Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Building Your Home Studio

In this day and age, it’s very common to find musicians with their own home studios. Equipment is more affordable, descriptions of recording techniques are available on the internet, and there is greater motivation to be able to capture a performance.

Home studios offer the ability to track with whomever you want, whenever you want. Someone halfway across the world can send you a session file and you can lay down the drum tracks at your convenience. This is actually the direction that lots of music production is moving in. Professional session drummers are establishing their own home studios in order to reduce travel and setup time with the added convenience of tracking on your own time without any pressure.

Having a home recording setup also allows you to record your practice sessions, which can be a valuable method for improvement. As a follow up to the "Why You Should Record Yourself" post, we wanted to cover the basics of necessary gear for recording.

Putting together your own home studio can be a bit overwhelming at first, due to the wide variety of equipment available as well as the learning curve associated with making your own recordings. Here are the essential items for making a recording in order of signal flow;

Microphone > Preamp > A/D Converter > Recording Device

Before we open up this “can of worms,” it should be made clear that this is a very basic overview of the items necessary for a home studio.

Starting at the end of the flow, the recording device is what will actually store the recorded performance. This could be a standalone recording device (Such as the Zoom Handy Recorders) or even a computer with the necessary recording software.

If you’re going the route of a standalone recorder, it will likely include a mic preamp (or several) as well as the A/D converter. When researching recording devices, you will want to consider the number of microphones/tracks that you plan on recording simultaneously. This will dictate the number of necessary preamps and help you narrow down the specific recording device.

If you decide to go the computer recording route, you must first make sure that you have a capable computer. At the absolutely minimum, a machine with combined processing power of 4GHz and 2GB of RAM. When it comes to recording, more processing power and RAM is always better.

There is a wide variety of software available for computer-based recording; Everything from Pro Tools to Logic to Digital Performer and much more. The best piece of software is what works best for your needs.

To get the signal from your microphone(s) to your computer, you’ll need an interface. This is similar to the standalone recording device except that it will send the digital signal to your computer via USB or Firewire.

When it comes to microphones, the sky is the limit. At minimum, I would recommend a matched pair of condenser microphones to use as overhead microphones. This will provide a generally accurate representation of the sound of your drums and cymbals. Close mics, often dynamic microphones such as the Shure SM57 and the Beta 52a, help to capture more of the character of individual drums on your kit. Over time, and as money permits, you can add more microphones to your recording setup.

It should be noted that there are a wide variety of variables including acoustics, microphone techniques and recording methods that make all the difference in the end quality of your recording.

Happy recording!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Minute Gift Ideas For Your Favorite Drummer

Okay, it’s crunch time. Christmas is Saturday and you’ve got to figure out what to put under the tree for your drummer friends. Lucky for you, we’ve put together this list of gift ideas in a variety of prices (we decided to give them some festive titles though…)

"REINDEER" - Keys Galore
Is your Little Drummer Boy (or girl!) always losing their drum keys? Maybe they want to be able to swap out drumheads faster than anyone around. Maybe they’re in need of a strong and sturdy key always at the ready. Check out this assortment;

Wing Nut Key
Drill Bit Key
Magnetic Head Key

"SNOWMAN" - Educational Pack
Looking for the perfect all-in-one pack to keep your percussionist warmed up during the cold winter months (and all year round!)? The Tommy Igoe Educational Pack comes with everything they need; Tommy’s Great Hands for a Lifetime Hudson Music DVD and poster, 6” RealFeel Practice Pad and signature Tommy Igoe sticks.

Tommy Igoe Educational Pack

"ELF" - Head Packs
Does your favorite drummer suffer from DHS (Dead Head Syndrome)? Help them out with a new set of tom or snare heads!

Tom Packs
G1 Coated 2-Pack

"MRS. CLAUSE" - Bass Head Pack
Looking to give the gift of Christmas in the form of the perfect bass drum sound? The EMAD System is the perfect pack to get your batterista shaking the floor.

EMAD System Pack

"SANTA"Custom gear!
Want to give your beat maker something one of a kind? An Inked by Evans gift card will allow them to create a custom drumhead all online!

Inked by Evans Gift Card

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Product: System Blue Tenor Heads

The latest additions to the Evans line of marching drumheads are the System Blue Tenor heads, developed with the 14-time DCI champions the Blue Devils. The System Blue heads spent the past season being put to the test by the Blue Devils themselves. For the 14th year, the Blue Devils took the title of DCI World Champions and they did it with the Evans System Blue Tenor heads.

