Whew. It has been an exhausting week. I’ve spent half of my time getting ready for the big show next Thursday, which is going to be… epic. I’ll write more about the band next week, but if you’re in the bay area, you should really, really be there! The other half has been spent getting ready for the school year to begin at Urban – though I only teach there a few hours a week, this time of year is one of the most intense/rewarding for me, since I get to attend workshops with all of the other teachers, catch up with everyone, and basically act like a for-reals educator for a week.
The flip side is that I have been extraordinarily busy. Like, so busy I can’t write blog posts, or watch TV, or hang out with people… or exercise or eat properly. But, one thing that I have found time to do, among my comings and goings at Urban, is practice the drums almost every day. And dudes, I’m getting pretty good! Basically, I’m Dr. Worm.
The more I play, the more relaxed I am when I play, and there’s just something so right about how the drums feel when you’re all warmed up… wow. I can’t wait to get my dad’s 60’s Ludwig kit out here and find a band to play with. In the meantime, my practice routine focuses on two things – doing exercises out of Charles Dowd’s amazing A Funky Primer for the Rock Drummer, and playing along with my favorite drum-centric recordings. I thought I’d put together a list of my favorite tunes to play along to, in the order that I usually play them.
The Kirk Hamilton Drumming Workout
Belle and Sebastian – “The Blues are Still Blue,” “Funny Little Frog,” and “For The Price of a Cup of Tea,” all from The Life Pursuit. I love, love, love this album, and if years ago, you’d have told me that this band would put out an album so funky that it would be this much fun to drum along with, I’d have thought you were nuts. But here it is – Richard Colburn has really worked it out, and all three of these tunes are a total blast to play along with, and are great warm-up tunes.
Steely Dan – “Janie Runaway” and “Gaslighting Abbie” from Two Against Nature. Speaking of great warm-up tunes, Ricky Lawson is like a clock on this record, and plays with such a precise groove that it’s impossible not to feel it. I really, really like this album, and these two tunes are my favorites. Partly because of Chris Potter’s solo on “Janie Runaway”… never a bad thing to feel like you’re playing along with Chris Potter.
The New Pornographers – “Use It” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” from Twin Cinema. The most drum-heavy of the band’s albums, these two tunes have a lot of really fun things going on, particularly the 12/8 in “Use It.” Never not fun to play with, especially when I really work it out and nail the fills. Kurt Dahle is super, super good at the drums, huh? Really creative player.
Spacehog – “This is America,” and “A Real Waste of Food” from The Hoggessy, “Mungo City” from The Chinese Album. Jonny Cragg did some really creative work with this band, and all of the band’s tunes had a really fun sense of swing to them… “This is America” is a real work out, superfast rock up until the giant half-time coda… I usually hit this stuff once I’m pretty warmed up.
Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows,” “First it Giveth” “Song for the Dead,” from Songs for the Deaf. Now we’re cooking. Dave Grohl’s playing is without a doubt my favorite part of this album, and the tunes are perfect to play along with, a great blend of repetition, creative soloing, and groove. The intro on “Song for the Dead” is the first drum solo I’m transcribing, and when my right foot is warmed up, it’s pretty fun to keep up with his kick drum. I haven’t figured out the tom rolls on the chorus of “First it Giveth,” but hey, there’s always room to grow.
Me’Shell NDegéocello – “Leviticus: F@ggot” and “N***erman” from Peace Beyond Passion. Okay, first off, let me say freaking thanks, Me’Shell – the two tunes that I play along with on your album forced me to almost write two words that have never been written on this blog before. Sheesh. I’ve edited them just so that google won’t direct any hate-speech searching people here (you should see some of the search strings that already wind up here) …but I digress. These two tunes groove so hard – Gene Lake, man. They’re usually tunes I play at the end of a practice session to bring it down. Getting even close to Gene’s pocket is something that would take a lifetime, but you gotta start somewhere… ye gods this record is good.
So, those are my current favorite albums to play along with. If any drummers out there have good suggestions for new records to try, I’d love to hear them!
If you’re heading to outside lands, have fun, and look for Switzer, who’s playing trumpet with a number of bands on all three days, or Dan A, who is interviewing Dave Matthews. That’s right. You heard me.
Have a great weekend, and keep next Thursday free!