Chris Belin Drums - Traveling Drum School & Freelance Drumming
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The Postive Spin on Drums

Valley Hotel article for The Holiday Cafe

Hello friends,

   It's been awhile! Hope all is well. I've been doing well and keeping very busy. For those who haven't seen this yet, here's an article I wrote that was recently published in The Holiday Cafe's fall issue. Check out more of their awesome online magazine @ www.TheHolidayCafe.com, and if you like this article…please stop by and support this local Pittsburgh landmark!  


The Valley Hotel 
A musician’s perspective of the haunted venue


   On a late August Saturday night, approximately 8:20 PM. I pull up to the Valley Hotel.  The parking lot is filled with cars, so I drive around to the back of the building to unload my gear before I find a place to park. Once I get out of my car I notice how dark it is back there, the moonlight mixing with the streetlights and a little bit of fog. Looks like a perfect scene for a horror movie! The stories of this hotel turned music venue always fill my mind while I’m walking to the door. Tales such as hearing unexplained voices, sounds of footsteps, and seeing ghostly images in mirrors are the most popular. I’ve even heard stories of things disappearing behind the bar, then reappearing weeks later. 
    But then I walk through the door and everything seems normal. I’m greeted by Paul, a fellow drummer who is usually the guy who’s running things. This night is just like the others. He makes sure me and the other members of The Satin Hearts have everything set up on stage the way we prefer. The Valley is very accommodating in the equipment department. They are one of the only venues to have full house gear: Drum set, amps, pa, and a bunch of guitars and basses lining the walls of the stage. Everything in working order and ready to use. In addition, Paul can be doing triple duty on any given night; working behind the bar, running sound and lights, plus even doing some cooking when the kitchen’s open. When were setting up, there is a giant screen in front of the stage projecting live TV, sporting events etc to the audience so you can’t see us. When the clock strikes 9:30, the screen gets pulled up and the music starts. 
    The view from the stage can change. Sometimes the lights are bright and vibrant, inviting a rock n’ roll explosion to emerge. Or sometimes they’re dimmer, which can bring it down a notch, making the place feel like an old roadhouse or nightclub. A type of place where legends like Little Richard or Carl Palmer would play at back in the late 40‘s & 50‘s. The stage is actually behind the bar, similar to the Tony Marts nightclub stage (which was featured in the 1983 film “Eddie & The Cruisers”). The upper wall facing the stage is aligned with posters. Some of the inspirational artist posters, such as Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, give the place the feeling it’s a music venue, not a sport’s bar that also has music. Then there’s a poster size pic of the owner’s dog Sandy, which is mixed in with the musician ones. Love it! The owner, Duel, is also a fellow musician and very nice guy. He’s always very gracious and usually pops in sometime during the night to watch some of our set. I asked Duel & Paul recently about any weird paranormal experiences they know of there. They told stories of bar stools moving on their own, and what appeared to be an apparition sitting at the bar after hours (seen from a surveillance camera). I wouldn’t be surprised if spirits where present, and I’m not talking about the liquor either! 
   The Valley Hotel dates back to 1863, where it was originally called The Granger Hotel.   It was first owned by a family of the same name. The club is located in the Jefferson boro / Clairton area, near the river and close to where a lot of steel mills were, and some still are today. In 1971, there was was a fire that destroyed the third floor. The fire and renovations over the years have altered the appearance a bit, but overall it still has quite a few of the same features the original had. 
   After all my performances at the Valley, I have never seen anything supernatural, or any ghosts in the crowd! I don’t think i’d mind if I did because the place gives off a good vibe. If there are spirits lurking in dark corners i’m sure there music fans and there to watch the show like everybody else. Today, music is the main feature at this 150 year old gathering place. 











 

Switching temporarily to periodic blog postings

Hello everybody,

    For the next few months I will be switching blog postings from weekly to periodically. This is due to the extra time I will be putting into lots of new <Traveling> Drum School content, upcoming recording sessions, shows,and finishing the final edits on my first official drum book. There will be new blog posts I assure you, just not on a consistent weekly basis as they've been for the past year now. Weekly posts will be back in the future.
   I will continue to update when a new blog is posted via Facebook & Twitter. If you would like to receive those updates, make sure you are connected to me on either site. If not, please send me a personal message to ChrisBelinDrums@aol.com or comment on this post to let me know how you'd like to be notified. 
   Thank you for visiting and hope you've enjoyed the content thus far. Many more topics planned, please stop back. 

                                          Sincerely,

Preparing for a Recording Session.

In my experience it’s always best to be overly prepared for a recording session. This week’s blog details a routine I often fall into leading up to the session date. There can be lots of unpredictability tracking drums, but one thing you can count on is that if you don’t know the songs inside and out, chances are slim it will be a smooth process.
   The following is a typical step-by-step process for me, where I don’t know the tunes beforehand or have never worked with the artist. I am currently toward the end of this process now, as of today I’m on step 6 in preparation for laying down the drum tracks for guitarist / songwriter Zac Lloyd’s upcoming EP in the coming weeks.   

1.Demo listening / absorbing. Normally I receive songs, typically in demo form, via email or some kind of file sharing website (drop box, send it, etc). Immediately I start listening to the songs, analyzing every detail trying to get inside the song. If the artist sends specifics on what they want, then I’ll note that right away and then determine what parts, if any, I can add my own flavor to. I’ll also out what the vibe is, the feel, the overall way I should approach the track. Most of my initial ideas are the ones I end up keeping (first instinct kind of thing) but I love experimenting.
 
2. Jamming along. Part of my experimenting process is just jamming along and seeing what comes out. I try to capture the feel of a jam session while doing this, pretending the whole band is there and we’re improvising in the moment. Depending on the tune, I may play along with the same feel multiple times or switch it up each time to test the boundaries. 

3.Recording jams. or transcribing. I love to keep a detailed record of ideas, whether it’s hitting the record button or transcribing beats, fills, or breaks. I feel I get into the piece more when I transcribe. The act of writing out the music makes me dissect each part more throughly and more clearly think of other rhythmic possibilities. Totally the drum teacher side of me coming out in that! 
 
4. Repeating step two and throughly reviewing notes. This is where I finalize most of my composition. The jams and notes evolve into more solid parts. 

5.Writing preliminary charts. Mostly focused on arrangements, figuring out exact metronome markings, and writing the main beat from each section.  Lots of blank space left for changes or additions. I’ll also jam along to the beats w/ just a click and no backing track, ensuring that I have to proper feel locked in and can replicate that in the studio.

6. Writing final charts. Includes every important detail of the song, or in some cases a note for note transcription of the entire tune. The latter depends on the artist or the scenario. I often get asked to improv takes in the studio but I’m always ready to sight read approved pieces if requested. Normally I like to do both so the artist can have both to choose from.  

7. Rehearsing and memorizing (if possible). This I normally do mostly on my own, but if there are full band rehearsals I try to have most of the music memorized or at least just having to quick glance at it. That all depends on how much time there is between the time of composition and the recording date. Could be months, days, hours, or minutes!! Regardless,being a session drummer you gotta be ready for anything. Hopefully my process will give you some ideas & tips on how to make your session more successful and keep you getting offers. Long live drum tracks from real drummers...”Drum machines have no soul.” 

Shout out to Pearl Hardware

Hardware set up @ The Bullpen in Avella, PA this past Saturday January 19th, 2013 

