Adapt Or Die!

"Just stick to it."

“Just stick to it.”

I can still remember my first week in Nashville over 20 years ago. The music community is very friendly here… at least to me. Drummers seem to be a tribe that usual hang together pretty well. A local hero of mine, Mark Hammond, allowed me to go out on a session with him. He was really rockin’ the drums and leading a full band & orchestra through it’s paces. Mark allowed me to hang out; ask questions; and was very open about what a drummer is expected to do in this town… and in the world of pro-session drumming in general. We talked gear; studios; producers; etc. BUT one thing really stuck with me that day…

In the drum booth of that studio was a wall for the drummers to leave comments; tack on notes; draw pictures; write graffiti… just a cool community bulletin board. There, in big red letters was the phrase – “ADAPT OR DIE.” — I’ve never forgotten that. Anytime I feel tired of learning something new, or being open to ideas that are different than mine, those big red letters pop into my head. “ADAPT OR DIE.”  If you want to keep working you have to serve the producer, artist, music, and so on. Being a musical prima donna will not do well in any working situation… and really this attitude will not work well in any job… or any life situation for that matter.

I’m not saying that I always do this perfectly. But I have attempted to keep an open mind in my musical & life journey. Always learning, always being open to new ideas – or ways of doing things. For instance on a recent session for Paul Baloche’s new Christmas project, he mentioned he wanted an old Ringo-vibe. So I put towels on the drums & tuned differently, and even used tape on my cymbals to get an “old school” sort of sound.

Towels on the drums - goin' old school.

Towels on drums / tape on cymbals. Thuddy & dry.!

On most of the other songs I let the drums ring openly; adjusted tuning according to the key of songs; and used several different snare drums. I never look at the drums as having only one sound. They are tools to be used to serve the music. So I’m always listening to how the drums work with everything else that’s going on around me.

Ultimately, I’ll make sure the artist &/or producer is happy with the result. That, in the end is all that matters. Some say that you have to be “true to yourself.” I believe that you find your true self in serving people and discovering what makes everything work together. It is really a joy to see all of the pieces come together and everyone is happy. Yes, sometimes it can be very challenging; yes, sometimes you have to let go of what you thought was the most amazing idea… but, in the end, that won’t matter. To have longevity in your work you have to learn to adapt… Just “stick to it,” stay humble, and keep embracing the challenges. “Adapt or Die.”

Drums wide open / chain on cymbal for sizzle*

Drums wide open / chain on cymbal for sizzle*

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Keep The Water Coming!

A HOT Hyderabad Sound Check  - Carl

A HOT Hyderabad Sound Check – Carl

Many times I have to remind myself to drink more fluids when playing. Being a drummer is a little like being an athlete. You put out a lot of energy and moisture… It doesn’t take long to literally run out of juice! … and it feels like that too. When I’m playing & start to feel run down, I’ll reach for the water bottles. In a few minutes my energy feels solid again.

While on the recent tour with Don Moen, Paul Baloche, & Lenny LeBlance we played mostly in outdoor venues. The stages were uncovered and I really had to take in a lot of water to stay, not only strong, but healthy. It can be dangerous in the heat. In Dubai & India most sound checks were in the afternoon with direct sunlight.

As a habit I always keep a couple of bottles of water by my drum throne. And if someone comes around to offer me more, I’ll take it… and add them to my collection. It’s amazing how fast I can drink those 8 oz. bottles when we’re working hard. Besides the water I may have a little juice or a power drink, but they are really not good for you… Go with water as your main thing. OK… got to go. I gotta grab another bottle of H2O before we get started. *Here’s more encouragement for taking care of yourself.* Blessings, Carl

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Doing Whatever It Takes

Drum kit in a suitcase - Roland SPD-20 + kick trigger pedal

Drum kit in a suitcase – Roland SPD-20 + kick trigger pedal

Sometimes when touring, or on sessions, or… well… for anything that life throws at you… you have to do whatever it takes to get the job done. On a recent tour to Havana, Cuba we were not really sure what equipment would be available. Paul Wilbur said to bring some percussion items… whatever I could get in a suitcase. So I took some shakers, a tambourine, and my Roland SPD-20 with a DW kick trigger pedal. Good thing… there was no drum kit found when we arrived. I was really prepared to just play shakers, tap the tambourine with my foot, and play a box or guitar-case with brushes if I had to… We we’re not really sure we would have a PA or even power… BUT, we did have a small PA, so we were able to get everything hooked up.

