Posts in drumming
Gift Ideas For Drummers (2018 Edition)
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If you have a drummer in the family and you’re in need of a little inspiration as what to get them for Christmas or their birthday then this post is for you!

This is an updated version of last year’s Christmas gift ideas post. Most of the recommendations are the same, but I’ve made a couple of tweaks and added some new suggestions.

I haven’t included any drum kit or cymbal recommendations. If you’re planning on buying any of these big ticket items I’d recommend visiting your local drum shop. You’ll get a far better idea of what you get for your money in a drum store vs buying online. The staff at most drum shops are drummers themselves so will be well placed to give you solid advise based on experience. A big shout out to Soundattak in Colchester, my drum shop of choice!

So here it is, my drumming gift guide for 2018…

  • Evans RealFeel Practice Pad
    The 12 inch pad is my personal favourite as it fits on a standard snare drum stand (if they have a drum kit, they'll have one of these already). If you think they might prefer something a little more portable the 6 inch variation is a good shout.

  • Evans RealFeel Folding Bass Pedal Practice Pad
    If they already have a practice pad, they might like Evans' Folding Bass Pedal Practice Pad for working out the feet. They'll need their own bass drum pedal to go with this, but if they have a drum kit they'll already have one of those. This pad makes working on foot technique easy for those times when practicing on a real kit isn't possible.

  • ACS Pacato Hearing Protectors
    Musicians are notoriously bad at looking after their ears, with many forgetting that they only get one set which will have to last them a lifetime! With that in mind, and though not the most exciting gift, a pair of earplugs that are designed for musicians make the perfect stocking filler. Also a gentle reminder that they should protect their hearing!

  • ACS Custom Moulds
    Hearing protection but for the more serious musician! ACS Custom Moulds are (as the name suggests) moulded to the ears, providing far better protection whilst preserving the quality of sound. I use ACS PRO20s, which are excellent.

  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Studio Monitor Professional Headphones
    The Audio-Techica MX50 headphones are a little on the expensive side but well worth the price tag if you ask me! I use these when practicing on my electric kit or playing to music on my acoustic kit. They're versatile headphones and the sound quality is excellent.

  • Vic Firth Drumsticks
    Every drummer has his or her favourite type and brand of drumstick. If they've been playing for a while, this might be a tricky one. A safe bet are Vic Firth 5A American Hickory Wood Tips, these are super versatile and even if they're not their preferred stick, they'd be a useful addition to their stick bag. Personally, I use Vic Firth 55A American Hickory Wood Tips. These are very similar to the 5As, but a tad thicker. I'm surprised more drummers haven't tried them as they are great drumsticks!

  • Vic Firth Brushes
    A set of a brushes is a must have for any drummer and the Vic Firth Steve Gadd Signature Wire Brush are a great choice. If they're good enough for Steve Gadd, they're good enough for anyone! Brushes are primarily used in jazz but also great for playing quieter songs and gigs.

  • Meinl MSB1 Stick Bag
    I'm always surprised by how many drummers don't have a stick bag! Save them from a lifetime of misery (and looking thoroughly unprofessional!) as they endlessly search through their rucksack for the right drumstick or their earplugs and grab them a quality stick bag.

  • Dixon Speed Wrench Drum Key
    Most drummers will already have a standard drum key... or like me, hundreds of them scattered between various jacket pockets and backpacks. But I doubt many have one of these Speed Wrench Drum Keys. They'll be thanking you the next time they need to change a drum skin!

  • Drum Books
    I'm a firm believer that you can never have too many books. This is as true for drummers as it is for normal humans! I've already written a post on this so won't repeat them all here, but here are a handful of favourites. Jost Nickel's Groove Book and Fill Book are both fantastic, some of the ideas are a little advanced so this isn't really suitable for beginners. Stick Control is a must have for all drummers of all abilities, it's a classic. Benny Greb’s The Language Of Drumming is a great all rounder for all abilities. Mark Guiliana’s Exploring Your Creativity On The Drumset is another more advanced book, but a great choice for drummers looking for ways to push their drumming to the next level.

  • Drum DVDS
    Benny Greb's The Art and Science of GROOVE is hands down the best educational drumming DVD. Benny is a master educator and drummer. I doubt it's even possible to make a better educational drumming DVD. For the more advanced drummer, Jojo Mayer's Secret Weapons For The Modern Drummer Part 1 and Part 2 are also very good.

