

Steve Smith
Photo from Hudson Music

Steve Smith was known for being a drummer for the rock band Journey. However, Steve made an incredible switch to becoming one of the greatest jazz drummers of today.

As drummers, we like his work with his band Vital Information and piano virtuoso Hiromi Uehara.

He recorded more than 300 studio albums and singles. To learn more about jazz drumming, check out Steve’s Drumset Technique and history of the U.S. beat DVD.

Brian Blade

Brian Blade
Photo from Jazz Times

Let’s step out of the technical part of jazz drumming and talk about how being unique is important.

Brian Blade is the perfect example of a drummer with a unique style. He is not too technical, but his approach to drumming is very distinctive and unique.

If you like the sound of true jazz drummers, then you should check out Brian. He is one of the most “jazziest” drummers on this list.

He recorded more than 150 albums and singles and played with artists like John Mayer, Bobby McFerrin and Van Morrison.

Jimmy Cobb

Jimmy Cobb
Photo from Hirvilag

Jimmy was a very influential drummer since he played with many jazz legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.

He helped create a new sound labeled as the “Miles Davis Quintet Sound,” characterized by their use of space in compositions and improvisations.

He made drum history by playing on some classical jazz albums like Kind of Blue, Milestones and Sketches of Spain.

Jack Dejohnette

Jack Dejohnette
Photo from Pinterest

Again one of the best classic jazz drummers with a unique style. Jack is the personification of a jazz drummer. He won Grammy awards in 1976, 1987 and 2007 for the best jazz album.

Jack Dejohnette worked with Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins and Pat Metheny, to name a few of the artists he performed alongside.

By the way, Jack’s signature drumsticks are one of the best-selling models; you should check them out.

Young jazz drummers we love

Mark Guiliana

Mark Guiliana
Photo from Mark Guiliana

We intentionally left Mark for the very end because, with Mark, jazz is in safe hands. Mark is interesting not just from a jazz perspective but from the drummers too.

We have never seen someone playing that clean and precise with such a small hand movement. Mark is a drummer that will end up in the books.

He recorded albums with artists such as Brad Mehldau, Meshell Ndegeocello and Taylor McFerrin.


Take this list as a starting point and be ready to go further in exploring fusion jazz, classical jazz and the best jazz drummers who have ever walked the earth.

Of course, the list doesn’t end here, so let us know who you think should make the list of the greatest jazz drummers in the comments below.

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A Brief History of KAT Percussion https://drummagazine.com/kat-inc-in-depth-history/ Sat, 26 Jun 2021 13:04:58 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=23946 KAT percussion employees Greg Irwin, Bill Katoski, Maria Katoski and Mario DeCiutiis with a drumKAT MIDI percussion multipad in 1987
KAT Percussion's innovations pushed the boundaries of MIDI percussion instruments, starting in the mid 1980's and continuing through today.

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KAT percussion employees Greg Irwin, Bill Katoski, Maria Katoski and Mario DeCiutiis with a drumKAT MIDI percussion multipad in 1987
By Nicolas Grizzle

The Pioneering History of E-Drum and MIDI Percussion Pioneers KAT, Inc.

Though it may not be a household name like some other brands, the electronic percussion world owes a debt of gratitude to the scrappy, independent minds at KAT for pushing the boundaries of MIDI percussion instruments, starting in the mid 1980’s and continuing through today.

KAT’s bread and butter is creating new instruments and innovating existing designs to have more capability and playability than what’s currently available. Starting with its very first products, the innovations coming from this young, upstart company from Massachusetts were forcing the bigger companies to push their own R&D further, much to the benefit of drummers everywhere.

KAT entered the electronic percussion world with a major splash when it released the malletKAT, a MIDI-based mallet percussion controller, in 1986. “Out of nowhere we were up there with Yamaha and Roland,” says Mario DeCiutiis, who was the company’s sales director at the time. “Our product was better than theirs. We caught them by surprise.”

Bill Katoski demos the first malletKAT at a trade show in 1996
Bill Katoski demos the first malletKAT at a trade show in 1996. Photo courtesy KAT, Inc.

DeCiutiis met KAT founder Bill Katoski in 1984 after reading a magazine article about his work on building an electronic mallet percussion instrument. DeCiutiis was (and still is) a professional orchestral percussionist, and he was intrigued by the potential of this idea. He quickly came on board as the company’s salesman and convinced Katoski to redesign the instrument to take advantage of the recently standardized MIDI technology.

The malletKAT was such a solid design that it was the only widely available instrument of its kind on the market for 30 years and remains a popular choice for professional percussionists. Today, many scores even have parts specifically written for the malletKAT (it often appears notated for “KAT” in the score), including for Radio City Music Hall, where DeCiutiis has played for the past 40 years.

KAT products are known for their durability and upgradability, and for being designed with players in mind above all else. “My goal is to make the best instrument, not caring if I sell a million of them, but establishing it as the most musical controller out there,” says DeCiutiis.

Doane Perry with a drumKAT and his drum set used with Jethro Tull in 1995
Doane Perry used a drumKAT to add electronic percussion to his kit with Jethro Tull in 1995

KAT is still going strong, designing new instruments and adding upgrades to tried-and-true designs. You may recognize some of their incredibly sensitive and responsive instruments like the malletKAT, drumKAT, jamKAT, and trapKAT (sensing a naming pattern yet?). They’re also well known amongst electronic and hybrid drumming enthusiasts for their hybrid drumheads the In-Head and On-Head and electronic drum modules and adaptors like the DITI (Drum Intelligent Trigger Interface) and FTB (FSR Trigger Box).

In 2013 KAT entered into a licensing deal with KMC Music (a subsidiary of Fender Music) to create a line of beginner and intermediate products under the KAT Percussion name and compete in the electronic drum market. In 2015 the license was transferred to DW Drums and then to Hal Leonard in 2017, where it remains today. While Alternate Mode continues to innovate and introduce new products, the KAT brand is focused on broadening the appeal and availability to more drummers with traditional drum set configurations for drummers at different stages of their musical career.

After his initial success as a sales director, DeCiutiis later became a vice-president of the company and today, nearly 40 years later, is the owner. What made it such a good fit from the outset, says DeCiutiis, is that he was a pro player who knew what was important to working professionals and Katoski was a brilliant engineer who could design and build just about any instrument DeCiutiis dreamed up. Together, they developed some game-changing and long-lasting electronic percussion instruments.

Here’s a timeline of KAT’s major moments, including releases of key innovative products and their impact on the musical world.

Bill Katoski experiments with a malletKAT prototype in the days before MIDI standardization
Bill Katoski experiments with a malletKAT prototype in the days before MIDI standardization
kat percussion brief history timeline

1984: KAT, Inc. is Founded

Bill Katoski had designed an electronic mallet percussion instrument called the Synare MP in 1981 for a company called Star Instruments and bought the rights to it when that company went out of business shortly thereafter. He began working on an updated version with his wife Maria and soon brought on professional orchestral percussionist Mario Deciutiis to form KAT, Inc. Their first instrument was a professional level mallet instrument with eight-note polyphonic synthesis and 16 sequencer banks, as well as on-board sounds that were as good if not better than similar instruments on the market at the time.

1986: malletKAT

With more and more products taking advantage of the new MIDI standardization, KAT saw the writing on the wall early and took to the drawing board to redesign the Synare MP. While Katoski knew that MIDI was the way to go, his early attempts at making this new instrument had failed. Undeterred, he brought a nonfunctional shell of the instrument to NAMM in January 1986 and was surprised at the high amount of interest. It turns out that at that same show was another company demonstrating a component that would unlock the potential of KAToski’s design—the force-sensing resistor (FSR).

The problems that existed in the original KAT MIDI Percussion Controller could be traced back to the piezo sensors used in the original design to trigger the player’s hits to the computer, which would generate the desired sounds. The new FSR sensors were much more sensitive and responsive to dynamics, and soon after NAMM the first working KAT MIDI Percussion Controller was in production. (The name was soon changed to malletKAT.)

Simmons, a giant in electronic percussion at the time, soon released a competing product called the Silicon Mallet and used its large advertising budget to open the world’s eyes to the idea of MIDI percussion controllers. The Silicon Mallet fizzled out, but the public now had an appetite for this type of product and KAT was happy to fill the need.

The FSR sensor that really set this instrument apart is still part of KAT’s DNA today, and it is used in all their top-tier instruments. Most other electronic percussion instruments on the market today continue to be designed with the less expensive but less-sensitive piezo pickups, but the FSR sensor remains a hallmark of KAT instruments.

1988: drumKAT

The drumKAT was the company’s first foray beyond the mallet percussion world. This was KAT’s upgraded answer to the Octapad, which had been released a couple years prior and was being touted as an add-on to a drum or percussion setup. The drumKAT took the idea and, in true KAT fashion, made a few choice upgrades. When it was released, the drumKAT was the only product of its kind using the more advanced FSR sensors and had 10 programmable zones with inputs for 9 more trigger units on top of that, making it the most powerful and versatile MIDI multipad the time. The rectangular unit is immediately recognizable by its playing surface reminiscent of “mouse ears.” An updated version, the drumKAT Turbo, was released in 1998. It has since been updated again and is now sold as the drumKAT Hybrikit.