    Recently I purchased some stands for my drum kit. I've been mulling over what to go with for a few months now. Did my usual pre-meditated purchase ritual; checked out company websites, went into stores, talked to drummer friends, etc. After all that, I decided to go with Pearl hardware exclusively.   
    My affiliation with Pearl hardware goes back a few years when I purchased their  Powershifter Eliminator pedal. At the time this was their top of the line pedal, which I bought a year before the first Demon Drive model was released. One thing that sold me on this pedal was some of the featured options; switchable cams, 4 sided beater, and an easily adaptable strap drive conversion. There are more cool features as well. I loved it! Pedal was unbelievably smooth & durable. Still is in great shape today! I loved this pedal so much I bought the Eliminator Hi-Hat stand a few months later. Equally as awesome!!
    At the same time I was choosing mounting hardware for the toms on my first custom drum set. I remember back to when I worked at Guitar Center how much I loved the Pearl ISS mount. Even though they were used for the mid level kits, I loved the fact they were lightweight, simple in design, and easy to remove when needed so requested  those. The ISS mounts also made my snare / tom hybrid "The Variable" (see "current set up & blog" page on this site for more details on this drum) extremely versatile with positioning and application. 
    Now this brings me to my most recent purchase. I decided after 10 long years and hundreds of shows I would upgrade my snare & cymbal stands. I do take care of my equipment and do the proper maintenance; replacing felts, rubber pieces, wing nuts, etc. But one issue I couldn't avoid was reoccurring chips on the metal from my road case. There would be sharp edges that would slice my hand during set up, usually just leaving a cut similar to a paper cut. Nothing drastic by annoying none the less! Plus I got a little paranoid with getting metal in my skin. I even tried scrubbing and sanding the rough edges on the stands. Also tried padding the hard case for awhile. Regardless the rough edges still came back. No doubt it was time to upgrade.   
    For the new cymbal stands, I went with the BC-900 model. I did quite a bit of  research online with this selection. I wanted boom stands, but with hiding boom  feature since I usually don't need booms on my kit, but as mentioned above, I like options!  The 900 worked great as a straight stand. The best features are the toothless tilter, which gives you so many positioning options, and the plastic wing bolt on top. The latter feature gave me so many more sonic possibilities live. I was more easily able to control the sustain of my cymbals than before. Worked great live & can't wait to use them in the studio! The BC-900 also has multiple memory locks saving me valuable time with set up.
      For the snare stand upgrade, I went with the Pearl S-1000. This stand is straight up awesome! This is the best snare stand i've ever seen or used! One of my drummer friends was with me when I opened the box and he was also impressed. The patented Uni-Lock system gives you so many positioning options it's ridiculous. My favorite feature on this stand is the rubber L's on the snare basket. It's no secret that the tension of your stand basket around your drum affects the sound. This stand is more dramatic in that department, which is great because now it's easier than ever to do slight adjustments to the overall tone of the drum. I even switched snares on a set break, between a 13X6 birch  and a 5 1/2 X 14 Pearl Sensitone steel shell. Both were easy to swap out and  again, really can't wait till the next studio session w/ this stand! I also ordered the S-1000D, a low basket version of the original, for my 8 inch deep  snare / tom hybrid drum mentioned above. This stand will give me even more options with the drum. Just got the call this morning that it's in so i'll be picking it up asap.    
     I'm totally pleased with my purchases and look forward to getting many great years out of this new stuff, as well as tacking on more with the gear that's been in my arsenal for years already. 

Steve Jordan interview & coffee for breakfast

   My workday normally starts in my office / drum room. Before any drumming, lesson plans, emails, texts, calls, etc happens, I like to start by watching an inspirational drum-related clip. Gets me psyched for the week ahead! My clip of choice is usually a live performance but recently I’ve been searching old interviews, which has been extremely inspiring and educational.   
    For this week’s blog I decided to post this four part clip from Vic Firth’s Artist Spotlight series, which is a sit down with Steve Jordan. I’ve actually watched this numerous times in the past few years, and revisited this morning. I recommend watching it early morning with coffee, regular or decaf you wont be disappointed!        
   I first got into Steve when I was started heavily studying R&B / Jazz fusion right after high school. I was always liked rhythm & blues; hearing it from my mom’s radio, learning popular tunes, etc, but I really got way deep into R&B drumming that was mixed with a Jazz feel around 1997. I was working at a used CD store and stumbled up Patti Austin “Havana Candy”. The cover looked vintage and I noticed the album was recorded the same month I was born, August 1977. I gave it a spin and the right out of the gate the first tune had an awesome feel. The drummer was playing smooth and tasteful, playing an awesome balance of notes and space. It was Steve Jordan. I still continue to this day to seek out records he’s done.     
    The following clips contain some great personal stories, as well as serious tips on being a professional drummer. This is worthwhile to any player. Enjoy! 

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Steve Jordan Interview 1/4
This is an interview with drummer Steve Jordan about his career and experience as a producer.
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Steve Jordan Interview 2/4
This is an interview with drummer Steve Jordan about his career and experience as a producer.
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Steve Jordan Interview 3/4
This is an interview with drummer Steve Jordan about his career and experience as a producer.
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Steve Jordan Interview 4/4
This is an interview with drummer Steve Jordan about his career and experience as a producer.
*Steve also has a great instructional DVD called 'The Groove is Here". Definitely recommend checking it out. 

Class is in the Session: Interview for The Holiday Cafe

Happy New Year! This week’s blog features an interview I recently did for The Holiday Cafe. For those who are unfamiliar, The Holiday Cafe is a really cool online literary magazine focusing on the arts, with most of the writers/ artists being from the Pittsburgh area. Click on this link for the full winter 2013 issue; www.TheHolidayCafe.com. Lots of great written works and beautiful art as always! Really appreciate the drum school shout out! Thanks to all involved!! :)  

Class Is In Session - An Interview with Chris Belin of The Traveling Drum School By Natalie Sebula 

When I noticed that you were looking for someone that inspires the community I instantly thought of Christopher Belin. He is the sole proprietor of the Chris Belin’s Traveling Drum School as well as being a professional drummer. I have had the opportunity to know him for several years. Since then I have noticed how Chris has impacted the community with his drumming and teaching skills. I interviewed him and here is what he had to say:

 If there was one thing you wanted people to know about your business…what would it be? 

As a teacher, I’m committed to developing an individualized curriculum for each student, based on their interests & goals, to ensure their aspirations of being a drummer become reality. As a freelance drummer, I give 110% all the time. Every note I play is done with heart, portraying my deep love for music. 

How do you feel your business has impacted the community? 

Thus far I feel the Traveling Drum School has had an extremely positive impact on the community. No matter what, my teaching approach is always positive and encouraging. It’s gratifying to see students convey the same or similar philosophies in their playing & attitudes. Many students have been able to perform in the areas where they reside, whether it’s a school band program or their own bands. Some have even had the opportunity to tour and post drum clips on the internet, showcasing their skills on a more global level. 

Lastly, what is your future endeavors in the business? 

My goals are always to take my business to the next level, keep growing and evolving with the times. Teaching more diverse students, releasing instructional books, and performing with more bands/ solo artists are goals I continue aspiring to achieve. 

For more information on Chris and his Traveling Drum School check out his website www.chrisbelindrums.com. He will also be releasing a book in 2013.

Album spotlight : Diana Krall- Christmas Songs

 I’d say most people would agree music plays a huge part in the holiday season, from the traditional carols and jingles to our favorite artists interpretations of standards, or even some new compositions with a holiday theme. Regardless of genre preference anyone can find holiday music to fit their tastes these days.
     
    For the past few years I’ve been breaking out my Diana Krall album “Christmas Songs” to get into the spirit. Originally released in 2005 the collection features classics like “Jingle Bells”, “Winter Wonderland”, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”, among others. All the versions are great and I would highly recommend the album to any Jazz fan, but favorite part of the record is the drumming of Jeff Hamilton. His playing, especially his brush work on “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is top notch, tasteful, and inspiring. Jeff has been one of my favorite Jazz players in recent years. He’s well respected as a drummer and also as a band leader.  I always enter a heavy brush phase after listening to this album. Here’s a sample clip of his Jeff's brush work I really dig. He also offers up some great techniques tips, which I use all the time in my playing. Hope you all enjoy! 
 
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Jeff Hamilton - "brush stroke technique demo & song"
just amazing...





 *The Positive Spin on Drums weekly blog will resume on Monday January 7th, 2013 due to the holidays. Hope everyone has safe & happy holidays! 

Dave Whaley Benefit @ Club Diesel

    Last night The New Mingle performed at Club Diesel in Pittsburgh. The show was dubbed “Violence Wont Silence the Music”, a benefit for Dave Whaley. For those who are unfamiliar, Dave was assaulted on the South Side a few weeks ago and was badly injured. There has been news coverage on this as well as benefits held to help raise money for Dave and to bring awareness to the increasing violence that has been occurring on the South Side.     
    The New Mingle, Matt Calvetti & myself, both found out about this incident the day after it happened. We’ve both known Dave for over 10 years. Dave is a fellow Pittsburgh based drummer and works at Dave’s Music Mine, one of our favorite record stores. We already planned on donating to the cause but then we got the offer to do the Diesel show. We gladly accepted and it turned out to be an awesome night! Most importantly money was raised and the show made press. Plus besides supporting Dave, the overall cause was something I firmly support. The south side has changed a lot since the days when I first met Dave. There has been increasing violence and a consistently bad vibe there, mostly on the weekend nights when the bars & clubs are packed. I started to really notice this in the late 2000’s and since then have mostly just been there during the daylight. Even walking the streets before the show yesterday I noticed trash and beer bottles littering the sidewalks, remains of last nights ruckus i’m sure. Action needs to be taken to clean this area up. I took the Pgh bus tour for fun a few months back and when we got to Carson St., the tour guide said there was 150+ bars on this street, more than any other street in the USA, even Bourbon St. in New Orleans!  A lot of people I know are like me in avoiding this area. I signed a petition at the show to make this more aware to those who can hopefully bring some much needed security back to the south side, especially for the sake of the residents and businesses.
      