It’s not always this extreme… Sometimes it’s just a kit that’s not on the rider, but still a great set of drums. There are times when it is even a bad kit, that hasn’t been maintained, but even that is work-able… I usually carry drumheads and spare parts with me. But Cuba was a new adventure for sure. Good thing we thought of coming prepared for anything. And so it is with these kinds of tours… and as I’ve said, with all that life can dish out. You just have to be as ready for anything as you can… and then still try to think creatively when you’re in a tough spot. A little bit of boy scout, a little bit of MacGyver, and lots of favor from the Lord, and you can do anything. Be grateful when everything is working well & going your way, but always be thinking of how to keep life & the gig on track when circumstances are pushing against you. “You can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens you.” – Philippians 4:13 –  Blessings on your next adventure. Peace, Carl

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Cuba, The Well, Sessions, Teaching – The Strange Life of Carl

Carl in Italy

Carl in Italy

Even from this view of my life I would say it is strange… or maybe unusual is a better word. When people look at all the different things I do they shake their heads and say how does that really work. LOL… I laugh now thinking the very same thing. I don’t know either.

I’ve lived in Nashville for 20 years and have worked in the recording studios around town, as well as my home studio, with various artists and producers. Yes, mostly Christian or worship projects, but I do get to work on some country, pop, jazz, commercial rock, or who knows what?….  Anyway, recording has not been my primary focus like some of my peers that stay “in town” most of the time. I also like some traveling… touring with Paul Baloche, Paul Wilbur, my wife – Leann, Don Moen, and others when the call comes. Doing live concerts and seminar events seem to be part of my calling too.

I believe the Lord is my manager and ordains my steps. So all of these paths, or forks in the road, are part of His journey for me. Because of that I’m also speaking, teaching, and leading worship with Leann at our gathering in town called The Well of Nashville. This is a unique meeting for the sole (or soul) purpose of waiting on the Lord… we worship, pray, and read from the Word as the Lord leads. Our motto is – “No agendas, just Jesus.”  You can follow us at Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Well-of-Nashville/141137092568947?fref=ts  or the website –  http://thewellofnashville.com/

I’ve prayed many times about dropping out of one of these areas of my life… you know, thinking, “I just need to focus on one thing.” Well… I never seem to get a “peace” in my spirit about that. It seems like the Lord just keeps saying, “Relax, and let Me be the navigator of your ship.” And so… I go with the flow… Taking a turn down whatever stream or road the Lord opens for me. It’s a bit challenging because I have to prepare myself for so many different tasks. — I practice drum & percussion ideas… work in my studio to try to keep up with the latest recording techniques. (*an ever changing world for sure)…  work on new class or seminar ideas, or at least update what I do. I believe in “on going education.”  I’m also trying to be faithful to my study of the bible and other spiritual growth materials so I can teach and speak to people at The Well and other ministry events I do. — Anyway… that’s a brief glimpse of the world that is Carl Albrecht. Strange indeed.

My kit in a suitcase - Roland SPD-20 - DW kick trigger pedal - tambourine on floor

My kit in a suitcase – Roland SPD-20 – DW kick trigger pedal – tambourine on floor

So… coming up in the next few weeks — I’ve just returned from my trip to Cuba with the Paul Wilbur team – you can see more details at his web, even give to his ministry if you’d like- http://wilburministries.com;  ; I’m working on some home studio projects – Yes, you can contact me if you’d like me to work with you too – http://carlalbrecht.com/contact/;  I’m also working on this website (*that’s how you get to see this – I do this myself. With the help of some clever friends too./ Actually they built the site… I just maintain it now.) Working on the new “The Well of Nashville” website too; Leann and I also take this ministry on the road… if you’d like a night of worship or team training you can contact us. There’s more detailed info at Leann’s web – http://leannalbrecht.com/2011/09/team-training/… ; I’m also doing some songwriting sessions… More seminar events, and tours being booked even now for the future. Blah, blah, blah…  OK… so I”m not bragging here… just responding to some of your questions about how I do this. LOL… 🙂   I don’t know, I’m just hanging on for the ride. Jesus is my manager!

