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My GREAT Challenge w/Soft Rock

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#1
Pocketplayer

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CALLING all soft rock drummers...

 

OMG I am getting my butt kicked trying to learn this set!

 

I totally skipped this genre of music because...well because

it wasn't cool!  Now I have to learn these songs and am

struggling getting into the feel.  Total respect for these drummers.

I am overplaying...trying to nail signature fills and just not

feeling the WIDE open spaces.

 

I have always liked this music, mainly because of the vocalists...

but just overlooked the music because it was so simple and

nobody ever covered these bands...now I have to learn this

stuff.  It AINT simple...to lock in and make it feel good!

 

HELP?  Trying to get my inner Shawn Pelton & Andy Newmark on

 

Year of the Cat--Al Stewart

How Much I Feel/ Biggest Part of Me--Ambrosia

Foolin Around and Fell in Love --Elvin Bishop (corrected)

She's Gone - -Hall & Oates

I'd Really Like to See You Tonight -ED and JFC

Cool Night --Paul Davis

Why We Never Pass This Way Again-- Seals & Crofts

Hello It's Me --Todd Rungren

Chevy Van--Sammy Johns

Orleans--Still the One  (this one kicks my butt)

 

 


Edited by Pocketplayer, 18 May 2018 - 02:26 PM.

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#2
Soulfinger

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You, Sir, have my deepest condolences. No man should ever be made to play this stuff.

 

 

 

Sorry, couldn´t resist. :laughing9: Can´t help you there, obviously...


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#3
xsabers

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Ahh, the Yacht Rock revolution! I think aural immersion is your best bet. Get your brain familiar with the genre.Listen and listen a LOT!

 

 

Sidebar: David Pack of Ambrosia has one of the most awesome voices in pop music history. Powerful, smooth, stylish, like buttah...powerful buttah... 


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#4
Pocketplayer

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You, Sir, have my deepest condolences. No man should ever be made to play this stuff.

 I think aural immersion is your best bet.

 

 

LOL...Aural Immersion...sounds like the title of a soft rock LP!

 

Actually, I like a lot of this music, I just never tried to play it.  I will

tell you it is WAY harder than I ever thought.  The hard part is immersing

myself by listening...after a few songs they all blend together for me...

it isn't as bad as a Barry Manilow gig (no disrespect, but I do not have

feel for that music, and most drummers do not focus on this music...)

 

I do not think I ever heard a drummer say, "Dude...that Seals & Crofts

song is insane...how did the drummer do this or that."

 

Evidently, I am not alone...BUT...if you play this music well, there are

gigs out there!  People LOVE this stuff!  Very drama free gig...crowd

is pretty boring, but it pays well and seems a steady gig as long as I

can deal with this music.

 

I honestly do get bored playing tho...I think of it as practice...I play

8th and 16th notes with my opposite hand, I try to think differently.

like I am working on playing time in the studio...and I make sure I

blow hard before I have to focus...the guys in the band LOVE this

music because they all sing...this is a great gig for a singer...

so I have to be HAPPY...act like I love this stuff...

 

Right now, the only real fun part is the snare crack on Firefall's

Strange Way.  We are a long way from playing Black Dog here...


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#5
EvEnStEvEn

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"Fooled around and fell in love" is Elvin Bishop not Stephen Bishop.


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#6
mcjaco

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Still the One is shuffle, is it not?


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#7
piccupstix

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Still the One is shuffle, is it not?

Yeah, quarters on hat, but watch out for that bass drum - life of it's own, cool.


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#8
hippychip

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If you are serious about drumming these songs should be easy to play---your handle is "pocketplayer" This genre requires exactly that. My friend was here in my studio on Monday auditioning a drummer for an all-original project that has a similar vibe---the guy had great chops, but no volume knob. After an hour of beating the crap out of my kit he finally figured out how to dial it down, and did a great job playing with an acoustic guitar.


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#9
Bonzoholic

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That is a great set of songs. Not so much a technical challenge, but a "feel" challenge. I've played a few of those tunes and it's all about the feel of the tune.


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#10
DanRH

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That is a great set of songs. Not so much a technical challenge, but a "feel" challenge. I've played a few of those tunes and it's all about the feel of the tune.

