Playing with Feel

The best way to achieve a good feel is to listen to the kind of music you're trying to play. Most of the beats you've learned in this book can be applied to a wide variety of rock styles. For example, the etudes included in Figures 7-7 and 7-8 could be applied to both a hard rock and a funk setting. It all depends on how you interpret the notes.

To play Figures 7-7 and 7-8 in a hard rock style, you will want to hit very hard. This means using your arms and wrists to strike the drums and cymbals extremely loud. To do this, you'll want to create a flowing, wave-like movement in your arms and wrists. The eighth-note ride pattern you play on the hi-hat should also be played on the edge of the cymbals. This is how you will get a chunkier sound. Further, you will not want to clamp the hi-hat cymbals down tightly; instead, ease up on the pedal slightly so that you get a fatter sound.

You could even experiment with a half-open hi-hat sound if you wish. For this, see Chapter 12. On the snare, you will want to use rim shots except on ghost notes and buzz strokes. To enhance your hard rock feel, you should use a large kick drum (22″ diameter or bigger) and slightly detune the snare drum so that you get a warm, punchy sound.

To play these beats using a funk feel, you will want to create a tight, crisp sound. To do this, you could use a piccolo snare since it has a shallower shell. You could also create a crisp tone by tuning your snare drum to a high pitch. In other words, you'll want the snare to have a taut, crackling sound. On bass drum, a big, meaty sound is optimal in modern funk so you would want to use a large-diameter drum.

Even though proper gear is essential, equipment alone cannot create feel. To play Figures 7-7 and 7-8 using a funky feel, clamp the hi-hat cymbals together very tightly so you get a clean, articulate sound—this will complement the crackle of your taut snare drum. Then, play each etude with intent, but don't feel the need to over blow. Funk does not rely on ear-splitting volume; it does rely on tight, snappy playing.

One of the finest hard rock drummers in rock history was John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin I, II, and III are among their most legendary albums. James Brown's records are among the best funk examples in history. His drummers Melvin Parker, Clyde Stubblefield, and John “Jabo” Starks epitomized funk drumming in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ultimately, feel comes down to two seemingly unrelated components: how relaxed you are and how well you understand the style of music you're playing. No matter what genre(s) you're attempting, great feel is the result of relaxed playing and a thorough grasp of music history. This is why, in this book, you will continually be reminded to listen, listen, and listen some more.

Warm-ups are not just for your body. A proper warm-up routine will get your mind ready to think, concentrate, and react. For that reason, you should choose warm-ups that engage and invigorate both your limbs and your brain. Don't know where to start? Play Figures 3-7 and 3-8 as warm-ups.

To get a relaxed sound, warm up before you perform. There are many warm-ups espoused by drummers and teachers alike. As mentioned in Chapter 5, a warm-up is a technical exercise designed to get your hands and feet moving. Rudiments work well as warm-ups, so do the exercises found in the snare drum books listed in Appendix A. The important thing to remember when warming up is to go slowly at first. Start at a comfortable speed then gradually increase the tempo as the blood gets flowing. If you feel stiff during your warm-up, reduce the tempo; never push yourself over the edge when warming up.

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