I was a practicing monkey in my early 20s, playing 8 hours a day while dropping out of two music schools. Not being in a band tilted my attention to freer forms of music, Coltrane, Anthony Braxton and others. Have you heard Jack DeJohnette play drum solos? I was into that kind of thing. I even performed a solo drum concert at North Texas State after dropping out. Looking back on that, all I see is ….big balls, LOL!
But speed for its own sake was of little interest to me. Seeing how my favorite drummers of that time (Nigel, Ginger, Ringo, Blakey, Elvin, Jack, Mel) were not particularly chopsy with their hands directed me to focus on other areas.
I wanted my technique to work toward absolute control of tone and what I am going to call “balance” which is… Making music up on the spot, and being able to get those barely-just-thought-of-notes out in some semblance of order, without the entire thing falling apart. I think balance is one of the hardest things to do. It starts with attaining comfort with your left hand and right foot as well as your right hand and your left foot.
This last book pictured here helped launched me toward developing better balance on the drum set. “Independence for The Modern Drummer” by Nick Ceroli. I never heard Nick play anything in person but he was very highly respected by all the pro drummers of that time. Nick’s main gig was The Tijuana Brass. This book is quite similar to Ted Reed’s Syncopation in that you add bass and hi-hat on all the exercises. But the exercises get more difficult. I swear to you, I would’ve never been able to make up the drum part and comfortably play Robbie Robertson’s song “Hold Back The Night” on his album “Storyville” If I hadn’t decades earlier owned the idea of haunting patterns on tom toms instead of hi-hat, and yeah, I think that song has four on the floor and 2 &4 on the hat that, if I remember correctly, escalates to 1/8th notes.
This Ceroli book has been out of print for decades, but now one of the more exceptional drum shops, Pro Percussion in LA, has a reissued version of it for sale. There’s even a second, Volume Two version now available. I haven’t seen it but if the first is working for you, check it out.
These are the method books that worked for me. Remember, it is what you do when your nose is NOT in these books that will truly advance your musicality. Simply use your instructional books as a guide. Search for your personal angle. What I mean is this: Imagine you are touring Italy. There is a guide and every minute of your time is taken up by what they have to show you. There is no time for reflection, for sitting down in a town square and having a coffee and watching all the attractive Italians walking around while smelling the smells and taking in the sights. Ah…. That’s nice! Treat your method books the same way. Stop being so serious. Space out and have fun! Personally, I always “stole” patterns and fills and more from almost everyone. This Garibaldi thing – that Papa Jo thing – this Keith Moon –ism. Alan Freaking Dawson. But much of my time was making my OWN music on drums, using the hammers and screwdrivers borrowed by my favorite great ones. I recommend you doing the same. Please share your own thoughts with me at my website or wherever I will see it.