The System Blue Tenor head is a 2-ply design with 7mil top-ply and 7.5mil bottom. This combination delivers tonal clarity and projection while also increasing durability and pitch stability, reducing the need for frequent tuning.

The series also utilizes Evans’ unique Sound Shaping Technology™, a damping technique that targets unwanted overtones and provides the control needed to enhance attack, projection, and note definition. The damping pattern on each head also provides a visual reference for the optimal ‘playing zone’ for each drum, offering a target for less experienced lines.

“The heads sound great. They last longer than any other head we’ve had on our drums and they look pretty cool too.” –Scott Johnson (Blue Devils)

Hear a sample of the System Blue Tenor heads "in the lot" with the Blue Devils: Blue Devils with System Blue Tenor Heads

Check out the in-depth review by Steve Weiss Music on their blog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why You Should Record Yourself

"Perfect practice makes perfect." We’ve all heard this before. Figure out what you need to focus on, organize your practice sessions to facilitate progress and you should succeed. But when it comes to being critical about your playing, it can be tough to accurately critique yourself in the moment.

The best solution? Record yourself.

Whether you’re practicing multi-limb independence exercises on the drum set or a rudimental snare drum solo, making recordings of your playing can be one of the most valuable tools for improvement. Reviewing recordings of yourself can provide you with the most objective perspective short of having someone else listen to you play (which is also important).

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to book studio time. A decent quality digital home recording will suffice (We’ll cover this in detail in a later post). These days, the technology is readily available, and more affordable than ever.

Make recording critique a part of your practice routine. You don’t necessarily have to record everything you play, though since you’re going digital and can always erase or trim the files, you might as well capture your whole practice routine. Leaving as much of your recording setup assembled and ready to go at a moment’s notice will allow you to hit record, focus on your playing, and forget about the recording equipment. When you finish working on the performance portion of your routine, stop the recording and review.

Start at the beginning of the recording and make notes about what you like and what you want to improve. This can be quite an awakening for someone who has never listened to their own playing before. By making this a regular part of your practice routine, you gain another valuable perspective on your playing.

If you’re playing with other musicians, try recording your rehearsals and performances. This will allow you to review your performance skills with the necessary scrutiny.

Label the recordings with the date and possibly the content and save them so you have the ability to refer back to them and track your progress over time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Evans Rocks Montreal Drum Fest 2010

The 18th Montreal Drum Fest was held on October 23rd and 24th, 2010. There were some fantastic performances by a variety of Evans artists including Marko Djordjevic, Elie Bertrand, Isaac Dumont, and Marco Minnemann.

Marko Djordjevic put on an incredibly energized performance with his group Sveti. The trio displayed solid onstage communication and unity while taking some rather large transitional leaps. Marko was a whirlwind of tasteful energy behind the kit. Check out the video from their performance.

Isaac Dumont and Elie Bertrand performed as the “Pearl Explosion” portion of the festival. Both Elie and Isaac brought on some progressive heavy hitting and entertaining stick visuals. Check out Isaac’s performance video and Elie’s performance video here.

Marco Minnemann put on an impressive duo performance with human beat-box champion ZeDe. The two built off of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” improvising off of each other and developing the groove. An incredible battle of fills and beats followed and eventually lead to Minnemann playing on the stage, a microphone and pretty much anything in sight. Check out the video of their performance here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Evans at PASIC 2010

Evans Drumheads is pleased to announce its success at this year’s Percussive Arts Society International Convention.

PASIC is the world’s largest percussion event, featuring over 120 concerts, clinics, master classes, labs, workshops, panels and presentations and took place from November 10 – 13 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. The program showcases all areas of percussion, including drum set, marching, keyboard, symphonic, world, recreational, education, music technology, and much more.

The Evans booth showcased drum set replicas of setups for Peter Erskine, Jojo Mayer, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Jerry Gaskill. Evans also featured various artist clinics and concerts, including performances by Chris Coleman, Thomas Pridgen, Dom Famularo, Marcus Santos, Jeff Queen, and many more.

In addition, Evans debuted the Hybrid-S Marching Snare Head as well as the System Blue Tenor Head. Inspired from the design of the award-winning Hybrid batter series, the Hybrid-S (Hybrid-Soft) Marching Snare Batter features two unique fibers that, when blended together, deliver a soft and sensitive feel with superior snare response desired by the world’s top marching ensembles. The System Blue tenor head was designed in cooperation with the Blue Devils percussion staff, the head is a 2-ply design with 7mil top-ply and 7.5mil bottom. This combination delivers tonal clarity and projection while increasing durability and pitch stability, reducing the need for frequent tuning.

