First and foremost I have to mention that Tim Ferriss’s blog, writings and videos have been unbelievably inspirational for me over the last few months. I am very excited to watch and share all of the upcoming episodes of the new show. I have been employing a lot of Ferriss’s techniques in my day to day scheduling, music practicing and business approaches and I am eager to share my insights on how these techniques can be used in creative fields and/or fine arts. On that subject, I would like to offer my thoughts on ‘The Tim Ferriss Experiment Premiere: Rock N’ Roll Drums‘
The key to learning an instrument is finding the area that is either your weakest or the area that when worked on gives the biggest return in overall musicianship. You also need to have a fundamental knowledge of the applicable basics in the field you are working in. For example, when leaning a reggae bass line you need to first know the notes of the baseline (that can be quite complex) before you can attempt to learn the essential and subtle nuances of the song or genre. I believe the way the 80-20 principal applies to music practice is, by practicing extremely focused and targeted at the exact weakest point and/or most productive area, you only need to practice small amounts for dramatic improvement. I’m not sure it is possible to sustain a high level of practice very long each day. Sometimes, I practice so focused and so specifically for just a few minutes that my brain feels softened afterward. It’s very hard to describe, but you can practice so efficiently that it leaves you in an unusual head space.
In this episode, Tim set out to learn the drum parts for a Foreigner song. Being relatively comfortable with the notes, grooves and fills of the song is step one. Once that is accomplished, the two areas I would recommend drummers focus on for maximum gain are; stick swing, and groove manipulation.
1 – Stick swing
Although there are a few different approaches to stick swing, I am going to talk about a full rock stick swing and the ‘Moeller Technique’. To start, a good stick swing needs to have more than a 90 degree stick rotation. Some great groove drummers swing 180 degrees or more, often having their drumstick over their shoulder and pointing down their backs between hits. The grip of the stick needs to be loose enough that it allows the cymbal or drum to resonate. If your grip is too stiff, you may accidentally be ‘choking’ the stick. It’s easy hear when someone is ‘chocking’ the stick because when they hit a drum it sounds harsh or unnatural and they will also break sticks and drum skins frequently. There is an anomaly in the drum world with immaculate stick swing and technique, world famous drum n’ bass drummer Jojo Mayer. He is also the only drummer on the planet that can successfully do a clean drum roll with one hand.
Check out this video of Jojo Mayer breaking down the Moeller Technique.
Also, check out the monster stick swing of Tony Royster Jr.
2. Groove manipulation
The only way to practice groove manipulation is by recording or taping yourself. When practicing, the act of being behind your instrument skews the objective perception of the music you are making. Meaning, if you were somehow able to detach your observing self from your performing self with %100 objectivity, you would hear all of your mistakes, all the time. Recording and/or taping yourself helps gain this objectivity. Furthermore, to learn groove manipulation you can record yourself trying radical things. From a relaxed state of mind, experiment with your groove and try to get out of your comfort zone. When you listen back to your experimenting every now and then you will say to yourself, “oh what was that, that sounded good”. Then, you can develop some of the ideas and techniques that you ‘stumble’ upon. Another important note, don’t get caught up practicing to a metronome too much. It’s good to have a sense of metronomic time, but recording and experimenting should be done without a metronome.
Check out this video of Chris ‘daddy’ Dave really manipulating the groove
These areas are the most important and pay off the most when practiced by drummers. I suggest taking a very small amount of time and setting the goal of recording yourself for 5 minutes, listening to it, and not worrying about practicing for the rest of the day. Make sure that when you are playing and being recorded you are conscientiously trying different things, trying to be relaxed and inventive. When listening back, try and focus hard at where the groove is slipping or locking in and why. Practicing small focused amounts will lead to huge improvements and help to keep the physical association you have with your instrument positive.
I must re-iterate how much I enjoy all things Tim Ferriss and I’m sure the whole series will be amazing.
Thanks for reading and I’d love to answer any questions or hear any ideas on this if anyone has any.