  • Sonos One Voice Controller Smart Speaker
    This is a more general recommendation for any music lover not just for drummers. I absolutely love my Sonos One speakers, so much so that I now have three of them dotted around my home. The sound quality is fantastic and I love having the option of having the same music playing throughout the house or in just one room. Sonos Ones are more on the expensive side so if you don’t think they’ll care about the “smart” functionality, the Sonos Play:1 speakers are also very good and a little bit cheaper.

If you have questions about any of my suggestions, let me know in the comments or drop me an email. If you're a drummer and have your own suggestions, please do the same!

Gift Ideas for Drummers
drum-practice-by-ross-farley.JPG

Still struggling to decide what Christmas gift to buy the drummer in your life?

Here are some ideas:

Evans RealFeel Practice Pad
The 12 inch pad is my personal favourite as it fits on a standard snare drum stand (if they have a drum kit, they'll have one of these already). If you think they might prefer something a little more portable the 6 inch variation is a good shout.

Evans RealFeel Folding Bass Pedal Practice Pad
If they already have a normal practice pad, they might like Evans' Folding Bass Pedal Practice Pad for working out the feet. They'll need their own bass drum pedal to go with this, but if they have a drum kit they'll already have one of those. This pad makes working on foot technique easy for those times when practicing on a real kit isn't possible.

ACS Pacato Hearing Protectors
Musicians are notoriously bad at looking after their ears, with many forgetting that they only get one set which will have to last them a lifetime! With that in mind, and though not the most exciting gift, a pair of earplugs that are designed for musicians make the perfect stocking filler. Also a gentle reminder that they should protect their hearing!

ACS Custom Moulds
Hearing protection but for the more serious musician! ACS Custom Moulds are (as the name suggests) moulded to the ears, providing far better protection whilst preserving the quality of sound. I use ACS Pro17s, which are excellent.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Studio Monitor Professional Headphones
The Audio-Techica MX50 headphones are a little on the expensive side but well worth the price tag! I use these when practicing on my electric kit or when playing to music on my acoustic kit. They're very versatile and the sound quality is very, very good.

Vic Firth Drumsticks
Every drummer has his or her favourite type and brand of drumstick. If they've been playing for a while, this might be a tricky one. A safe bet are Vic Firth 5A American Hickory Wood Tips, these are super versatile and even if they're not the preferred stick of the drummer in your life, they'd be a useful addition to their stick bag. Personally though, I use Vic Firth 55A American Hickory Wood Tips. These are very similar to the 5As, but a tad thicker. I'm surprised more drummers haven't tried them as they are great drumsticks!

Vic Firth Brushes
A set of a brushes is a must have for any drummer and the Vic Firth Steve Gadd Signature Wire Brush are a great choice. If they're good enough for Steve Gadd, they're good enough for anyone! Brushes are primarily used in jazz but also great for playing quieter songs and gigs.

Meinl MSB1 Stick Bag
I'm always surprised by how many drummers don't have a stick bag! Save them from a lifetime of misery (and looking thoroughly unprofessional!) as they endlessly search through their rucksack for the right drumstick or their earplugs and grab them a quality stick bag.

Dixon Speed Wrench Drum Key
Most drummers will already have a standard drum key... or like me, hundreds of them scattered between various jacket pockets. But I doubt many have one of these Speed Wrench Drum Keys. They'll be thanking you the next time they need to change a drum skin!

Drum Books
I'm a firm believer that you can never have too many books. This is as true for drummers as it is for normal humans! I've already written a post on this so won't repeat them all here, but here are a handful of favourites. Jost Nickel's Groove Book's is fantastic, some of the ideas are a little advanced so this isn't really suitable for beginners. Stick Control is a must have for all drummers of all abilities, it's a classic. The Language Of Drumming is a great all rounder for all abilities. Exploring Your Creativity On The Drumset is another more advanced book, but a great choice for drummers looking for ways to push their drumming to the next level.

Drum DVDS
Benny Greb's The Art and Science of GROOVE is hands down the best education drum DVD. Benny is a master educator and drummer. I doubt it's even possible to make a better educational drumming DVD. For the more advanced drummer, Jojo Mayer's Secret Weapons For The Modern Drummer is also very good.

Hopefully that's enough to keep your drummer entertained and busy for the next year or so. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. If you're a drummer and have your own suggestions, please do the same!