Big ditto!!!’
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#11
Pocketplayer

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If you are serious about drumming these songs should be easy to play---your handle is "pocketplayer"

 

 

LOL...you would think so...so did I.  I can play them "easily" doesn't mean I am nailing

the feel and signature parts...I cover tunes almost note 4 note...so these are not easy.

 

The bass drum on Still the One is a perfect example...tricky IF you want to nail Marrota's

groove.  Will 90% of the audience notice...probably not, but that is my approach.


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#12
Mongrel

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This may sound weird, but here goes....

I think the key to playing his stuff, and the reason why it may be hard for some (me included) to play it is this: you have to LIKE it. At some level you need to "feel" the value of it and then transfer that to your playing. If ou were to play it off a chart with no connection you are going to be found out and it won't work as well as it could have.

For me there are some tunes in this genre I despise. Just no way I could pull it off with any sincerity. But other tunes in this genre I really like and enjoy. Those are the ones I have no issue sitting back in the pocket and going along for the ride with a big old smile on my face...

For instance...ahhh...let's just throw "Mandy" out there since someone mentioned Mr. Manilow... Sorry. Not happening. I can't risk vomiting on my snare man. But what about "Ventura Highway"? Now that tune? Bring it on....love to play that one. Moves well, lot of air, great melody.... Anyway, you see what I mean.

Now, I realize the list will be different for all of us, but find a set list that you can really appreciate and let it flow!
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#13
ludslingerwig

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I'm very jealous of your situation.  I have been trying to find one like it down here with no luck at all.  I grew up with these tunes so they are kinda right in my wheelhouse.  Have you tried to see if there are isolated drum tracks from the original cuts floating around.  That may help.  Have fun!


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#14
p83

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ventura highway - hal blaine

seales & crofts - harvey mason, jim gordon

i could go on but you get the point. you do not have to like the music to play it, but you must respect it and play it with style.


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#15
The Green Man

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One of the most difficult aspects of being a truly great drummer is to play time, confidently with a great feel.

That is what all the great pop session drummers were paid for.

It just ain't easy.

Not all of us can do it.

We drummers are naturally routed in technical/riff playing.

That's how we grew up. Chops, licks, Cobham, Bruford, Peart etc.

I hear a lot of very talented, technical drummers out there and some are great but.....

Many of them rush, have no feel, play too many fills, play cymbal crashes everywhere etc.

Because it's hard!  

Just to play time with confidence, control and a GREAT FEEL.

BUT.......It can be learned.

Kind of like state of mind.

rant over, thank you

 

 

 


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#16
rculberson

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This type of gig is my bread and butter.  I stay very busy recording and gigging exactly this type of material.  Here are some things that have helped me along the way.  

 

1.  It really helps if you like the music.  I happen to love it, and that makes it much more valuable and satisfying for me because of that.  

 

2.  Aural immersion, as mentioned before.  Gotta listen to lots of it to get into it, just like with any other style of music.  

 

3.  Attention to appropriate sounds.  Again, just like any other style.  A wide open 18" bass drum ain't gonna cut it in this music, for example.  Don't be afraid of the dreaded laundry, napkins and gaff tape.  That's the authentic sound of this music.  Embrace it. 

 

4.  Leave the ego at the door.  It IS technically challenging to make this stuff feel right.  It sounds easy because some of the baddest session cats (also mentioned before) played the parts.  It isn't easy. 

 

5.  This style of music is vocal-driven, obviously.  Try to stay out of the way of the vocals and you'll be 75% there. 

 

 

Here's a pic and soundfile of a session I did not too long ago that was in this style.  The artist, in fact, asked for a "Fleetwood Mac-ish" drum sound.  The song reminded me vaguely of Walter Egan's "Magnet and Steel" so I went in with that as a basic reference.  Used my Slingerland 58N Pop Outfit taped up and tuned way down.  The artist was happy and I think I achieved that sound nicely, especially considering this is just a rough mix and the studio people haven't sprinkled their fairy dust on it yet.  

 

https://soundcloud.c...lu/song/s-vuDFO

 

 

Attached Files


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#17
RIDDIM

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It's just a matter of committing to give the music what it needs, no more and no less.

 

Once you do that, everything else falls in to place.  It means, for one, that you'll know the music - melody, chords, lyrics, what the soloists are doing, and everyone else's parts.  In any idiom, once you do these things, the drums virtually play themselves.