This year marked the arrival of the first ever Puresound Custom Pro Challenge. Contestants were to change a set of Puresound Custom Pro snare wires as fast as they could. Over $2,000 in prizes was given away to various participants and the Custom Pro Champion, Caleb Pickering, won the challenge with a final time of 24.2 seconds!

Visit our Facebook page to see more photos from PASIC 2010.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chip Ross on Evans Timpani Head Redesign

Introduction to Evans
About 10 years ago, I heard that Evans had created a timpani head that was designed to be like a tucked calf skin head; with pretension that actually had a tone. I was immediately intrigued and tried one. It sounded incredible. There was a full, long resonance and a very clear pitch right off the bat. I was sold.

A few years later, they began production on what is known as the Strata line. These are a synthetic Mylar head but lightly coated to simulate the darker tone quality of a calfskin head. I immediately liked these and they’re still my preference for Evans products. In fact, my first set of these lasted for 2 years. It was extraordinary that they sounded so good for so long

Product Issues
When I eventually had to change this set I received an order and, upon mounting the first one, I noticed a popping sound as the tension was increasing on the head. This was unusual and something I hadn't experienced before. Even after the head was fully mounted, this sound remained very noticeable every time I'd increase the tension via the pedal. Unfortunately, this symptom became a familiar and consistent sound as I mounted other heads, even of different sizes.

Then another unfortunate ingredient entered the mix; heads started failing. Or in other words, when tension was increased during mounting, the pitch would suddenly drop and the sound became extremely “false.” The head was literally coming out of the tuck. Now there was real cause for concern.

Resolving the Issues
I was impressed and extremely grateful that Evans was immediately ready, willing, and able to jump on these issues. A thorough investigation led to some conclusive results and a complete redesign of the head.

The production team learned that the “popping” sound and subsequent "failing" of the heads was due to a lack of integrity in the glue bed. The hold of the insert ring wasn't as strong as it needed to be, and the pour of the glue wasn't filling up the glue bed cavity completely.

They decided to go with a thinner insert ring (1/16" instead of 1/8"). A thinner, yet just as strong a ring, has less contact with the head in the glue bed, and would also allow for more space in the "crevasse" to be filled by the glue. Also, they've added a perforation at the bottom of the ring which creates a stronger glue hold of the ring itself. And lastly, the insert ring is positioned slightly closer to the outer wall of the "flesh hoop;” also enabling a more durable hold. After this re-build was completed, I was sent a couple of heads to test.

The initial visual inspection was impressive. I mounted the heads and the results were terrific. No pops or crackles, and the sound was beautiful, with a clear and centered pitch. I immediately called production to express how pleased I was.

Behind the Scenes
I've always felt there was an immediate and receptive line of communication with Evans, and I'm really pleased to have such an active and successful relationship with them.
After placing an order, I’d receive heads, look them over and offer my visual perspective before mounting them on the drums. If there was a structural issue that was visible or, if after mounting there were problems, I’d speak with production. They’d then revise and send a replacement right away.

It’s difficult for the average customer to be aware of the workings of the company beyond the end product. I’ve been fortunate to see that, behind the scenes, there's a great team of people at Evans who truly want the product to be at its best. They’ve been patient and have worked very hard to refine the process and address the issues. In addition, the time and money they've invested into revising their timpani head line is extensive.

I'm excited about the future of their products. Those who are purchasing from Evans can be confident they are getting the top of the line.

About the Author:
Charles Ross (Rochester Philharmonic/Eastman School Of Music/Brevard Center)
Influences: Fred Hinger, Gerald Carlyss, Cloyd Duff, David Fein, and Alan Abel

Friday, July 30, 2010

Maximizing Your Practice Time

When I was a student at Musicians Institute I practiced anywhere from 5 to 8 hours a day (not counting classes and band rehearsals of course) 5-6 days a week. I was fortunate to have the physical stamina and mental focus to be able to keep such a rigorous practice routine throughout my stay at Musicians Institute. Nowadays I don't have the luxury of that much time to practice. Between my teaching, recording, mixing and occasionally sleeping schedule there simply isn't enough time in the day.