I hope to see you somewhere out there in the future… Contact me if you want a drummer or percussionist for your event or project, or a producer for a record, a special seminar training event, or even a private lesson live or via SKYPE….  Yea, I know, my life is quite the smorgasbord. … OK, got to go now… there’s a turn coming up in the river here, and I have to see which way the Captain wants me to steer this ship.  Blessings to you on your journeys too, Carl  — **Enjoy this clip from an evening at The Well of Nashville… Yes, that’s me on guitar ( I do that too.) … but I felt inspired during this moment to play it as a percussion instrument. We often flow into spontaneous songs at these meetings… they sometimes break-out after a scripture reading, or prayer, or after a song we’ve sung… we just go with it!

Ephesians 5: 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

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Drum Tuning And Miking Techniques

After posting the “Basic Basic Rudiments” some of you asked about drum tuning and sound issues as well. While a drummer continues to work on their chops (skill), you should also work on your production (sound) skills too. Good drum tuning and sound is really an art just like playing. Getting your kit to sound good in each setting is so important. You can use the last post about the “Basic Basics” as I’ve called them as a launching point into developing control of sticking patterns. In my first DVD “The Beginning Drummer” I apply these ideas to the kit and also share extensively about drum tuning. It’s an older video so if you see it, you’ll see a guy with hair teaching… YES, that’s me. For a little more detail into proper miking and mixing concepts my 4th DVD dives into that much deeper (Drum Miking Made Easy). We still kept the approach pretty simple. So you don’t have to be an extensively trained engineer to get the idea. These videos were done to help drummers have a starting point into good tuning and sound techniques; along with basics of good performance training. I hope you find them helpful. Go to the store

Here’s a little extra video shoot of me talking about kick drum miking in my studio –

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The “Basic” Basic Rudiments + EXTRAS

Carl warming up

Carl warming up

The foundations of any instrumental performance are always crucial. Paul Baloche calls it the “blocking & tackling” of good musicianship… you HAVE to do some basic things to create a strong foundation in your playing. If you have had any formal training as a drummer you probably studied the 40 International Rudiments. I do recommend downloading the FREE pdf file from the Percussion Arts Society website. http://www.pas.org/Learn/Rudiments.aspx  You should work on these to develop the drumming vocabulary you need to play almost any combination of ideas.

If you are just getting started with rudiments, or if you just want the “basics” of the basics I recommend this simple approach: Work on a simple combination of patterns that will create a strong foundation for the others. Because almost all music can be broken down into “duple” time ( which is subdividing or feeling everything in “2”)… or in “triple” time which is felt in “3”, you should practice basic sticking patterns counting with different subdivisions in mind.  *For instance the “duple” time list goes like this:

Counting 1 e & ah 2 e & ah 3 e & ah 4 e & ah  — play the following patterns/ repeating as many times as you like… I’d say at least 2 bars/ but 4 bars is better…. or until you feel you have it under control. – YES, USE A METRONOME – Start slow at first, and then everyday pick different tempo markings and learn to control the patterns at whatever speed you choose. **You may also play these on a practice pad if you like, but also be sure to have time playing the patterns around the drum set too.**

A Single Stroke Roll – R L R L   R L R L  R L R L  R L R L,

a Double Stroke Roll – R R L L  R R L L   repeat….;

then a Paradiddle – R L R R  L R L L    repeat….;

then a few variations – R R L R  L L R L ……..  R L L L   R L L L…….   R R R L  R R R L…..   L R R R  L R R R ……                                 L L L R  L L L R ……    R R R R  L L L L.

For the triplet feel you can count – 1 la lee  2 la lee  3 la lee  4 la lee,   etc. etc.    OR 1 trip let 2 trip let…  OR even – tri-pa-let  tri-pa-let     & so on. Whatever counting method helps you focus on a triplet feel is fine. Now play these patterns:

A Single Stroke Roll —  R L R  L R L  R L R  L R L     repeat….

A TRIPLE STROKE Roll  — R R R  L L L  R R R  L L L     repeat….

A DOUBLE PARADIDDLE – R L R L R R    L R L R L L ……

NEW – * A PARADIDLE-DIDDLE – R L R R L L    R L R R L L  /                                                                                                       OR – start it left handed – L R L L R R  L R L L R R

AND  variations —   R L L  R L L…….  R R L  R R L…….    L R R  L R R …….  L L R  L L R ………   R R R  L L L ……  *NEW –  ALSO TRY playing doubles in a triplet count  R R L L R R   L L  R R L L  – You can count this as 1 & 2 & 3 & // or tri-pa-let  tri-pa-let… etc.

