Tiger Bill's bottom line review

Be A Drumhead with Will Kennedy & Bob Gatzen



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A while ago I reviewed a video/CD package called Common Ground. It was a part of what Warner Bros. Publications calls their "Inspiring Drummers Series." That particular video was produced by Bob Gatzen, himself a drummer, and I dug it. So when I heard that Bob had done a new video in the same series, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. So I asked Santa to bring it early - and he did.

In the Common Ground video, Bob Gatzen remained in the background and we never really got to know him. But this video puts Bob up front, where he confesses that he is indeed addicted. Yes, Bob is a real DrumHead (meaning someone who is a drum fanatic), and we also get to see Bob play drums.

Be a DrumHead also stars Grammy Award-winning DrumHead Will Kennedy, who you probably know from almost a decade of work with the internationally acclaimed contemporary jazz group Yellowjackets. Will has also recorded with Herbie Hancock, Diane Schuur, Lee Ritenour, Dave Samuels, and others. He is currently on tour with Chaka Khan.

In this video, Bob and Will introduce the concept of Practice Time Management (PTM), which in turn leads us into Spaceology, Drumwords, and Motorvation. The point of it all is to help maximize drum practice time, whether you're a beginner or a pro. Let's check the video/CD package out, in detail.

Inspiring Intro
The video opens with a 3 year old kid playing drums - and actually making most of the cuts to the music! If that's not inspiration to want to play better, I don't know what is.

Before the video actually starts, we are told to practice the drumless tracks on the accompanying audio CD and compare our own ideas to what we hear later, when Will and Bob lend their interpretation. This is a great idea and I would also suggest that you record yourself playing with the drumless tracks, if possible. Then you can more easily compare your interpretation.

Vision: This tune, written by Bob Gatzen, features a duet by Will and Bob. There are plenty of spaces for drum fills and each player takes a turn soloing. Following this duet, the term Drum Space is defined as: Anything from a pro-studio to your living room. Anyplace you practice your drums is your Drum Space. And it is stressed that our space should be comfortable and personalized.

Agogo: This is another tune written by Bob but arranged by Will Kennedy, who also plays it. Following this jazz-funk type tune, we are reminded of something most of us know only too well: TIME is the most valuable commodity in the world. Then Bob explains that the idea for the video came from a survey of drummers, both beginners and pros, where Bob asked how they found time to practice drums. When the majority responded that they couldn't find enough time, Bob came upon the PTM idea.

Practice Time Management
Practice Time Management consists of breaking up a piece of music into its compositional sections and perfecting each separate section, before putting them back together. For those of you unfamiliar with basic song structure, songs are usually written in a particular structure where each section is labeled with a letter. For example AABA, ABAB, and ABAC refer to standard song forms where each letter refers to a different part of the song.

The rules of PTM are simple: Practice each section of a song separately before you attempt to play the whole tune. If your song has 3 sections, A, B, and C, and you practice each section 3 times for 2 minutes each, you'll have completed the entire song in 18 minutes. A neat idea.

Agogo using PTM:The next few sections of the video apply PTM to the tune Agogo and demonstrate how to practice each section separately.

Drum Space
I've always considered creativity to be of the utmost importance in drumming and actually in most anything that you do. In this section of the video, Bob explains the importance of your own personal Drum Space to your creativity and he offers some great tips on how to develop your own ideas.

The Evolution of a Groove
In this section, Will uses Afro-Cuban 6/8 time to show how he would develop a basic beat to fit a particular groove.

6 for U: Will expands on the previous lesson and demonstrates his ideas in the context of this 6/8 tune that he wrote.

Ever wonder why drummers close their eyes, especially when things are really cookin'? (Hint: Because it "looks cool" is NOT the reason most pros do it.) Bob and Will not only answer that question, but explain how taking control of your environment is so crucial to your creativity.

Monitoring Your Drums
Do you monitor your drums? Most drummers don't. Here Bob points out the importance of proper monitoring when practicing. He even recommends cheap, quick and easy setups using equipment you may already own, so you can get started right away.

Drum Solo: Will plays a drum solo beginning in "free" time and proceeds to take us through various tempo changes. I especially dig his effective use of dynamics on this one.

Motorvation: This tune, written and played by Will, demonstrates the meaning behind the term Motorvation. Later Bob gives you another meaning of Motorvation, which has to do with practicing on his drum pad with one hand while driving his car with the other! (He does include a "Practice safety first when drumming and driving" warning message, however.)

What do shock-a-doom, doo-goo-bot, and koo-koo-flot have in coo-coo-common? They're all Drumwords. I really liked this part of the video. It supplies a great explanation of Drumwords along with a demonstration of how pros develop their bag of tricks.

If you've ever wondered how your favorite players can play a fill that sounds so great in exactly the perfect spot, or how they come up with a groove that fits the song so perfectly, don't miss this section. It supplies the key that will open up your own bag of tricks.

Saw It: Bob gets a chance to stretch out a bit on a tune that he wrote.

A Great Use for TV Commercials
I've always practiced on a pad while watching TV because I've found it fantastic for building endurance. But Bob has come up with a cool variation that uses the TV commercials to help you practice. Check it out.

Lighting Your Drum Space
The importance of proper lighting to your Drum Space is discussed along with ideas and tips on buying inexpensive lights for customizing your own practice environment. Proper sound insulation is also covered.

Mouse: Will plays through the entire tune first, then he shows you how to use the PTM technique to practice warm ups, develop your weak hand, and perfect 4-way coordination.

Drum Solo: For the grand finale, Bob and Will trade drum solos. There's some good stuff happening here.

Warning: It's Not Over 'til It's Over
Don't eject the DVD until after the final drum solo or you'll miss what other DrumHeads have to say. My favorite was the son and dad who are DrumHeads, because I identify with them through my own DrumHead sons. From young to old, male to female, these dedicated DrumHeads prove that anyone can learn to play drums at any stage in life. It's never too early or too late to begin!

Be A DrumHead: The Bottom Line
Will says it's important to be inspired whether you're a beginner or a pro, and I agree. Keyboards, horns, and guitars are great for other guys, but give me some drums. Heck, give me a simple practice pad and I'm in heaven. I confess. I'm addicted. I am a DrumHead and I'm proud of it! You'll never know how great it is until you become one yourself.

The first step is to admit you love the drums. The second step is to buy this DVD. It retails for $39.95 with an audio CD that includes original mixes along with drumless ones for practice.

I highly recommend Be a DrumHead to drummers of all styles and at all skill levels. The world would be a much better place if only there were more Drumheads in it. Buy it online: Inspiring Drummers: Be a DrumHead (DVD & CD)

Stay loose!

Tiger Bill


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