Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"New Breed" by Gary Chester - A review

As a non drummer it may seem strange to be reviewing a book on the technique of drumming, but as a jazz musician this is one of the best books I have come across regardless of which instrument you play. In the practise of saxophone and piano I have often concentrated on studying scales, harmonies and chords, work in rhythm way down in the list of things to practise. Having felt weak in this area, some time ago I decided to rectify this by learning to play the drums. A friend of mine recommended this book and I have been using it ever since.

The functioning of the book is simple, yet very challenging. At the start you are given a number of basic "systems" or patterns to play. You are to then use these systems with a page of reading or "melodies" – rather like a horn line for a melody instrument. For example a particular system will have you play a repeated rhythm or pattern on the snare, high hat and cymbal while on the bass drum you would read one of the melodies.

Having mastered some of these exercises you are then encouraged to repeat the same thing but reversed. The left hand plays what ever was played by the right hand. The idea behind this is to eliminate the idea that one hand may be stronger than the other. Most interestingly you are also encouraged to sing the various parts of each system or melody helping to develop yet another independent part, or what the author calls a fifth limb.

From a percussionist point of view this is an excellent method. It helps you to develop a strong sense of time, independence of the limbs as well as an awareness of the functioning of the different parts of the drum kit. It is also helpful for reading and is very useful preparation for any rhythmical situation you may encounter as a musician. It is its flexibility and open endedness however that is its strongest point and even as a saxophonist or pianist there are limitless ways of using this book.

No comments: