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Drumming Dynamics Live Lesson


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Drumming Dynamics With Schroeder - Live Drum Lesson #17

In this drum lesson Jared & Dave bring in Dean "Schroeder" Reimer to walk you through some concepts on drumming dynamics. Schroeder explains how playing with dynamics will improve your drumming and ultimately make your playing much more interesting to your listeners.
Schroeder also plays a 30 Seconds To Mars "From Yesterday", an Audioslave "Exploder", and an Our Lady Peace "Lying Awake" drum cover.

If you are interested in listening to some of the music that features Schroeder, you can check the country band The Higgins on MySpace, on their personal website, or if you want to buy some of their music, you can get it on their online store. David Blair is another artist with which Schroeder plays. David also has a MySpace page and a personal website, and you can buy his music on cdbaby.

Dynamics in Drumming

While browsing through some videos of Travis Barker on YouTube, one of the most common discussions in the comments is of his dynamic abilities. A lot of users state that Travis Barker is everything but dynamic. Now, we are not going to go into an argument regarding the validity of those arguments, but use this as way to explain dynamics. You see, most of the comments about Travis’s dynamics, are referring to volume level. We can see lots of people stating that they are dynamic because they use ghost notes, and don’t use full volume all the time. There is a whole lot more to dynamics than just volume. There are other techniques that will change the dynamics and feel of the whole song, besides volume changes, like using different time signatures, using a half-time feel instead of full-time, keeping time on other cymbals besides the hi-hat; the list goes on and on.

To show you some of these concepts, Schroeder analyses parts of some popular songs. He also shows you how he goes about, when creating drum parts for a song, and were he gets his influences from. If after this lesson you want to learn more about this subject, check the dynamic drumming section of this website, where you can learn about more techniques that will definitely help you spice up your grooves, fills and overall drumming ability.

Low Energy Vs. High Energy

In the first example, Schroeder goes through the verse and chorus of Our Lady Peaces’ song “Lying Awake”; from the album “Happiness…Is Not a Fish That You Can Catch”.

The first big thing you can look at is the difference between the chorus and verse, regarding not only volume but energy as well. The verse is carried between the snare and hi-hat while the bass drum has just a bit of syncopation happening with the bass guitar. In the verse, you can feel that the energy level is low; however the groove still carries it along. For the chorus everything opens up, the sound gets bigger, the drummer plays a little more spaciously, and with some syncopation on the snare drum. As you can see and listen to, this contrast between chorus and verse is a very cool one, especially in the context of this song.

Half-Time Feel Vs. Full-Time Feel

This song takes us to the concept of switching between half-time feel and full-time feel. For the opening hook of the song there is this big and open half-time feel. Although the guitars are as powerful in the verse as in the intro, the drummer changes the feel of the two sections by going from half-time, to a full-time groove with double bass hits. As you can see, this is another way of creating contrast, even when the other instruments don’t change that much, regarding dynamics, you can change the feel a lot buy switching what you play, or in this case by going from half-time to full-time.

The Payout of a Song

For this topic Schroeder uses the song “Exploder” from Audioslave. Brad Wilk, the drummer for Audioslave, keeps a really constant drumming throughout the entire song. He plays a simple groove between the snare, hi-hat, and bass drum in the verse, and just changes the time keeping to the crash and ride, instead of the hi-hat, on the chorus. But in the third verse of the song the energy changes completely, the singer brings is vocals down an octave and sings it with a more “throaty” voice. Schroeder shows us how to bring the energy of a song down for this part, and how to bring things up again in a convincing and energetic way, for what he calls the payout.
The payout is the section of the song where it reaches an emotional pitch. Songs like “Fix You” from Coldpay, where there is a crescendo throughout the song, until it explodes when the guitar comes in for the emotional apex of the tune, are a good example of this. Having and building towards a payout is really important because it gives direction to a song.

Ghost Notes

Schroeder plays lots of ghost notes when he wants to play softly. This gives a smoother feel to the song. To exemplify this, in the lesson you can see him play a straight ahead rock groove using only a couple of ghost notes, and also a more intricate groove with lots of ghost notes. In the first example you can feel the groove chugging along, but by adding lots of ghost notes, like in the second example, in between the accented strokes of the fist groove, this will carry the groove without all that chugging. Also, playing with ghost notes really changes the energy of a song.

Time Signatures

Dave’s band Yuca has a song called “Hello”, that switches between a 4/4 time signature in the verse, to a 6/4 time signature in the chorus and pre-chorus. Changing the time signature to 6/4 is a really cool idea/tool to change the energy and flow of a song.

Beginner Tips

One of the simpler ideas Schroeder uses, when it comes to taking the energy and volume to a whole different level, while playing louder music like rock is to use a crash or ride as a hi-hat. He shows what he means by this, by playing the same groove whereas exchanging between the half-open hi-hat, ride, crash and close hi-hat while playing time. By going from one to another, you will see how the crash really fills things up, in comparison with the hi-hat and the ride. You can notice the biggest difference in dynamics when Schroeder goes from the crash to the hi-hat; there is a great decrease in energy.

Creating Drum Parts

When he is creating drum parts for a song, Schroeder’s main approach is to just sit back and listen to what the remaining members of the band are playing. This will help him to achieve a better understanding of what is happening with the parts played by the other musicians. Adding to all of this, he thinks about what he has heard in other bands, and what songs it reminds him off. A good example of this is the Rock Play-Along #2, “In All of This” from his former band Sterr, which you can find in this website. At that time, he was listening to a lot of Jimmy Eat World. One of the songs, “Cautioners”, was the inspiration for the drum part on the introduction of “In All of This”.

Schroeder on the Drum Set

Schroeder sits very high on the drum set, and as a result, his heels don’t touch the foot plates of the pedals and his upper legs slope down in a high angle. He feels very comfortable with this position, and even learned how to play softly with his feet this way. He got this idea while watching one of the DVDs that feature Thomas Lang. Also, Schroeder’s legs are long, so if he had them parallel to the floor his knees would cramp up. Sitting this way enables him to get really powerful strokes on the snare drum without hitting his leg.

His tom positioning is another thing with which he has fooled around quite a bit. Usually, a lot of guys just have the rack toms over the bass drum. Since he likes to play a 6 piece kit, and of having the ride near him, he shifted the toms closer to the hi-hat. Even though his 10 inch tom is hitting the hi-hat stand, he still has clearance to get to that tom and at the same time to keep his ride in a very comfortable position.

Schroeder likes to set up his kit so as to make the least amount of travelling and effort as possible. His advice is for you to set up your kit to what feels the most comfortable to you, because if you are going to practice for two to three hour straight, you might as well make it as comfortable as possible.


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