Drum Book Recommendations
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I thought it was about time I updated my previous post on the best drum books. As I've got close to 50 drum books in my collection at the moment, I decided not to limit myself to my top five like before.

I've grouped the books loosely by theme, but most of the books could fit into multiple categories so I suggest you check out the link if a title catches your eye (I've linked to Amazon where possible as they include a book preview). If the book has a star (*) by the author's name it's because it's one of my favourites.

When buying a drum book, I recommend grabbing the paperback version. If you're anything like me, you'll want to annotate and mark your favourite exercises. This (for obvious reasons) is a lot easier with a physical book!

Here we go...

Stick Control / Bass Drum Control / Technique

Grooves

All Rounders

Styles

Advanced Concepts

Sight Reading

That's all for now. If you have any comments, questions or drum book recommendations let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

This post was last updated on 27/11/2018.

Drummer Matt Garstka and "displacement"

This guy is a beast! The ideas Matt shares in this short video could fill a lifetime of practice. Although what he's playing sounds pretty complicated, with a little bit of patience, it's something you can easily apply to your own playing.

To start, pick a simple groove (start really simple) and try shifting it either forwards or backwards by half a beat — like in the example below. It'll sound and feel strange to play at first, so it's a good idea to practice it to a click and to count as you play. Once you feel comfortable playing your new displaced groove, try alternating between it and the original version. 

As Matt demonstrates in the video, you can have a lot of fun with this idea!

Here's what makes Jojo Mayer one of the best drummers in the world

Jojo Mayer is one of my favourite drummers and he's undoubtably one of the greatest drummers alive today.

This solo has a bit of everything. It's musical, technical, dynamic, surprising and built on a cohesive set of ideas. A great example of what makes an engaging drum solo.

What really stands out to me is his use of volume. He utilises a very broad range of dynamics. It's so easy to just play loud all the time, but that's pretty boring to listen to. And once you've reached full volume, that's it, you can't go any louder. Contrasting loud with quiet keeps things interesting, and holding off playing your loudest will mean you always have somewhere left to go.

One of the easiest ways to improve your drumming and soloing is to pay more attention to your dynamics. Jojo keeps you waiting, he teases, he explores the extremes. And that's what keeps you listening.

"What are some cool drum beats I could learn?"

Every now and then I answer drumming and music related questions on the Q&A website Quora. I thought I'd share my most recent post here with you as it's a question I'm asked fairly regularly.

Q: What are some cool drum beats I could learn?

A: If you're after new ideas and systems for developing unique grooves I’d highly recommend Jost Nickel’s Groove Book. It’s one of the best groove books out there and I’m surprised so few have heard of it!

He breaks his ideas and concepts down very well and offers plenty of suggestions on developing his ideas further.

Another option would be Future Sounds by David Garibaldi. Full of cool grooves but less on the systems for developing your own.

I shared a few other book recommendations on my blog a few months back which you might find useful.

Read on Quora.

Drum Book Recommendations (2016 edition)

I recently bought Jost Nickel's Groove Book. It's a really great drum book that I'd not heard of before. And as I wanted to share this recommendation with you, I decided to compile a list of my other favourite drum books. 

So here are my top five. In no particular order.

  1. Jost Nickel's Groove Book — Jost Nickel
    Full of great ideas for developing new grooves. I'll be using this one a lot in my own practice and teaching. I can't recommend it enough.
     
  2. Stick Control For The Snare Drummer - George Lawrence Stone
    The classic. It's in pretty much every list of top drum books and for good reason. Useful for beginners through to advanced players, its application on the drum kit is endless.
     
  3. The Language Of Drumming Book - Benny Greb
    Benny Greb is one of my favourite drummers and I use his book a lot in my teaching. An excellent book for beginner to intermediate drummers who are trying to up their game.
     
  4. Odd Time Sticking - Gary Chaffee
    This book isn't going to be much use to a beginner, but for intermediate and advanced drummers it's a source of great ideas, especially when it comes to soloing. Gary Chaffee has a number of other books which are all equally good.
     
  5. Future Sounds - David Garibaldi
    Another recommendation for more advanced players. Full of intricate linear grooves, with a focus on developing dynamics and control in groove playing.

I hope you find the recommendations useful. If you have any recommendations for me, let me know in the comments!

UPDATE: Since writing this post I've bought a lot more drum books so I've written a more comprehensive and updated list here.