Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I'm recomending the book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain to everyone who loves music and brains. This is the latest work by neurologist Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and An Anthropologist on Mars. In Musicophilia, Dr. Sacks explores the strange way that music works in the human brain and what happens when things go wrong. It opens with the story of a man who was struck by lightning and suddenly developed an uncontrolable interest in music, to the extent that he ended up becoming a composer. Sacks discusses patients who's epileptic seizures are triggered by music in bizarre ways, patients with musicophobia, and people who suffer with amazing musical hallucinations. One individual who loved atonal music was actually plagued by musical hallucinations that he found particularly irritating because of their tonal harmony. This is a fascinating book.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Am I Schizophrenic?

I'm starting to wonder about myself. I've been spending a lot of time on and I've made some interesting discoveries about myself. The first station I set up was Progday Afternoon, comprising things like King Crimson, Gentle Giant, and Frank Zappa. The second station I set up is called Michael Nymanish, after the minimalist English soundtrack composer Michael Nyman (this station has a lot of small string/piano/chamber ensamble music with New Age leanings). The third station I set up is called Gordon Lightfootish, and it comprises music by whimpy, sentamental guys singers like Gordon Lightfoot, John Mayor, David Byrne, Cat Stevens, and James Taylor. The last station I created is called Cookie Monster Metal and it consists of speed metal with uninteligable lyrics (vocals that sound a lot like Cookie Monster from Sesame Street) but with AMAZING instrumental dexterity (the stand out band so far is Necrophagist - WOW!)

As I bounce from station to station, I find that I'm equally pleased with each genre, yet I don't want to listen to any of them exclusively. Each is providing me with something I crave: musical exploration, virtuoso chops, lyrical experimentation, folk sentimentality, Baroque harmony, Classical arangement, meloncholy, angst, symphonic stylings, hard rock aggression - some of it with technically amazing drumming.

Somehow, I want to combine all of these elements into one composite unite. Somehow.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Yet Another Web Link!

Okay, I know I've been attaching quite a few links of late but hey, they're cool. My latest is a site I just found out about called It's a web radio station that claims to have developed a "music genome project". In other words they've thought of every conceivable way to categorize, describe, and cross reference the elements of as many genres as they could come up with. When you, the user, create a "radio station", you enter the names of some artists/songs that you like. Pandora reads it's musical genetic code, cross references it's data base, and starts feeding you what you asked for and anything it thinks came from the same gene pool. The music appears to be culled from the storehouses of and Itunes, as it gives you the option to purchase from those sources. The songs are presented in their entirety and you can give them a thumbs up or down to keep them in rotation or give them the axe. The program only allows you to skip a certain number of songs per hour. Presumably, this is due to a contractual obligation with the music resources guaranteeing that a certain number of selections will be played in full.

At any rate, it works well and it's great to hear new music in a style you like without trying to guess from 30 second snippets on Amazon/Itunes. I created a radio station called "Progday Afternoon" and entered a list of prog artists I like. The program started feeding me prog I've never heard of and it did a pretty good job of matching my taste. The more I added and the more I nixed, the closer the selection got to actually capturing my preference. Aint modern technology wunnerful? Soon, in the words of the inimitable poet Richard Brautigan, we will be "all watched over by machines of loving grace".

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Work Distraction Device

Wow, I just found a fabulous new way to waste time at work! (like I really needed another one, eh?) It's a free online metronome. Just set it to 120bpm and play speed metal sextuplets with your feet to really drive the guy in the next cube crazy. Actually I like to tap my foot to it, turn the sound down, wait a bit, then bring the volume up again to see if I've drifted. I also tap tuplets against it. I like to try tapping my phone number as a string of tuplets... 737-4693 (that's not really my phone number, I actually have at least one quintuplet in my phone number). Anyway, handy thing. Here's a link.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Prog Is Not All (all is not prog)

Okay, I just want to set the record straight on one thing. I have been accused in the past of only liking really complex music. This accusation is completely unwaranted. While I do spend much of my time blabbing about complicated meter changes, counterpoint, polyrhythms, and such, I actually enjoy a lot of simple music. For instance I love the music of John Fogerty, David Byrne, Gordon Lightfoot, and Johnny Cash. Music doesn't have to be complicated for me to enjoy it. In fact there is plenty of complicated music that I'm not even interested in and there are virtuosi that I think are incredibly boring. Music just has to work for me. It has to appeal to something that I'm interested in. That may be complexity, but it may just as easily be nostalgia, humor, politics, surrealism, or any number of other things that appeal to me.

