Let’s Get Technical!
A Little Exercise Is Good For You!
Smokin’ Chops. Many of us want them but few are fortunate enough to have them. On the other hand, there are those who think you don’t need much technique to play the drumset or that it just gets in the way. Modern drumming heroes like Steve Gadd and Travis Barker were able to find a middle ground. They are two examples of great drummers and musicians who grew up playing in marching bands and drum corps where learning the rudiments was a way of life and technical facility wasn’t just required, it was worshipped.
Of course, you don’t have to be in a drumline to develop speed, strength and control. You just need to make technical exercises a part of your daily practice routine. For this session of Drum Masters we asked some of today’s most respected drummers why they think working on hand and foot technique is important. According to them, it’s essential to becoming a better player and well worth the effort. Here’s a sampling of what they said.
Thomas Lang (Gianna Nannini, Falco, teacher/clinician/soloist)
Technique is the key to effortless playing. It allows you to play with less stress but more impact and it enables you to focus on what to play, not how to play it.
Steve Smith (Jazz Legacy, Vital Information, Journey)
Rudiments are stickings that help you play certain rhythmic patterns. They also help you develop your right and left sides equally because they work each side equally. This is very important for a fluid playing style.
For drumset players, you want the rudiments to swing and have the sticks relaxed in your hands. My suggestion is to learn the rudiments in the style of jazz drummers like Philly Joe Jones or Gene Krupa.
Jeff Queen (Four-time national snare drum champion)
Rudiments individually or in combination with each other create patterns that can be applied to any percussion instrument. Whether it be integrating the hands and feet on drumset, two and four-mallet patterns or different†hand drum grooves, everything can be broken down and learned through the basic snare drum rudiments.
Jojo Mayer (Screaming Headless Torsos, NERVE)
Perhaps the importance of knowing and practicing the rudiments is somewhat exaggerated. But it IS important to be able to execute a musical idea. Studying various rudiments, from the simplest to the more evolved hybrid stuff, helped me to find my technical weak spots, un-clutter my execution and unlock clearer, easier and more immediate access to musical ideas. The ability to perform single and double stroke rolls will take you pretty far (OK, I’ll throw in paradiddles, too).
Antonio Sanchez (Pat Metheny, Chick Corea)
Technique is very important so that we can translate our musical thoughts into physical actions. Good hand and foot technique allows us to achieve fluency on our instrument so that we can express ourselves freely.
Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall)
It is essential for drummers to develop good hand/foot technique simply because when you have good technique, you can play with more comfort, confidence, ease and precision. As far as the rudiments go, I relate them to the letters of the alphabet. Just like you would learn the alphabet in order to form words and develop the vocabulary needed to speak a language properly, you need to learn the drum rudiments in order to form musical sentences and speak the “language of drummingî.
Tommy Igoe (NY studio, Groove Essentials)
I have a true love for the rudiments going back to learning the original “26” and then later getting exposed to the wacky modern drum corps stuff. Technique is impressive, but for some drummers it can become addictive and competitive. Just like scales and arpeggios on pitched instruments, rudiments aren’t music; they are the tools that we use to create music. So, study those rudiments. And, if you want to become a complete musician, always remember why you are studying them, too.