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The 80/20 Rule for Playing Drums in a Band

Have you heard of the the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle? In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He developed the principle after observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

In everyday life, the 80/20 rule is when you can get 80% of the results you want by focusing on the most important 20% of tasks. And in order to get the last 20% of the results, you need to concentrate on the remaining 80% of less important tasks. The key to applying the 80/20 rule is understanding which tasks are the most important.

What does an Italian economist have to do with drumming? The 80/20 rule can also be applied by a drummer learning to play in a band.

You see, while other drumming experts think that you need to spend all your time practicing technique…

…I’ve always said that you should spend most of your time learning songs and a minimum amount of time learning technique…especially when you’re first learning to play.

The secret to being a drummer who gets gigs playing in bands has little to do with awesome technique.

It, instead, has to do with Read More…


Best Source for Drum Play Along Songs – Around the Campfire

Technology allows us to do extraordinary things that we sometimes take for granted. For example, I’m writing this post on an iPhone while lying in a one person tent in the middle of the Icicle Creek Wilderness in Washington state USA.

I am 6 miles from the nearest car and 15 miles from cell coverage (unless I climb 3000 feet up a nearby mountain). My buddies and I rode bikes up a road and have set up our tents in a campground that is usually wall-to-wall people. But because the access road was washed out, cars can’t get through and we are the only ones here.

It is midnight, the stars are out, and my friends and I have just finished another round of what we like to call “Trading Songs Around the Campfire.” Technology has changed the game forever. With the advent of MP3 players, smartphones, and small portable speakers (like the Jambox I’m holding in the picture) that fit into backpacks, we can enjoy music in the middle of the wilderness.

Yes, I know it seems odd, even wrong, to be listening to rock-and-roll in the middle of a pristine environment. But we enjoy the solitude of the outdoors during the day: hiking, fishing and exploring. And at the end of the day, there’s something special about telling stories with friends around a campfire while listening to music.

What does this have to do with drumming? Read More…

Take a Deep Breath & Relax

We’ve had some fun with the recent posts about how to relax while playing the drum set. You saw a picture of my chipped teeth from playing drums in Relax…It’s Just a Drum Set! Scumbag Steve made a cameo appearance in I’ll Practice Drums on the Weekend!

I wrote an Alaskan story about meeting jazz drumming great James Zitro in How Whale Blubber Improved My Drumming Posture.  You also read a review of Speed, Power, Control, Endurance by Jim Chapin, which I consider to be the best DVD for learning drum set hand technique. And then you got to see my feet: The baby footprint from my birth certificate in Bass Drum Foot Technique – How My Feet Have Evolved and my current day hi-hat foot in My Left Foot – Hi-Hat Foot Technique.

Now it’s time to get serious: Serious about relaxing while you play the drums.  And please excuse me as I get a little “preachy” because I’m passionate about this subject:  Not relaxing while you play is the number one reason most drummers never progress beyond a certain point in their development.

More preaching:  If you don’t learn to relax, you will never be able to Read More…

My Left Foot – Hi-Hat Foot Technique

Before he won an Academy Award for playing U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, English actor Daniel Day-Lewis won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Christy Brown in the 1989 drama film, My Left Foot.  The movie tells the true story of an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, a devastating physical condition that left Brown with the ability to control only his left foot.  Making the best of his disability, Brown used his left foot to become a successful painter, novelist, poet and playwright.

After seeing the movie, I had a typical drummer thought: “What if my left foot could do even 10% of what Christy’s could do?”  I could use my left foot to lock in the time while my other limbs were free to play drum beats and fills.  Or I could use my left foot to play hi-hat notes as part of the beats and fills.

I could use my left foot along with my right foot to play awesomely powerful double bass drum beats.  Or I could use my left foot to play a cowbell, tambourine or wood block hooked up to a gajate mount.  The possibilities were endless!

I had already noticed how Read More…

Bass Drum Foot Technique – How My Feet Have Evolved

Feet. They get a bad rap from the general public. Nobody blames shoes for smelling; it’s always the feet’s fault. You never swear at your fingers when you stub them in the dark. When was the last time you washed your feet to get rid of germs? And what about that little toe? Do you even need it?

Within the general population, feet are mostly ignored until they hurt or smell.

But to us drummers, feet are sacred.  We talk about our foot technique as if we were talking about religion. Heel down, heel up, to mash or not to mash (the bass drum beater, that is).

In fact, we work hard to train our feet to act like hands. Our feet are an important part of how we express ourselves on the drum set.  They provide a foundation for the music we play.  That’s why we should spend as much time and effort on foot technique as we spend on developing our hands.

Learning good foot technique is also a key to relaxing while playing the drum set.  In order to play the bass drum and hi-hat fluidly, you must have good posture and good balance which makes it easier to loosen up.

Background
Recently I posted an article about how to relax while playing the drum set (Relax…It’s Just a Drum Set!).  In that blog post, there are 5 tips to help with relaxation.  The tips are so important that I decided to Read More…