Re: Donny Gruendler here!
Hello Jason (and all DW forum members),
This is a great question. Many of my students at PIT have difficulty learning a new piece of unfamiliar material from “scratch”. My answer may be too in depth; but I would rather be thorough for everyone.
Here it goes:
First off, I would examine the new rudiment’s rhythmic subdivision. Is it 16th notes? 8th notes? 8th note triplets or sextuplets? For the sake of this response, let’s say that this new rudiment is straight 16th notes. Wit this in mind, I will set my click track to play every 16th note subdivision.
Rhythm – play it slow to understand it properly
Secondly, I will practice this new rudiments rhythm at a very slow tempo. (Around 50-55 bpm’s with the click every 16th subdivision.) This will help me to understand the rudiments “skeleton” and shape. I will strive to line up every note of this rudiment with the click’s 16th notes. This will help with the spacing of each note, as well as my time in general. Remember, if I do not understand the rhythm – then I cannot play the pattern properly or musically. Thus, slow and steady is the key (I can always bump up the tempo later).
Motion: Preparation strokes
Once I have the previous two concepts under my belt, it would be time to examine if my motions look/feel comfortable. Are there any “preparation strokes” that will help me to play this more fluidly? (Upstrokes, down strokes and the like..) If so, I will add them now. At this point, I can now examine my body’s movement as well. Do I feel comfortable? Am I tensing up? If so, I will do my best to relax. I may stay at this practice point for a while...
Combine all the previous steps: add orchestrations
Once I have isolated all these items and they feel comfortable – I will put them together. Now, I will develop a few orchestrations around the kit (again, at a slow tempo). These could be as follows:
1. Right Hand accents on the floor tom and Left Hand accents on the high tom. (Unaccented notes on the snare)
2. Use the same formula as number 1; but put the accents on the bass drum and crash cymbals.
3. Combine both numbers 1 and 2 into your own voicing.
4. Now, use them in a musical context: Play 3 bars of time and on the fourth bar – play this new rudiment. Thus, you are now playing a four bar phrase.
1. Play the Hihat, BD and Snare in a normal time keeping fashion. Right hand accents would be on the HH (RH) and Bass Drum. Left hand accents would be on the snare. This would most likely sound like a Gadd rudimental groove or linear pattern. (Depending on the rudiment itself).
2. Again, put it into a musical phrase: 3 bars of normal groove time and then insert this orchestration on the fourth bar. (Another 4 bar phrase)
3. Musical Phrase 2: Play the Groove from time idea number 1 for three bars and insert a fill on the fourth bar.
At this stage, the sky is the limit. Try your best to combine all the previous ideas into your own musical licks and phrases.
** Throughout these orchestrations and as I get more comfortable with these patterns -- I would gradually increase the tempo. In addition, I would also subtract subdivisions from the click — to eventually end up with quarter notes (on the click). For example: Start w/ 16ths, put it on 8ths for a while – then quarter notes.
Throughout this lengthy process – it is important to enjoy yourself and think musically.
If anyone has questions – please feel free to write/e mail anytime.