     Musically, every band was excellent! There was such a diverse mix of groups, everything from Pop Punk / Alternative to Synth Metal to laid back vintage R N’ R to great tribute groups performing Rush & Rolling Stones tunes respectively. I’m a fan of all music so I had an awesome time! We had a great middle slot and during our performance I noticed a camera crew filming us as well as the crowd. I heard after the set we may make the channel 11 news. Then I got a text around 10:15 saying we were on the 10 PM news! Totally missed that but luckily they replayed it after the Packers game around midnight. I thought it was a great clip. They got a quick interview with Dave, as well as one of his close friends / organizers of the event. He had who some very nice, and very true, words about Dave. Right after that the cameras got some quick individual clips of me and Matt performing (no audio but we were playing “In the Audio Ocean”, a song from our EP, which can be downloaded for free on our Reverb Nation page). I unintentionially rocked my variation of the classic drummer face for the cameras, performing on Matt Kastner’s sweet DW silver sparkle drum set. For all the drummers out there, he had the toms fitted with the Evans chrome heads, which sounded killer!  Matt K. and I have been friends for years, but have never shared the stage together. He's a great player and his band, Second Empire, rocked the house.  
 
    I searched all over the web for the news clip from last night, but I can’t find anything. Someone please send me one if you do. I do have a VHS version (kicking it old school!).  There are still clips online from the original incident on the KDKA & WPXI websites. Below is the link to the official Dave Whaley support page where you can donate, buy an official t-shirt, get info on where to sign the petition, find out about other benefits, or find links to all the bands who've taken part. The New Mingle reverb nation link is also below. Our entire EP is downloadable for free!! Hope you like! 

Dave Whaley Support Page; http://www.facebook.com/DaveWhaleySupport

The New Mingle: www.Reverbnation.com/thenewmingle
                          www.youtube.com/thenewmingle

A Musical Good Time In Chicago

 Tipping the bucket percussionist, downtown chi-town  
   
  I had a truly amazing time in Chicago this past holiday weekend. Not only did I get to see so much of the city with my awesome girlfriend Natalie, I also got to experience some great music related moments as well. Here’s a few highlights I recommend any musician, especially drummers, who visit the windy city should definitely check out.    
    Chicago, IL has a well documented musical history. There are tons of famous artists, bands, & venues from or based there. Doing a google search can lead you to many destinations throughout, which I did on my first trip a few years back. The Green Mill jazz club & Steve Maxwell’s drums is what I checked out last time, both awesome!!       
     For this trip, Natalie & I bought tickets for the Million Dollar Quartet at the Apollo Theatre. This is a musical based on a famous December afternoon in 1956 where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, & Carl Perkins had a jam session @ the infamous Sun Studios. We ordered tickets online & when we arrived we realized the seats were front row! I had an awesome view of the drums as well!! Dan Leali was the drummer for the night. He played very tasteful, capturing the proper tones and feel of the music. He did all that on a great sounding vintage Ludwig, appropriate for the setting of the musical.

Jazz Record Mart, 27 East Illinois St. Chicago.      
    The next morning I searched Chicago record stores on the web. The first hit was Jazz Record Mart, which was about two miles from our hotel. When I walked in I was blown away; a Jazz based music store carrying mostly vinyl records! I didn’t think a place like that existed!!  There were CD’s too, but many more records. There was some R&B and a few Rock titles, but it was seriously Jazz based. New & used stuff, rarities, must-haves, and so much more. I picked up a Grover Washington Jr. record for $2.99, which includes a 15 min instrumental version of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man”. Good stuff! The staff was really cool & knowledgeable as well. I couldn’t spent the whole day there no prob!       
    This trip was more about a quick romantic boyfriend / girlfriend get away, not focused around visiting all the music related stuff and performing. I'll be back because there's much more to experience. No matter where we went, there was music appreciation everywhere. Whether it was musicians performing in the streets, advertisements for bands playing, Piano stores in the downtown area, or just seeing a people walking around with guitar cases, Chicago is without question a very hip place for music.

Product Review: Getting Started on Cajon with Michael Wimberly

Product Review:

Getting Started on Cajon with Michael Wimberly  (Book / DVD combo package) 

   Recently a few of my current <Traveling> Drum School students purchased cajons as their first piece of hand percussion. Not long after, I had a new student contact me and she exclusively wanted to learn the cajon. All of them started asking questions about this cool little box drum and wanted to learn as much as possible about it. So I began my normal percussionist curriculum as I’ve done many times before, adjusting it a bit to accommodate the cajon and it’s tonal possibilities. I already knew quite a bit about the cajon but last week while picking up drum supplies I came across this instructional combo package. Looked like pretty basic stuff based on the front cover description. I also didn’t totally recognize the percussion instructor at first, but his name did sound familiar. Upon reading the back cover, I came to the conclusion this could be a great purchase to get more acquainted with the instrument.      
     I was right on the money with this purchase! Not only does this package give an excellent background on the cajon, but it introduces the main tones and how to achieve them properly. The content is definitely intermediate to advanced. The book contains a great variety of traditional rhythms and how to apply them using all the tones. You definitely have to have a minimum intermediate level of reading notation to fully grasp the book concepts. In the video, Michael performs all of the rhythms, as well as playing along to music and providing ideas for how to use the drum in all types of music.      
   Michael’s teaching approach is concise and his playing is top notch. Upon reading his bio, I realized I did recognize him from some of the artists he’s worked with.      
   I really enjoyed this entire package and would recommend it to any percussion instructor or aspiring drummer.

*PLEASE NOTE

"The Positive Spin on Drums" weekly blog will resume on Monday December 3rd. I'll be away on 11/26 visiting the always musically inspiring city of Chicago, IL for the holiday weekend. Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving! -Chris.   

"Wild Child" music video

   This week’s blog features the new music video for “Wild Child” by The Satin Hearts. This is the official first single from our album “Living On Overdrive”. I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs about this song receiving lots of radio airplay throughout the United States and parts of Canada. The worldly buzz is still going strong, plus some college stations have started to play other songs from the album. There are multiple album reviews posted online. Top40-charts.com said "Wild Child is a standout tune with a ska-tinged beat, jangly guitars, mesmerizing feel and satin smooth vocals”.      
   This video was shot this past Friday at Peter B’s in Sarver, PA, which is a really cool music venue for those who are unfamiliar (link below). Andrew Obenreder from I4eye Media did an awesome job yet again of capturing us. I really all dig all the work he’s done for us. Andrew did the artwork for the album as well as group and individual band shots. His site link is also below.    
    “Wild Child” is a special song for me as I got to play conga in addition to drum set on the track. The song was in our set list for quite awhile prior to the recording. When we went into the studio to track the parts, it was a smooth process to lay down what we down live. Marci played shakers just like she does live. Felt really good and sounded great, but the proposal came up to add some more percussion. Immediately I wanted to add conga, to flow with the vibe of the song. It’s purposely in the background but if you listen real close it’s there, just adding a little flavor!  
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The Satin Hearts - Wild Child (LIVE)
Live music video for The Satin Heart's single "Wild Child" The single "Wild Child" is now available on i-Tunes: http://tinyurl.com/bjf3ggt Buy the new album "Living on Overdrive" at http://tinyurl...
Links;

The Satin Hearts
www.thesatinhearts.com

14eye Media
www.i4eyemedia.com

Peter B's
www.peterbonline.com

Using House Gear: common scenarios, your drum breakables, and proper etiquette

   For this week’s blog I decided to focus on a scenario most performing drummers have to often deal with in their career; Not being able to use your own gear. Sharing equipment, or using back line gear, can occur often for drummers who play multiple band bills, or who play at venues (and sometimes recording studios) with stationary house kits. Limited touring budgets and traveling by airplane can also play a factor in whether you can bring all your equipment. There could definitely be other scenarios but the above I’ve experienced on numerous occasions.
  
1950's Ludwig @ Broadcast Lane Studios
      
    Recently, I've had multiple situations where I needed to use house equipment. In the past i’ve had a mixed bag of using well maintained and not so well maintained gear. Thankfully, all of these recent experiences have been good! No matter what I always have my “breakables” on hand. Drum breakables is a term drummers use to describe the following equipment that is usually brought to a gig where you can’t use your whole set. It’s a list of gear most drummers don’t feel comfortable letting other drummers use. Most importantly, it’s the gear that defines the biggest portion of a drummers sound and touch.
 


The top 4 drum breakables; 

Sticks
Cymbals 
Pedal 
Throne 

You may not need all of these, or you may like the gear you’re allowed to use better. Regardless, you know you can count on at least capturing some of your sound and feel with the above items. Some drummers include stands, especially hi hat & snare, in their breakable list.

