Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Interpreting Stick Control.

I am writing this entry because I have a deep fondness for fundamentals. I also have an intense love of the avant garde and the wild unknown territories of art and music.

Stick Control is the quintessential drum instruction book. It's the book you get after you go to your very first drum lesson. Because I have an insanely linear mind and I tend to follow rules, I was locked into a very rigid understanding of this book. It was only recently that I discovered the ABSOLUTE JOY of INTERPRETING this book and using it as FOUNDATION work but also as a way to work on independence, creative reading, and other more advanced techniques.

Just with pages 5-7 there is an infinite number of ways to interpret the exercises. My most recent teacher was James Dreier at the University of Iowa. He started me off doing:

1. pg 5-7 sticks on pad following the recommended sticking pattern over a samba with kick and hi hat
2. pg 5-7 R=Floor Tom L=Snare drum over a Samba. Instead of reading the exercises in order you just go straight across the entire page as if you were reading a book for both 1 & 2
3. pg 5-7 R = Floor Tom & Snare in unison L= Kick Drum hi hat is on quarter notes.

4. pg 5-7 Same as number three except with a swing feel and hi hat on 2 & 4. For exercises 3 & 4 do each exercise 2 times and then on to the next first time through. Second time through as in exercise 1 & 2 reading across the whole page as a line.
I was talking with Stephen Hodges, the drummer for Mavis Staples, awhile back and his use of maracas and shakers inspired me to interpret stick control as a groove with R= Kick and L= Snare while the shakers and maracas are doing eighths over the top.

My friend Craig Waters, drummer for The Bell Rays and Cody Chestnut, told me he would just practice it as straight Soul groove with eighth notes on the hi hat with R=Kick and L=Snare.

The point is not so much HOW you interpret STICK CONTROL but more that YOU CAN!!!! Get totally creative, the more flexible your mind is in coming up with systems and honoring them the better.

Just yesterday I spent the ENTIRE AFTERNOON listening to D'Angelo and then locking in a jazz pattern on the ride with hi-hat on 2 & 4 and going through with R=Kick and L=Snare.

It is a really fun way to work on independence. Another amazing book for this is The New Breed by Gary Chester. He has 39 systems that you lock down one by one and then many pages of melody to play on top of the non-changing parts. It's a terrific book to learn sight reading and it REALLY irons out any weakness in your groove and then starts to incorporate singing as the FIFTH LIMB of drumming on a foundation of invincible groove. Excellent stuff.

The message is clear as drummers we are charged with mastery of the entire field of NON-CHANGE and the entire field of CHANGE. A metronome is good at pointing out both of those worlds at the same time.


  1. I think "the FIFTH LIMB of drumming on a foundation of invincible groove" needs to be our new band name. :-)

  2. Alan Dawson, the great jazz drummer and teacher who lived most of his life in the Boston area was the master of Stick Control applications. From endurance exercises to jazz independence studies, he got them all out of Stick Control pages 5 -7. That's where most of my ideas from S.C. came from. It's endless.