Bill Katoski and Alan White of Yes with his malletKAT in 1991
Bill Katoski and Alan White of Yes with his malletKAT in 1991

1996: Reboot as Alternate Mode

In 1995, KAT, Inc. went out of business and Bill Katoski left the company. Mario DeCiutiis bought the company and rebranded it as Alternate Mode. Originally, DeCiutiis says he planned to be a repair shop to service KAT products already in the field. But the itch for innovation was too strong and demand for new products from the company was still out there, and it wasn’t long before Alternate Mode began releasing updated versions of existing KAT products and introducing new instruments.

2010: Drum Intelligent Trigger Interface (DITI)

The introduction of the DITI is another example of how KAT (under the Alternate Mode name) was ahead of its time. The DITI is a trigger-to-MIDI interface that allows users to combine the FSR-based KAT products with any other type of trigger into one drum module. This was a revolutionary step because FSR triggers require external power, and prior to this it was not possible to combine FSR triggers and other triggers into one setup with one streamlined unit. The DITI acted as a hub, sorting out all the different types of electronic data with preset kit types.

Updated versions included a library of 50 preset kit configurations from many different manufacturers. It also has the option to connect via MIDI or USB to a computer’s sound library, or connect to another drum module to use its sounds and configurations.

Older electronic drum kits can get a new lease on life when the DITI is used in place of their own brain, and the creative power of a low-cost, entry-level electronic drum kit is vastly expanded when paired with the DITI. Plus, it can be used as the brain of a system with other triggers, allowing users to design and build their own e-kit, or mix and match their favorite e-drum components, including acoustic drums with any type of trigger.

2013: New Licensing Deal and Expansion of Available Instruments

Recognizing the need for expansion, Alternate Mode licensed the KAT name to expand distribution and start adding in entry- and mid-level instruments from overseas to the product line. This resulted in the KT series of electronic drum sets whith has enabled KAT instruments to be available in a wider range of homes for professionals, hobbyists and students alike. Alternate Mode continues to innovate and produce products under its own brand name, as well the KAT Percussion name, for professional players.

2018: Hybrid Drumhead Technology

KAT, innovating as Alternate Mode, saw the trend toward hybrid drum sets early on and developed one drumhead to handle both acoustic and electronic needs. The Hybrihead was developed with Aquarian (and co-released by Aquarian as the In-Head) to be quality sounding acoustic head that went above and beyond the current standard sensitivity of electronic triggers thanks to the implementation of FSR sensors. A quiet pad version to be placed atop a standard drumhead was also released (known as the Hybripad and On-Head).

Played acoustically, it’s impossible to tell it is a hybrid drumhead. Plugging it in via a nondescript 1/4″ jack enables the head to trigger the any sound in your sample library. This makes it easy to blend miked acoustic drums with electronic samples, or switch between the two with the push of a button.

2021: New E-Drum Sets

For the first time in five years, KAT released updated electronic drum sets including the KT-100, the KT-200 and the KT-300. The updates include a new color scheme (everyone’s favorite: black), as well as larger, mesh heads on the KT-300.

kat percussion kt-300 electronic drum set
Pictured above is the KT-300 by KAT Percussion, which features Remo© Mesh Heads.

Find out more at KATPercussion.com

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Brain Meets Stewart Copeland https://drummagazine.com/brain-meets-stewart-copeland/ Tue, 18 May 2021 07:45:22 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=23786 Get The X Factor We weren’t alone. Many have wondered what the heck happened to Stewart Copeland – the legendary drummer who, with the Police, introduced what once sounded like highly exotic reggae and ska rhythms into new wave-y pop, and foresaw the emergence of world music. Sure, he’s minted millions as a soundtrack composer […]

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We weren’t alone. Many have wondered what the heck happened to Stewart Copeland – the legendary drummer who, with the Police, introduced what once sounded like highly exotic reggae and ska rhythms into new wave-y pop, and foresaw the emergence of world music. Sure, he’s minted millions as a soundtrack composer while toying with orchestral compositions on the side. In short, the dude has little to worry about. But the last time Copeland actually banged a beat was with Animal Logic – the short-lived semi-supergroup he co-founded with bassist Stanley Clarke and guitarist Trey Anastasio – and hell, that was a long, long time ago.

Talk about synchronicity. Then we recently interviewed Brain, the current drummer with Primus and former DRUM! columnist. He talked about the band’s new album Antipop, and how none other than Mr. Copeland produced one of the tracks. Suddenly the pieces all fell into place. Knowing that Brain would work for peanuts, we asked him to interview Copeland for us. A media darling, Brain agreed to drop by Copeland’s pad while Primus was in Los Angeles with the Ozzfest tour and talk some trash for a few hours.

Why did we do it? Outside of the short time they spent together in the studio, these two drummers have very little in common. Almost nothing, really. Brain’s a groover with two feet planted firmly in ’90s hip-hop. Copeland’s a showy chopsmeister whose primary archive of pop work represents an era removed by several generations.

Ah, what the hell. We did it because we could, that’s all. The rest is history. Sort of.

Brain: What did you think this was for?

Copeland: I’m not sure. There’s not much I can say about drums. The last time I did a drum interview it was, like, my usual spiel, and the journalist gave me a copy of my last article. After he had gone home I looked at it and, “Wait a minute. This is all stuff that I just said – again!” Same anecdotes. Same punch lines. Same advice.

Brain: That’s why I freaked out last night, because we were watching Basquiat, and you know that scene where Christopher Walken is interviewing Basquiat? Have you seen that movie?

Copeland:: Yeah.

Brain: He’s interviewing him and Basquiat’s just bumming out because it’s an interview. And I was just going, “Yeah, this sucks. Stewart probably doesn’t want to talk about drums.”

Copeland: Well, you can.

Brain: So what are you working on now?

Copeland: I’m in very slow motion working on a record with exotic singers, since I don’t sing. Slowly, track by track, I’m getting there.

Brain: Who else do you have on it?

Copeland: I just got back from London, where I recorded with Martina, and I have this woman from Burundi – Kaja Nin – who is really cool, too. And this Arabic singer named Faudel, and I’ve got a track with Stan Ridgway, as well, but I’m thinking I’m probably going to go ethnic all the way.

Brain: Do you plan to take this project on the road?

Copeland: Yes, that’s why I’m doing it, as a matter of fact. I did a tour once called “The Rhythmatist,” and I’ve got another Rhythmatist tour coming up in the Spring of 2001. The reason why I’m working so long in advance is that it’s a different kind of touring. It’s fine arts. It’s funded by blue rich ladies. It appears in the program along with Zubin Mehta and solo cellists and stuff like that. So it’s different halls, different economy. And it’s all booked two years in advance. So I thought, “I might as well have some product for it. It’s about time I had a new record anyway.”

Brain: So you’re getting back into the drums. You’re not going to do the looping thing anymore?

Copeland: No, I’m going to actually play.

Brain: Since you haven’t played drums for a while, what have you lost technically?

Copeland: It’s the finesse, that’s what you lose when you go cold. To get that stuff back, it’s a matter of balancing the hands. Really slow single strokes, and thinking not in terms of speed but just getting them exactly the same, so you can’t tell which hand it is. And slowly speeding it up to just under your top speed, concentrating on being absolutely even. When you’re at that kind of top speed, change the dynamics. And the gradations need to be absolutely smooth. It will improve your technique faster than anything, that single-stroke roll.

Brain: Did you ever get into trying to do singles, paradiddles and doubles and making them all sound the same?

Copeland: Yeah, I do that. I don’t need to do that anymore. I seem to have those for life – paradiddles, throwing in two on one hand and stuff like that. The only reason for paradiddles is for navigation. To free up a hand to hit a crash or move across the drum. It’s not a creative exercise. It’s mechanics. I don’t find that I need to practice them anymore.

Brain: I told everybody on Ozzfest I was coming up here. Everybody’s interested to know why you played traditional grip.

Copeland: Because I started way back in the ’60s, probably around the time when rock music was beginning to happen. But my dad was a jazz musician. I started out with traditional drum training at the age of eight and I learned all the rudiments very strictly.

Brain: So you learned all the 26 rudiments.

Copeland: No, no, no. I don’t know if I learned all 26 of them, but I learned mammy-daddy paradiddles and really correct orthodox technique, which I think has been really valuable. That’s how I started, but the reason why I think [traditional grip] is better – because I played match grip as well – is there’s just a lot more power you can put into it.

Brain: You think you get more power with traditional grip?

Copeland: Absolutely.

Brain: These are things that bothered me for years. Because I tried to do traditional grip after seeing you play. I just felt I could get more power from match grip.

Copeland: Change the position of your snare drum.

Brain: Yeah, I changed it. I angled it. I did the whole Buddy Rich/Gene Krupa thing. I switched to match about four years ago.

Copeland: You went through the whole thing? You used to be a match grip guy.