I find this to be a common scenario amongst working musicians and musicians that also hold part-time (or full time) jobs to support themselves. There just simply isn't enough time in the day to fit 4 or 5 hours of practice. That's ok, all is not lost!
Staying Focused
On the flip side what good is having 5, 6, 7 or 8 hours a day to practice if you can't stay focused for the entirety of your routine? Trying to maintain a practice routine after you have lost focus can be very counterproductive. It can also take the enjoyment out of playing your instrument and quite possibly music itself. The good news is that for the most part this is avoidable. Yes, we all have our "off" days but if we take a few moments to analyze our practice routine we can maximize the time we do have (to help maintain focus) and limit how "off" our "off" days are. The first step in achieving this is to simply understand our own limits. Physical and mental.
I see this a lot with my students. Student A has the ability to practice for 6 hours a day while student B loses focus after 2 or 3 hours. Student B then thinks that because he can't practice for as long as Student A that they are, in some way, not going to be able to achieve the same level of mastery of the instrument. While this may seem logical I don't believe that this is always the case. Simply put it's "quality" or "quantity". Now if you have the ability to practice 6 hours (or more) a day and stay focused I say go for it but if you don't it's not the end of the world.
Get Organized!
I find that knowing what, and for how long, I'm going to practice before I even sit behind the kit helps me to stay focused for my entire routine. A lot can be achieved with 1 or 2 hours of focused and consistent daily practice. Conversely much time can be wasted and little gained with 6 hours of unfocused practice. Consistency is the key! 1 hour a day 5 or 6 days a week is much better than 5 hours a day twice a week.
Here's what I recommend trying. Before your next practice session make a list of the things you want to work on (if you're like me that list can be quite large). Next, whittle your list down to the most important areas that you want to focus on. Maybe it's improving your time, learning a new fill concept, bass drum technique and working on 4-way coordination. Now figure out how much time you have in each day (remember consistent daily practice is the key here!) and divide that up between each individual exercise.
If I had only one hour a day to practice those 4 areas of my playing one way I may divide my time up would be:
10min - Bass Drum Technique
20min - Groove Practice
15min - Fill Concepts
15min - 4-way Coordination
That may not sound like much but if you did that every day, 6 days a week, you can really make some progress. The bottom line is that you have to develop a routine that works best for you. It won't just happen overnight but it's definitely worth spending a little brain power on. Once you develop a good routine I guarantee that your drumming will improve and that you'll have a lot more fun too!
Get Organized and be consistent!
Until the next time, keep it loud, proud,and above all make it groove!
Charlie Waymire

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Drum Circle by Dena Tauriello

Some people believe that in music, we don’t choose our instrument, rather, the instrument chooses us. It takes much bravado to be a front person & carry a band, or enough self-importance to rip a guitar lead. Then there are drummers. As a rule, they are the consummate team players, getting more gratification from crafting the perfect groove & making a track feel great then executing a solo.It is this selfless, collaborative mindset that allows us to extend a hand to fellow drummers, offering support, advice, recommendations & referrals. We are one big community with no ego, no attitude, or exclusivity.

Thanks to this drummer mindset, I was invited to share in the experience of the New York Drum Club. Don’t be fooled by the formality of the title. This group is simply an assemblage of working drummers – all ages, genders, styles, levels, and accomplishments accepted. Mind you, there are certainly some illustrious and esteemed players in the pack, but you would never know it based upon their treatment of subordinates like myself. I look forward to our monthly lunch gatherings, as I am continually inspired, supported and guided. And I laugh really hard.

These monthly meetings serve as reminders of the greater good:"We are here to serve". Not just the musicians with whom we work or the songs being performed, but the community to which we belong. For you beginners out there – don’t be afraid to reach out to your idols or local professionals for some encouragement or helpful hints.I am confident you will not be disappointed. And to all you pros – continue to remember the selflessness demanded by our profession and the many ways we can give back and inspire. It is perhaps the finest artistry we can offer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What makes the difference, the drums or the drummer ?

What Makes the Difference: The Drums or The Drummer?

A great sounding drum set depends on the ability of the drummer, not the quality of the drum set.We have heard different drummers on the same kit,&they always sound different compared to each other, but each drummer sounds like themselves.They have a voice. We have even heard the same drummer on different drums, in different venues, with different bands and again, the drummer is identifiable.

