How does one “study” a drummer?

Joffry

Well-known member
I’m particularly referring to higher level drumming that tends to be improvisational. The recording that made me want to ask this question was an old video of Vinnie playing with Chick Corea at the blue note:

How does one even begin to study this type of playing? A lot of great drummers have stressed the importance of learning from those who did it before, but to be honest, it’s much easier to analyze the playing of art blakey or philly joe Jones than it is to analyze the playing of people like Vinnie.

I can (and do) often study the comping style and soloing of Philly Joe Jones, but how would I approach doing that with some of these more recent drummers that seem almost out of reach to me?
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
There are some topics that are just too big and complicated to DIY through. You need the advice of someone more knowledgeable than yourself. You need a teacher.

You’ve chosen, as an example, some of the world’s most complex drumming, playing the music of a genius composer and improviser. You’re not gonna YouTube cheat code your way through this one.
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Vinnie's playing to me is very compositional. He's not playing to a click. He's implying the pulse by playing figures against melodies. He's thinking 4 bars ahead and he's playing with some math. I don't think you can sound like him unless you learn to read, and like Seafroggys said, transcribing his work.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
In this case I'd be listening to other Chick records since the 70s, especially the ones with Steve Gadd-- everything he's playing here follows from Gadd-- and Tony Williams and Elvin Jones before him. Start with Three Quartets. Maybe also compare with the records with Dave Weckl-- any Akoustic Band records.

And listen to some other things in the same kind of a heavy vein-- Michael Brecker's first solo record, Tony Williams' Emergency, Miles Smiles, Miroslav Vitous's Infinite Search, McCoy Tyner's Trident. Basically listen to a lot of records until you start hearing the similarity and difference between things.

You also have to be learning just what they're doing notes-wise-- just to have an idea of what you’re hearing— all of those players are using a similar body of stuff to do this. Hint, a lot of it can be developed using Syncopation, and is hard to work up any other way. At least I'm not aware of a specific method for it. This is jazz, but you don't just work through Chapin and start doing it. You don't necessarily have to transcribe to learn what they're doing, because a lot of it is duplicated or approximated with the more modern Reed methods.
 
Last edited:

Joffry

Well-known member
In this case I'd be listening to other Chick records since the 70s, especially the ones with Steve Gadd-- everything he's playing here follows from Gadd-- and Tony Williams and Elvin Jones before him. Start with Three Quartets. Maybe also compare with the records with Dave Weckl-- any Akoustic Band records.

And listen to some other things in the same kind of a heavy vein-- Michael Brecker's first solo record, Tony Williams' Emergency, Miles Smiles, Miroslav Vitous's Infinite Search, McCoy Tyner's Trident. Basically listen to a lot of records until you start hearing the similarity and difference between things.

You also have to be learning just what they're doing notes-wise-- just to have an idea of what you’re hearing— all of those players are using a similar body of stuff to do this. Hint, a lot of it can be developed using Syncopation, and is hard to work up any other way. At least I'm not aware of a specific method for it. This is jazz, but you don't just work through Chapin and start doing it. You don't necessarily have to transcribe to learn what they're doing, because a lot of it is duplicated or approximated with the more modern Reed methods.
Currently I’m going through Alan Dawson’s different ways of practicing syncopation. Sometimes I definitely hear myself playing Tony Williams-esque comping when I practice those exercises (albeit at a slower tempo than him haha). I guess I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing then. It obviously takes time to develop this type of stuff.
 

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
You can study a drummer in different ways. I went through a big Vinnie period... a BIG Vinnie period. I sought out every clinic he'd done that had been recorded (audio or video), I sought out every record he'd played on, every video he appears in, every article he'd written... you get the idea. Anything to get an insight into his thoughts, his playing, his approach.

As others said, I transcribed some of his playing, I tried to copy it, I tried to work out the underlying principles, I listened to and watched him a LOT. It was a bit of an obsession. Made me a better player though. Opened the door to whole a new world of drumming.
 

Old PIT Guy

Well-known member
With someone like Colaiuta it's also a case of an enormous catalog of experience and playing time with top shelf musicians, and you can't account for that in any other way than doing it yourself. You can cop his stuff, you may even conceptually cop some of the intent, but you can't crawl inside his head and benefit from the thousands upon thousands of hours interacting and creating music with other extremely talented musicians for going on 50 years.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
How? You drill into the piece and ferret out every single note, transcribe it, then begin playing it slowly at first, eventually building up speed.