Brain: I used to be a traditional guy. I practiced four hours a day on it. I sat there with Stick Control. But for some reason I just couldn’t get the power I wanted. That’s why when I see old tapes of you with the Police, you’re just totally shredding. It looks rad. I was wondering, what did you think of all the drummers that Sting worked with after the Police broke up?

Copeland: I really like Vinnie [Colaiuta]. But he’s dead. They’ve parted company. They’re sick of each other. And he’s not playing like Vinnie anymore.

Brain: What about Manu [Katche]?

Copeland: I like Manu. He’s very light, though, which is nice for some things. He’s very light. And in fact Sting tried him on his new album coming out, and he’s too light for him.

Brain: Really? Who’s he got now?

Copeland: I think he got Vinnie back.

Brain: He’s got Vinnie? That story you told me is classic.

Copeland: Which one was that?

Brain: The one where you sat in with Sting, and then after you got done playing Vinnie played again, and his roadie looked at you and said, “He hasn’t played that way in years.”

Copeland: That’s right. Vinnie’s been playing with Sting about four or five years longer than I did. The Police was eight years, and it’s been about 12 or 13 years since then.

Brain: That’s another question I wanted to ask you about. When you toured with the Police did you get bored? Did you just think, “Oh no, here’s the same show. I’ve got to play the same thing.”

Copeland: No. Never. The show was always really exciting.

Brain: And you would switch it up every night.

Copeland: Every night. Inevitably, there would be the occasional bad show when there were too many shows back-to-back, getting homesick. But it has nothing to do with the music. It has nothing to do with the band. You’re just too tired. You’ve been there.

Brain: Well, we’ve been on the road for two months now. I’m lucky enough because we can stretch. But I’m looking at the other bands, like Rob Zombie, watching John Tempesta play. He plays to a click track, so it’s the same thing every night. I’m just going, “He must want to just kill himself.”

Copeland: That’s why we kept it exciting. On some of the songs we’d just run them through. But I’d never play the same licks twice. There would be a few that I knew worked, so I’d kind of play that there. But even on the last gig, I was still looking for the perfect way to get into the chorus, or something like that.

Brain: Wow. So you would record, then go on tour, instead of learning songs on the road first, then recording.

Copeland: As far as the vibe of the album, I think that’s good. Just for me personally, listening to my chops, they’re not as happening as they were six months later after playing that stuff on the road. But that’s just a personal thing. I’m really unsatisfied with all of my recorded work.

Brain: All of it?

Copeland: Pretty much. Obviously, it worked since it made me very wealthy. But the stage thing, that’s where the cool stuff happens. That’s where I came alive. That’s where I love playing. But listen to the records – for one thing, we learned the song that morning, recorded it that afternoon. That’s it.

Brain: Yeah, you never sounded like a studio musician.

Copeland: And also, I was out of practice [laughs]. Because when you’re on tour your chops get really hot. And then you go off and we all write for a month or two, and then you reconvene and I’m just that little bit stiffer.

Brain: But it makes that difference in feel.

Copeland: Yeah, but I’ve got to live with that lack of perfection for the rest of my life.

Brain: But that’s what makes it.

Copeland: Yeah, I don’t lose too much sleep over it. It obviously worked one way or another. Well, how many times have you ever done a demo …

Brain: And it’s way better [than the final master].

Copeland: And it’s way better. It isn’t recorded as well. You didn’t finish the bridge. There isn’t the section you added later. But, it’s the “platinum demo factor,” where this is better than it ever got. Because there’s that experimental, exploring vibe.

Brain: So you were telling me that “Every Breath You Take” was the most produced?

Copeland: That is apart from everything we just said, from all of the above. I got a snare drum and a gong drum, made the backbeat. Now I would have played it once and sampled it. But I played them all. There were a few lame ones I had to drop in. We obsessed over that for a day. And then cymbal swells, I did those separately. And then in the end I added the hi-hat instead of the drum box. I actually like that, because it’s not a playing thing, it’s a composition thing. I’m very proud of that arrangement. How long have you been with Primus?

Brain: Three years.

Copeland: Because you’ve had a whole musical life before you joined that band, which might be a completely different kind of music.

Brain: Oh, it was totally different. I mean, it was working with the avant garde, it was working with Bill Laswell and that whole scene of different players. But I wanted to try the rock thing, so it’s definitely different. At first I didn’t quite get the whole Primus thing.

Copeland: Well, the Primus thing is a shitload better since you joined, if you don’t mind my saying so. That guy Herb had all kinds of chops. Zero groove.

Brain: It’s definitely a different style. We’re totally opposite. I never understood it because of that. Everything I listen to was always coming from the soul side of things and with a feel. So I never understood it either, but at the time I was thinking, “It sounds like something to do.” Plus it shows you off. You can play. But with the Ozzfest, it’s kind of frustrating because it has nothing to do with music. It doesn’t really matter if you’re that good. It’s just like, “Well, you know, your face is painted red.”

Copeland: Well, that’s what the whole punk thing was about, as well, is that attitude and energy was the finesse. That’s where the Police cut through all that, because we had a bit of finesse, which actually was a problem for us in the beginning. All the musicians – Joe Strummer would come and cop licks. But the journalists tore us to shreds until we started having hits in America, and came back as the conquering heroes.

Brain: Remember when we were talking about attitude and you made the comment about Miles? I know you liked the early jazz stuff like big bands …

Copeland: Big bands. As soon as they stopped going “ting, ting-a ting,” that’s when they lost me.

Brain: You didn’t like the attitude that Miles had?

Copeland: I liked Tony Williams, but after that, fusion stuff started getting too cold for me.

Brain: So after the period of Miles in the ’70s, when he was just gone, and it was all about experimenting, and –

Copeland: It did nothing for me.

Brain: You just hated that.

Copeland: I went through a period, in fact when I was moving in here, I went down to [a record store] and bought Thelonius Monk, Miles, all the real icons, and I’m sitting here unpacking boxes, listening to these records. I’ve done these jams. There’s nothing magical. I can just hear five guys stoned out of their brains. They’re on smack. I was on pot. What’s the difference? It’s just totally self-indulgent. “A Love Supreme.” Get the hell out of here! There was some cool Miles stuff, though. The early stuff where he had Tony Williams with him. You get the vibe out of that. Have you ever been through a Mahavishnu thing?

Brain: Yeah, a little bit. But I was never a Billy Cobham fan. He just bugged me.

Copeland: Really?

Brain: Yeah.

Copeland: I liked the first album and the second album. Then I lost it from there. He’s quite stiff. He doesn’t groove at all. If you listen to his albums now they don’t survive well at all. Not like the Beatles do, for instance, or Led Zeppelin. It gets better and better. Every year that goes by, when I hear a Led Zeppelin track, it’s even better than it was.

Brain: It’s funny that you say that, because on the Ozzfest there’s no band that actually has a swing or a bounce to it. It’s been six weeks on the tour, and the other day we got done playing and Rob Zombie’s about to come on and they put on Zeppelin, and all of a sudden I was in the music again. I was like, “Now I know why I play.”

Copeland: It sounds like your attitude on this tour is the same Sting had in the early days of playing punk gigs, where he got off on the energy … but the musical world, all these lame groups that don’t swing, don’t have any soul, and don’t have any pulse – they just get up there and they’re angry. The audience was great. The bands, our peers, they all sucked.

Brain: So you had a lot of power because you guys could actually play.

Copeland: Yeah. We could blow them all away. We didn’t have any hits in the beginning. We didn’t have that material. When we started it was my material. I just had these two-chord tricks, and they weren’t great lyrics and they weren’t great tunes. It wasn’t until Sting started writing those songs with those lyrics and those melody lines, which he couldn’t do until we fired our first guitarist and got a new guitarist who could actually play some interesting chords, that’s when we started to actually get somewhere. In the beginning we didn’t have the material, but we had the chops. And we could play harder and heavier than any of them. But we were uncool.

Brain: But that’s what got you through.

Copeland: Well, the fact that the other players in these bands were the dollies of the press, like [the Clash’s] Paul Simonon really loved his bass and actually really wanted to be a good bass player, and he would practice. But don’t tell any of the rest of the band he was actually doing scales and things! He never got that good.

Brain: When you guys were recording did you ever think about what the feel was supposed to be? Did you think, “I want to make this a little behind the beat, or a little ahead of the beat.”

Copeland: No. We didn’t intellectualize. The band might bitch like, “You know, this just isn’t grooving.” It’s like, “Groove more.” It’s all about listening.

Brain: So it’s all about the vibe.

Copeland: Yeah. We didn’t consciously say, “I just heard this great record. Let’s try to get a groove like that.” With our image, with everything, we would be embarrassed to discuss it. We were very aware of it, but we would never acknowledge that we were very aware of it. Image was very important. Packaging was weird, too. We’d never talk about, “Okay, how about I wear a black shirt and you wear a white shirt,” that kind of thing. We wouldn’t be caught dead having those conversations, but each of us secretly would … Sting would practice in front of a mirror. He realized that his job is to be a product, is to have an image. It was all of our jobs. You have to look cool – even if it’s grunge, you still have to have the X-factor, you have to have charisma. Eddie Vedder might deny, deny, deny, but he has charisma expressed in what looks nonchalant, but is actually an image.