Through years of playing, and listening back to my playing, I have discovered what I like and dislike about my drumming and am constantly striving to close the gap between what I want to sound like and what I actually sound like.A great joy in the art of music is hearing our voice among the layers of sounds created by our bands and instruments.Yet, many drummers seem to lose sight of that joy by distracting their art with concern over excessive comfort.Whether our snare head is perfectly tuned, our bass drum shell is just the right color, there are many small details that we as drummers can become fixated on,making a mountain out of a Molehill,so to speak. And,since the drum set is the most personal instrument in terms set up, sound sources,etc.,it is in our best interest to find our own balance,to be comfortable without losing sight of the music.

For me, I am glad to play on any kit in front of me, if that means I get to play music for a living.That said, striving to feel like myself at any kit has to start at the basics.
Provided the kit and hardware are in workable shape and relatively adjustable, here are my top three requirements:

Throne Height- comfort, fluidity, and balance start here.

Drum Sticks- they are the closest extension of myself and need to feel familiar to get me to my comfort zone quickly.

Drum Heads- on pretty much any class kit, a good, consistent drum head will get me the feel, response, attack, tone, durability and musical quality that can make a new kit feel like home. Drum heads are also the part of the sound I have the most control over. If the drums are out tune, I can fix it. Too loud, I can fix it. Need more thud or punch, I can fix it…with the right drum head. That is why I play Evans.They are part of my sound.

I encourage you drummers to find your sound,and find the confidence to see that your drumming voice is yours alone. Consider your audience, investigate all the possibilities your instrument provides and keep an open mind. Then, just relax, listen,and play.Make a great sound !

Felipe Torres

Monday, May 3, 2010

Small Drum Sizes

Hey guys, it's a pleasure to write this blog for all of you. Hopefully, you'll find it somewhat entertaining, or at least interesting.

I'm asked often about why I play such small drums. My current set up has a 20" kick, and 10", 13" and 15" toms. I started favoring the smaller sized drums years and years ago, when I would play nothing but basements and rented out VFW halls, rooms that never had a band PA. When I watched the other bands, I never heard the drums cut through the guitars. I figured the larger drums were getting lost in all the thickness of distorted guitars, so maybe smaller drums would play in a different range and have a chance to cut through. For a while, I even used an 8" tom.

As time went on, I got comfortable with my kit set up that way, and saw no reason to change things when mics started showing up on my drums.And as for the kick, a 20" kick just sounds tight.I thought it would give the faster, more intricate stuff a better chance of being more well defined.

In the end, though, it all comes down to taste. I really like the way those sizes sound.But I admit, it didn't hurt when I could fit all that stuff quite easily into my VW Golf ! Maybe that is the real reason and I'm just trying to sound smart now.
• Justin Foley

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Physically, Mentally, Sensibility

You know, when I was growing and up learning to play the drums, the only thing I ever wanted,was to be the drummer in one mega-successful rock band. I had no desire to be a studio musician, jumping around between several artists, or even performing live with multiple bands. As my drumming and musical career developed over the years, I didn't have the fortune to walk into that elusive, mega-huge rock band gig. But then again, I guess, I'm fortunate to have had a long and thankfully ongoing career of playing with many different bands and artists.

So this leads me to a question that I've been asked on several occasions: "How is it different playing with HALFORD, FATES WARNING, SEBASTIAN BACH, RIOT, etc.?"

On the surface, one can say, "How different can it be? All of these bands fall into the category of being Rock/Progressive/Heavy Metal bands." Of course, there are the many different songs that I need to learn for each band. And, of course, when I'm playing with an already established artist/band, I need to learn songs which were previously recorded with another drummer. These songs could range from obscure fan favorites to huge radio hits known by even the casual radio listener. During my early years of learning (pre-recorded) songs, I always paid close attention to the beat patterns and fills and learned how to copy and re-create the parts note-for-note so that I could play them correctly. But "my process and methods that I use when learning, memorizing, and executing these drum parts" is a blog for another day.

What I want to talk about is a realization that was enlightening to me this past summer,as I had to make quick transitions between my working with various artists/bands. I always knew that (beyond the actual drumming itself) I had to adjust my playing and thinking to adapt to the different situations, but I never took the time to define and categorize how I was successfully making this happen. Recently, within a couple of months, I made my way into the studio and doing summer festivals with RIOT, more studio work with HALFORD (visit www.metalgodshop.com/ to watch the 'Winter Songs' Christmas album trailer and purchase music), to my September performance with FATES WARNING at ProgPower X in Atlanta.

With all due respect to these bands and artists, I have discovered that there are 3 elements that encompass my musical drumming approach to each of the artist/bands that I am currently working with. These elements are: Physicality, the Mental Aspect, and Sensibility.


