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New Music: “Big Edna”

Happy New Year!

So, I’ve taken on another musical side-project.  Actually, this one’s been in the works for over a year.  After several lineup changes, I’m proud to introduce BIG EDNA.

And yes, that is a real license plate.  How badass is that?

Big Enda is:

  • Greg Young: Bass, lead vocals
  • Eddie Harrington: Guitar
  • Mike Porter: Drums, backing vocals
  • Lenny Broiles: Fiddle, mandolin, effects, vocals.
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A beginner’s guide to drumming: Lesson 1 – Grip

I recently dove into the world of beginning drum set instruction. I have been asked many great questions by my students, and I’d like to share them with you here. So, without further adieu, I give you:

Drum lessons!

**NOTE** While these lessons are aimed at beginners, some of the points I discuss here may be useful to players of any level.

Lesson 1: Grip

There are many important mechanical aspects to learning the drums, but none more important than learning proper grip of the sticks.  This will help prevent strain on your joints and ligaments, which could lead to injury (repetitive stress injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.).  You’ll also be able to develop clean technique, speed, and articulation by using gravity and the laws of physics to your advantage.

Once I began to pay more attention to my grip, I noticed 3 things happening immediately:

  1. No more pain and fatigue, both during and after live shows
  2. No more blisters on my hands and fingers from improperly gripping sticks
  3. My speed, fluidity, and articulation of notes improved dramatically.

**ADDED BONUS** – I didn’t break as many sticks due to not hitting properly.

Very quickly, let’s take a look at the anatomy of a drum stick. This image from DrumNuts help you understand the terminology I will use going forward.

There are 2 main types of grip: The traditional grip, and the matched grip.  Each have variations. For the purposes of this lesson, I’ll be talking about the matched grip.

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Ringo!

Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band

Earlier tonight, I had the distinct pleasure of catching Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band live at the Palace Theater in Albany, NY.

This year’s touring lineup featured Steve Lukather (Toto), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Gregg Rolie (Santana), Todd Rundgren and Gregg Bissonette on drums.

This was seriously one of the most fun shows I’ve been to in a long time. Each member has written and recorded so much great music, and I love the whole concept of the band: jamming around on each other’s hits and then passing the hat back to Ringo for some Beatles love and solo tunes.

Greg Rolie brought some great Santana vibes early into the set with tunes like Black Magic Woman and Oye Como Va.  Todd Rundgren played “Bang The Drum” (of course) and took the lead on a few other tunes that I wasn’t familiar with.

The standout moment came when Richard Page stepped up to belt out “Broken Wings” (Mr. Mister).  At 61 years old, this dude can still wail.  I was totally blown away, and the band nailed it as well.

Steve Lukather got the crowd on its feet with a little Toto (Hold The Line, Africa, Rosanna).  Aside from being a phenomenal guitarist, Lukather has some serious vocal chops.  I was glad to hear these tunes worked into the set.

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The Eddie Music Festival, Yamaha Drums, and Robin Williams

It’s great to be back! This summer has been a non-stop barrage of playing amazing shows, travel, and gearing up for a massive regional music festival.

The Eddie 2 Music Festival

The Eddie Music Fest is always a highlight of my summer, and this year’s fest was no different. Booking talent for an event of this size and scope always presents certain challenges and the occasional freak-out, stressed-out moment. Running the logistics pales in comparison to the feeling you get day-of-show when thousands of people descend on our little park in Upstate NY for a 12+ hour day packed with amazing musicians and high emotion.

I really, really enjoyed this year’s event. The entire team set the bar very high last year, and we all came back fired up and ready to make it even bigger and better this year. I think we achieved that.

Of course, the best part of the day is the music: 16 acts across 2 stages, over the course of 12 hours. Intense. What’s great for me, as a working musician, is being able to see all of my friends play a show together in one day. Normally we’re all gigging, and it’s rare that we can ever catch each other live. From a production standpoint, I couldn’t have been happier. The live sound on both stages was top notch. The lighting system brought in by Rob Breuer at Starving Artist Lighting was absolutely phenomenal.

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Hands-on Review: Tama Silverstar Cocktail Jam Drum Kit

I recently picked up a set of Tama’s new Cocktail Jam drums. After playing it for several weeks, including taking it out on a handful of live gigs, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and impressions about this fun little kit.