Tama Starclassic maple house kit @ Mountaineer Casino.
    I always contact the owner of the equipment I’m using to discuss specifics beforehand. This is especially crucial if you’re normally used to using a unique set up, or if you’re left handed. Any pre-planning will make the pre-show set up much smoother.     
   Lastly, it’s not always the best idea to ask a drummer if you can re-tune a piece of their set in a live situation. Usually just best to deal with whatever it sounds like and focus on getting your snare to sound as you like it, or adjust your snare to blend with the toms and bass. I’ve asked to adjust the overall tuning a few times if the sound of the drums greatly contrast what I feel is appropriate for the band / artist i'm performing with.      
   No matter what, I always put everything back the way I found it. That is the biggest lesson of this week’s blog! I’ve gotten so many compliments and respect from drummers, soundmen, club owners, etc. And after the great feedback I usually hear horror stories of the drummers that don’t do that!!  




 

The New Mingle 'Run Around The Square" 2012 Highlights

This week's blog features a video by The New Mingle. Matt Calvetti and I just finished the edits which highlights our recent August performance at the “Run Around the Square’” event. For those who are unfamiliar, this is a 5K event with a separate walk & run held in the Edgewood/Regent Square area of Pittsburgh, PA. It’s a beautiful area of the city, and there are musicians featured throughout providing the soundtrack. The following clip highlights our performance. Hope you all enjoy! 
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The New Mingle "Run Around The Square" 2012 Highlights
  The Story Behind This Year's Theme

  This is our third consecutive year performing at this event. The first year we were unsure of what it would be like so we just planned it as a normal New Mingle gig; a set list with original compositions, a few select covers, and most likely some live improvisation. We had so much fun the first year and such a great crowd response (even though most of them were running past us!). We were psyched when we got asked back for the following year. I then proposed to Matt for our second race gig that we do a song from the Rocky movies. We chose Bill Conti's "Gonna Fly Now", from which we received some great post show feedback. 
   One event that spawned this years idea occurred on the 2nd show. While I was playing I looked up and noticed <Traveling> Drum School student Kenny Brown, who stopped and gave a thumbs up (captured in clip below!!). After that, I proposed to him he should stop and play a tune with Matt. He previously learned 'Seven Nation Army" from the White Stripes and I had played that tune with Matt years ago in a previous band. Everyone agreed and refreshed the tune. Kenny proposed we do it like a relay. I thought that was awesome! I definitely had intentions of running around the block but the blocks were long in that area. So I just ran down to the the end of the street and back. Felt good to stretch my legs mid set!! 

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Rocky with Batman & the Flash.mp4
Providing a soundtrack to the Race Around the Square runners performing a New Mingle version on "Gonna Fly Now" by Bill Conti, classic from the Rocky movies. With appearances by Batman, The Flash, & K...

"Unstoppable" session with JG Boccella

    

    Bright and early this morning, after a late night of catching an amazing Fiona Apple performance, I did a session for JG Boccella, laying down the drum tracks for his upcoming single “Unstoppable”. JG emailed me the file for the track roughly two weeks ago and I’ve been working out ideas since. This is the third official studio track I’ve done for him, but I’ve been a long standing member of his live band since 2005. We’ve had many great times together and this morning / afternoon was another one of them. After a great conversation over coffee & pastries, we got down to business. 
    For the drum kit, I went with my typical live show kick / snare combo; 13X6 10 ply birch snare and 20X18 8 ply birch bass drum. Usual cymbals as well; K custom darks including 13 inch hats, 18 inch crash, and 20 inch ride. I added some subtle muffling to the crash & ride.  For the floor tom, I borrowed a vintage Royce 16X16 from my roommate. It’s an “almost vintage” model with a mostly mahoghany wood shell. I found this gem at Music Go Round in Monroeville for $5! The drum has a nice warm tone but doesn’t have a bottom head, or all the parts for that matter! The top head is an Evans hydraulic which gives the drum a super low end. It was a little too much low end so I tuned it down a bit. I also placed a small pillow underneath the floor tom, which helps to dry up the sound and eliminates some resonance. This drum wasn’t dominant in the track, just used occasionally for single hits. Worked out awesome!!     
    I’ll be posting updates on track completion and release details, but in the meantime please check out his site for more info;  www.jgboccella.com  

App spotlight: Shazam


    This week’s blog is all about Shazam and how it’s greatly impacted me as a music fan and professional drummer. I've been using the app regularly for a couple years now and it's revolutionized the way I discover new music.  
   For those who are unfamiliar, Shazam is an application that gives you song info on almost any song imaginable. All you have to do is open the app, press the circle in the center, then hold your device near an audio source. It will then recognize the song and display info, including title and artist, plus an iTunes link where you can immediately purchase the track. You can also scroll down the screen and find artist bio, lyrics, video clips, tour info, etc. There is even a history section where you can look at your past tags. 
     I’ve used this at red lights, in clothing stores, and even at concerts when really cool pre-show music was being played over the PA. Shazam normally just recognizes original studio recordings, but hopefully someday it will consistently work during a live performance. It can be used pretty much anywhere and everywhere, as long as other background noise is at a minimum.     
   For all you drummers, this is an indispensable tool for advancing your playing. I’ll Shazam songs that have great patterns I want to learn or stuff I want to use for lesson plans. I'll be listening to Sirius radio and discover an amazing shuffle variation I've only previously learned from a book so Shazamming it gives me a great audio example I may have never come across. Or i'll hear a tune based around a rhumba clave pattern and really dig what the drummer is adding to it. I've gained a ton of drum knowledge from having Shazam. 
   The days of missing songs is over...for the most part! There have been a few instances where it wont recognize a song, but that’s few and far between. Plus there are always updates to this app that continue to improve it.       www.Shazam.com has all the latest info including devices it’s compatible with. 
    Lastly, the app is currently FREE! Music fans, you have nothing to lose!!

Reviewing 49 songs in 30 days

       
     Back in early September I received an email with a fill-in opportunity. I was recommended to the band leader by my friend, who is the guitar player in the group. The bandleader stated that their drummer wasn’t able to do the show. I requested their song list and noticed there were close to 200 songs, ranging from Jazz to R&B to early Rock N’ Roll to Latin styles. I was psyched because I knew roughly 90% of them, either by performing with other groups, previously learning on my own for fun, or teaching. I emailed back and said I had to wait a bit to commit as my schedule on the night of the gig wasn’t 100% solidified yet. In the meantime, I was asked to meet with the band for a quick jam session. I can prepared as always, having quickly gone over as many tunes as I could. When I arrived they were very accommodating by having a full drum kit already set up. I then received a list of songs they did at a previous show, 49 total, which most of them I already knew in some capacity. We ran through quite a few tunes and I made specific notes on their arrangements / versions of the tunes.     
   Shortly after the rehearsal I was able to commit to the gig and have been working through all the tunes, refreshing myself on previously learned songs and acquainting myself with the unfamiliar. Having over 10 years experience doing fill-in work, I have my systems of learning down pat and i'm no stranger to learning lots of songs quickly. I start with listening, absorbing all the songs and getting the vibe for each one. Then I start playing along and seeing which ones or which parts come naturally. Next comes the charting process. I normally write out basic arrangements to start, but get more specific with challenging or unfamiliar stuff. I also always figure out the tempos for every tune, even if I am not required to count them off at first (anything can change!). For this gig, I actually ordered some sheet music online, which will save me some time. My charts are completed in a timely fashion so the bulk of my preparation time is spent playing. This is crucial because most of the time the bands I work with are very busy and there is little or no rehearsal options. Plus it is typical for a freelance drummer to charge for rehearsals, which I normally do unless special circumstances.     
   In my current living situation I have the luxury of practicing and playing on two different drum sets, acoustic and electric. My electronic set is in my office (pictured above) with my computer connected right in for the perfect mix of live drums and pre-recorded music. In fact, each year technology makes my process more efficient. I regularly use You Tube, Soundcloud, Dropbox, & Bandcamp to acquire songs. There’s quite a few other choices for legal file sharing out there so I’m always staying hip to the new. Some artists still use CD’s and even in the last 5 years I’ve received cassette tapes! Regardless, with an 1/8 audio cable pretty much anything can be imported. After I throughly run the tunes in my office, I then move to the acoustic kit. My initial focus is on getting a sound for each gig (proper tuning is crucial). Then I play the charts without music at first, then with music. That process repeats daily over and over until the show date. 
   For a last review, I listen to songs I’m performing or songs in the same genre on my way to the show. Then upon arrival, my soundcheck is comprised of parts from the set list, no drum solo goof offs while checking levels! I never want to disappoint the band, and having the sound man on your side is a definite plus as well.  