Brain: So the Police will never –

Copeland: We won’t ever record another album. That just isn’t going to happen. Another two-week tour in support of the rain forest, save the whales, build a school, something like that. That’s the only way that’s going to happen. That’s what I’m working on. We’ll give all the money away, just because I enjoy the thrill of it. Those two guys are the two guys who really light me up. It’s pretty obvious why. Everyone else can hear it. That’s why we sold so many records.

Brain: Right, right.

Copeland: The reason why Andy [Summers, Police guitarist] is so good for me is because he plays colors. Sting and I were the groove, and Andy would waft around it, which gave it atmosphere. So I would very much like for the Police thing to happen. I’m working on it, but I’m not holding my breath.


DRUMS Tama Starclassic Maple (Blue Sparkle Finish)


Stewart Copeland also uses Tama hardwareRemo heads, and Vater signature sticks and mallets.

The post Brain Meets Stewart Copeland appeared first on DRUM! Magazine.

Peter Erskine: Drumming Improv Lessons Learned https://drummagazine.com/peter-erskine-drumming-improv-lessons-learned/ Tue, 16 Feb 2021 18:32:59 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=20114 drummer peter erskine
Drummers learn to play by watching and listening to fellow drummers. But to learn improvisation, drummers should also train their ears on the other musicians onstage. By David A. Brensilver | Photographs: Courtesy Of Erskine’s Biography, No Beethoven For nearly 40 years, Peter Erskine has been one of the world’s most admired and sought-after drummers. […]

The post Peter Erskine: Drumming Improv Lessons Learned appeared first on DRUM! Magazine.

drummer peter erskine

Drummers learn to play by watching and listening to fellow drummers. But to learn improvisation, drummers should also train their ears on the other musicians onstage.

By David A. Brensilver | Photographs: Courtesy Of Erskine’s Biography, No Beethoven

For nearly 40 years, Peter Erskine has been one of the world’s most admired and sought-after drummers. Since working with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Maynard Ferguson, and the iconic jazz-fusion group Weather Report, Erskine has recorded with and performed alongside a veritable who’s who of artists across musical genres — from Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell to the Brecker Brothers, John Scofield, and Pat Metheny — mining the depths of countless styles and adding generously to the drumming vocabulary. Erskine recently shared lessons he’s learned throughout his remarkable career, from equally legendary artists — most of them nondrummers — about improvisation. What follows are his reflections on those inspiring and thought-provoking moments, as well as the influential colleagues whose advice he’s enthusiastically heeded.

Joe Zawinul and Erskine leaving the stage after a Weather Report concert in Japan in 1980.

Joe Zawinul: Compose When You Play
In 1970, composer and keyboardist Joe Zawinul founded the seminal jazz-fusion group Weather Report with saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Erskine worked with the group from 1978 to 1982, and again in 1985. Around ’78, Zawinul gave Erskine what the latter describes as the “biggest improvisational direction in terms of being a complete, creative musician.”

“Probably the most important thing that Joe said to me while I was working with him in Weather Report was to always compose when I play. And what is improvisation but instant composition? And so the ethos of the band, I think, and what he felt was the most important thing for us to do as contributing members, would be to be in the moment, to be spontaneous, to not play anything that was hackneyed or clichéd. So when I think of improvisation, I’m treating the entire playing process as improvisation, even though I’m adhering to the form of a song or guidelines of a chart and trying to handle whatever ensemble needs are brought about because of the arrangement or the tune. The beautiful thing about playing the drums is that I think more than any other instrument, we’re faced with constant opportunities to make choices, or the constant obligation to make choices.”

George Gaber and Erskine in 1965, during their first meting at the Erskine home in Linwood, New Jersey.

George Gaber: Embrace a Less-Can-Be-More Approach
A percussionist who worked with numerous orchestras, Gaber joined the faculty of Indiana University in 1960, and developed the school’s now-celebrated percussion department. While not a drum set player, per se, Gaber challenged Erskine, who studied at Indiana University during the early- and mid-1970s, to embrace a less-can-be-more approach to his setup.

“Gaber was a wonderful percussionist and a brilliant teacher. He played a little bit of drum set, but not much, and I don’t know kit. But talking to me during a lesson, he said, “What are you doing this weekend? Do you have a gig? Why don’t you try just taking your snare drum and your hi-hat?” And of course [in] this band we were doing kind of fusion stuff, and so I said, “No, I can’t do that” — but also, I can’t do that because I have to impress people when I play. And I realized later, what he was trying to get me to do was, in fact, what some of our favorite drummers did on some of our favorite recordings. The fewer instruments you have, generally, the more creative you need to be. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to be busier or more mischievous, but you do have to be more creative.”

Dan Haerle: Be Active, Not Just Reactive
The pianist and composer taught for many years at the University Of North Texas and remains a highly regarded educator and clinician who, in 2013, was elected to the International Association For Jazz Education Hall Of Fame. At a Stan Kenton Jazz Camp in Sacramento, California, in the early ’70s, Haerle encouraged Erskine to be a more active part of musical conversations.

“Dan Haerle and I played part of a concert in duo. We played two or three free pieces, and I thought I’d done a very good job listening and responding — and Dan was quite charitable and generous afterwards. But he was fairly quick to point out, “You were only reacting to what I did.” He said, “You never gave me any input.” So, I was treating improvisation purely as a response, and I was never issuing the call for the call and response. Improvisation needs to be a two-way street or more when you’re working with other musicians. We try to be polite and we try to be good citizens and what we’re really doing is, oftentimes, really handcuffing the creativity of the other musician, especially if we start echoing back what they played, because then they have no freedom to say anything because it’s going to get spit right back in their face.”

Wayne Shorter and Erskine in Frankfurt, Germany in 1978.

Wayne Shorter: Provide Counterpoint, Avoid Imitation
Shorter, the legendary saxophonist and composer who in 1970 cofounded Weather Report with Joe Zawinul, urged Erskine (as had Zawinul) around 1979 to provide counterpoint during improvisations, not simply to imitate what a soloist does.

“I was playing every night in duet with Wayne as part of the song ‘Black Market.’ And the particular performance that was chosen for this live album that Weather Report released called 8:30, I’m in the studio with Joe Zawinul and the engineer and they’re playing back this duet in

‘Black Market.’ And I stand next to Joe by the big playback speakers and Joe goes, ‘Sounds good.’ That made me feel pretty good. And then at that point of the dotted eighth-note figure or dotted quarter-note, depending on how you’re counting. So he was doing this sequential kind of hemiola over the groove. And I catch the last three or four of those. And at that point of the playback, Zawinul turns to me with a really sour face, almost disgusted looking, and he says, ‘Too bad you had

to do that.’ And then later the band was in rehearsal and Wayne started playing something across the rhythmic grain, and I caught it. And he stopped playing. He turned around and he said, ‘Don’t do that.’ So I realized, eventually, if the rhythm section is creating a brilliant blue back-ground, and the soloist all of a sudden carves a searing white diagonal across it, that’s not our cue to change to white.”

Jaco Pastorius and Erskine at the Yamaha factory in Hamamatsu, Japan in 1978.

Jaco Pastorius: Trust Your Instincts
The eternally influential electric bass player was Erskine’s rhythm-section partner during his tenure in Weather Report. As Erskine developed as an improviser, learning from those with whom he was working at the time, Pastorius advised him to follow his musical instincts.

“In the midst of all this, now, I’m trying to incorporate all this advice, and I’m beginning to get self-conscious, I’m not responding as freely because I’ve got these improvisational rules. And then Jaco was all fed up, because he’d gotten me in the band and he’s sensing and hearing this difference. So he says,

‘Stop thinking so much. Just concentrate.’ And what that meant was listen. Stop over-thinking the thing, just listen, then you’ll know what to play. So, he was trying to get me back to my initial, very fresh state when I joined the band, when I was completely fearless, even though I had a lot to learn. And so when you improvise, you have to give yourself permission to trust your instincts.”

John Abercrombie and Erskine on tour in Helsinki, Finland, circa 1984.

John Abercrombie: Make Good Tonal Choices
Working with the acclaimed jazz guitarist during the mid-to-late ’80s in a trio with bassist Marc Johnson presented Erskine with a new challenge and an opportunity to think about orchestration.

“It wasn’t so much anything that John said to me, but I realized when I was playing with him in this three-way improvisation of the trio that I couldn’t rely on playing devices I had come to rely upon — or playing on certain parts of the kit, because the rack tom, for example, would often be in the same tonal, midrange area as John’s guitar. And then I realized I’m just kind of his notes are wiping out whatever I’m play-ing. So, if I’m improvising with him, I have to be much more aware of my tonal choices — the orchestration.”

Marc Johnson recording Erskine’s album Sweet Soul in 1991.

