Yes yes, I know I haven’t been cranking out the free loops on a “daily” basis this week. A full refund is in the mail. I promise. You see, things are pretty crazy around “Casa del Gruss” at the moment. We’re currently looking for some new digs (something a little more drummer friendly.. you know, ideally with a barn and a 48 channel Neve console) and I’m finishing up Volume II of Gruss Loops… to be released next week! But fear not, here’s a loop to keep you cheap bastards entertained in the meantime.
Today’s loop is a good old, “drop it on top of whatever” type of dance beat. You can’t go wrong with a nice bell pattern on the ride, a straight 4/4 beat between the kick and snare and a hefty amount of filtering.
Ever since the infamous SNL skit featuring Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell aired on April 8, 2000, drummers around the world have been forced to endure countless “more cowbell” jokes. Every time you even think about overdubbing some cowbell on a pop song or including it into a latin groove, you can guarantee a slew of tired punchlines and horrible impressions from those around you.
For me, it got so bad that I stopped using a cowbell all together. It just wasn’t worth it. What was once a staple in every drummer’s sonic arsenal, quickly became nothing but a comical cliché
Have you heard a Zeibekiko groove before? I hadn’t… until this morning when I received this email from one of my readers in France:
First I do appreciate your blog, it’s fun to read, well written (even if, being a french reader, I’m not the best judge…), with nice loops… My drumming moment of the day (I’m not a drummer).
I would like to share a rhythm that fascinates me. No reason for that, but it does… Some years ago, a greek friend of mine lent me some greek music : pop singers, traditional from islands… and a CD of rebetiki songs. One rhythm caught my hear : straight, firm, slow, but kind of unstable, in a pleasant way. It’s called zeibekiko, and it’s a 9/4, 60bpm, divided as follows : eqe qq eqe qqq (e=eighth, q=quarter), in a 4+5 division… I love this 9th beat.
If you want to listen some :
Firm, slow and unstable? Sounds like a job for me. I’m always up for a challenge (especially when it’s an odd meter), so I decided to take a stab at laying down a Zeibekiko groove. After listening to a few songs online and eating three pounds of baklava, I figured I’d approach it from a more contemporary angle. I used the kick and snare to outline the basic rhythmic cadence and filled in the rest with sixteenth notes on the hi hat. If you’re having trouble identifying the downbeat, just listen for the shaker. If you’re still having trouble, have a few shots of ouzo.
I know I’ve madesomesnarkycomments about splash cymbals in the past. This is why I feel I must explain myself before posting today’s loop. You see, there are other ways to utilize splash cymbals besides highlighting DX-7 solos in bad fusion jams and recording prog-rock concept albums.
This is a trick I picked up a few years ago while hanging out at Wally’s on “funk night”. One of the house drummers, Charles “The Dog” Haynes, would often pull out a splash cymbal in the middle of a song and place it directly on the snare drum, completely changing the sound of the backbeat. By hitting the splash with the shoulder of the stick and really laying into it, Charles was able to produce a piercing, almost bit-crushed sounding snare. If only splash cymbals always sounded this manly.
Today’s loop takes The Charles Haynes Splash Method™ and combines it with a jingle stick in the right hand and a floor tom hit (covered with a t-shirt and soaked in sub-bass) on the “and” of 1.
I’ve read some recent discussions on various message boards and blogs across the internets about my site and I wanted to set the record straight on a few things.
1. I’m still going to post FREE loops on a regular basis. I started this blog with the intent of sharing and exchanging musical ideas (and insults) with the rest of the world and I will continue to do so.
2. The “Members Only” aka “Subscription Service” = Premium Content. Think of it this way; Those of you working with the free loops are eating Big Macs. Sure, they’re tasty… but you’re going to eventually get fat and might start playing D&D every night. Plus, how much are you going to do with just one beat? Those of you working with the Loop Packs are dining on fine filet mignon (medium rare). You have abs of steel and are getting tired of constantly being stalked by runway models. You have a wide variety of beats and fills and at your disposal and can’t remember what life was like before you became a member of this blog.
Ok…. enough with the bad analogies. I just wanted to take this opportunity to address the confusion. Now I’m hungry. Off to eat some McNuggets…
Ever have one of those days where you get a song stuck in your head and you can’t get it out… no matter what? You’re not even sure where or when you heard it. It might have been playing on the alarm radio when you woke up or maybe it was blasting from a car next to you at a red light. You can’t remember the source… but your brain seems to think that it’s a great idea to play it over and over and over. It can be a highly frustrating experience. One that I’ve been plagued with today.
Today’s loop is the result of having Oukast’s“Hey Ya!” stuck in my head for the past seven hours. It’s a great song the first nine times you hear it… but I’ll admit, it wears a bit thin after hour five. Much like holding your breath when you have the hiccups, I thought if I just played some drums it would eventually go away. No such luck…. All I ended up with was a beat that sounded just like it and some pissed off neighbors.
The life of a touring musician is one that is often full of bizarre and surreal encounters. Between hanging out with methed-out truckers while you eat pancakes during 4am pit stops, to the VIP events you attend because you’re “in a band”, traveling around the world and playing music will supply you with plenty of crazy stories to tell your grandkids (and blog readers). Often times, these encounters include rubbing elbows with the most random of celebrities in even more random situations. Like my drunken 4th of July in Malibu with Don Johnson and Anthony Kiedis or having Maria Sharapova turn up at my gig at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. Out of all of the crazy and unexpected things that have taken place while on the road, a certain night in San Francisco remains the most incongruous.
