1994 Joey Baron master class


Platinum Member
I just rediscovered a piece of internet lore I read years ago, which turned about to be a big influence on me- a student transcript of a master class Joey Baron gave at the New School in 1994. The original transcript is pretty unreadable, so I've edited it for clarity.

He tells about playing with Naked City, and about his own development, and there's a ton of great information about being a drummer, artist, and professional. I strongly suggest reading the whole thing:

Part 1 - Paying Your Rent Is High Art
Part 2 - Nothing But Complete Feedback And Noise
Part 3 - I Forced Myself To Kick My Own Butt
Part 4 - I Didn't Go To Music School, I Went To Berklee
Last Part - Make Music With Whatever You've Got

Here are a few excerpts most relevant to Drummerworld:

On chops:
I think too many of us develop so much here [hands] or whatever [legs/feet]- develop an amazing amount of ability, technically, and it's like, "what are you gonna do with it?" When you have it you can't help but to use it. I'm not saying, don't go for it, don't try to get it, but if you don't balance that- if all you do is work on your chops, and you're not listening to how that could be applied, you're gonna end up pretty lonely. It's lonely doing this stuff for real anyhow, but it's really lonely if you're not balancing your diet of technique-oriented stuff with just sitting down and listening to a piece of music seriously.
On practicing:
At one point I practiced like 8 to 10, 12 hours a day, and I'd have a routine, like first 3 hours I'll practice just warm-up stuff, then I would play along with records, just stack a bunch of records and play along for an hour/couple of hours/something, take a break. As I got older I didn't have that kind of time to practice, so I did everything I'm sure that all of you do, go in to the practice room and waste a lot of time. Noodle around and think you're like setting the world of fire, and you hear a tape back ten years later, and you puke.

I would just work on sightreading sometimes. I would take a piece of music I'd never seen and just try and read the rhythms. It could be out of a fake book, or whatever. And just play through it once, and that's it; the point being not to stop, not to make it better, just to play like for real, like if I was playing a classical piece, just trying to read through a snare drum etude, no matter how many mistakes, from start to finish. That's how to work on sight-reading. And you do that every day, just for ten minutes, you're gonna see an improvement in that skill. That's anything, any area you work on. So how I practice, I go through a phase where I really want to practice riding on a cymbal, and I'd just do that for a half hour, something, work on technique a little bit.
On gigging:
I went back home (after Berklee), and I played with an 80 year old piano player, playing honky-tonk piano, fashion shows where all they wanted was a drummer, playing a beat so they could walk down, doing sound effects sometimes for shows, little neighborhood shows, I'm not talking bigtime, but any kind of experience you can get, take it, because that's what you use, it's like you get this stuff and put it in your back pocket and you keep drawing on it. Any different kind of music you have an opportunity to play, don't worry if you don't know everything about that music, just play it, you'll learn! You won't learn any faster if you just sit at home with the best video or the best book, it's not gonna do you anything compared to getting out there and playing in a situation. And I'm not talking big name, I'm not talking record contract. I'm talking about whatever is front of you, and a lot of people think that I just started playing in concerts and, that's not true, I've done, I can't tell you how many birthday parties I've played, how many jobs I've played where it's nothing to do with art, self-expression, it's a job, you have to learn certain skills, you learn how to follow a leader, you learn how to keep people dancing if that's what your job is. And all that-- I mean, I still use all that stuff today. Things that I learned from records when I first started playing, I still use. I don't throw out anything for the sake of something new, because there's no point, you can use it all.
On comping/soloing:
I do try to keep that in mind- like different soloists- to make a difference, to make it not different just for the sake of being different, but it's hard when it just keeps going and you might be playing a lot of stuff, but after a while it becomes like a monotone thing: it all cancels out, and you might as well be listening to a hum of feedback or something. So, I think that's really important for drummers but other instruments too: if you're comping or if you're soloing. Soloists, it's real important just to breathe. [W]hat you ain't playing is... as important as what you are playing. The space that you leave can really accentuate the one note that you play. If you're filling every space up in a measure, you might be playing amazing things but it's not gonna sound like it, it's not gonna project- it's not even gonna project to the other people that you're playing with.
On getting the band to listen:
Um, drown them out? No, well, you can't make somebody listen. You can try to hint, you can do things like with the dynamics- seriously, you could drown them out- you could lay out, you could do something with the time, like take it into a different feel, you could jump up and down and make funny noises- I've kind of tried all of those and they all work. It just depends on the context, who you're playing with. But you can't make someone else do something, but you can try, and those are ways. If you're playing in a funk groove and it's a constant backbeat going on, and the soloist is going on and on and on and on and on and just you feel like, wait a minute it's like this is turning into like, they should get a rhythm machine or a sequencer, instead of...

You can do things like: don't affect the intensity of the groove but just don't do a backbeat, like in hiphop stuff- or in the stuff that's all about mixing- a lot of times, they'll just mix out the backbeat with the rest of the track is going on. That's a big change, if you're not listening. I mean you'd have to be deaf not to notice that kind of stuff. In a more subtle situation, like if you're playing jazz or more softer type of music, you know just change the texture. If you've been playing on the ride cymbal for a while, play on a closed tight sound, change up the sound, do something to kind of wake people up or something?
Music school vs. music world:
It's difficult. Most of my experience is like out in the field... maybe i should give you a little bit of background. I'm 38 years old. I've been playing since i was 9 and travelling, starting on weekends when I was a kid travelling since i was about 10 and a half. So my expertise is kind of like out there in the field, so any questions you have about that kind of stuff- I'll do my best to answer and... to answer your point: it is really hard, to get out of school and out of the academic world. It's a whole other thing, surviving, and paying your rent... if your can pay your rent, that's being a success, forget about Downbeat awards and all that stuff, paying your rent, that's like high art.

It's difficult and everybody has their own way of making things work. I have some really good friends who came into music through a different angle than i did. Most of my experience has been as a player, doing apprenticeships, and as sideman with a lot of different kinds of musicians. I have friends like John Zorn, who's mainly a composer- that's his main thing he's been doing since he was a child. And he had his own way of making music and he just stuck to that and in terms of surviving, he did day jobs, worked at record stores, he helped assist people in the theater, you know, and he kept his overhead low. He didn't live in a big fancy place or anything like that. A lot of people do that, other people do a lot of commercial work, they end up doing club dates or if they're lucky enough to do recording work or jingles. It's as many different people as there are that's as many different stories as there are, as to how people pull it together.
About Elvin Jones:
One of the things that I got from dealing with him was just how totally aware he is of everything that's going on, every move, every subtle thing. You might watch him play sometimes, and you might get a different impression, you might think he's- whatever. I don't know what- I don't know what you think, but I know sometimes I've seen him- like in the 70's, and I would think oh man, he's totally out there, you know, he's tot-- that's not true, he's so finely tuned, it's like the finest piece of machinery you could ever imagine, really fine, he's got that sense. And when you develop that yourself, that's really a great place to aim for, just being totally aware of what's going on...

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
You mean it's not about Downbeat awards? That's just crazy talk ;)
Thanks for bringing another master's words to light! Too bad everybody seems to have to re-learn what's already out there, though!


Platinum Member
Glad that helps- a few bits of this have been lurking at the back of my mind for years. Coming back to it, there's so much more valuable stuff than I remembered.