'Growing Up on MTV" excerpt

    This week’s blog features a portion of my article that appears in the latest issue of The Holiday Cafe. Co-founder and managing editor Nicole Leckenby asked me a few months ago to submit a musical themed article. After a lot of thought and many edits, I emailed my submission to the a few days before the due date. She replied shortly thereafter accepting my work. I was totally psyched!! This is my first officially published written work. :)     
     The Holiday Cafe accepts all types of submissions including written pieces, paintings, interviews, and much more. They strive to showcase Pittsburgh talent, but they are open to submissions from outside the burgh.      
    Below is a portion of my submission titled “Growing up on MTV”. It details how crucial the music channel was to my formative years of music education.
 
                                          Growing up on MTV      

Music has always been an integral part of my life. A lot of my memories, even as a kid, had some song or musical genre associated with it. My childhood soundtrack consisted of many different styles of music; from the smooth R&B I listened to with my mom in the car, to the early 80’s speed metal my neighbor across the street turned me on to.  But the musical discovery of my life that impacted me the most was MTV. I thought it was totally awesome! Every time I’d turn on the television I’d go right to the channel and hope to catch something new.     
    My first video interests were anything and everything rock. That’s what I was drawn to; pounding drums, big hair, catchy hooks, distorted guitars, etc. The faces on my cassette tapes walked, talked, & shook for the world to see.  Even some of the faces I first saw on my sister’s 8-tracks appeared on the channel. During the summers, me and some chicken flavor ramen noodles were best friends for the afternoon video mix. Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” made me want to tour the world as a rock star drummer, traveling with only my drums and a suitcase full of matchbox cars. Headbanger’s Ball kept me up late Saturday night prepping me for a future gig life. Watching Huey Lewis & The News videos made me laugh,smile, & later play my Back to the Future VHS till it warped! Short movie videos, such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” were basically the closest thing I saw to a real musical up to that point. 

*Please click the link below to view the remainder of my article as well as the entire Holiday Cafe fall issue. Music fans will definitely enjoy this one! I’ve read every issue thus far. Each one is full of great material art fans from all spectrums will enjoy.  


Instant meals direct from my glovebox

   
   This week’s blog showcases something in my daily life that anyone who rides in my car usually finds amusing, creative, practical, or slightly odd. I’m referring to my glovebox, which is normally fully stocked with food! 

    Being a full time traveling drum teacher & musician puts me on the road quite a bit. My car, a 2011 Kia Soul, already has 49,000 miles. That’s roughly 15,000 more than I did in 2010 and three times as many as the average American! So unless I wanted a diet solely of fast food, which can be found pretty much everywhere I travel, I had to devise a healthy and cost effective food plan.       
     I started packing well balanced lunches, sandwiches, fruit, vegetables (carrot sticks, celery, etc) and low fat chips / pretzels. That worked well for awhile but then my days started getting longer. Earlier lesson starts and pre-show lessons extended most days to being away from home 12+ hours at a time. Then one day I left a box of granola bars in my car by accident after a store visit. That box saved me on one of my long days. Ate two bars mid afternoon and felt great! Then, along with my girlfriend Natalie who’s studying to be a nutritionist, we came up with some essentials I need for my travels. Stuff you would find in pantry that could last for days in a controlled climate. Items where the wrappers could be opened at red lights. Snacks that could be eaten relatively quickly during breaks, or sides that mesh well with packed lunches.
   
 Here’s a current list of what I keep stocked: 

Granola bars 
Breakfast bars 
Pretzels (low sodium) 
Potato chips (low fat) 
Mixed nuts 
Dried fruit 
 
    I chose the glovebox for storage kind of as a joke at first, especially since I never put food in a breadbox at home, nor do I actually wear gloves often. But after trying it for awhile in my old car I loved it. Totally eliminated clutter and still have space for the essentials; insurance card, owner’s card, manual, business cards, and phone charger. No room for actual gloves though! Even when I went shopping for a new car I checked the size of the glovebox.The Kia’s are indeed spacious!! 
     In addition, I usually keep a bag of apples or some bananas behind my seat as well as a case of bottled water during the cold months. Sometimes they freeze but I find ways to make it all thaw.     
    Overall, I’ve become a much healthier eater and I consistently feel energized every day with this plan. This has been excellent for late night shows since I regularly avoid eating full meals after 8 PM. Eating a energy bar or small snack before a long gig helps keep me focused and full of energy.     
    If anyone has any more food ideas I should add, please comment. Or if I see you driving around and you’re hungry, stop and ask me for a snack. I’ll hook you up! 

Session @ Broadcast Lane Studios

     

   This past Sunday was day 1 of a 2 day recording session @ Broadcast Lane Studios. Located in the Homestead area of Pittsburgh, this place is definitely a hidden gem. It’s not marked on the outside so you would never know there was a fully equipped professional recording studio in that area. I’ve encountered this many times before; great recording spaces where you would least expect. After a long walk up some stairs, you come to a door. That’s the gateway to the studio's main room. Very spacious and the walls were lined with sound panels. The room had a vibe of old Pittsburgh, which I totally loved. There was also a really nice isolation booth in the corner. The large room lead to the control room with a few more isolation areas. Totally ideal space for a band.      
    
   Prior to the session I spoke with the studio’s main engineer Lurch on the plan for the kit. He mentioned that I could use one of the house sets. I chose a 1950's Ludwig, all maple shells with a white marine pearl finish. He already had the drums tuned up nice and his assistant Ian had the mics pre-placed. It was so accommodating I could’ve just rolled in and started the dialing-in sounds process immediately, but I’m picky so I had to make a few minor adjustments!  Fine tuning the kit was effortless. The 12X9 tom, 16X16 floor tom, & 22X16 bass were warm with lots of tonality.        
    Next was a snare selection. I brought my Pearl Sensitone but the studio had 16 different snares to chose from. Pretty much every different type you could think of. Plenty of different sizes, shells, & head combinations. I tried each one and throughly experimented with a few, including a maple Ludwig, a maple Gretsch (with silver lining) and a Ludwig LM402. Each had very distinct, pleasing tones. I went with the 402 as it had a great sound that worked well with every blues influenced groove I planned on laying down. For all you Zeppelin fans out there, that was the snare that John Bonham favored! Big sound with sensitivity which works great for many scenarios.    
    Tracking the songs went really smooth. I was well prepared for the session as always so I knew exactly what I was going to play for each tune.
 
Of course I didn’t rule out any improvising or last minute changes, but that’s normal with The Satin Hearts! The drum tracks for all three songs were completed in as well as some overdub guitars & harmonica. I am fully satisfied with everything thus far.                   


     Day 2 of the session will include bass, a few more guitar overdubs & mixing.  Lurch has a very impressive resume, including remastering some material for The Guess Who, so I’m sure his final touches on our EP will be stellar. He’s a easy guy to get along with and has a great thing going with Broadcast Lane Studios. Please check them out on the web @ www.broadcastlane.com

Drummer Spotlight: Fred Below

   
    This week’s blog is a spotlight on Fred Below, a drummer who was integral to the art of blues drumming. He was one of the genre’s pioneers, working as a session drummer for the infamous Chicago based label Chess records as well as holding it down in concert with some of the most influential artists of the time. The man is also known for laying a solid rock foundation for the Chuck Berry classic “Johnny B. Goode”. After I discovered his tasteful playing in the above mentions, I dug deeper and found out he actually started performing as a jazz drummer in the 1940’s. A well rounded player no doubt and his contribution to drumming is immeasurable.   
     I revisited Fred’s playing this past week as influence for a blues session I have scheduled for this coming weekend. The tracks to be recorded mix elements of the blues, jazz, and rock. He is one of my favorite early players who composed grooves for these genres. Fred appears from time to time in drum publications as well as some mentions in books and DVD’s. I’ve included two clips below I especially like. I’m sure all you blues fans will enjoy. For all you drummer’s, please take some time and research more on the great Fred Below.
  
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J B Lenoir - Freddy Below - Live 1965
J B Lenoir - Freddy Below - Live 1965
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Otis Rush: I`Cant Quit You Baby
Otis with Fred Below,Myers

Album Review: Yung Rellz "International School Boy"

    This week’s blog features my album review of <Traveling> Drum School student Yung Rellz debut EP “International School Boy”. This release has already been getting great feedback, including radio airplay in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. He has also started performing show recently. Not bad for a for just entering the 7th grade!! He sites Drake and Meek Mill as influences. The sky’s the limit for Yung Rellz. Check him out of Facebook; www.Facebook.com/YungRellz412 

    “International School Boy”, the debut EP from rapper Yung Rellz is filled with tight, catchy rhymes and really good instrumental production. The track “Ya Heard What I Said” is a stand out, mixing great flows with a funky beat that would make anyone move on the dance floor. Yung Rellz backs up his skills with confident rhymes on “Betta Den the Best” and “Swagg”. While the whole EP is very modern sounding, the downtempo “Kind of Girl” has a bit of a throwback feel to old school hip hop, circa early 90‘s. The guests Landon Thomas, Hendy, Schae, and Kei Player all blend well with Yung Rellz’ style. The intro featuring S.H. Abernathy is hilarious, complete with a Teddy Ruxbin reference! This collection of songs from the 13 year old up & coming artist is a great first impression, conveying more positive, humorous, and profanity free messages that I feel all rap fans would appreciate.   