ONE MORE NEW EXERCISE: Many of you asked how to get you kick drum involved in these patterns. You could have the feet play a constant groove as you play the hand patterns. **Simply walking on the main counts : kick on 1, hat on 2, kick on 3, hat on 4.  OR… Kick drum on all 4 pulses (1/4 notes) ; hi-hat on 2 & 4. These are very common. Try any foot pattern you like, but start with these simple ones first.

Also try playing the sticking patterns with the kick drum as part of the pattern… Such as the “R’s” being your hands & the “L’s” being the kick. This is a great foot coordination exercise.  Yes, you could use the hi-hat foot as part of the pattern, but let’s start with the kick for now.   (As a hi-hat primer you could play constant 1/4 notes or 1/8 notes with your hi-hat foot as you play these hand & kick combinations. BUT, only do that after you’ve got the other parts working smoothly. / It’s OK to build one piece at a time.)  OK… here we go…. **A very popular fill idea is to play 2 notes with the hands & 2 with the kick:  R L k k  R L k k  — that’s right, left, kick, kick, etc.  Count 1 e & ah, 2 e & ah, & so on. You can also start with the kick & finish with the hands, or any combination you like, but start with this basic stamina builder. YES, use a metronome. AND… lastly try playing a group of 6 notes… 4 with the hands 2 on the kick…   R L R L k k  R L R L k k.  Be sure to count this pattern in a “3” pattern — 1 & 2 & 3 &    OR  “I like” — tri-pa-let  tri-pa-let.     OK,,, that’s plenty to build upon.

Of course you can play as many variations of the patterns as you choose, but I recommend starting with these. Also the classic drum book “Stick Control” by George Lawrence Stone is a great technique builder that would expand these ideas. But the idea of this post is to give you a vital starting point. Almost all other patterns will be built on these. OK… there ya go…. get to work and see how your control and stamina will grow. Be sure to count slow & steady at first. Then gradually build speed. Your goal is to keep it smooth and relaxed… NO TENSION!

Matched Grip

Matched Grip

 

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Drum Arranging 101

Carl's happy tambourine

“I see you” , Tambourine Man

Sometimes a little change in sonic color or texture brings just the right amount of variety to a song. Many times I will just play a lite shaker part to start a song. Then add a tambourine in the next section. Finally the drums come in when the energy needs to lift more.

This song, “Loved By You,” from the the new Paul Baloche project (The Same Love) demonstrates this perfectly. A simple drum/ percussion arranging concept I’ve used many times, but it always seems to work. (*Well, usually it does unless the producer wants something else.  🙂  ***I also use the one handed cymbal roll that I demonstrated in a previous post. That technique allowed me to keep the shaker going. It takes a little practice to keep good time with one hand while they other is doing a “free-time” roll. Do this a lot in your practice time until you’ve got it. Don’t just try to “wing it” for the first time on your next gig.

Also you’ll notice that when the groove starts I keep it laid back & mellow. I used traditional grip and played with the butt of the stick on the snare… no rim shot. This song just needed to feel fat and groovy. I’m always thinking about the mood of a song and then adjust accordingly.

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Stay In Touch

Carl having fun at a showHEY! Feel free to say hello, ask questions, or suggest an idea here at my web site or through Facebook. You can request to be put on my mailing list or recommend it to other drummers or any musician for that matter. *Go to the CONTACT section of this site.* I try to make the site an interesting resource and community for anyone wanting to grow in the skill the Lord has placed in them. The world wide drummer/ musician community is a pretty amazing group of people. Many articles I write, and class ideas come from my personal experience as a player & student of drumming, as well as the questions I hear from others. *My Friends page is full at Facebook, but you can go to my FAN page & click LIKE there if you want to follow what’s happening on my drum journey– https://www.facebook.com/CarlAlbrechtDrum  OR you can also follow me on TWITTER – my name there is Carldrums. –  https://twitter.com/#!/search/Carldrums

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Ten Cities, Ten Drum Kits

Grace Center Kit

Grace Center Kit

Some of the fun & frustration of touring is playing a lot of different drum sets. I’ve probably played every make & model of kit through the years.  I still miss my personal set when I’m traveling. Every detail of my Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute kit is just the way I want it. But, on the road, that doesn’t happen. I only travel with my cymbals and stick bag; and of course, my luggage. Airline fees have forced me to become more stealth in my travel planning.

