Education of The Paradiddler

by Omar on January 11, 2009

in drum cover, Education

Welcome to another edition of The Paradiddler.

Recently I partook in an online drumming contest.  This contest was hosted by, and basically the premise was that you could submit a video of yourself playing to a song, or editing the drums entirely out of a song and supplying the drumming yourself.  There were several categories, including rock, metal, jazz, etc.  I saw this as an opportunity to showcase my skills.  It didn’t come out exactly as planned, however!

Let me digress a bit.  Although I love drumming, there were many years where I didn’t have any drum set at all.  I just recently purchased a drum kit, where for over 20 years (since I was a teenager) I didn’t have one at all!  So you can imagine how rusty I was trying to play and record myself and submit something somewhat respectable.  But I viewed this as an opportunity to start a timeline of progress for myself, to put myself under a little bit of pressure, and see what came out of it.

I’m not a seasoned drummer by any means.  I’m sort of like that college basketball coach who was never good enough to join the team as a young lad, but could coach basketball and even win some tournaments.  Or the sportswriter who, similarly, was never good enough to play high school football, but is such a student of the game that later becomes one of the most respected sources on the subject.  I’ll let you, the reader, determine for yourself if I know my stuff drumming-wise (or, at least, that I can write about it), and I’ll keep writing about it, but at the same time now that I have the equipment it’s time to play!

During that time of ‘no drums’, I did spend a lot of time, especially from a video sense, observing how drummers, well, drum.  Drum and cymbal placement, grips, fluidity, styles, brands, equipment, on and on.  Let me tell you, I’m an incredible air drummer!  I’m sure all of us are.  But let me tell you, that actually was a valuable thing to me.  Every chance I got I went to the music stores and tried out some of the drums there, just to see if I could actually play what I “aired”, and many times it was pretty good – considering I had nothing to practice on.

Lots of what I “aired” was Neil Peart, so I was very familiar (at least in my head) with how he played a lot of his songs.  Fast forward a few years, and we now arrive at the Drum-Off.  Well here was a chance for me to put a static stamp on my progress, see myself for the first time, and critique at will.

The song I chose for the contest was “Dreamline”, not the original from Rush’s Roll the Bones release, but from their Snakes and Arrows Live CD.  Lofty goal for one who hadn’t played so much!  But I thought I was familiar enough with the music that I could at least pull off a respectable performance.  So while listening to my mp3 player, I recorded myself playing this song three times.  Then came the synchronization problems.

Afterwards I viewed the videos, and of course there were flaws, big ones, on all three!  I had to borrow the recording equipment because the camera I had wasn’t good enough, so I was a little pressed for time.  That was the first mistake:  too much pressure on myself.  I had to relax!  And I didn’t give myself enough time to make a quality recording.  I ended up using Microsoft’s Movie Maker program to synchronize the mp3 of the song with the video of myself playing to it.  Again, I didn’t give myself ample time to obtain a program that was better at synchronizing the audio with the video.

Not that Movie Maker was all that bad.  For the most part, for most users it suffices.  But it was difficult for me to fine-tune exactly the point where the songs on both audio and video would be in perfect sync.  Since they weren’t, many times it looked (or sounded) like there were two drummers.  That won’t win you many drum-offs!  The deadline for video submission was looming as well, so my recording and editing options were getting slim.

In the meantime, just for fun, I decided to record myself play a couple of other tunes.  One was “Crawl Away” by Tool.  I had heard it a few times, and I really like the song, so without ever practicing it before, and to also test the video equipment I was using and its placement, I went ahead and recorded myself playing it.  There were several miscues due to the unfamiliarity of not having played it before, but it was fun.  I wasn’t playing very hard, especially for a hard rock song, but again, I was just trying to get a feel for the equipment and how I would ultimately position my drums and cymbals for the performance.  If you want to see it, I posted it on YouTube at the following link:

"Crawl Away", performed by The Paradiddler

The other song I recorded myself playing was another Rush tune called “Malignant Narcissism”, from their Snakes and Arrows CD.  Again, I did it just for fun.  After synching the video with the audio, I noticed that, actually, it wasn’t that bad!  This song I had practiced before, although probably not nearly enough to submit for a contest (at least to my standards).  But the synchronization between audio and video was pretty good, and I didn’t really lose time during the song.  It actually came out better than my three “Dreamline” recordings!  After looking at it, I decided to submit this video instead.

I wasn’t expecting to win the competition or even be a runner-up (as a matter of fact, neither did I win, nor was I a runner-up!).  My main reason, actually, was to let people know a little about me, and hopefully they would take an interest in (I’m so selfish!).  Having others view my playing was just a bonus, and an enjoyable one, and I actually give thanks to for providing this vehicle for exposure (and fun!).

This experience has taught me (or reminded me about) a few things (humility for one!).  Seriously though, some of those things are:

  • The need to practice
  • The better you know your recording equipment and editing software, the less likely you will short-change your performance
  • Give yourself time to get it right
  • Don’t expect anything except to learn and get better – anything additional is a bonus
  • Relax, and have fun!

Yes, even if it sounds bad in the end, just have fun!  That’s what The Paradiddler always says.  So until the next online drum-off, practice, practice, practice!  And enjoy the ride.

Oh!  I almost forgot.  For your viewing pleasure (and critical eye too!), here’s my entry to the drum-off.  Feel free to comment on what you think.  There will be better recordings in the future, and I’ll enjoy every minute of the journey.

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