Marc Johnson: Know When to Stay The Course
Erskine and bassist Marc Johnson, with whom he worked alongside guitarist John Abercrombie and on other projects during the late 1980s, spent a lot of time experimenting with contrapuntal ideas and with timekeeping itself.

“Marc and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t in terms of bass and drums. And again, it was: Are we being empathetic or are we getting in each other’s way? And so if Marc wanted to break away from the time, then that would be the time for me to keep playing the time. So, in a rhythm section, a lot of times the best way to improvise is to stay the course; to know when to intentionally play something that’s different from what you’ve been playing or keep playing what you were playing. And oftentimes we would do this not just in the sort of obvious [way], just start bending the time, he would just start pushing the edge of the beat and start playing a little bit faster. And so sure, I could go with him, but it was always way more interesting when I didn’t.

Eliane Elias: Eschew Interruption
Erskine worked with the Brazilian pianist and vocalist in Steps Ahead, a jazz-fusion group led by vibraphonist Mike Mainieri that released an eponymous album in 1983. When Erskine produced his first instruction book, Drum Concepts And Techniques in 1987, he asked Elias to write a blurb (as it’s known in the trade) to help promote it.

“Eliane said, ‘Don’t play a fill every two bars.’ She may have also said, ‘Don’t play a downbeat every two bars,’ but she definitely didn’t want a fill. So, in terms of improvising, again, it’s knowing kind of when to show your cards or when to keep them a little closer to your chest. So that’s a big part of improvisation. ‘Don’t play a fill every two bars.’ Part of playing a beat is playing a beat.”

Shelly Berg: Give The Soloist Room To Play
In addition to having worked as a pianist with an impressive list of renowned artists and serving as dean of the University Of Miami’s Frost School Of Music, Berg is the music director of The Jazz Cruise, an annual weeklong festival at sea that features a stellar lineup of artists. Erskine participated in February 2015, and, during the cruise, did a presentation with Berg that reminded him of previous lessons learned.

“I was part of a presentation, ‘The Art Of The Trio.’ But the bass player got the wrong message about the presentation, so he wasn’t there. So it became ‘The Art Of The Duo.’ So I just started playing. And then [Berg] started playing a tune and we took it from there, and we tried a couple different grooves to show how drums and piano can function with or without a bass. One thing he said was: ‘As a rhythm section, you don’t want to paint the soloist into a corner, as an improvising accompanist.’”

John Wyre, Newfoundland, circa 2004. Photo taken by Erskine.

John Wyre: Let An Improvisation Be What It Is
An orchestral percussionist, composer, and champion of contemporary music, Wyre was a founding member of the trailblazing Toronto-based percussion ensemble Nexus. At one point, he shared with Erskine the oft-repeated Chinese proverb “The bird does not sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.” That stuck with and inspired Erskine who, in 2012, wrote and released a percussion piece called “A Bird Sings” in memory of Wyre, who’d passed away six years earlier. Shortly before Wyre died in 2006, Erskine paid him a visit during which Wyre pointed out that an improvisation doesn’t have to spin heads.

“John — rest in peace — was a founding member of Nexus, and improvisation was a big thing with them. And I noticed when he would improvise, he had a tremendous amount of patience. He was never in a hurry for the improvisation to go any specific place. And I visited him in his home in St. John’s, Newfoundland, not too long before he passed away. And he said, ‘Come on, I want to show you my improvising machine.’ It was a large, marimba-like instrument. You could play it standing on either side of the instrument. And John started playing and I started playing and I was being a little clever and John just smiled. He kept playing this very simple thing. I was being kind of fast and busy. And John wasn’t in any hurry to go anywhere. And so oftentimes the beauty in improvisation is you don’t need to hit a home run. To John’s way of thinking and seeing life and hearing, it exists as it is, and it is what it is.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of DRUM! magazine. This is the first time it has been published online.

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Video Story: Chicago Drum Company Makes Modern Tubs in the Slingerland Style https://drummagazine.com/video-story-chicago-drum-company-makes-modern-tubs-in-the-slingerland-style/ Fri, 29 Jan 2021 13:00:00 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=19895 jim moritz and his drums
Video and text by Nicolas Grizzle Chicago Drum Company began in 2011, when Jim Moritz and a friend wondered if they could put their collective experience from working at the Slingerland factory to good use and make a snare drum. Moritz had already been working on drums, doing restoration on vintage tubs, when the thought […]

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jim moritz and his drums
Video and text by Nicolas Grizzle

Chicago Drum Company began in 2011, when Jim Moritz and a friend wondered if they could put their collective experience from working at the Slingerland factory to good use and make a snare drum. Moritz had already been working on drums, doing restoration on vintage tubs, when the thought occurred to make his own. “It sounded amazing,” he says. In fact, it reminded them of that “old school” sound they love about vintage drums like Slingerland, something they felt was lacking in modern drums.

They kept at it, and eventually expanded to making full drum sets. Now, Chicago Drum Co. has built a reputation for making high-quality drums in the vintage style. Moritz stuck with the maple/poplar or mahogany/poplar combo because of its versatility, he says. Plus, it has been a tried and true wood choice for drums for so long, he knew it would work.

Drum Workshop bought the trademark for Slingerland in 2019, but we have yet to see products released from the line. DW has said it’s reboot will focus on quality, and begin with the release of a new Radio King snare drum.

Doc Sweeny Drums released a Radio King-style snare drum in 2018, and continues to make vintage-sounding steam-bent snare drums and drum sets. Chicago Drum Co. is also on that list of drums being made right now that can be compared to the vintage “Slingerland style” or sound. The similarities are not only in the build and wood selection, but the old Slingerland factory was located in Chicago, just like Moritz’s Chicago Drum Co., and he’s got experience actually working at the factory.

Check out the video above to hear more about Moritz’s family history with Slingerland, how he makes his drums, what he feels the most important part of a drum is, and how he came to be the owner of a massive 1980’s Slingerland drum set, which he houses in an awesome drum room complete with tons of Slingerland memorabilia.

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10 Drumming Chameleons Who Can Blend into Any Style https://drummagazine.com/10-drumming-chameleons-who-can-blend-into-any-style/ Wed, 13 Jan 2021 22:42:50 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=19820 drumming chameleons artists
By Drum! Staff If you’re like most drummers, it’s likely that you keep a stable of drumming styles tucked in your back pocket, ready to whip out at a moment’s notice. However, if you’re really and truly like most drummers (and can be brutally honest with yourself) chances are you still have trouble with a […]

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drumming chameleons artists
By Drum! Staff

If you’re like most drummers, it’s likely that you keep a stable of drumming styles tucked in your back pocket, ready to whip out at a moment’s notice. However, if you’re really and truly like most drummers (and can be brutally honest with yourself) chances are you still have trouble with a number of styles, and might never completely nail some of them. Don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone.

Master drummers who can sound authentic in any given drumming style are members of an ultra-elite club. Not only have they learned the stickings and rhythms inherent in every style on the planet, they also know how to make them feel right, which is perhaps the trickiest part. That’s why we call them chameleons. Some, like Vinnie Colaiuta, are so versatile that they almost don’t have a signature style. They simply fade into whatever arrangement they have to play, be it metal, jazz, fusion, or pop. Others, though, simply possess a distinct style that is so malleable that they can sound at home without compromising their identity.

So here’s our list of the top ten chameleons from the past and present that set bars far too high for most of us to ever reach—although that’s no excuse to stop trying!

Tony Williams

When Tony Williams first strode on stage with jazz icon Miles Davis in 1962, at the tender age of 17, he’d in fact already clocked professional experience with saxophonists Jackie McLean and Sam Rivers. While he displayed a mastery of metric modulation and polyrhythmic play early on, which left a lasting influence on drummers of all stripes who followed, it would have been impossible at that gig to predict the wide range of styles he would tackle throughout his career. From bebop sessions with Miles and avant-garde explorations with Eric Dolphy, to his invention of jazz fusion with Life Time, reggae sides with Jimmy Cliff, and rock cuts with Yoko Ono and Public Image Ltd., Williams could seemingly fit into any stylistic situation without ever forsaking his sound. Who knows what else he would have taken on if he hadn’t died prematurely of a heart attack at age 51.

Steve Smith

It’s no coincidence that Steve Smith and Vinnie Colaiuta share the same uncanny ability to fade into any new style they encounter, since Smith and Colaiuta became fast friends while studying with Alan Dawson at Berklee College Of Music in the ’70s. Under Dawson’s tutelage, Smith developed such a wide drumming vocabulary that, upon leaving the school, he quickly established his remarkable flexibility by taking gigs with jazz violinist Jean Luc-Ponty, followed by short stints with early prog rockers Focus and guitar shredder Ronnie Montrose, before replacing Aynsley Dunbar in Journey just as the arena rock hit makers were about to reach their peak popularity. While jazz and fusion sessions with artists like Vital Information and Buddy’s Buddies make up much of Smith’s most celebrated output since he left Journey in 1985, he’s continued to work with such rock and pop acts as Mariah Carey, Y&T, and Savage Garden.