Even though I send a “drum rider” describing the drums, heads, and set up I need; I always make the best of what actually shows up. Being a “drum diva” is not cool… and making a fuss about the drums just makes people uptight. And it just makes me look bad if I get “cranky.”    🙂  No matter what the job is (church or concert setting) I try to stay positive. Whether it’s an old beat up kit with dented heads and bent hoops, or if it’s the top of the line stuff, I’ll give it my best shot.

In all honesty, YES, the better the kit, the better it sounds… but usually with changing a few heads and some fine tuning, any kit can be made to work OK for at least one event. I’ve just learned to embrace the challenge, and try to learn something from every experience. *Like… “those types of shells don’t sound good to me.” OR… “this kind of hardware is harder to use than others.”  Playing many kits really allows me the “privledge” of testing many instruments in a musical environment. Even the band will make comments about whether they like a particular drum set, snare drum, or even other cymbals I might use at a concert.

Right now I’m in the middle of a tour across Canada with Paul Baloche & Phil Wickham. I’ve played a Premier kit, Pear – Reference series, a DW – Top of the line, a PDP kit, and a Yamaha Stage Custom… All with different head combinations and shell dimensions. Some were in isolation booths, another on a huge stage, and then there was the small room where I had to play with hot rods & brushes all night. Who knows what I’ll get next… Yes, there were a couple of very frustrating moments when I could not get a kit to sound the way I like, but I just got it as close as I could. In other situations I was super impressed with a particular snare or tom sound. Either way I just play with passion and try to make the music feel good. “Thou Shalt Not Play Thy Drums In Vain!” – So it will be interesting to see how it goes playing 10 kits in 10 different cities. Thanks for your prayers.

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Big Kit, Little Kit

Standard Recording Kit for Carl

Standard Recording Kit for Carl

I really enjoy changing my drum set up around. Sometimes it’s a small kit – a 4 piece = kick, snare, 1 rack tom, 1 floor tom./ Hi-hat, Ride, & 2 crashes. Often, I  add one more tom to that set up and an aux snare to the left of my hat. My standard  recording kit right now has 10″, 12″, & 16″ toms; a 22″ kick; 14″ x 7″ Yamaha Brass shell, and a 13″ x 3″ Yamaha piccolo brass shell. (*Photo) I change the cymbal set up according to the music, but in the photo is what I normally start with. (Meinl Cymbals – 20″ Amun Ride, 18″ & 19″ Byzance crashes, & a 12″ splash. I have about 15 snares in my collection, but for most sessions I’ll take 5 or 6. In reality I do most projects with 3 or 4 – a Big Brass drum, a Standard Maple snare, a brass piccolo snare, and an old “fat” chrome-over brass. Toms & cymbals change according to the music.

I have several kits and tons of stuff to add on to my drum set ups. Every now and then I go crazy and set up everything I can get into my drum area. I like to stir up the creative juices by hearing all the different sounds that a large kit can deliver. This happens on the road too. I make it a point to try and play whatever they have available. Big kit, or small kit, I like to apply the instrument to the music I’m playing. I’m always mindful of honoring the artist I work with and what their music really needs. Paul Baloche always prefers smaller kits; 2 toms, maybe 3 at the most; and a few cymbals. No splashes or china cymbals for Paul-ie B.! Every now and then a big kit is at a venue and Paul will prefer a scale it down a bit. And I do whatever I can to make him comfortable with his music.

Big Kit in Chicago

Big Kit in Chicago

Other artist, like Paul Wilbur or Don Moen are OK with a big set up, as long as I don’t go crazy and hit everything on each song. 🙂 Not a good idea, gang – keep that in mind!  Paul Wilbur likes the added color and expression a big kit delivers. (*2nd photo shows a large kit I used at an event in Chicago.) He even likes me to add more emotion and musical drama to his music when it feels appropriate. AND THAT is the operative word… only when it’s the “appropriate” thing for the music. It’s not about the drums, or me, it’s about the music… Always “PLAY MUSIC”, NOT JUST DRUMS!”  The thing about playing a big kit is to be mature enough not to hit everything. Just because a keyboard player has 88 keys doesn’t mean they play them all on each song, right? Apply that principle to your playing and you’ll think more musically. Be a GREAT MUSICIAN, whether it’s the big kit or little kit. Play every note with “heart!”

 

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