What I Learned From Roy Burns 40-Years Ago

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
What I Learned From Roy Burns 40-Years Ago
by Scott K Fish: Life Beyond the Cymbals

When I went to Roy Burns's early 1970's drum clinic in Moline, Illinois, I don't think I had ever heard him play - not even on record. I knew of Roy from Rogers drum ads in Down Beat magazine. And I owned Roy's Drum Set Artistry album - but I don't remember if I bought it before or after the Moline clinic. It's likely I bought the album after studying a Down Beat transcription of Roy's "Red Phantom Rides Again" drum solo on that album.

Anyway, it was a worthwhile clinic. Here, some 40-years later, are my four take aways from the Burns clinic:

Roy told the clinic goers about a clinic he gave in another state. Roy was at the music shop early and struck up a conversation with a young drummer. Roy asked if the drummer was attending that day's drum clinic? "No," said the young drummer, "Roy Burns can't play." "Have you ever heard him play?" asked Roy. "No," said the young drummer. "Well," Burns replied calmly, "I'm Roy Burns. And if you don't like my playing - fair enough. But maybe you could at least hear me play before you make that decision."

At the Moline clinic, Roy was demonstrating drum rudiments on a snare drum. He said the two rudiments drummers practiced least were the single-stroke roll and the double-stroke roll. That made no sense, said Roy, because all of the rudiments were a combination of the single- and double-stroke rolls.

Burns was also asked by a clinic goer if he recommended practicing with heavy drumsticks. Roy said, "No. Do trumpet players practice with rags stuffed in the bell of their trumpets, so it will be easier to blow through them on the gig?"

Thank you, Roy.



Platinum Member
Thanks for sharing this.

Roy Burns is a criminally underrated drummer; personally and professionally. I don't think he get's nearly the attention he deserves.

I have had the pleasure of speaking with him a couple times when I had questions about Aquarian heads. He could not have been more classy and patient with me.

As for the singles and doubles comment, that is absolutely true. That definitely shows in the exercises in Roy's recently released books. I've been working on them for the past couple of weeks and I've seen improvement in both left and right hand control.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I had the pleasure of seeing Roy Burns in 1979-80 when he was working at a local music store near me in West Covina, CA. And I knew he could play, I just hadn't known how well until I was sitting dead center about four feet in front of him. It was an awesome experience. He rates high in my book. Oddly enough, the very first book I studied out of when I was 11, was the Roy Burns Elementary book!

Since then I followed many of his teachings he wrote in Modern Drummer, and I think he even recommended I come to an upcoming Ed Shaugnessy clinic - and it was because of him I took a lesson with the great Mr. Shaugnessy, I guess ;)


Platinum Member
I miss the columns he used to write for Modern Drummer.

His career as a player is certainly over looked by most, in part because so many people only know him as the guy behind Aquarian drum heads.