 

Understand that sometimes the music, like a significant other, may not need very much from you.  And sometimes it'll need everything you have and more. You just have to commit to the situation and respond appropriately.   


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#18
EvEnStEvEn

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As someone mentioned, ya gotta play the songs with conviction in order to faithfully replicate the groove on the record.

 

 

Here's Andy Newmark's great story about watching Jim Gordon track the drums for Carly Simon's "You're So Vain"
Keep in mind, this ain't "Tom Sawyer" nope - He's talking about "You're So Vain"...a drum part most of us would think of as a piece o' cake, right?

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Newmark 5 years ago

I sat 5 feet away from Jim Gordon, in the drum booth at Trident Studios in London, as he recorded Carly Simon's You're So Vain in 1972. I was Carly's road drummer and played on a few tracks on her No Secrets album, however I wasn't cutting it when we recorded You're So Vain. So Richard Perry, the producer of that album brought in the heavyweights. Jim Gordon, Klaus Voorman, and Nicky Hopkins to record You're So Vain. Carly's road band, which included me, was sidelined for half the tracks on that album, except for Jimmy Ryan who played on everything and played that great guitar solo on "You're So Vain". Anyhow, I was totally cool with Richard Perry's decision to bring Jim Gordon in. I was in London for the duration of that album, as road bands often were back then, on call at any time. I saw this as an opportunity to watch Jim up close. I had been listening to Jim Gordon and Jim Keltner ever since Mad Dogs and Englishmen. I asked Jim if he would mind if I sat in the drum booth and watched him play. He was totally cool with that. So I watched Jim do 40 takes (Richard Perry was famous for doing a lot of takes) of You're So Vain. You see, back then the live performance in the studio had to contain all the magic in the basic backing track. There was no fixing it or replacing parts after the track was recorded. You could repair little things but the vibe and groove had to be all there in the performance. Perry pushed players right to their limit. I liked his style. He had a vision and wasn't going to stop till he got it out of the musicians. He made great bloody records that all stand up today under scrutiny. He always used the best players on his records. As a player, working for Richard Perry was a step up the ladder in session world. It meant something. Anyhow, I watched Jim like a hawk for 4 or 5 hours, playing that song over and over again. It's one thing to hear a player on a recording but to see a player playing live is a whole different ball game. Body language reveals so much about where a drummer is coming from. Seeing Jim play up that close, and fine tuning his drum part, was like getting intra veinous Jim Gordon…his DNA being injected into mine. And I got it, big time. I saw what he had and what I didn't have. But not for long. I really understood where his notes were coming from and went away from that session knowing what I had to do to improve my act. Jim never played a rim shot on 40 takes of You're So Vain. He hit the middle of the snare drum so hard that the head was completely caved in, in the middle. It was a 6 inch crater in a perfect circle. He hit the exact same spot every time he hit the snare drum. That means all his backbeats sounded as identical as humanly possible. Engineers love consistency from players. I was suffering from total rim shot dependency, playing tight, funky and snappy, New York style, like Bernard Purdie. I am a New Yorker. Jim had that West Coast lazy thing going on. His notes seem to have length. They breathed. Legato drumming I call it. There was all this air around each of his notes. And his groove was so relaxed and secure and comfortable. It was like sitting in a giant arm chair that fit perfect. He made all the other players sound amazing right from Take One. And he made the recording sound like a real hit record right from Take One. I was blown away. The tom tom fills were like thunder. I still copy him doing that today and think about him in that room every time I do it. I put my left hand on the high tom and my right hand on the floor tom and play straight 8th notes (both hands in unison) that crescendo into a chorus. Just like You're So Vain. His drumming was intelligent and impeccable on that record. There was no click track either and Richard Perry was very demanding when it came to tempo. (By the way, click tracks have ruined pop music today). Don't get me started. That's something else I had to improve on. Playing time. I'm still working on that. Jim nailed that track at least 40 times and every take on the drums was brilliant and useable as a final drum track. However Richard Perry wanted to hand pick where Jim played certain fills and all the other cats too. So that's where a studio musician's discipline comes into play. You have to play the same track for hours and maintain the feeling and learn every note in your part till it's written in your DNA. Then on top of that, you have to take instructions after each take from the Producer telling you exactly what to amend or delete in your part. It's a lot of mental work going on. Not all players are cut out for this kind of disciplined playing, and designing a part. That's what great records are. Great parts. Jim was like a computer. He did everything Richard Perry asked of him and still kept all the other stuff going in his part, take after take after take. And he hit the drums so damn hard. His snare drum was monstrous and it wasn't even a rim shot. I was stunned at the power in all his notes. He saw that whole drum part in his head as if it was written on paper and handed to him. And take after take, for maybe 4 or 5 hours with breaks, he played it spot on every time. I got it…big time. Thank God I was replaced by Jim that day. What I got from that experience took my playing to another level completely. I put funky drumming on the back burner after watching Jim and started trying to make my notes real long, relaxed, with lots of air around them, giving each note it's full sustain value, and even tuning my drums so that the notes would sustain for their full value. And every note was thought out. That's what Jim did. He didn't play any throw away notes. Not one!! Not even an unintended grace note on the snare drum. That's what making records is all about. You have to own and believe in every note you play. Every 8th note on your high hat has meaning and character and tells a story. You can't just be playing mindless time with a back beat. Drummers who do that sound bored and uninvolved. A drummer has to be involved in every note and put life into each one. This is what Jim did. I know this for sure. It's a subtle thing but it makes all the difference in a player. Discipline, restraint, and conviction in every note. That's when real music starts to happen.