Physically - This is a complete physical (hands AND feet) drumming workout for me. Rob, being the metal icon that he is, has covered the entire spectrum of metal throughout his career with Judas Priest, Fight, and Halford. And with the Halford band, the songs can range from 'Handing Out Bullets' (quick double bass and sticking patterns) to 'She' (ballad with a lighter touch). And for live performances, the Priest stuff is always challenging for me physically because I need to adapt to all the drummer's styles within the 30+ years of JP's career.

Mentally - This can change from song to song. I would say that the Halford "Crucible" songs have always been the most challenging songs to play live. Pretty cerebral stuff !

Sensibility - I need to play the up-tempo stuff with aggression, and also be able to lay back and finesse the songs which have more dynamics. This is also especially true with the Judas Priest and Fight stuff that we play live which ranges from the classic metal drumming of Scott Travis on 'Painkiller' and 'War Of Words', to the Dave Holland 'play all the hi-hat eight notes the same volume'-approach, to the style of the drummers during the 'Rocka Rolla' and 'Sad Wings Of Destiny' era where the vibe is more loose and groovy.


Physically - It's interesting - this is the only gig in which I use finger muscles in my hands rather than concentrated wrist muscles. It's a whole different drumming approach for me. I also need to mention that Mark Zonder (who played on most of the Fates stuff we cover live) is a great drummer. Since there is not a lot of quick double bass work (as opposed to other gigs), I find myself sitting a bit higher to focus when executing the many various sticking combinations and linear patterns.

Mentally - This is the hardest gig for me mentally next to my clinic material. I have to be focused 100% of the time. I cannot go on 'auto-pilot' and sit back and play. During our recent performance at ProgPower X, I came down from the kit to share an on-stage toast of Patron Tequila with the other members of FW and the founder of ProgPower. This was toward the end of our set, before playing our last couple of songs. That was a mistake! Believe it or not, with only one shot of tequila and I could definitely tell the difference. My brain was swimming, haa haa!

Sensibility - The music is progressive and involved and I always have to maintain a mature approach to this material.


Note: even though I didn't work with Sebastian this summer, I thought it would be interesting to include my thoughts:

Physically - Technically, this isn't the toughest gig for me, but I definitely play harder on Sebastian gigs than any other gig. I have been fortunate to play with Sebastian in many arenas and outdoor festivals throughout the world and the physicality of playing those huge venues really makes the Sebastian shows rock.

Mentally - The whole mental thing comes down to watching Sebastian at all times. He's all over the stage and and he can change things up at the drop of a hat. It's a true SHOW! And, with Sebastian's spontaneity, I'm always looking for ways to incorporate drumming ideas into those moments.

Sensibility - it's all about the ROCK !


Physically - This is where I sort of made my mark as a hard rock/heavy metal/progressive drummer. My first stint with the band was for 10+ years (off-and-on) from '88 to '99. And being that I was developing my craft as a drummer, my drumming matured and evolved somewhat during those years. As I am now doing a reunion with the band, re-learning the material that I recorded 20 years ago is interesting physically because I made things tougher for myself back then, than an I do now. When creating parts for a particular section of music, I have always thought things like, "aggressive heavy low toms on the bridge", "half-time building sixteenths on the ride and hi-hat", etc.. Well, in certain sections, the sticking is a bit awkward (for no good reason) and I wonder why I choose to play things that way ? HAA !

Mentally - Nothing too extreme here. Most of the time, I'm playing parts that I created. I just need to make sure I'm focused when executing some of the more difficult sections.

Sensibility - Similar to learning Judas Priest material when playing live with Halford, I am also playing previously recorded material from the Riot catalog, which dates back to '77. That's 10 years before I joined the band. But unlike the JP material, I tend to modify and modernize the drumming of the older Riot songs. This is sort of a collective decision among the band members to update and 'metalize' the hard rock approach of the older material.
As for the my 10-year stint with the band and the reunion, the vibe is all about where I am as a drummer and my experiences. And even though we had a producer on a couple of the early recordings, I always have free reign to play whatever crazy ideas I come up with.

