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Drum Set Crash Course

By Russ Miller

DVD and

Book with CD


Click here to buy the book and CD at a discount online


The drummers that are most in demand - and making the most money - have one thing in common: Mastery of musical styles. (See There's Gold in Them Thar' Rhythms!) But trying to learn unfamiliar musical styles isn't easy. It often takes years of trial and error before you can develop the proper feel to play unfamiliar musical styles like a pro.

Enter The Drum Set Crash Course, a DVD from Alfred Publishing. They say it "offers a very comprehensive all-in-one drum set learning system." It sounded good to me so I decided to check it out.

The book is the brainchild of author/drummer Russ Miller. Russ has worked with a wide range of artists including The Fifth Dimension, Debbie Gibson, The Bee Gees, Ray Charles, Jon Secada, Nestor Torres, Slash, and many others. Because of this experience, Russ has been able to boil down each musical style into several essential and easy-to-learn lessons. The DVD, which I cover first, is divided into four major sections.

Section 1: Developing Your Musicianship
Miller touts the two most important aspects of drumming: Solid time and great feel. And I couldn't agree more. He goes on to play examples both of the correct way and incorrect way to play. (These useful right and wrong examples are what put this instructional video a notch above most others.) Then, he covers the four basic note subdivisions: Eighth notes, Sixteenth notes, Eighth note Triplets, and Sixteenth note triplets.

Developing Your Feel
This segment is broken down into three major areas: Time keeping, Dynamics, and Note Placement. Again, I love the examples of the right and wrong ways to play. These examples are akin to the proverbial "picture" that's worth a thousand words.

Section 2: Developing Your Physical Ability
This section covers facility and independence. Facility is the technique of moving around the drum set itself. Independence is the ability to coordinate your limbs so they will be able to play anything your mind can think of. At the end of this section, Russ puts all of the previously studied exercises to use in a musical context.

This is another great learning tool and one that is repeated throughout the video. (I especially like the video inset of Miller's bass drum foot, which helps the student concentrate on what's happening with each limb.)

Section 3: The "Crash Course" Format
This is the main meat of the video. The following musical styles are covered:

What makes the video so effective, is the way each beat is broken down into five sections:

  1. Style History - origin of the particular musical style.
  2. Drum Set Mix - The relative volume levels of the various instruments of the drum set (For example: Kick drum, Snare drum, Hi-hat, and Ride Cymbal). This is especially useful when learning an unfamiliar style, and is the difference between sounding like a pro or an amateur.
  3. Basic Groove - The most basic pattern of the particular musical style.
  4. Groove Variations - Exercises to help you develop variations on the basic groove.
  5. Fills/Solo Ideas - Exercises to develop realistic fills and solos for the particular style of music. These help you develop the sound of a pro, even if you've never heard the particular musical style before.

Following each musical style is a "play-along" section. Here you can practice what you've learned, as you play along with Russ.

Section 4: The "Casual" Date
This final section covers the beats that a player would use on a "casual call," meaning a wedding, bar mitzvah, or similar type of gig. The following musical styles are covered:

The video concludes with Miller playing a solo over the ending credits. The neat part about this is that he's playing on the bare essentials: Hi-hat, snare, kick drum, and cymbals. And he's playin' some nice stuff.

Too many drummers think a drummer's talent coincides with the number of drums he or she uses. But it's actually the opposite. It takes much more talent to sound "good" using just the bare essentials.

The Books: The Drum Set Crash Course and Transitions
The Drum Set Crash Course book/CD has been out since 1996. It follows the same format as the DVD but goes into even further detail in certain areas, including the addition of extensive lists of recommended instructional books/videos and recordings for reference.

Bottom Line: Should You Buy Them?
I was impressed by the format and level of detail found in the 126-minute Drum Set Crash Course DVD. It truly does make it easier for you to learn how to play authentic musical styles, whether you've got an important recording session or a wedding request to cover. It's well worth the retail price of $29.95.

I would also recommend the book/CD, as the extensive listing of recommended reference recordings is alone worth its price of $24.95. And, as a bonus, you'll get two versions of each of the play-along songs, one minus the drums for your practice. Although the video and book/CD together will cost you about $55.00, consider the price of one drum lesson with a good teacher and you'll realize that it's a bargain. And, when purchased at online, they will cost you even less.

Purchase the book and CD at a considerable discount online:
The Drum Set Crash Course book and CD

Purchase the DVD at a considerable discount online:
The Drum Set Crash Course, With Russ Miller

Stay loose!

Tiger Bill


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