Dennis Chambers

A child prodigy, Dennis Chambers began playing professional gigs at the age of six in his hometown of Baltimore. By the time he graduated from high school in 1978, he had ample chops and experience under his belt to get drafted into George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic collective, which kept him busy for the next nine years. But something interesting happened when he left Clinton’s outfit in 1985. Rather than rushing right into another funk gig, Chambers—a self-taught drummer—decided to see how far he could take his chops. Like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, he emerged from his intensive woodshedding as one of the most formidable jazz fusion drummers around, and has since been in high demand by such esteemed fusion artists as John Scofield, Stanley Clarke, John McLaughlin, and Mike Stern. Stretching his stylistic wings even further, he took the gig as the full-time drummer in Santana in 2002.

Omar Hakim

With the help of houseguests such as John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, and Art Blakey, and a professional gig with his father Hasan Hakim (trombonist with Duke Ellington and Count Basie), ten-year-old Omar Hakim experienced quite a musical kick-start. At 21 he was introduced—by friend and bassist extraordinaire Marcus Miller—to vibraphonist Mike Manieri, which led to a coveted touring gig with Carly Simon in 1980. One of the most versatile drummers in history, Hakim has played with artists from Miles Davis, Madonna, and Weather Report to David Bowie, Sting, and recently, Daft Punk. Hakim is celebrated for both his free-flowing, stream of consciousness approach and his infectious, straight-ahead dance grooves. His jazz drummer’s sensibility allows him to create many sounds on a small kit, but he also taps into his inner geek squad by using cutting edge technology (including electronic kits) live and in the studio.

Peter Erskine

It seems that Peter Erskine may have sprung from the womb as a drumming multi-stylist. As a precocious seven-year-old, Erskine won an audition into Stan Kenton’s 1961 jazz camp, and while receiving priceless instruction there, he began a lifelong habit of listening to diverse music from classical to African to Caribbean. Soon after he landed gigs with The Stan Kenton Orchestra and Maynard Ferguson. Erskine has since performed with Weather Report, Steps Ahead, Bob Mintzer’s Big Band, Steely Dan, Diana Krall, and Kate Bush; played on film scores such as the Austin Powers movies; and premiered the opera Anna Nicole at the Royal Opera House in London. As his prodigious career has unfolded, an unmistakable style has developed: a marriage of unremitting musicality and raw emotion. Now at the age of 59, Erskine continues to fit his trademark sound into endless musical environments—while keeping that boyish grin on his face.

Stanton Moore

If you have any doubt that Stanton Moore is a drummer-contortionist, you need to go on a jambalaya diet. After all, New Orleans is the melting pot of musical styles—just walk down Bourbon Street and take a listen—and native beat-ologist Moore is the epitome of this gumbo. His most well-known groups, Galactic and Garage À Trois, are vehicles for his exuberant, slamming funk but also reveal tinges of blues, jazz, and hip-hop. He has worked with Corrosion Of Conformity (heavy metal), Street Sweeper Social Club (hard hip-hop), Irma Thomas (the “Soul Queen Of New Orleans”), New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, and is about to release a straight-ahead jazz album. Moore is able to fit into all of these different-sized musical boxes by studying the drumming greats before him. His flexibility and creativity allow him to play what’s right for the music while still making it his own.

Dave Weckl

What happens when a “little” talent is combined with inextinguishable passion and the courage to do it your own way? Introducing Dave Weckl. Exploding onto the scene in New York City in the early ’80s, Weckl’s friends helped him pave a diverse career path: Peter Erskine recommended him for French Toast (a precursor to the Michel Camilo Band); Anthony Jackson (bassist) brought him into the Simon & Garfunkel touring band; and Michael Brecker (saxophonist) suggested him for Chick Corea’s Elektric Band. (Weckl played in this project along with the Akoustic Band for many years.) He has also been called in to do sessions with Diana Ross, Madonna, Natalie Cole, Eliane Elias, and the GRP Allstar Big Band. Weckl has produced a number of educational products, has become a professional mixing engineer, and composes music for his own band. Enjoy the fact that this shapeshifter will never rest.

Steve Gadd

If you ask people about their favorite Steve Gadd moment, four out of five times they cite the 17-second passage off “Aja” from the Steely Dan album of the same name. And while there’s no doubt that his “Aja” solo was nothing short of masterful, it was but one of countless defining moments in Gadd’s storied career. From popularizing the Mozambique to the marching- band–esque beat that propelled Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” to collaborations with artists as unlikely as pop-folkie Edie Brickell and jazz maestro Chick Corea to blues legend B.B. King, chances are most music lovers are fans of Steve Gadd’s drumming whether they know it or not. Credit Gadd’s invisibility to selfless yet singular playing—a fine line to walk indeed. As session bassist Lee Sklar said in the pages of this magazine some years ago “He’s got a unique ability to take the mundane and make it special.”

Cindy Blackman-Santana

When Cindy Blackman was seen slamming down fat grooves behind Lenny Kravitz in the early ’90s, fans figured she was just a hard-hitter with great feel. One of the most dedicated jazz drummers of her generation and an ardent champion of Tony Williams, she has gone in wildly different directions under the fusion umbrella. Note that 2010 release Another Lifetime—a Williams tribute—saw Blackman-Santana essay an eclectic range of styles and moods, not merely inspired covers. A later project, Spectrum Road, a jazz-rock group she formed with Vernon Reid and Jack Bruce, saw her take the Williams worship into a funkily weird-cool direction. Collaborations with husband Carlos Santana brought out a Latin-tinged facet of her playing, which just as quickly morphs into the experimental forays of her current solo band.

Keith Carlock

If the intimidating length and genre-spanning variety of Keith Carlock’s résumé doesn’t qualify the Mississippi native and North Texas State music school graduate as a chameleon drummer, we don’t know what does. From the new-music frontiers of Leni Stern and Oz Noy to the lowest common denominator possible (Clay Aiken) and every crowd-pleaser in between (John Mayer, Rascal Flatts, and recently, Toto) it seems the 42-year-old can play with just about anyone. Does all this mean that while on the kit he erases his artistic identity? Yes, but that’s kind of the point. (If you want to see a personal side to his playing, there’s always that four-hour Hudson DVD). Maybe it’s his Southern roots but Carlock’s clinics betray the occasional weakness for second line grooves and complex linear funk, but those displays of flawless technique and head-bobbing musicality are the twin drivers behind getting those high-profile session calls in the first place.

Kenny Aronoff : It’s Okay To Be A Stylist, Too

Interview by Andrew Lentz
When only a deep, earth-shaking groove will suffice, you need Kenny Aronoff, the shaved-dome slammer who first rocked the world in the mid-’80s with the humongous drum sound of John Cougar. From the Grammys to the annual Kennedy Center Honors, Aronoff regularly gets the high-pressure all-eyes-on-him gigs. Not that the first-call drummer can’t blend into different musical situations, but with a signature sound so in demand, well, the Aronizer obliges.

Was finding your voice a sudden thing or painstakingly gradual?
John Mellencamp [formerly Cougar] knew more about what was right about his music than I did. I was so bored playing his music at first, I recorded “Hurt So Good” left-handed. I remember sitting down to do a playback and going, “Stewart Copeland gets to play all the cool grooves and I’m stuck playing this stuff.” And then, bam, it hit me. I felt the energy of my personality coming through those speakers and all the music around it just driving that song with feel and simplicity and power. That was it. I was on my way.

How did you control the impulse to overplay?
When I got in the Mellencamp band I didn’t know how to play “less is more.” I was trying to be like Billy Cobham and I remember thinking at one point, “If I don’t learn to love this I shouldn’t do this because there’s somebody out there who’s going to do it better than me.” It took me about two years but I finally got it. I was listening to Charlie Watts and Phil Rudd and some John Bonham, anything that had simple grooves. I learned to simplify my playing and feel it with joy.

How did you make that your signature style after Mellencamp?
Producers heard [singles “Jack And Diane” and “Hurts So Good”] and they wanted a piece of that. They were like, “Let’s get that guy,” and what happened is that I started getting hired to do sessions in L.A. and Nashville and New York. I just took the things I’d learned with the Mellencamp band and was able to use it with all these other bands and sessions. I’ve got a certain energy that, no matter what, I’m going to sound like me. That’s what people tell me all the time.

Any fears that you’ll be pigeonholed?
There’s no question everybody gets pigeonholed, but I think I broke the mold better than most people. When you get so pigeonholed that nobody will hire you except for one thing, that’s the nightmare. You get pigeonholed no matter what, but I’m less pigeonholed. Otherwise I wouldn’t have played on so many records.

This article was originally published in the May 2014 issue of Drum! magazine. This is the first time it has been appeared online.