It was 2006 and my band was in the middle of a West Coast tour. We were scheduled to play San Fransisco on a Friday night and our manager, Peter Asher, decided that he’d fly up from LA for the weekend to attend the show and stay with his good friend who lived in the city. Well, it turns out Peter’s good friend was comedic legend, Robin Williams.
As we were soundchecking for that show, my cell phone rang and it was Peter, telling us that Robin wanted to come out to the gig and asked if we could also put him on the guest list. Sure. NO BIG DEAL. Now, it’s not like we were playing The Fillmore and could reserve some box seats for Robin and Peter. We were playing a rather intimate (small and disgusting) hipster/rock club in the seedier side of San Fran. A place that made the bathrooms at CBGBs seem like they belonged in The Four Seasons. I walked up to the heavily tattooed door guy and told him to jot down those two names on the guest list. At first he laughed at me. “Robin Williams? Coming to this shit hole on a Friday night??” I assured him it was true.
Fast forward six hours later. I hit the final crash of our encore and stumbled off the stage, a sweaty mess, looking for the nearest bottle of water (or beer). As I entered the green room, I saw Peter and another man whom I never thought I’d meet, let alone be shaking hands with in a dingy club. “Ryan, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Robin.” Like he needed to tell me his name. He told me that he enjoyed the show and said he hadn’t been to a club like this in years. We continued to chat for a few minutes until we were interrupted by the stage manager. “The DJ needs to set up his turntables. Can you move the drums off of the stage?” Apparently this rock club turned into a dance club at the stroke of midnight.
Before I could answer, Robin transformed into a character that I had never seen on TV or in his movies. It wasn’t “Mork”, or “Mrs. Doubtfire”, or even “Garp”. It was “Ryan’s British Roadie”. Picking up a nearby flashlight and suddenly developing a thick, Cockney accent, Robin leapt into action, breaking down all of my hardware and taking the cymbals off of their stands. I stood in amazement, watching this Oscar-winning actor play the part of someone who would normally be hauling road cases for Iron Maiden. Before I had a chance to process all of it, my drums were off of the stage and Robin was back to his normal self, saying goodbye to me and the band.
This loop is dedicated to the funniest (and cheapest) roadie I’ve ever had. I’m pretty sure this is the same dance beat the DJ was playing as I stood there in that shitty club in San Francisco, wondering if that really just happened.
The Roland 808. It’s the drum machine sound I grew up on. Round, blippy sounding toms. A kick drum loaded with enough sub-bass to shake an entire roller rink. From hip-hop to pop music, the 808 dominated the programmed drum sound of the early to mid 80’s. You can even hear the 808 on Marvin Gaye’s 1982 hit slow jam, “Sexual Healing”.
Today I decided to go for that old 808 sound on my acoustic kit… and then some. To get the classic, “round” tom effect, I grabbed my trusty pile of dirty t-shirts, laid them across the head of each drum and de-tuned one lug to get some pitch bend. The rest is in the mix. Lots of gating, a ton of compression, some heavy panning, a dash of sub-bass and the entire bus mix ran through an amp simulator. Yep, that’s a lot of digital plugins just to recreate an analog machine from 1980.
I still remember my first Modern Drummer magazine. It was the August, 1989 issue and Chris Frantz of The Talking Heads graced the cover. I was twelve years old and had finally convinced my parents to buy me a drumset (an old red sparkle, 4 piece “Apollo” kit). While we were at the music store purchasing some cymbals to go with the drums (Zildjian Bronze Scimitars), I grabbed a few pairs of sticks and my first copy of “MD”.
For the next month, when I wasn’t in my bedroom playing along to INXS’“Kick” album, I was reading my first issue of Modern Drummer. I was mesmerized by everything inside. The product reviews of the new Pearl Exports. The Yamaha Recording Custom ads featuring Dave Weckl and his perfectly coifed mullet. This was drummer-porn to the fullest. I was hooked.
It was my first chance to get inside the minds of the drummers I heard on the radio and watched on MTV. I found the interview with Chris Frantz to be particularly interesting. I learned about the history of The Talking Heads and what it was like to play at CBGB’s in NYC (a club I would end up frequently playing 13 years later). Their art school approach to music making made me think about drumming in a different light. It was the first time I heard someone talk about the importance of “music” over “chops”. It was my first step in the right direction.
Today’s loop was inspired by Chris’ drumming with The Talking Heads, particularly their hit “Once in a Lifetime”. Instead of incorporating the tom on the “&” of 4, I play it directly on the 1. This groove is actually an outtake from one of the loop packs I’ll be publishing. More details to come soon…
Yeah, I know I should be hating on Meg White. The sloppy technique. The loose time. The lack of chops. But, in my humble opinion, she’s the perfect drummer for The White Stripes.
She doesn’t use multiple splash cymbals. She doesn’t play anything faster than a 16th note. She plays what she feels is right for the song… and it feels fucking great. Music shouldn’t fit on a grid. It should have a vibe. It should have some soul. Meg’s got plenty of soul. And a sweet set of Ludwigs.
Today’s loop is based off of one of the many floor tom grooves favored by Meg. A strong, “four on the floor” feel, mixed with a bit of filtering. It might be a little “accurate” as far as grids go, but I gotta keep all of you REX-heads happy. Now, go start a band with your wife/sister and write some indie rock classics.