The new DVD by Gil Sharone, Wicked Beats, is an in-depth look at the development of Jamaican Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae drumming. As Gil points out in his intro segment, these styles are seemingly simple on the surface, but many technically advanced drummers have a difficult time playing these beats convincingly. The DVD uses several methods of instruction including live playing examples, musical guests performances, play along tracks and a very in-depth e-book. Let’s take a look at the program in more detail, especially as it applies to teachers and students curious about this style of drumming.
It is tempting to put the DVD right into your player and go right to the section on Reggae grooves, but you would miss some very important information. Personally, I would recommend either opening the 26 page e-book in a separate window or printing it out first. The sections on early influences such as Nyabingi and Burru go by fairly quickly and it is a great help to have the transcriptions to work from. Conversely, if you take the time to open the e-book don’t short change yourself by skipping the correlating section on the DVD. Some of the rhythms look deceptively simple, but take on much more life when played by an ensemble.
The information, demonstrations and examples of all of the styles included are first rate. Gil has a very cool, laid back demeanor that makes the viewer feel like Gil is simply talking to them as another drummer excited about this music. There are several unique tips and tools that make this drumming come alive, my favorite being the rolls and drags invented by Lloyd Knibb of the Skatalites! All of the expected information is covered ion this DVD: the historical development of Reggae, Ska, and RockSteady from the earlier styles we mentioned (as well as Jamaican Swing and political developments) the subgenres and variations on Reggae (such as the One Drop, Steppers and Rockers), and newer developments on the style such as Dub, Dancehall, 2 tone and Third Wave Ska. Each of the main grooves are presented with 13 essential hi hat variations, so the viewer will have many options to practice. A great way to put these variations into a musical setting by first practicing with the provided play along bass track and then in one of the three play along songs. All of these are performed by Gil in the body of the DVD, so you can always go check out what he played if there are any questions. While some people may find that three play-along songs may be a small number for a DVD of this length, I find that it makes more sense for me as a teacher. (Especially at this price point) After all, the point is to get you fluent in the styles then get you moving along in checking out the masters as well as playing some music with other musicians!
One major difference between this DVD and some others is that the bonus features are full of important information. In fact, much of the information should probably have been included in the beginning of the main body of the program. One crucial chapter to watch is “Sound and Touch”. Gil breaks down the required tuning, instrument selection and physical techniques in great detail. This is of vital importance to sound authentic in this style, and I would watch this section first before the main body of the program to see these why he plays certain styles on the instruments he chooses. To round out the bonus features, there are interviews with Lloyd Knibb, Carlton “Santa” Davis, and Adrian Young.
For more information on “Wicked Beats” visit http://www.hudsonmusic.com/hudson/products/wicked-beats/