Summer 2012 show wrap up

   This past Saturday was, in my own mind, my official last two shows of the Summer. Even though the solstice doesn’t official end until 9/22 I always think of September 1st as the first day of fall. Performances usually go back to normal around this time, indoor club kind of stuff. Plus school is back in session, nights are colder, and warm coffee is more easily digestible in the morning!       
   As I sip my steaming cup of Java right now I am reflecting on an amazing Summer of shows I was fortunate enough to play. Most were with The Satin Hearts, but I also had the opportunity to perform with Christiane D & the Wretched Souls, JG Boccella & The Modo Mio Band, & The New Mingle. It felt like a full-on national Summer tour, even though I remained in the tri-state area. 27 shows total (72 hours of live performance) with most performances being 3 hours in length. That would work out to be 48 ninety minute shows, which is a typical average for a touring act headlining large venues. This season was filled with lots of different scenarios: inside, outside, large, small, clubs, bars, restaurants, bowling alley, festivals, prison, art gallery, amusement park, marathon, etc. I had a lot of fun and there is no doubt I became a better musician out of it.      
   The clip below I found online last night for the first time. It was recorded at Funfest in Harmorville, PA on July 12th. The manager mentioned during set up they would be filming portions and possibility adding to their website. I was actually searching You Tube last night to see if anyone posted cell phone clips from either show this past Saturday as I saw some cameras, but I stumbled upon this. It highlights set one from The Satin Hearts. Notice the stage set-up right in the middle of the lanes, which I thought was really cool. People were bowling all around us! The sound was very full, drum sound echoed in the big rectangle room. Audience members said it sounded really good. Vocals (and cowbell!!) are definitely upfront in this audio mix.     
    I’m on a show break for the upcoming Labor Day weekend then performances resume at the Tiki Bar & Beach Room in Finleyville, PA on September 7th. Still a Summer show I guess but i’m in fall mode. Outdoor shows in Sept usually mean hoodies and less bug spray!!

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the satin hearts

Performing at a Prison...on my birthday!

   This past Sunday, August 19th, was my birthday. I love my birthday, and I love playing shows! This year I got to do both, perform & celebrate simultaneously!! This is not the first occasion a show has fallen on my birthday, but this year was by far the most interesting scenario to date. Here’s how this year’s show came to fruition: 
   A few months ago I received a call that went something like this; "Hey we got a gig offer on your birthday, not sure if you're available but it's at a prison, sounds pretty cool. Let me know if you can do it. Thanks" Once I heard that my first thought was "Awesome, I never played at a prison before." My second thought was Folsom Prison Blues, how much I love that Johnny Cash album and how hip it was he did that. I called back and said "let's do it".  

The Hype Surrounding the Show 

   Over the last few weeks we've received messages here & there regarding the performance. They started off as little details such as set length, performance location (outside in the courtyard), load-in time, etc. Then the messages evolved into more specific details, such as this description we received of the NCF (Northern Correctional Facility);
 
"Today NCF houses approximately 253 male inmates, some in double bunked cells, who have been convicted of serious offenses against persons and property or are special management cases" 

  The next bit of info we got was a dress code stipulation. Since the singer is female, she was prohibited from exposing any skin so a long sleeve shirt with jeans was recommended. We were also made aware an equipment check would happen before our entry.    
   I’ve played in front of rough crowds in tough venues before but this looked to the most extreme.
  
The Arrival

   The NCF maximum security prison is located in Moundsville, WV. It's a newer facility, not to be confused with the old Moundsville prison, which is supposedly haunted and is currently a tourist attraction. This prison is the real deal, lined w/ tall barbed wire fences & multiple security gates as well as armed guards. It's off the beaten path as I expected, but covers a bigger area of land than I thought. When we arrived we were greeted by a prison guard and the recreations director. They were friendly, but stated their strict policies on us entering and how everything was going to go down. We drove through multiple security gates then ended up in the courtyard where the stage was set up. The place looked just like in the movies; large area with an outdoor gym, basketball court, and track. There were more armed guards and tons of barbed wire fencing surrounding the area. The inmates were inside waiting patiently until we were ready.    
   Marci and I got to go inside and use the bathroom before showtime. A guard escorted us to cell block C where some inmates were cleaning the bathroom. That was first time inside a jail and it was intense. Movies definitely don’t do it justice. It was a cold and solemn place, definitely somewhere I did not want to be too long. The inmates we saw while inside were definitely giving us the curious eye. Not the most comfortable situation but I wouldn’t trade that experience. 

The Set up and Performance
   
   Set up was pretty normal. We added a little extra amplification, but we were told we didn’t have to be overly loud as the inmates would be close. I chose my customized Pearl Sensitone snare (from Brooklyn, NY) for the show. I usually carry two snares with me and this one sounded so good at soundcheck I felt like switching it up from my normal go-to. It has great projection outdoors and really blended well with the other instruments. This snare also works great with the what I envisioned the song list would be; a diverse mix of Classic Rock & Blues.
  When 5:30 PM came, the inmates began to make their way into the courtyard. All dressed in white or beige attire, each one had D.O.C. labels on all their clothes. Over 90% had multiple tattoos and most were built and in shape.

  
  A few of the inmates asked to sit in and play some tunes with us. That was unexpected, but two of them had their own guitars so we agreed. They were blues fans so we jammed on a few standards together. There was even a bass player in the crowd and he joined us for “Sweet Home Chicago”. Then to top off the end of set 2, I was serenaded “happy birthday”. Another touching moment was during our set break. We let one of the guitarist inmates play some solo acoustic blues songs on his own. After a really moving song, not quite sure of the title, he said a little speech about mistakes he made in his life that got him there. It was definitely heart felt and a few of the other inmates chimed in / commented. Even though i’m sure all or most of those guys deserve to be in there, that speech was sincere and I heard remorse in his voice.    
   Finally, we closed the show in true Satin Hearts fashion, all four of us giving it 110% to the very last note w/ Marci graciously thanking them for coming out and listening to us. There were 104 inmates outside, which the recreations director said was the biggest crowd they had out there in a long time. He said some a lot of guys rarely leave their cells. The ones that were there were friendly, thanked us for playing, and gave us lots of praise. From what I heard, this prison is pretty mellow with very few fights. The recreations director said most of the inmates were in for life, having collectively committed the worst crimes imaginable. He also stated the ones that give the most trouble are the short term ones. The older ones don’t act up as they make it their home. 
  
Packing up and heading out
 
  After we packed up our gear it was time to leave. As we drove through the gates I thought about my freedom and how thankful I am for it. Even though I would never dream of doing anything even close to the stories I heard those guys did, being there as a guest was still a taste of what it would be like to be locked up. It’s a whole other world in there I got see a small piece of. That’s enough for me. I’m staying on the straight and narrow path for sure!! 







Student appearances @ my weekend shows

  Just finished my last show of the weekend just a few hours ago. This was one of my favorite blocks of shows this past year as I saw many familiar faces in the crowds. This past Thursday was the Saint Bernadette Parrish Festival in Monroeville, which I’ve performed at the last 3 years straight. This has become one of my favorite shows of the year as I see so many students & their families in the audience, most of which are either members of the church or live in the area. There seemed to be more students present this year than any other. :) Always a good time & the festival set up (stage, booths, games, etc.) keeps getting better every year.    
  This year was extra special because I arranged for a Traveling Drum School student to sit in and play a song with the band. Her name is Laura Trozzo & she’s been playing drums for a few years now. A few months back we were working on “I Love Rock N’ Roll” by Joan Jett as she was prepping to play in her talent show. Unfortunately scheduling was an issue with her band therefore they couldn’t do the show. So I mentioned that maybe she could sit in with The Satin Hearts at the Parrish Festival since the song was in our set list. She agreed and we quickly reviewed the song together. Laura played it awesome! Hit the drum intro at just the right speed, held a steady tempo, did a great job with all the fills, & ended with a solid crash!! The crowd ripped up with applause!!! Here’s a pic mid performance;

  On Friday the outdoor show @ the Waterfront (homestead area of Pittsburgh) was moved inside Rock Bottom due to inclement weather. We played a mellower set inside for a packet house of people. No familiar faces at first but three songs in I saw Joshua Odom walk in out of the corner of my eye. He’s a little guy so he’s definitely easy to miss! He was stage left hanging out & jamming along to the songs air drum style. Josh has been a Traveling Drum School student for around 9 months now. He started when he was 2 1/2!!! Now 3 years old he is still currently my youngest student!! Josh is a natural though, possessing tons of ability and above average concentration for his age. Not only does he do well during his lessons but we have great drum conversations afterwards while I’m packing up. Here’s a pic of him during the set break, checking out my drums & entertaining the crowd!! 