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#19
Pocketplayer

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All I can say is I WAS WRONG about this music most of my drum life...

 

Jim Gordon was bad ass!  GREAT article from Andy...thanks!  

 

It is a VERY different technique...not the technique most drummers think off first!

This music is anti (Virgil, Vinnie, Lang, Portney, and almost all drummer instruction

videos)...it is very Porcaro and studio drummer technique as stated above.

Vinnie refined his studio technique and really cleaned it up after Zappa...

I get this...Marotta really shines (see his Live gig w.Stevie Nicks around 85...

he plays the intro to Seventeen for almost 10 mins while she works the crowd...

and never loses time and groove)

 

There is very little room for mistakes and when you lay in pocket 97% of the time,

the ONE fill needs to be spot on!  Very subtle drumming and I am glad I am

doing this because it is kicking my butt!  I worked hours today on this set...

instead of blowing through Al Stewart Year of the Cat, I really listened...

same with Ambrosia tunes...hard to know what over-dubs were added, but I took

the song at face value...and tried to capture the hat feel as recorded.

 

TIME TIME TIME...this music is ALL about time and being very relaxed...

it is almost all hat, snare, BD playing 8th notes...then many of the songs 

at the 50% mark have some drop out...time almost stops and the song builds...

this is the hard part for me...to drop out and still keep time and groove with bass drum

and hats...these studio drummers got this down!  The England Dan songs

do this a lot.

 

Here is a great track I worked on today...classic, simple, no problem, then

I really appreciated this drummer...his fills have conviction and lays it down

rock solid.  The snare hits are very different than what I would play...

double-stroke fills are non-existent

 

Back in the day, I pissed on this music, not I am playing it...life!

 

 

* Some new additions to the song list;

Alan Parsons Project- Eye in the Sky
Bob Welch - Ebony Eyes
Christopher Cross - Ride Like The Wind
Jay Ferguson ~ Thunder Island
Pablo Cruise - Love Will Find A Way
Player - Baby Come Back
Wings  Silly Love Songs

Edited by Pocketplayer, 19 May 2018 - 03:50 AM.

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#20
Johnny D

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Kudos to you for acknowledging how difficult it is to play this music with authenticity. So often these songs get dismissed as simple, until you actually play them and realize how difficult it is to capture the feel. Much like Ringo and The Beatles. Feel is everything. 

 

My band plays some of these songs and I find that playing them over and over helps develop your muscle (and brain) memory. I'll readily admit that I love a lot of these songs and really enjoy playing them, especially if it's a good band and the other guys are doing their jobs. 

 

As many have already pointed out, the guys that recorded these songs were heavy cats. Embrace it and you'll get it. And hopefully enjoy it. 

 

One more thing I'll share, and again, excuse the name-dropping, but when I started playing in a band four years ago after almost 20 years off, I was frustrated because I felt like I didn't have any technique and Steve Gadd said, "Forget all that s***. Who cares about it? No one cares. Make it feel good and that's all you have to worry about." And he was/is totally right. 


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