A final thought: It's very self-satisfying to me as a drummer (and musician) that I can successfully play with a crazy progressive metal band as well as a pop band. And as a musician, I don't think there's anything more important than possessing the ability to understand (and play) very complex music while also having the sensibilities to make the simple music feel good.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Not Taking Your Health For Granted, by Lee Kelley. Part 2

I figured it would be a good idea to give the guy I play with in town, Craig Campbell, www.myspace.com/craigcampbellmusic,a call to let him know what had gone down with the road gig and that I will be back to work in the next few weeks after fully healing. Figured it was wise to take that much time off from this gig since it was a club gig of usually about 3 to 3½ hours of playing with about a 20 minute break in the middle. I didn’t figure I could pull off that long behind the kit with just a couple weeks of healing.

Guess what happened?? Craig had decided to make a change as well, keeping the guy who was subbing for me ! That was actually more of a shocker than the first blow, but I figured my health and how it was affecting my outward treatment of others, was what contributed to this as well.
Ok,…what do I do now?? My health has knocked me out of both my main gigs. Once again, my wife said don’t worry about it, just heal and then get back out and network. That’s what I have always done if something has knocked me back…just pull up the bootstraps and head back at it. This was a bit different of a feeling though.

While the hernia was healing and my mobility was getting better, I still couldn’t shake the problems with my stamina. I was still finding myself winded over the least little things. Having to sit down on the bed after going upstairs just really baffled me, but I figured this would go away over time of healing. I also guessed the weight I had lost from inactivity or loss of appetite would come back on in time.

With reality setting in that I had NO work at this point, other feelings started to seep into my psyche. These were feelings that I normally do not have to deal with as I am a pretty “Up” person, although emotional, as most passionate, artistic people are. These were dark feelings, scared feelings, worried feelings. The kinds of thoughts you have when the carpet you have been walking on comfortably for 20 years of playing has been pulled out from under you.
Then the questions start to come to you:
“What am I going to do?”
“Will I be able to find some more work?”
“Is there more work to be found?”
“How am I going to contribute to my upcoming marriage?”
Those are just a few of the things that began to run through my mind with so much time suddenly on my hands. The scariest question that continued to pass through my mind on an almost daily basis was this…..
Are my days of playing drums for a living over?? Let’s be honest, popular music has always been a kind of “Young Man’s Game.” At 40 years old, healing from a surgery and the gigs I had done, this is not an easy thought to keep out of one’s head. More to the point, that thought is SCARY AS HELL. While it is difficult to put into words how dark the thought got, just know that the worst did pass through a couple times.

These thoughts and questions began to send me into a bit of a depression on many days. As I said before, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees and had NO idea how I would walk out of these problems. Denay just stayed by my side in every way possible and then some, reminding me again and again to just enjoy the well needed break from everything and, most importantly, to enjoy our upcoming November wedding and Honeymoon cruise. I tried my best to take her advice and keep focused on all that lay ahead of us. The wedding quickly approached, turning my thoughts more positive as the days passed. Denay continually helped in holding my chin up and suspend my heavy heart to a better place.

We married in the middle of November, surrounded by a gracious bunch of family and friends. The following day we took off for our week long cruise in the Caribbean. All this positive activity in my life with my now wife really pulled me out of the darkness that I had experienced in the past month and a half. I felt GREAT ! Only got winded on one excursion on the honeymoon in which we had to run about 200 to 300 yards through woods. Other than that, my indigestion that had been with me since my early 30s was the only real discomfort I felt.

Denay and I came back home and I began to set my mind to “Getting Back In The Game” the only way I knew how, go back out to start networking and sitting in again. Basically, just letting people know I was looking to get back into playing. This sent me back to square one of playing for a living in Nashville. Not only had I been off the radar for 2 months, I had been off for so long that my formally callused hands were completely smooth. This was the first time for that since before high school when had no place to practice during summers in South Carolina.

Anyway from then though Christmas, I picked up a gig here and there. Got through the first part of December, had two wisdom teeth pulled right before Christmas. Denay and I went to visit my family for the holiday,…all without much of a problem. My weight was still lower that it had been in years, but was stable. The acid reflux I had dealt with for years was still there but seemed to be somewhat under control taking antacids after every meal, or when needed. I was still getting a little winded but it seemed to be improving with time. We came back from Christmas in the Carolinas on December 26th in time for me to have a split double shift in the downtown honky tonks the following day, 2pm-6pm at one club, and later that night from 10pm-2am at another club up the street. Showing her unyielding support, my wife decided to come hang out during these gigs.