Slick Stick Trick

I discovered a new section on called "clinics". It contains a ton of instructional video clips. While I was surfing through them, I found this stick trick that made me chuckle. It's not that difficult and it's fun to do. As Jeff Queen says, it gets a great reaction.

Jeff Queen stick trick

I will say, it's easier if your drum is level, like he has in the video. If you're snare is tipped at all it becomes much more difficult. It works really well on a closed hi-hat and people can see it better.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Eulogy for Doug

Wow life is strange. Just last week I wrote about a guy who turned me on to fusion (see Prog Improv). His name was Doug Dinehdeal. After writing that post I decided to search his name on line and I found an MP3 crediting him as the guitarist. The composer's name is Jeff Jones. I contacted Jeff to see if he could put me in touch with Doug. Sadly, Jeff told me that Doug Dinehdeal died of cancer around five years ago.

Let me tell you about my experience with Doug. I was 17 and totally in to Prog. I met Doug in Mr. Trohan's high school vocational printing class. I remember Doug was a big guy compared to me. He was the first Native American I ever met and, although I was initimidated at first, I now know that he was one of the kindest and most encouraging people I have ever known. I also thought he was the coolest guy on the planet. We talked, he found out I played drums and he told me to come jam with him and his friends. That was a life changing experience. They turned me on to fusion and, even though I was totally unfamilliar with jazz, they didn't care. Doug and his friends told me to just play the way I play and not to worry about trying to be please anyone. Just be myself. I was so self conscious about everything at that time, but Doug was able to put me at ease.

I remember he played a Gibson SG (just like Frank Zappa). He had replaced the long skinny whammy bar with the short male section of a gate latch. You know what I'm talking about. It's about 3 or 4 inches long and it has a knob on the end. It's attached to the gate and it slips into a clamp when you close the gate. I thought that was very bizzare.

Doug came over to my house a couple of times to jam and then he asked me to come record something with him and some other musicians. That was my first experience in a recording studio. The composition was Doug's. He called it "Excess Mellow" and I still have a recording of it. The musicians were Doug Dinehdeal on guitar, Dale Mast on guitar, Allan Anderson on Bass, and me on drums. Doug actually had me play my first drum solo on it.

How can I thank this guy? He brought me out of my self conscious shell. He turned me on to fusion jazz. He encouraged me to play like me. He gave me my first recording experience. He gave me my first drum solo. And he was just a great guy to hang out with!

Doug, wherever you are, may God bless you and give you peace and may he enjoy forever your talent, your spirit, and the music he put in you.

Thanks my brother, I will never forget you.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Section Leader

One of my percussion students was just made Section Leader in her junior high symphonic band. In addition to playing piano, drums, and directing the school jazz band, Ashely will be playing piano and percussion in the concert band and now directing the batterie in the symphonic band. Wow, that's enough to make a teacher extremely proud. Hooray for Ashley.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Prog Improv

As a kid taking drum lessons, I didn't know what kind of music I liked. I was just interested in music and I wanted to play. After taking drum lessons at a local music shop for some time I started to get really bored. I was playing endless exercises but no music. The drum teacher never encouraged me to play in school band and it wouldn't have mattered anyway because I went to a parochial school with no fine arts program at all. I don't know why, but one day out of sheer boredom, I put on a pair of headphones and tried to play along with some music on the radio. I didn't try to play exactly what I was hearing I just tried to play along using ideas from my exercises that seemed to fit. I know that one of the first songs I tried this with was Dreamweaver by Gary Wright, so I guess that was 1975, and I was 12.

About this time my older brother started bringing home more and more albums, most of them Prog. I would play my drum lessons, then put my headphones on and play to Prog records and FM radio for hours. I know that a lot of what I was hearing was way over my head, but that didn’t matter, I just kept trying different things, different exercises, playing what I thought I was hearing, trying something else, making things fit, and so on. Then I would take the headphones off and keep playing. I would play the grooves, create fills, string fills together, incorporate my drum lessons and try to see how long I could keep it going. Little did I know that I was teaching myself how to improvise. This became my routine for several years. Then one day I met up with some guys from another high school and they invited me to come jam with them. These guys were into music I had never heard of, something called fusion. I was completely unfamiliar with that style. They told me not to worry and just play the way I play. So I did and they loved it.

