Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book Review: "Beyond Stick Control" by Glenn W. Meyer

Do your rudiments! That phrase couldn't be more of a turnoff to me. As a drummer I want drumming to be fun, not a boring job. Too bad then, that for so long I neglected the rudiments and therefore neglected fluidity and control.

Beyond Stick Control, by Glenn W. Meyer has increased my speed, fluidity, and control demonstrably. The name Beyond Stick Control is significant because Stick Control was Lawrence Stone's classic book of snare drum technique based on the rudiments. How do you go beyond Stone's famous book? Meyer does it by incorporating the bass drum in a marvelous variety of ways.

Yes, do your rudiments but throw in accents, and do variations. First learn them slow, then speed them up to get a sense of fluidity and flexibility. But, you say, what does the bass drum have to do with rudiments? That's what makes the modifier “beyond” so appropriate for this book. Adding the bass drum is what takes your playing beyond stick control.

Glenn Meyer divides his book into four sections. This is important, because each section involves using the bass drum in a different way. Section A ignores the bass drum. It doesn't even ask you to play solid four while you're practicing rudiments. Still I practice section A by tapping out quarter notes just as I learned with Ted Reed's classic book Syncopation.

Section B goes beyond Syncopation by incorporating improvisation in the bass drum. The bass drum becomes part of the beat by following and preceding phrases played by the hands. Meyer calls this technique “Linear Style” and he specializes in it. See especially: his encyclopedic book Funk and Fusion Concepts for a cornucopia of examples.

I love practicing section B. It has given me a powerful sense of control and fluidity with my right kick.

Section C is all about bass drum ostinatos. Don't know Italian? “Ostinato” is a repeated pattern played underneath everything else that supports and holds up the whole rythmic structure. Start with halfnotes, then count time with quarter notes like in Reed's Syncopation, then take your drumming beyond Syncopation by incorporating some latin bass beats, Samba, Baio, Tumbao, and the beautiful Baio/Tumbao. And Meyer knows his latin beats.

Section D “Linear Jazz Style” is worth the price of the whole book many times over. It incorporates what you've learned in the previous three sections into the entire drum set. This section is played with a broken triplets swing feel on the ride cymbal. My suggestion, which if you do take, you'll thank me for, is to practice section D with both R hand ride and with L hand ride. It seems like twice as much work but it isn't because the R hand “teaches” the left. And the added bonus is that you further strengthen your right kick without even thinking about it.

Speed these exercises up and play them as written instead of swinging them and they become more like cut time rock rhythms with the back beat on the three. Try, for instance page 56, #11 to see what I mean. Or they gain a latin like feel from the rudimental patterns. It was when I started practicing the triplet rudiments that I realized how challenging these exercises really are.

I love Syncopation, but doing straight four on the bass drum all the time drives me crazy. Going beyond syncopation I can use the hihat to tell time, and that frees up the bass drum to become a more powerful improviser. Section D takes lessons learned in the rudiments and incorporates them into jazz /rock fusion ride rhythms. For me, that's what makes rudiments so much fun to play instead of being a job. Before this book I had no idea how to play this stuff. Now it just seems natural.