Newsletter Update 06.02.15

June 2, 2015 Atlanta, Georgia   Hi Everyone,   If you’re doing our 10 for 10 experiment, yesterday was your first day. How was the exercise? It can be challenging until you get used to it, but here’s more good news: the more you struggle with it, the more you’re getting out of it, especially when you’re starting out.   If it was really difficult, don’t worry. It gets easier. There are also some other methods to try: maybe a guided meditation will suit you better. In the past I’ve used an app called HeadSpace, and they have a version of 10 for 10 that’s free when you first join. I liked it very much, and found it very easy to stay on board with. Calm is another recommended app. Whichever method you use, try to take it day by day. Let me know how you’re doing!   Drummer Nerd Stuff: Warm-ups   Some folks have asked about what I’m practicing, and also for some warm-ups for working drummers, which I assume all of us are to varying degrees. As I get older, warming up before I play has become more and more critical. My hands ache and sprout calluses when I don’t, and when I do, I play better, my stamina doubles, and I don’t need a full day to recover from a long show.   To begin, a little context: when I was coming up I was a self-taught drummer, so I missed a lot of early practice and instruction in rudimental technique. These days I kind of obsess over it, and every time I hit a...

Meditation 411

May 26, 2015 Atlanta, Georgia, USA   In this series, Getting What You Want: Directing The Mind To Desired Ends, we will examine applying meditation techniques to train the mind and get better results. For this discussion to make sense, there should be a number of assumptions at the outset:   Our mental and emotional states affect our playing deeply. It is possible, with practice, to direct our mental and emotional states. Rules that apply to physical technique can be used for mental and emotional technique too. These rules can often appear illogical, contradictory, or counterintuitive. In each case, there will be ample anecdotal evidence that said technique does actually work.   What IS Meditation?   What, exactly, is meditation? Well, one could define it as the progressive refinement of conscious awareness. Its’ progression moves from merely calming the mind to improving focus, eventually developing one-pointed concentration, and ultimately, a state of such stillness, clarity, and bliss that it is sometimes called Nirvana. It is reportedly a state in which the meditator fully realizes the interconnectedness of all things.   While these lofty goals require a prodigious amount of effort and discipline, even the beginning stages of meditation practice can yield beneficial results you can use, and that’s what we’ll focus on here. Not to mention, let’s face it, my meditation practice is by these standards quite un-advanced, and some of these advanced practices I’m just not qualified to discuss (or instruct).   Where to start?   Okay, this I can help with. As we do this, remember: just as many techniques in drumming require slow diligent practice for...

Syncopation Variations Part 1

When I first got serious about playing drums, I began lessons with a wonderful teacher named Jeff Wilkinson in Atlanta, Georgia in about 1990. I guess Jeff noticed I could read some already, and I was getting interested in jazz, so he got me started with a series of exercises using Ted Reed’s Syncopation, a classic 4/4 reading text. This book has many virtues, and it and similar texts (Louie Bellson’s Modern Reading Text is another example) are great for helping to get a feel for offbeat rhythms, as well as a tool for developing the ability to read ensemble figures and reading in general. I highly recommend checking it out.   Although I recommend the entire book for study, the following exercises use Syncopation Sets 1-8, which are 40-bar pieces that begin on page 37 (depending on which edition you have). The exercises below also help to begin to develop vocabulary ideas, using simple melodies, and melodies that use various techniques to embellish them. We’ll start simple, and expand into deeper and more technical applications as we go along.   If you find the exercise you’re working on is just too difficult to start with Set 1, you can always start by reading the figures from earlier in the book. On occasion, I’ve gone back to the first pages to get a grip on something particularly difficult. The book progresses very logically and methodically; in no time you’ll have a better grasp and will be able to proceed.   Jeff is a big fan of slow practice and repetition; we’d start these exercises at around 70 bpm (for...

The Gift of Bhakti

In the time I’ve practiced yoga, I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to many unexpected things. Strangely enough, the most unexpected was a glimpse of my own divine nature. I think somewhere I did expect to uncover and face my demons, as it were, but what I did not expect was to discover evidence that I am, at my core, a holy and divine being. While I’d always heard this was true of each of us, the thought of a direct personal experience of this fact never occurred to me. The realization of this truth, like many of the most powerful truths of my life, dawned on me slowly, over time, as the sheer weight of experience powerfully confirmed this truth again and again. Although this was largely due to the grace and hard work of my teachers, I did, despite my efforts to the contrary, learn to use some of the tools they’d taught me. They’ve been so useful and effective; it would be much more accurate to describe them as wonderful gifts. One of the most effective of these gifts was bhakti — the path of love and devotion. I realize that to some, describing “love and devotion” as tools or gifts to be used for one’s personal benefit may sound vague (or even callous). How does one “use” love and devotion? In that context, it does sound rather self-serving, and maybe it is, but not in the way you’d expect. Let me explain. In yoga, there are many paths. Each of these has a primary focus, or method, of reaching the goal of yoga; the union,...