Tama markets the Cocktail Jam kit as “Ideal for hip-hop, jazz, intimate acoustic settings, or tight rehearsal rooms.”  The idea dates back to the cocktail kits of the 40’s and 50’s, which were used in situations where full-size drums weren’t practical. While having a smaller footprint, they still allowed for the dynamics and playability of a traditional trap kit – without being miked. We’ll decide later whether this also holds true for the Cocktail Jam kit.

About the Tama Cocktail Jam kit:

For starters, I chose the “Indigo Sparkle” wrap finish. It’s a high quality wrap, and really pretty.

The kit ships as a 4-piece, in one configuration, in the following sizes:

 5” x 12” mounted snare (6 ply)

5” x 10” rack tom (6 ply)

5.5” x 14” floor tom (6 ply)

6” x 16” bass drum (7 ply)

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Hands-on Review: Yamaha Live Custom (Oak) Drum Kit

Recently, I picked up a new Yamaha Live Custom drum kit. After spending some time with this kit at home and on the road, I wanted to share my thoughts with those of you who may be interested in trying one out for yourselves:

Here is a brief overview of the kit’s specs, per Yamaha:

  • All oak shells
  • Dark silver finished hardware
  • Y.E.S.S. Mount System
  • 1.2mm oak plies (10% thicker than those used on Oak Custom drums)
  • Absolute lugs
  • Die-cast bass drum hooks
  • Open-type floor tom brackets
  • 2.3mm Dyna triple-flanged hoops

My kit specs:

  • Bass drum: 16″ x 20″ (8 ply)
  • Snare: 5.5″ x 14″ (6 ply)
  • Rack tom: 8″ x 12″ (6 ply)
  • Floor tom: 13″ x 14″ (6 ply)

Finish: Emerald Shadow Sunburst

All drums feature 45 degree bearing edges.

First Impressions: 

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Live vs Studio Drum Heads and Tuning – Your Thoughts?

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with different drum heads and tunings. Just last week, I slapped some Remo clear Pinstripes on the toms of my Yamaha Oak Custom kit. Amazingly, I had never used these heads before. What a difference in sound the Pinstripes made, going from the coated CS dots I’d been using previously. Punch, warmth, controlled sustain – it was all there with the Pinstripes. No wonder they’re still considered a “classic” drum head!

I haven’t recorded these yet, but I plan on tracking them soon. In live situations, these heads have been working out really well – in fact, I may have found the best drum tone I’ve had in years.

Which begs the question: Do you use different drums heads in live vs. studio situations? If so, do you tune your drums differently in each scenario?

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Hands-on Review – Sweet Spots Drum Dampners

A few weeks ago, I had a chance conversation with Scott Watts, creator of Sweet Spots Drum Dampners. He so graciously agreed to send me some of his product to try out on my drum kits. I’ll cut to the chase and say this: Sweet Spots kick ass. They’re the only dampening product currently in my drum bag.

Hands-on

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the lightweight metal case that holds the Sweet Spots. It’s a much better design than some of the other gel products out there.

The case has a threaded top that opens easily, and the case itself holds the dampners without having to cram them in. There are 4 Sweet Spots per pack, and a pack sells for $5.99 + shipping. The whole deal is about the size of a container of lip balm. Keep a pack in your drum bag, one in your pocket, and you’re all set.

How do they stick? 

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Does a drum machine have a soul?

You’re midway through the second set of the night.

Your band just slayed the last tune, and you’re about to count in the next.

The sound man has everything dialed in perfectly. The bass is thumping. Your drums sound like the footsteps of God. 

Maybe this is your full-time project, or maybe it’s the trio you sit in with from time to time. Either way, you guys are killing it.

The lights are cued up, and you hear the hiss of the smoke machine from behind.

Here we go: “One, two, three, four…”

Can you picture it?

At the end of the set, the whole band feels electrified. That feeling of “electricity” is what happens when a group of people get together in a room and just wail. It’s the feeling of being completely in sync with other human beings. The guitar player takes a solo, and we follow. The bassist adds a syncopated lick that completely changes the groove, and we all go there.

It may only last for a few minutes at a time, but that’s as close to living entirely in the moment as most of us get.   

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