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Vinnie Colaiuta: 10 Ways to Master Multiple Drumming Styles https://drummagazine.com/vinnie-colaiuta-10-ways-to-master-multiple-drumming-styles/ Fri, 08 Jan 2021 19:30:29 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=19801 drummer vinnie colaiuta
By John Payne It’s not as if Vinnie Colaiuta just decided at one point to learn to play different styles, and indeed it wasn’t always easy for him to adapt to them. The Republic, Pennsylvania lad instead found that it was much easier to learn a new style of music if you actually liked it. […]

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drummer vinnie colaiuta
By John Payne

It’s not as if Vinnie Colaiuta just decided at one point to learn to play different styles, and indeed it wasn’t always easy for him to adapt to them. The Republic, Pennsylvania lad instead found that it was much easier to learn a new style of music if you actually liked it.

“Let’s just say what I didn’t do was try to seek out many different playing styles, because I was thinking, ‘Well, I’d better be able to do this to be a big session kingpin,’ or anything like that,” he says. “I just like a lot of different kinds of music, and I like quality music regardless of genre. I’ve never looked at it like, ‘Well, this is really hard and, damn it, I have to learn this style!’ I just like it first.”

10 Ways to Master Multiple Drumming Styles by Vinnie Colaiuta

Vinnie Colaiuta selected discography

1. It’s About Getting In Character

He likens his multifaceted job as a drummer to that of an actor playing a role that he perhaps hates; a lot of times he’s got to say, ‘No, I don’t want to do that role.’ And if he doesn’t happen to like the music he’s playing, well, he doesn’t feel it should be a requirement for any drummer to feel like they have to be able to play ten different styles with absolute authenticity.

“As a kid,” he says, “you can identify with and you want to play certain kinds of punk music or something, and then later on in your adult life you still have the physical capacity to play ‘punk’ music, but on an authenticity level, you don’t have teen angst anymore; now you have adult angst, [laughs] like, ‘I have to pay my mortgage angst’ vs. ‘I’m trying to establish my autonomy angst’ or whatever it is.”

A drummer’s developmental periods are manifested in various ways, one being the desire to play a certain thing and the willingness and the amount of time they put into it. And, like an actor, a drummer doesn’t need to have an identity crisis when playing a musical role that he doesn’t strongly identify with.

“Interestingly, when you see some actors in various roles, it seems like they’re always kind of being themselves, while other actors usually seem a little more transparent,” he says. “Even certain actors who have done a good variety of roles know that they’re just never going to be Batman.”

For Colaiuta, there’s nothing wrong at all with being a specialist drummer adept in a limited number of roles. “I’ve come to believe that greatness is really not genre-specific; it’s not about how many genres you’re ‘good’ at,” he says. “There’re photographers who just do portraits or just do landscapes. Musicians shy away from being specialists now because everybody wants to work and make money. They start thinking, ‘Oh shoot, I’ve got to do this,’ and the next thing you know they’re forcing themselves to play.”

Vinnie Colaiuta joe's garage set up

2. It’s About Concept + Context

By the time he’d gotten into sixth grade, Colaiuta had been exposed to a veritable plethora of musical things, from Motown, soul music, R&B, and the British invasion bands to big-band drumming including Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, and Thad Jones and Mel Lewis.

“Seeing advanced concepts with big bands like Don Ellis’ at a high school concert was a big turning point for me. And then the high-school jazz band I was in went to one of those tri-state gatherings, and I met with a young drummer in one of the other bands and struck up a conversation with him. He asked me who my favorite drummer was. I said ‘Buddy Rich.’

“And I said, ‘How about you? Who’s your favorite drummer?’ He said, ‘Tony Williams.’ And I didn’t know who Tony Williams was, so the next day I went to a record store, and on the wall was this Tony Williams record called Ego. So I bought it and took it home and put it on my turntable.”

The music of Tony Williams was a huge departure from anything that Colaiuta had previously been exposed to. “I listened to this, and it was like someone has just started speaking Greek. I was confused, because viscerally I knew there was something there that was huge, but I just couldn’t get it. And so the next day I put the record on again, and it was one of those anvil-hitting-you-on-the-head moments, like a flash of light, and the skies opened and the whole bit. I got it.”

On his second listen to Ego, Colaiuta was transfixed, literally. “I could not believe what I was hearing,” he says. The most important thing for him was the conceptual expansion. He explains, “Because it’s all concept: concept plus context. The concept rules, but everything is contextual. And the concept and the context work together.

“Chops are a means to an end. Anybody who doesn’t have a physical or mental handicap who sits behind a kit long enough and goes through repetitive motions and devotes their time to that in the right way can have chops. But it’s like if my grandmother gets in a dragster and turns the ignition and just floors it, and you’ve got 1,000-1,500 horsepower. Someone who has conceptually arrived can contextually take just one of those horsepowers and change your life.”

3. It’s About Loving It

Colaiuta was by his own description a geeky, book-study kind of guy as a kid, and he wanted to absorb as much musical knowledge as he could, though he didn’t think much about putting radical teachers like Tony Williams and Don Ellis in perspective. For him it was all about growing and learning, and having a ball doing it. Which is, he says, a timeless thing.

“You’ve got to have joy in the process, because it’s all process. Whether it’s ups or downs, we just have joy in learning from that process.”

4. It’s About Having Big Ears

Figuring things out thus became somewhat of a passion for Colaiuta, and, mind you, he had to sort out the proper techniques and disciplines long before there was YouTube, a research tool he both likes and dislikes.

“It does have its benefits,” he says, “but it’s a rabbit hole, too. The plus side is that you can see something that you might want to see, and that something could be beneficial, historically or technique-wise. The minus is that you can see bad representations of things and become a little myopic.”

He calls YouTube’s ability to lay everything out in front of you an aid in the modeling process, but emphasizes that the modeling needs to be a transitory process; i.e., if it isn’t, then everybody risks getting stuck playing the same stuff.

“Back in the day we just had to figure things out and use our ears,” he says. “The eyes were used for looking at written music; we listened to recordings and transcribed things as best as we could, and deconstructed things. We absorbed whatever we could through witnessing live events and let that sink into our minds and our bodies through fricking osmosis. It seemed to work for a lot of people.”

He references the old New York jazz days, before he was born, when musicians would study, and play, and gain experience interacting with other players, and hang out, and the learning process was very hands-on.

“When it comes to technique, that horse has to be trained and tamed,” he says. “The horse can’t lead you where it wants to go, you have to tell it where to go. But unfortunately, it’s telling us where to go a lot of times, and it can breed passivity. We spend more time getting talked into constant software upgrades and spending much of our time learning it instead of having an easily learnable tool that just enables us to create.”

5. It’s About Learning The Language

Now picture that light bulb flickering on above young Colaiuta’s head as he starts to grasp Tony Williams. For this young drummer, thinking about and feeling Williams’ musicality involved a willingness to unplug his ears and embrace the unknown and unfamiliar. It was an experience that in later years would serve him well in adapting to a wide range of styles — and playing them with authenticity.

“You need to play the music to master different styles,” says Colaiuta, “because they’re all different cultural expressions and emotive musical expressions. And the technique of doing them will follow when you seek to understand what is being said.”

“You need to play the music to master different styles.”

Yet he suggests that it’s best for a drummer to think like a specialist before roaming far afield genre-wise. “There are so many different dialects among Latin communities, for example, that I’m sure they even argue over; in Brazilian music or African music, there’s so much dialectical stuff that’s reflective of their culture and their language, and to master all of those dialects is a daunting task. You can’t possibly hope to become a chameleon until you start delving into being a specialist.”

He feels that musicians need to seek a broad understanding of musicality, which includes sensitivity toward cultural aspects of the music, and that without being a specialist you have to cut your way down the middle and seek to understand it on a broad level. “And then once you get into it deeper you can choose to go down any of the various alleyways in that big city.”

6. It’s About Letting Go

Any young drummer will eventually come face-to-face with the big-picture question of what it takes to play the drums truly musically. Colaiuta’s answer to that is a bit radical. “At the end of the line,” he says, “you’ve got to stop thinking drums and just think music — and actually, don’t even think music, just flow, because thought is the enemy of flow. It’s like this: You’re flying a plane through the jungle and you see all these trees, and your thinking about how to negotiate over the trees is an automatic process because you’ve already learned how to fly the plane — and now you have to react.”

Similarly, he says, when you’re playing drums, your thinking is like a computer running programs in the background; when the band is playing at blistering tempos, you can’t stop to think about fills. He notes the great advantage in learning how to read music in gaining an understanding of this process.

“Just play the whole piece from top to bottom, no matter how much you fail, in the tempo that’s written, then go back and try to work out difficult passages — but don’t stop, because you’re not going to stop in real life; there’s no cutting and pasting in live performance.”

It’s a tricky thing, this thinking/not thinking aspect of playing the drums with trueness and feeling. Colaiuta takes pains to point out that he doesn’t want to discourage anyone in the midst of their learning process from dissecting the music and learning pattern recognition, for example. The risk, he says, is that things get shortsighted when one puts the thinking/technique cart before the musical horse.

“Everything has its place, and you have to understand what it’s for and prioritize it,” he says. “For the student who wants to do that, there’s got to be something about the music that they want to learn to play that is inspiring them to want to play, so they’re going to figure out how to do it, all the while keeping that music they like in mind. If it’s speed metal drumming, they’ll practice and practice until their feet get really fast, but it’s because they want to play these songs, and it’s a genre that they like. They’re figuring it out, but they have the musical picture in their head already. Same goes for jazz and any other genre.”