This dude Austin has an excellent channel:

 

BertTheDrummer

Gold Member
Transcribe, transcribe, transcribe

Play your transcriptions of them

Rinse and repeat
This... it starts with figuring out what is being played, then how it is being played.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Dave Weckl has said of Buddy Rich (his primary influence) that even though he's been "studying" Rich's drumming for many years, he still doesn't know what Buddy is doing fifty percent of the time. Drumming, like all musical activities, is loaded with intangibles. Some players bring more intangibles to the kit than others. Rather than get bogged down in the elusive tenets of a given drummer's style, I prefer to take in music as a whole, determining how I can apply my own intangibles to it, not someone else's. My instructor used to say, "Play like yourself, and you'll always be at your best." That philosophy has guided my approach throughout my drumming journey.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Currently I’m going through Alan Dawson’s different ways of practicing syncopation. Sometimes I definitely hear myself playing Tony Williams-esque comping when I practice those exercises (albeit at a slower tempo than him haha). I guess I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing then. It obviously takes time to develop this type of stuff.
Those are the ones-- any of them that take you to a broken time concept. There should be a couple of RH lead things where you play the book rhythm with the RH, with bass drum in unison, and fill in 8ths or triplets with the left. That's what Vinnie's doing with that textural stuff around 2:50. The one he calls "Ruff Bossa" should also be good.

You can look through my methods for Reed, and some of the things I wrote for use with Stick Control. Bob Moses's Drum Wisdom, where he talks about "non-independent" drumming, or "dependent" or whatever, is also helpful.

But a lot of what Vinnie's doing is also normal jazz stuff-- he's just doing it loud, on a fusion drum set, and hitting a lot of accents on the bass drum.

Definitely listen to the original recording of this tune-- that gives you a lot cleaner look at what's happening here. Vinnie's almost playing that like style.


By the way, I'm talking about Vinnie's playing with the group, not his soloing on this.
 
Last edited:

Joffry

Well-known member
By the way, I'm talking about Vinnie's playing with the group, not his soloing on this.
Oh yeah, me too. Actually the part where he begins trading solos with Chick is pretty straightforward, I’m definitely more interested in his comping style throughout the song. Thanks for the suggestions, I’m definitely going to check out your methods. I didn’t realize you were the cruiseshipdrummer. Love your blog.
 
Listen, watch, transcribe, emulate. It really is kind of as simple as that. The process just takes longer with some drummers than with others. It's probably worth doing that process with some more "straight-forward" players before going for someone like Vinnie. Or try starting with some of Vinnie's more straight-forward playing, such as his work with Sting - it's still exquisite quality playing with many of Vinnie's trademarks but a bit more digestible.
 

Sebenza

Member
In this case I'd be listening to other Chick records since the 70s, especially the ones with Steve Gadd-- everything he's playing here follows from Gadd-- and Tony Williams and Elvin Jones before him. Start with Three Quartets. Maybe also compare with the records with Dave Weckl-- any Akoustic Band records.
I hear Gadd playing a lot of Tony stuff on the first tune of this album, specifically the ride phrasing and where he places his accents/kicks. I can recognize a lot of that same phrasing and accent placement in Vinnie's playing in the op's original Chick video. Vinnie fills up a lot more of the spaces in between than Gadd, but the overall flow is very much like Tony in my humble opinion.
 

s1212z

Well-known member
The biggest influence I hear this particular performance is actually Weckl, which is not terribly surprising as the Akoustic Band was quite popular and no doubt Vinnie probably listen/charted to prepare here. There are definitely many Weckl licks pulled through a Vinnie lens along w/ Tony-isms: alot more singles, over the bar chances, more aggressive dynamics. Both Vinnie and Weckl know Gadd's vocabulary very well so there is that commonality in the context w/ Chick.
 

pgm554

Platinum Member
Steve Smith put it succinctly,when you can play what you hear,you know you're there as a musician.
Stealing his licks and ideas is like cooking with prepackaged spices,good as a base ,but you'll never be a great chef by imitating,only by creating.
 
Last edited:

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Learn as much of their stuff as you possibly can. Pretty much the same way you study any subject.
 
Top