I began the afternoon gig feeling positive but a little winded. As I’ve done for years, I just played though any sickly feelings I may have had until, about 2/3rd a way through the gig, I couldn’t fight it and had to excuse myself from the stage. Immediately upon getting in the bathroom, I got violently ill, throwing up black. This went on for about 30 minutes. I eventually gained composure enough to finish the gig, but knew I couldn’t do the second gig. The weakness was overwhelming. Got a sub for the late gig and Denay and I started heading to the truck. Going up the hill from the clubs, I got violently ill once again. Denay said, “That’s it, you are going to the doctor on Monday.” I didn’t argue as I knew I had hit the tipping point of something serious.

We got to Dr. Beckham’s office as soon as possible on Monday. He immediately noticed my weight loss and ran blood tests on me. They found me to be suffering from severe anemia along with a massive loss of blood. He said I was missing about 5 pints of blood, which is about half the blood in the human body, and the fact that I walked in of my own accord, and was sitting up talking to him, was unbelievable ! He admitted me to the hospital at once to get an IV in me to replace the massive amounts of diminished blood while also scheduling an Upper GI Endoscopy (EGD) to find out what was causing the blood loss. I lay in the hospital the rest of the day with the IV feeding me blood, my wife at the bedside the whole time.

Over the previous months, I guess my skin color had very slowly turned very white and sickly looking due to the blood loss. Because my wife and I were with each other almost all the time, we didn’t notice this extreme change. As my blood supply was being replenished, Denay began to notice the rosy color coming back into my hands and my face.

The next morning they took me down and put me under for the EGD. I awoke several hours later to Denay looking very distraught. They had found a bleeding ulcer at the bottom of my esophagus cause by years of acid reflux. That wasn’t the worst news, but, Denay said that it might be CANCEROUS!!!! Yes, she had been informed while I was out that her new husband might have esophageal cancer.

Now, I don’t know what made me feel like this, but I had a feeling of calm come over me. I looked at my wife and said, “It’s not cancerous.” I don’t know why but I just KNEW. She relaxed a little and the Doctor of Gastroenterology, Dr. Lee, was notified that I had come around.

Dr. Lee came in to give us the news. While the ulcer was massive and the cause of the internal bleeding, upon further inspection, the ulcer was NOT cancerous. She told us I would be put on prescriptions of both iron pills to help sustain my blood levels and a double dose of Nexium each day to get the acid reflux under control along with subsiding the ulcer. Denay and I breathed much more at ease knowing this was the cause of my weight loss and stamina problems and that with the correct treatment, everything will be alright. I just laid back and continued enjoying the O-positive cocktail being fed into my veins for the rest of the day until I was released.

Since then I have continued to take the medication advised by my doctors. My stamina problems went away almost at once and my weight is back up and then some, especially with my appetite completely restored. I recently had a follow-up EGD to see how the ulcer is and am happy to report that it is almost non-existant !

On the gig front, I am back in action in a great way. The new artist gig is with a new artist, Jeremy McComb. http://www.jeremymccomb.com/ . It is exciting to play with a younger, newer, more enthusiastic artist on the country music radar.

Also, Craig Campbell www.myspace.com/craigcampbellmusic called me back to play with his band. That was a nice surprise to return to the band that I had spent the better part of the past 3 years. Other work comes in on a weekly basis and things are looking more positive every single day.

Personally, my wife, Denay, and I continue to build our new life together.
Spending as much time together as possible each and everyday. I make sure to thank her on an almost daily basis for understanding what I do for a living and the crazy schedule that comes along with it. I can safely say, if it wasn’t for her love and caring support, I would absolutely not be here to write this article. She literally saved my life….without a doubt.

For years and years, music and playing was the end all, be all, of my existence. Due to the medical problems I went through, my focus has changed for the positive. While I will hopefully always be lucky enough to make my living playing music and experience the joy of creating that music, I want to give as much of myself to my family, and home life as possible, while continuing to work.

In closing, I can give a little advice to those of you who may be going through any type of trouble that may affect your health or your playing status:
First, if you think you may have health issues….pay attention to any warning signs and please get to a doctor and have them addressed. They are there to help you but you HAVE to be the one to walk in and see them.

Second, keep playing fun in your life. If you are in a gig that just makes you miserable, maybe it is time to look for a change somehow. How you change it is up to you but there is no sense in staying in an unpleasant situation. It can only drag you down along with those with who you come in contact. We ALL started playing music because it was fun….Keep it that way.

Finally, remember that those who love and support you come first. I am talking of your family and true friends. These are the people that will be with you through the good times and the tough times.

May you all have more good times than bad times. Good luck and Good Groovin’ !
Lee Kelley
Nashville, TN