Drums Learning System

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The Reference Drummer

by Omar on August 27, 2008

in Editorials

Many high-end speaker companies have what they call their 'flagship', or 'reference' model.  This is the model they're most proud of, which encompasses and represents what the company is all about, what makes them and their sound unique.  For example, Bose has their 901 Series VI Direct/Reflecting speaker system (which hasn't been updated in years, which shows us what they think of that model); Polk Audio has the SRT system, and Klipsch has their Palladium series.  You can go to their respective web sites if you like just for entertainment purposes - their specs are most impressive (and so are their price tags!).

They all sound very good, and each one is a representation of what the founder or owner of each respective company believes is the best way to achieve optimum and beautiful sound.  In different ways, each company examines acoustics, enclosure materials and dimensions, amplification, etc.  They may sound different, but in the end, they all sound awesome.

Well, I consider drummers to be like, well, speakers, and you the reader and aspiring drummer, or professional drummer, or drummer just for fun, are the brand.  You see, there are no two drummers alike even if they're identical twins.  Each drummer brings his life experiences, what has shaped his (or her) abilities, to what they are today.  And many if not all drummers have a particular favorite that they at one point or another tried to emulate.  Sure the interest expanded to other drummers as influences, but many times you remember at least that one that started you off, that when you saw them you said, "I wanna play like that!" And try as you might, you'd never sound exactly the same, because we're just not!  But you'd be pretty close.

You would study everything about that drummer:  who their influences were, what equipment they used, how much they practiced, what they practiced, and so on.  This influence would be a springboard for your style, and even though you didn't play exactly like them, they were your reference, your flagship, per se.  In yours truly's case, my reference drummer was (and is) Neil Peart.  How so?

I actually was in love with another drummer before Neil Peart, but that's a topic for another day.  I was so impressed by his style, which I had never heard before, that for me that was my "wow!" moment, when I said, "I wanna play like that!"  So as best I could, I started air drumming what I thought he was doing, based on what I knew a drum kit looked like.  Believe it or not, I didn't know (or didn't notice) double bass drumming until I learned about Neil!  Ok, I was very young and impressionable (and naïve!) -  that's my excuse.  Whenever Rush aired on television, and when I obtained videos of them, I would also learn how he played the songs, and I would "adjust".  Also, I would read the liner notes and notice what brands he was using:  Tama drums, Zildjian cymbals (back then, anyway), and the like.  These became the brands I thought were the best, because he made them sound the best.  And of course, not too shabby of a drummer!

So over time, he became what I call my 'reference drummer'.  Naturally, I've learned to steal ideas from other drummers (well, you know, different ways to play paradiddles and such) who are phenomenal players as well, who maybe were faster, or jazzier, or flashier, that I could then incorporate such styles in my playing.  But Neil was my reference - I wanted to sound like him and play like him.  I could then add a few twists and turns of my own, which would make my style stand out.

Over time, your reference may have changed even a few times.  Maybe you don't like that sound you fell in love with anymore, even though it may bring back memories.  Perhaps as you get better there are other drummers you relate to more, so you study their style, their practice regimen, their equipment choices.  They become guides.  But ultimately, you are an original.

Obviously, it doesn't have to be someone famous.  It could be your band teacher from the fifth grade!  Or that guy that gave you the first few lessons but then moved to Calgary.  You really liked him!  You were sad to see him go.  So you remember everything he taught you, maybe because you realize that what he taught was fundamentally sound.  Great reference there!

As time goes by, you change, you get better -  you are your own brand.  You like to play a certain way.  You hold your sticks a certain way.  Your throne is a certain height.  Your ankles are raised (or not).  You prefer a certain brand of drums, a certain brand of cymbals.  But your reference drummer helped you along the way, and to some extent they still do.  So kudos to them!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Sipos March 27, 2010 at 9:52 am

Hello Omar, this is a great site and I will use it to my advantage. I just started playing drums and I play left-handed. All the writings/instructions are written for right-handed drummers, RRLL RRL etc… When I read them I have a problem with starting with my right hand first, instead of my left. What I see I do… and it’s become a habit play what I see… I’ve been crossing out the lettering and changing it from RLRL to LRLR but it looks messy and I get pissed after a while and give up. It also takes from my practice time on my drums… Is there some practice music for the left-handed drummer out there??? I’m a beginner and I need your help!!!!! Thank you Paul S.


Omar March 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

Hi Paul.

Thanks for the kind comments! Yes, use this site to your advantage however you want (and tell your drumming buddies too!).

I understand your frustration, since indeed most drumming instruction is for right-handed drummers. But don’t despair! You’ll be fine.

I’ll have to do some digging to see what’s available for left-handed instruction. In the meantime, I would suggest posting the question on a drumming forum like FreeDrumLessons.com or DrummerWorld.com – I’m sure you’re not the first to encounter this problem! Also, you may want to read up on drummers who play left-handed, such as Phil Collins and Ian Paice, and see how they got their training. You can try Google to find out what you can regarding them and left-handed drumming instruction. Of course, if anybody reading your comment has any suggestions, that would be great as well!

The main point is to have fun, so if messing with reading music is giving you fits right now, just do other things that are more interesting for the time being. Drum covers are always cool, and even if you trash it, you’re not doing it for anyone but yourself, so no harm done. Even better, if you can record yourself playing, you might see where you can do better just by watching yourself. You can also head on down to a music store, if one is nearby, and ask someone in the drumming section regarding what to do about learning to play left-handed.

I hope this points you in the right direction. Drum on!


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