Monthly Archives: March 2016

5 Musical Tips For Achieving a Great Feel and Groove

I love listening to other drummers, to hear where they’re coming from musically and what motivates their choices. I often share my observations with colleagues while shooting the breeze. My questions framing the conversation are always the same; “What makes this drummer great?” “What separates him from the rest of the pack?” “What drives his musical choices and instincts?” Recently, a bass player colleague paid me a compliment by telling me that I play “right on the beat; not ahead or behind.” I was elated, until I realized I didn’t know precisely what he meant. Musicians often evaluate the worth of drummers with phrases like, “Behind or ahead of the beat”, or “Great time and feel.” But what do these phrases really mean?

Just because I can’t translate these expressions into specifics, doesn’t mean that others are clueless. What it means, is that I think of these traits in different musical terms. I’d like to share these with my fellow drummers and instrumentalists. Here are 5 musical tips for achieving a great feel and groove.

Feel Trumps Time
Don’t worry about your overall time. Instead answer the question, “Does it feel right?” There are countless examples of musicians speeding up or slowing down in relation to a click track, and yet the overall track still works. From a drummer’s perspective, I immediately think about John Bonham and Levon Helm. Getting the right feel will take care of everything.

Maintain focus on the part you’re executing and how it enhances the track you’re playing. Your choice of instruments of the kit; what to leave in, what to leave out and what to highlight will make all the difference. A drum track with little or no use of cymbals has a much different feel than one that leans heavily on them.

Weak Hand
Drummers–try leading with your weak hand. (Other instrumentalists may be able to apply this principle to their instrument.) Doing this places your stronger hand on the weaker beats. With practice, this can change the feeling of your musical phrases. An added bonus is that the strong hand will often be on the second-to-last stroke (weak beat). I refer to this as the “leading tone” of the phrase. Emphasizing the leading tone brings added life and energy to phrases. Articles have been written about this, and legendary timpanist, Fred Hinger, made this leading tone theory the centerpiece of his teachings. Implement it and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Remove the Drummer Hat
Plain and simple: take a step back and use your ears as a casual listener. How does your track sound now? Play to a wide audience and not only to fellow musicians.

Give Notes Their Due
Be deliberate and precise when playing note values. Drummers can express lengths of notes as well as the type of attack or sustain. Sometimes just being aware of it is all you need. However, if you want to take it further, you can sometimes achieve longer tones with dead strokes. This works really well on the ride cymbal or kick drum. Longer sounds can also be expressed with press rolls, bigger crash cymbals, etc. Quick hi hat splashes, smaller cymbals and quickly pulling the stick away from the drum head can help with shorter sounds. I’m not suggesting you go crazy with this stuff; don’t let it get in the way of your playing. It’s supposed to enhance your feel.


Tips to Help You Memorize Music

Being able to memorize music is a skill although it is not vital in your performance. Memorising help gives you chance to concentrate on other parts of your performance.

Tips to help memorize music use these tips:

  1. Repeat small patterns regularly approximately 10 bars at a time, known as chunks. This helps commit the whole piece gradually to memory. It is easier to break down parts and memorise them that to tackle the piece head on.
  2. By repeating the chunks will cement them to memory with repetition and practice.
  3. Join the bars together.
  4. Visualise and play the music away from your instrument. Take regular breaks and return to the chunk that you were practicing and repeat it again.
  5. Read the music like a book.
  6. Singing the piece helps your memory remember what the intervals between the notes sound like.
  7. Play the chunks randomly. How about starting at the end of the page, playing the beginning then the middle. If you are able to play the bars in a different order than written, it will strengthen the memory of the chunks.
  8. Close your eyes. Try playing the piece or chunks with your eyes closed. If you are able to accomplish this then you have pretty much committed the piece to memory. Your memory will automatically play the piece, will be able to judge distances your hands and fingers have to travel to play notes.

After many hours of practice you will be surprised at how much you have memorized a piece. Often, you end up memorizing a piece just through constant and good practice.


Music Tips For a Small Wedding

Should you have music at a very small, intimate church wedding ceremony?

Many couples planning a small wedding will choose to have no music at all. I can understand that, but it’s a shame.

Music is such a powerful way of expressing emotion. Your joy is no less just because the ceremony is small. I think you’d be losing something by foregoing music just because of the size of the wedding.

So how to best have music for small weddings?

Two tips

There are two things you need to do to have effective, special and memorable music at a small wedding:

Create a more intimate sound:

Use less music. But use it in the right places!

Tips for a more intimate sound:

There are several ways to create a more intimate sound.

Get close to your musician (or get the musician close to you)
A piano might be just what you need
A piano is a wonderfully intimate instrument. If there’s a piano available (whether in the chapel or in the main part of the church), especially a grand or “baby grand”, consider using it as the primary instrument.

The organ can work too
The organ, whether in the chapel or in the main part of the church, can still be used to great effect. The trick is to use it correctly.

A loudly-played organ may sound irritating with only a few guests present, so the organ’s softer stops must be used. A softly-played organ can sound wonderful!

A skilled organist will be able to use the quieter stops effectively to achieve this wonderful sound. But watch out for less-skilled organists that turn quiet music into something bland and uninteresting.

Don’t shy away from other instruments
Solo instruments, such as flutes, violins, cellos or harps can help achieve intimacy. Such instruments can easily be used as the only instrument or can could be used with a piano (or nearby organ).

Even a singer can work well. Just be sure your singer (particularly amateur singers) are comfortable singing in front of a very small group.

Tips for less music

The second thing you will want in a small wedding is to go easy on the music. That means using it where it will contribute and no more than that. Too much of it for a small ceremony can destroy the intimacy!

Suggestions for getting the right amount of music:

Use very little music before the ceremony.
For a small number of guests, there simply is no reason to have lots of music beforehand. A very intimate performance (for example, a solo piano or violin playing nearby the guests’ seating) could allow you to get away with slightly more music. But do focus on keeping it short.

Avoid a separate bridal processional.
A smaller ceremony usually also means a smaller wedding party. Especially if held in a chapel, there won’t be enough time to get through two pieces of music let alone one. Cutting two pieces short will be more awkward than cutting one piece short.

So keep it simple and just use one piece for the wedding party and the bride’s entrance.

Skip the postlude entirely and perhaps also the recessional.
Your guests will be able to exit very quickly, so a postlude won’t be necessary. It won’t take the wedding party long either, so the guests could start leaving during the recessional (after the wedding party has exited).

A small, intimate wedding can be a lot less stressful and should be every bit as joyful as a larger wedding. Music is one of the best ways to express this emotion and done right, will make a wedding of any size extra special.

Wedding Music Unveiled’s goal is to simplify your church wedding ceremony music planning.

We’ll give you music ideas and use our experience to guide you through what can be a confusing process. We want to help you choose exciting, memorable music that will make your wedding ceremony distinctive and a perfect reflection of you!