What Is Bad Drumming?

When I'm playing shows with Wishbone Ash I find myself tuning into the finest details of my playing. I want to play well and feel like I'm doing a good job. If I feel like a back beat was a bit late, or that I rushed a fill, I might end up feeling like I'm getting worse. Depending on my mood such small errors might be brushed off or they might stop me from enjoying the gig altogether. Having watched other bands from out front it's become clear to me that the inaccuracies that I notice Read more [...]

Learn Any Skill In 20 Hours

I recently watched a TED talk by Josh Kaufman that said you can learn anything in 20 hours. He made the very valid point that most people give up on things too soon because the early stages of learning a new skill make them feel stupid (and nobody likes to feel stupid.) 20 hours!? So I can learn something in a day? Probably not. I've seen this trick used in book titles "Learn to write an iPhone app in 24 hours." When you open it you see there are 24 chapters each of which takes about an hour Read more [...]

In-Ear Monitoring and the Holy Grail!

When I was 12, I watched Gregg Bissonnette's Private Lesson video.  He made a big deal (and rightly so) about always wearing earplugs.  You only get one pair of ears and when you lose parts of your hearing they’re gone forever. I know so many musicians with tinnitus or other permanent hearing damage and it's not something I want to acquire. Since that time, I can only recall two occasions where I've played the drums without some kind of hearing protection. The first was a function gig Read more [...]

Practice and Play

My most recent blogs have focussed on the mental side of drumming - what's going on in our heads when we play.  My solos from the road videos have had comments from people who like to see what I was thinking, and others from people who think I shouldn't be thinking at all. I received an email recommending the book Zen Golf (see it on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com).  I don't play golf, but I was assured that I'd find much value in it.  I read it on a week's break from touring skiing in the Alps. Read more [...]

Being In The Moment

A comment on one of my solo analysis videos said when on stage I should "just be in the moment". That sounds great, but what exactly does it mean? Does it mean I have an empty mind with no thoughts? If so, what's telling my hands where to go and what to hit? Does it mean letting my hands go and hit things without feeling like I'm choosing where they go?  If so, should my empty mind be listening and deciding what it likes and what it doesn't and making corrections? My feeling is that Read more [...]

What Is Improvisation?

On the current Wishbone Ash tour I have to play a drum solo every night.  On the last tour I was doing the same and I was rarely happy with what "came out".  I didn't have the chance to practise on a kit for the whole tour so any ideas I had only got tested during the actual solo. Over christmas I gave the solo a bit more thought and on this tour I'm recording it every night and adding annotations to the videos so you can see what's going through my head while I'm playing it. I've received Read more [...]

Real Magic And The Illusion Of Genius

Before you continue reading I want you to think of a card.  Any card.  Remember your choice and read on... Have you ever seen David Blaine on TV.  He asks someone to just "think" of a card then proceeds to name it out loud to the astonishment of everyone watching.  That must be real magic! Assuming the person isn't a stooge, and they are truly amazed at the fact that Mr Blaine has just read their mind, what's one way that this could have been done that doesn't require any special skills Read more [...]

The Illusion Of Knowledge

Did you know you have a blind spot?  When you look at the world there's a small part of the image that your brain is inventing to fill in the gap in your retina created by the connection of your optic nerve. Check out the example on this page to see part of the world disappear... You Don't See The Holes Take any subject you know about.  There will be certain things that you know, certain things you don't know, and a huge amount of stuff you don't know you don't know.  The problem is the Read more [...]

How To Remove The Stress From Learning

I recently decided to tackle learning to cook.  For years I've said I'm not bothered about cooking, or that I'm no good at it (see previous article).  The biggest challenge I have is motivating myself to stick at it. I've begun to analyse what it is that stops me from tackling this.  I've come to a few conclusions about how to make this process enjoyable. 1. Re-frame the topic If I think of cooking as something that stresses me out (which it usually does) then it's hard to convince myself Read more [...]

You Can Do It

I watched a great Sean Penn movie the other day.  There's a line in it where he says to his wife "I think I'm depressed".  Her reply is "maybe you're confusing depression with boredom." It got me thinking about learning.  A lot of people say "I'm no good at drumming" when what they really mean is "I don't enjoy drumming".  Or at least "when I've tried to drum I haven't enjoyed it". Why do I say that?  Because I believe that anybody, with the right instruction, could learn to play the drums Read more [...]