Band spotlight; The Flying Z's

   


   This week’s blog is a spotlight on “The Flying Z’s, a relatively new up and coming band from Mt. Pleasant, PA. The band features three Zimmerman’s: Gavin, Ian, & Max as well as Kim Weinman and Anthony Depalma. The drum duties are shared by Traveling Drum School students Gavin and Ian, who play individually on different songs (I would love to see them do double drums on a tune someday!) Another really cool aspect of this band is the three Z’s all play multiple instruments, as seen on their You Tube page. They have over 30 clips posted, a varied mix ranging from full band cover songs, acoustic pieces, funny outtakes, and even and an electronic dance mix. It’s rare to see a young band so diverse, driven, & full of natural talent. They have fun no doubt about it, but their serious and have recently been generating a buzz performing live shows. Below are links to their sites as well as a clip from one of their recent performances.

You Tube:http://www.youtube.com/user/TFZ12  .
Website: www.tfx12.webs.com 
Facebook; www.facebook.com/theflyingzs  

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Fourth of july Party on 4th ave. TFZ
we played a few songs and people seemed to like it! there were about 400 people there Zombie - The Cranberries 00:01 Set fire to the rain- ADELE 03:50 Firework - Katy Perry 09:43
   

"Break Out" performed by Chris Brozek

   This week’s blog features Traveling Drum School student Chris Brozek playing “Break Out” by the Foo Fighters. The clip just made it’s way on to the web this past week! 
   I worked with Chris on this song for a few weeks leading up to his performance at a recent Norwin high school concert. For this year’s show I wanted to make sure everyone saw more of his skill level. He chose this piece over a few others I selected, as well as songs I knew he liked. This was also one of the most challenging options from the list, but I knew he could handle it. Right away he was a natural at all the parts, and with some extra emphasis placed on transitions, he was able to perform everything smoothly at song tempo.  
   For those who don’t know of Chris yet, please check out some of his other clips on You Tube, including the autobiographical documentary “Autism: Influence in Music” as well as last years’ concert performance of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Chris has also been featured in local newspaper articles and recently sat in with a blues band. Chris is definitely a drummer on the rise, making more and more waves with each public performance! 

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Break Out (Foo Fighters)
Break Out by the Foo Fighters, performed by Chris Brozek. Click here to view a special documentary about Chris! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSd7p7nF_50

Session @ J Bird studio

   
   This past Thursday I recorded a handful of tracks for the band Summer-Winter. The initial game plan for their third album was to track all the drums in two sessions, 4 songs each day with a possible 5th added for the second session. The first wave of this plan was successful, drum tracks were completed for the first 4 tunes.  
  The place that was chosen for this event was J Bird studio, located in the Cranberry / Zelienople suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the owner / engineer Jay Vega as well another engineer named Justin. Both were friendly & gracious, helping me carry in some of my gear. The vibe of this place is very cool, filled with an ambiance of warmth and comfort. Secluded from the busyness of the city, but definitely not too far of a drive from civilization either, its ideal for anyone wanting to record in a relaxing environment free from distractions. Nature fans will definitely dig it as its surrounded by wooded areas and while outside on a break I heard a woodpecker for the first time!   
  The studio's primary recording space has beautiful hardwood floors, multi level ceilings, large moveable sound panels, mood lighting, & a comfy couch. 

*The Drum Sound

  I was extremely pleased with the tones I got from my set. The room really brought out the warmth & the depth of each drum, especially the floor tom, and the cymbals sounded excellent in every way imaginable. The engineers were very precise on their miking techniques for this session, having reviewed the band's previous album prior. They seemed fully prepared to capture what the band leader requested, and were also open to my ideas and requests. Jay & Justin were easy to work with and it was an awesome experience. 

*Final Feedback

   From what I saw & experienced, J Bird has a lot to offer. The detached control room was equipped with the latest pro tools software and both engineers were very knowledgeable. They had an impressive mic collection as well as plenty of other instruments around; pianos, guitars, amps, and even an upright bass. All quality stuff, new and vintage.   
  I've been fortunate to work in many great studios. Each one has their own vibe and this one, a beautiful house converted into a fully functional recording studio, definitely had a true feeling of home. Really looking forward to recording the rest of the album there in a few months. 

*Sample Video

This is just a taste of my experience there, complete with mood lighting and video effects. Do yourself a favor & check it out for yourself, online & in person.  

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Session @ J Bird studio
This short video clip, along with my 7/23/12 blog @ www.ChrisBelinDrums.com, documents my session @ J Bird studio for the band Summer-Winter. Shot on July 19th. drum tracks of 4 songs were recorded fo...

The "chance record" philosophy of album buying

  Yesterday I went record shopping @ Jerry’s Record’s in Pittsburgh, PA (Squirrel Hill area). This is one of my favorite places on planet Earth, and was voted #17 among the coolest record stores in America.  And by record stores I am referring to those places that sell the big round black Vinyl things, which make sound by placing a needle directly on the surface, not CD’s (no disrespect to the compact disc). Actual record stores can be few and far between nowadays but if you search hard enough you’ll find one.    
  Even though I am a huge fan of iTunes and the download revolution, I still love visiting Vinyl shops to acquire music. I could go on for days on why I love vinyl: the sound, artwork, nostalgia, smell (lol), etc, but I wont elaborate any further. Instead I am revealing a shopping philosophy I always do when I go called the “chance record”.    

My rules for the chance record go like this;
 
  1. Has to be something I’ve never heard before
  2. Price cannot be more than $3
  3. Have to be intrigued at first glance by the front or back cover
  4. Cannot sample the record in the store before purchase
  5. Must resist asking someone any ?’s or feedback on it

   I have discovered so much great stuff this way that I most likely would’ve passed up. I always vary it up too, picking different genres or eras. When I started to really get into Jazz I picked up Hank Crawford “I hear a symphony” as a chance and that changed my life forever. That opened me to checking out lots more stuff from CTI records, a label that rostered quite a few Jazz artists which have become some of my favorites.
   Yesterday’s chance record was “Soul Coaxing” by Raymond Lefevere and his Orchestra. The cover has a vibe of 60’s - 70’s  lounge music, and one of the tracks on the back is “Groovin”, which I figured was a instrumental version of The Young Rascals tune. I was correct on that, and the other tracks I listened to were very laid back w/ lots of instruments. Overall what I heard so far I liked, definitely good for a Sunday afternoon listen!  

Drumming after a long vacation

 
   This past week I returned to my normal routine of drumming and teaching after a 13 day vacation. It was refreshing, but I had my share of moments where I missed daily drumming. This was the longest break I had since 2008 and the second lengthiest ever. Don't get me wrong, this vacation was my best thus far, definitely beneficial mentally & physically, but I was still excited to get back to the craft.     
  My first two shows back this past weekend felt great! Two long performances, both 3 hours a piece, most certainly got me back in the swing of things right quick. That being said, I figured I would devote this week's blog to describing some techniques I used to adjust after a lengthy period of not playing.
 
  1. Extra stretching mixed with extended roll warm ups. I doubled my normal daily amount of time spent on hand technique. My focus started on repetition of basic patterns: singles, doubles, & the single paradiddle at slow tempos (50 - 70 BPM). I then accented strokes in my current favorite spots & blended in some rebounds. Nothing overly complex, just a nice ease back into playing.
  2. Vamping on melodies. I always enjoy playing rhythmic melodies after a solid warm up session. Improvising, playing in the moment, etc. No game plan, just creating new ideas or expanding on topics from a previous session. Since I had such a long gap in playing this session was all about spontaneity & creativity.
  3. The real work. When I’m playing drums in my office it’s normally intense practice sessions. Goof-offs are rare, a focused regimen is the norm. I worked through a few new books from Joel Rothman I recently received in a addition to topics from the newest issues of Modern Drummer & Drum! Magazine. My attitude was I wanted some fresh material to woodshed. Mission accomplished. 
  4. Song review for weekend shows. Had to get in the zone for the upcoming performances so I looked over the song list & ran through some tunes. Felt nice and loose with everything.
  5. Closing jam. Decided to make some more music to finish it out, kept it loose, but a lot of stuff I worked on from 1-4 crept into the experimentations. Definitely ended on a good note.

Future blogs coming soon will detail my daily playing routines as well as offer tips to help you customize your own. I hope drummers find this blog helpful, as Summer is the time of vacations and chillaxing on regular routines! 