7. It’s About Building A Solid Foundation

Colaiuta puts most any discussion of learning the rudiments in a cultural context. What we in Western society think of as “rudimentary” drum techniques certainly have their place, he says, but don’t quite reign supreme when playing the rhythmic traditions in other parts of the world.

“Rudiments are just building blocks that have been cataloged and developed,” he says. “But drums are about sound, too, whether you play something hand-to-hand, whether you play doubles, and how that might apply on the instrument you’re playing. Yes, there are guys taking Western standard snare drum rudiments and playing them on conga drums; by the same token, I don’t think people playing djembes in Africa are thinking about ‘rudiments.’ They might have hand-to-hand patterns that they use in various combinations in order to play the sounds that they are playing, which are also determined by their particular sound sources.”

8. It’s About Touch

Drummers who wish to play styles not culturally their own will develop a touch based on the instrument itself and on the kind of music they play. To this end, learning to play ergonomically, Colaiuta says, means finding the path of least resistance.

“An orchestral player will be quite different from a rudimental player, but there are a lot of common grounds, like rebound vs. non-rebound and broad things such as ergonomics. People say, ‘You’ve got to have more strength to play heavy rock than you do to play jazz,’ but there are people who play loud jazz and people who play very relaxed rock and roll, and the more that you can play ergonomically, the more that your technique can be a well-rounded technique that you can adapt into various situations.”

One might assume that most drummers learn easy drumming styles first, and harder ones later. But “easy” and “hard” just sort of scrape the surface; learning to play simple things well, for example, can be difficult.

“I found playing the soul music I was listening to as a kid to be very ‘easy,’” he says. “But would you say that playing a groove like the Staple Singers’ ‘I’ll Take You There’ is easier than Mahavishnu’s The Inner Mounting Flame? It takes more time and technique to play Mahavishnu, but that might not translate to being able to really play ‘I’ll Take You There’ well. That’s not easy. I’ve come to realize that some of the simplest things are the hardest things to play.”

9. It’s About Emotion

Mastering the real-feel of a new drumming style will always be a get-it or not-get-it proposition. How does one get the feel beyond just practice, practice, practice? It’s a matter of getting beyond technique, says Colaiuta, and viewing the kind of music you’re playing in context. Like a mantra, he emphasizes the importance of internalizing what you know how to play without being overly conscious of it.

“Technique just means ‘by way of’ — how you do something,” he says. “Ultimately it has to service a concept, and you’ve got to have a concept and context. And you can bend from that technique in order to facilitate a concept, and to get it musically you have to open yourself up, willingly listen to it, shut your mind down and just feel it.”

Overall, serving the concept musically might extend to the way Colaiuta feels the beats within the beats — a rhythm is a rough guideline within which matters of phrasing and feel can be doled out in a flexible way. “I see a beat as an emotive event in time, and even if it’s a repeating pattern, it’s got momentum, this propulsive thing that’s happening for a specified amount of time.”

10. It’s About Making It Work

Vinnie Colaiuta finds peace just sitting down and playing his drums. His practice routine, by the way, is just that, a routine, and there isn’t one drumming style he works on more often than others. His practice routine’s basic tools or rudiments are the same ones available to anyone, yours to use in a personal way; it’s what you make of it, he says, what you say with it, that’s going to get you the mileage.

“It’s like, Shakespeare dealt with the same alphabet as some guy who writes in the comments bar on YouTube and who spells like someone in kindergarten. You can be Shakespeare or you can be ‘Why Can’t Johnny Read?’”

He finds that when working on a new drumming style, his “comfort level” will usually lock in fairly quickly, which he attributes to the sheer amount of experience he has playing — and dissecting — various related styles, and from his natural inclination when faced with an unfamiliar style to immerse himself in it, dive in feet-first, and start swimming.

“If you were to put me in a situation where it was very dialectic, like African music where you had to adhere to a rhythmic pattern that reflected a linguistic statement, I would say, ‘Okay, I see, all the improvisatory and interactive aspects will be based off of this mothership, and I’m not that familiar with it, so I have to go and practice it.”

The same is true when Colaiuta needs to learn a piece of music that isn’t a genre that he’s comfortable with, or, as is often the case, he’s asked to interpret an electronically sequenced drum track. Often it’s an awkward pattern, where some guy has programmed a rhythm and he’s not a drummer and doesn’t understand what plays well on a drum set. Ever the pro, Vinnie gladly takes the challenge.

“I like to try and find things that flow well — again, the path of least resistance — and sometimes I’ll have to go and practice that, and it can take a while or not take a while. But I have enough technical facility that, aside from any weird physical requirements to do that oddball thing, I can find a way to make it work.” 


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Six Grooves Every Drummer Should Nail According to Incubus’ José Pasillas https://drummagazine.com/six-grooves-every-drummer-should-nail-according-to-incubus-jose-pasillas/ Fri, 11 Dec 2020 17:59:08 +0000 https://drummagazine.com/?p=19673 drummer jose pasillas of incubus
By José Pasillas, as told to Andy Doerschuk A completely self-taught drummer, José Pasillas learned to groove the old-fashioned way – by playing along to his favorite CDs. “That’s how I practice,” he explains. “I just play to all these different songs by all these different bands. I try to vary the music from jazz […]

The post Six Grooves Every Drummer Should Nail According to Incubus’ José Pasillas appeared first on DRUM! Magazine.

drummer jose pasillas of incubus
By José Pasillas, as told to Andy Doerschuk

A completely self-taught drummer, José Pasillas learned to groove the old-fashioned way – by playing along to his favorite CDs. “That’s how I practice,” he explains. “I just play to all these different songs by all these different bands. I try to vary the music from jazz to rock and roll to funk to … pretty much anything.” Judging by his hard-hitting, multi-layered style with Incubus, the Pasillas strategy worked wonders, which made us imagine that he just might have some strong opinions about grooves that every drummer should check out. We weren’t disappointed.

‘Walking On The Moon’ from Regatta De Blanc by The Police

Stewart Copeland is one of my favorite drummers, and the thing that I like about his style the most is that he always has this free-flowing groove on the hi-hat. His groove on “Walking On The Moon” kind of swings on the hi-hat while he does quarter-notes on the kick, which keeps the music straight. He does really cool nuances on the hi-hat, which flow around the kick drum. It’s a really sweet groove to try to separate what your arms are doing from what your kick is doing.

‘P-Funk’ from Mothership Connection by Parliament

That’s just the epitome of a tasty simple groove that’s completely stripped down. You’re playing four-on-the-floor and the snare’s on the 2 and 4, and that’s it the whole time. If you can do that for more than seven minutes, as Gary Cooper does on this 1975 track, it’s really effective, and an awesome discipline, because everybody wants to throw in rolls and do a bunch of stuff. But if you can just hold that down it’s just all sweetness. I like playing that song.

‘Matter Of Fact’ from New Forms by Roni Size

He’s a British cat who programs drum ’n’ bass music. This particular song is programmed, but when he plays live, he has a live drummer playing all the beats. It’s really quick and very erratic, sort of like jazz music that’s been sped up. And on this song it’s not really a set beat – the snare drum is the focus for part of the song, but then he stops the snare and focuses on kick drum patterns. If you want something really cool, intricate, quick, and energetic, that’s a really cool groove to play to.

‘Vital Transformation’ from Inner Mounting Flame by Mahavishnu Orchestra

This just blows my mind. The time signatures are just totally off the wall. I think it’s in nine and changes, but I don’t know what the hell it changes to. Everyone is playing just crazy lines, and Billy Cobham completely follows them wherever they go. When I play along to this track I’m not trying to play what he’s doing note-for-note, because I don’t have that sort of ability. I just play to the rhythm of the music, and follow the bass and guitar – to me that’s a good time. It’s challenging, it keeps you focused, and you have to pay attention.

‘Tom Sawyer’ from Moving Pictures by Rush

As far as progressive rock, the complexity of the arrangement is challenging in itself. From the arrangement to the transitions to the drum break in the very middle, this is just a great song. The parts themselves are very complicated, and it’s this five-minute song of very calculated, complex music. I love playing to that song in particular, because Neil Peart plays really complex parts, then plays really open, and then he’ll start playing complicated again.

‘Live Wire’ from The Meters by The Meters

I like the snare stuff Zigaboo Modeliste does – it’s just full of ghost notes. It’s got a sweet groove that’s in between a swing and a shuffle, kind of like that New Orleans sort of feel. I haven’t seen him play this song, but I imagine when he’s doing those ghost notes, he’s probably moving his right hand between the hi-hat and the snare drum. That’s what I have to do when I try to play that groove. The way he places the beat with the rhythm totally makes sense, but I would have never thought of how he places stuff. It’s so unorthodox without being gratuitous.

This article was originally published in the August-September 2004 issue of Drum! magazine. Please note the above article includes affiliate links, meaning Drum! will earn a small commission (at no cost to you) when you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

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