I think that the ability to improvise is one of the greatest skills I’ve ever acquired. The ability to improvise gives me the freedom to let creativity flow. When you can improvise, the instrument has become your voice. But even more than that, Improvisation keeps art (and much more) from becoming static.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Prog drumming on Myspace you might wanna hear

Ahh Myspace. Anybody anywhere can post anything. I constantly blab with musician's from all around the globe, both signed and self produced. Guys I never would have heard any other way. On several occasions, I've been able to swap demo CDs with them and I've ended up with some fantastic music. Here are some Prog bands that I really enjoy the drumming on:

Octopus - from Santiago, Chile
Behold... The Arctopus - from Brooklyn
Antimateria - from San Jose, Costa Rica
Psicotropia - from Madrid, Spain
Magic Elf - from New York

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Polyrhythms In Prog

I was recently viewing a discussion of polyrhthms on a popular Prog forum. One thing I noticed was a lack of consideration that there is more than one concept that goes by that name. One concept of polyrhythm consists of the sounding of two seperate time signitures simultaneously, i.e 5/4 and 4/4. In this example, after five measures of 4/4 and four measures of 5/4 both meters will land together on "one". Many examples of this in Prog music were cited, including songs by King Crimson, Tool, and Meshugga. I love this stuff and it can get really crazy. The measures don't have to be based on the quarter note either. You could just as easily play 13/16 against 7/8, the principle is the same.

The other polyrhythm concept that was not really discussed is the idea of the "tuplet", i.e. triplet, quintuplet, sextuplet, septuplet, etc. This is the case where an odd number of notes is evenly distributed across an evenly divided number of beats, or vice versa. An example is a measure of 2/4 time comprising an even division of two quarter per measure. If I evenly distribute three quarter notes across the measure I have a triplet, or a 3:2 polyrhythm. The trick is to play the triplet and the duplet simultaneously. This is not so dificult with simple polyrhythms like 3:2, 5:2, 5:3, etc, especially if the occurance of the polyrhythm is isolated. You just find that the larger number is played slightly faster than the smaller number. This becomes much more dificult when you have multiple tuplets of varying degrees ocurring in rapid succession. This is the case with Frank Zappa's The Black Page, (a prog masterpiece).

The Black Page is actually in 4/4 time, however each measure is incredibly syncopated, and the piece is full of polyrhythms that are constantly changing and ocurring in rapid succession. For instance, in measure two there are 16th note triplets on the first half of beats one and two, followed by an eighth note quintuplet across beats 3 and 4. At measure four, beat one is 32nd notes, beat two is a 16th note triplet and 32nd note quintuplet, and beats three and four are both septuplet figures. Beats three and four of measure five are subdivided into a quarter note triplet, however beat one of the triplet is further subdivided into a quintuplet, beat two is a quintuplet, and beat three is a sextuplet. This figure occurs four times in the score. Here is a link to a video of Terry Bozzio playing The Black Page:
The Black Page

The video Terry Bozzio And Chad Wackerman: Solos And Duets features the two drummers performing The Black Page drum solo simultaneaously. They run the score measure by measure underneath the performance, so with some manuscript paper and the pause button on my handy remote, I was able to write out the whole score.

Here is a link to a brilliant article by Steve Vai on the subject of ployrhythms:
Tempo Mental

Further reading
wiki on polyrhythm

Why a Prog Drum Blog

I'm a drummer and I love Progressive Rock. I've looked around on the net and found great sites about drumming, like the Percussive Arts Society and , not to mention many great artist sites. I've also found great sites dedicated to Prog Rock like and (maybe I will compile a list) . I thought it would be great to have a site that's just about the drums and the genre, a place where I can blab about technique and concepts, listening, new bands, old bands, CD's, DVD's, concerts, and interesting sites, but with a definite focus on the drumming. Also, a place where others can share things with me.

As much as I can, I would like to talk about specifics of playing and musical concepts. For instance, the use of polyrhythms, ostinati, counterpoint, roll techniques, hand/foot combinations, linear playing, four limb independence, and so forth. If anyone has a question or a topic to suggest, I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Marco Minnemann with UKZ

Okay, I just heard about this one. Eddie Jobson (ex Zappa violinist and founder of the Prog Rock super group UK) has formed a new band, UKZ, featuring Marco Minnemann on drums. As if that weren't enough, he's got Alex Machacek on guitar, and Trey Gunn on Warr guitar.

So let's see.... Marco is one of my favorite drummers, I play Chapman Stick and I think Trey is one of the coolest touchstyle players on the planet, Alex plays on one of my favorite Terry Bozzio DVDs, and I grew up with Jobson. I saw Eddie Jobson with Frank Zappa and I saw him open up for Jethro Tull (with Terry Bozzio on drums).

That said, I am going to do everything within my power as a human being to see them play live.
UKZ official site