Nolin Smith drum cover

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin

Nolin Smith drum cover

  This week's blog showcases Traveling Drum School student Nolin Smith performing a drum cover of "Dynamite, by Taio Cruz.  Nolin, who recently celebrated his 12th birthday, has been playing drums since he was 6, and has been a drum school student since age 8. He also has been playing bongos at his church for a few years now. Nolin has come a long way in drum set and hand percussion studies. This song showcases his solid timekeeping, good feel and tasteful additions. Beyond that, he knows lots of patterns (beats, rolls, etc) and can definitley put together an impressive solo. Hope you all enjoy this clip!!

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Nolin Smith "Dynamite" Drum Cover
Traveling Drum School student Nolin Smith performs his version of Taio Cruz's "Dynamite"!

 *WEEKLY BLOG RESUMES JULY 9TH

   I will be on vacation most of the next two weeks so the weekly blogs will resume on Monday July 9th. Lots of diverse topics in the works for drummers and music fans so please stop back. Many thanks to all that visit often! My website reports show a consistent increase in readers so I'll be keeping it going each week, no more vacations here!!    

Album #3 from Summer-Winter

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin

Album #3 from Summer-Winter

   Pleased to announce I’ve been enlisted for drumming duties on album #3 from Summer-Winter.I had the pleasure of handing the drums for the band’s previous two albums. Just had a rehearsal yesterday on the first 4 songs, which sound really good! I’m psyched!! We are scheduled to record these tracks in late July at J Bird studios in Cranberry, PA. After that, the remainder of the songs will be prepped then recorded.
   Fans of the band please stay tuned for further updates. And for anyone who’s unfamiliar w/ Summer-Winter....please give them a try here; 

Also any 91.3 WYEP listeners can hear tracks from both albums in rotation, please request & send feedback on what you like.  

Album Review; A Lovely Crisis "Back Then"

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin

Album Review; A Lovely Crisis "Back Then"

  This week’s blog is my album of review for the band A Lovely Crisis, which features Traveling Drum School student Nigel Seibert. His drumming is tight and precise on this record, with lots of really tasteful fills, hi hat lifts, and much more. I was most impressed with his timing. Before the recording, he played me parts of each song right along with a click. He’s a solid player and definitely a studio drummer in the making!

 

   “Back Then”, the debut album from A Lovely Crisis, opens with the ferocious title track, complete with thick guitar riffs and anthem style vocals. The bands overall sound is reminiscent of the heavier side of Nirvana, blended with the speed and intensity of the Ramones. They also have a solid groove in their playing, evident on tracks "Funky Punk" & "Insomnia". There’s a lot of truth in the lyrical content of "Guitar is Dead" and the music backs up the message, pushing the song forward organically with driving bass, drums, and an impressive guitar solo. The remainder of the songs on the record round out a collection that any Rock fan would appreciate.

   

Essentials for performing outdoors

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin


Essentials for performing outdoors 

   Yesterday was my first official outdoor show of the season, and it definitely lived up to the true nature of what can happen while performing outside. For starters, It was hot and muggy with periods of extreme sun reflecting off of my cymbals. I noticed that during set up in between swatting bugs from my face! Then came the allergy attack, which for me personally is common for late May. That’s my “Welcome to Summer” from Mother Nature! Finally in true western Pennsylvania fashion came the heavy downpours of rain, which were sporadic enough so we could stop playing, cover the equipment, uncover the equipment, start playing, & repeat the cycle again.    
  After all that, the venue put is inside where we did the final set. The crowd was fun and the show was a great time. Even with all the rain they were patient and cool. The venue was very hospitable and had great intentions with us playing outside. There was a really cool tiki bar type atmosphere behind the venue. There was cover but unfortunately it rained so hard our stuff still got wet, but not ruined :)    
  Years ago I compiled this list I often show to students that runs down a top ten list of items I feel every drummer should have on hand, not including normal drum equipment, when performing outdoors. I needed all of these yesterday!! 

  1. Sunglasses
  2. Sunscreen
  3. Bug spray
  4. Allergy medicine
  5. Extra water bottle 
  6. Towel(s)
  7. Water resistant covering
  8. Small fan
  9. Duct tape (many applications!) 
  10. Hoodie (in case you or your significant other gets cold)

Pre-show Rituals

The Positive Spin on Drums 
by Chris Belin

Pre-show Rituals

   Just like anyone going thru their morning routine before work or school I have my pre-show rituals I do before a show. A show for me is usually “part 2” of my day, normally having students beforehand. This is common if the performance is in town or tri-state area. Teaching before shows is great, usually the first thing that gets me excited for the show. I also drive by myself and transport my own equipment to most shows so I can schedule lessons right up to when I have to leave.    
  After the lessons are done, I usually figure out food plans if I haven’t already. It’s never good to start a show hungry then try to find food on a set break. Not always the easiest task, especially if the venue is in a rural area or if you want to eat somewhat healthy. A lot of times the venues have food options for purchase or they have free stuff as part of your rider.  Honestly, all I ever ask for in a rider is water! I’m simple, not “bowls of M&M’s with all the colors but brown” type of stuff. Even if I was rocking arenas all over the globe I wouldn’t act like that. I usually will do research on the venue and see what cool local food places are nearby. Any kind of mom & pop coffee shop, pizza place, sandwich shop, organic market, or diner is usually what i’m seeking out. AppleBee’s is everywhere so I tend to avoid the chain stuff, opting for a food adventure.
   A big part of my pre-show ritual is listening to music. Since i’m usually driving solo I get full control of the airwaves! The music selection starts with listening to songs from the artist i’m performing with that night, especially newly learned songs or last minute quick reviews of updated arrangements. Then i’ll normally flip to the genre(s) i’m playing that night, get into the sounds and vibes of what pioneering artists have done in that field. Lastly, I love to find music from when I was a kid. The music I listened to when i first started dreaming about being a musician playing live, or songs my mom always listened to in the car while on the way to school. It used to be difficult to find at times because stations vary from city to city. Now I have Sirius radio in my car, which has tons of nostalgic stations from every era making it so easy to consistently find what I’m in the mood for.     
  Approximately fifteen minutes before I arrive to the venue I usually just enjoy silence, driving around with the windows down and just relaxing. I may make a non-business related phone call to someone for quick catch up (hands free blue tooth of course!). When I make it to the venue it’s usually load in, set up, & soundcheck. If there is time I always attempt to sight see and experience the area. After that, I warm up on a drum pad, usually by myself, getting my hands feeling comfortable for the set (videos on that coming soon.) Then I make sure i’m looking as good as I possibly can. Finally up to showtime I’ll either mingle in the crowd, lounge in the backstage room, or watch the opening acts.    
  The following clip is one of my soundcheck rituals to ensure my sticks are up to par for the show!

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Pre-show Ritual; stick test
This video goes in conjunction with my May 21, 2012 blog titled "Pre-show Rituals". This clip reveals a test i do on each stick i'm using for a show during soundcheck. The focus is to eliminate sticks...

New Student Videos; Solomon Cole & Tyler Tedesco

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin


New student videos; Tyler Tedesco & Solomon Cole

   I just finished the final edits this week on two new student videos. The first video features the young aspiring Jedi master-in-training Solomon Cole, who loves Star Wars and his performance was inspired by the Imperial March. He amazes me every time I see him, the sky is the limit for Solomon!
   The second clip features Tyler Tedesco, who proposed the idea of doing his own drum part to an old folk song redone by Johnny Cash. I thought this was a great idea and offered to film it. He wrote all the parts with no influence from me, I just smiled after he played it for me! Tyler continues to mature as a player every time I see him and this video proves his musicality. He's currently a big fan of Metal music but is also open to other genres.
   Both videos will be added to my <Traveling> Drum School page. More are on the way. Hope you all enjoy!!

SOLOMON COLE
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Solomon Cole drum solo
First drum video by Traveling Drum School student Solomon Cole. Enjoy!

TYLER TEDESCO
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"God's Gonna Cut You Down"
A version of Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" written & performed by Tyler Tedesco

The Satin Hearts make the FMQB Top 50 most added nationally to radio!

The Positive Spin on Drums 
by Chris Belin
  
The Satin Hearts make the FMQB Top 50 most added nationally to radio! 

   It’s been a great few weeks for The Satin Hearts, a band i’m in with Marci Eustice, Fran Rifugiato, & James Capp. Our new album, ‘Living On Overdrive”, has been getting great feedback and radio stations all across the US, plus some in Canada, have been adding songs to their airwaves. I’ve been reading the reports for weeks now and they keep getting better! More stations add us every week and some send messages notifying us they’re increasing the amount of plays on their station. This past week we cracked the Top 50 (at #45) for songs added nationally to commercial radio!! Still none in our hometown as of yet, but we’re hopeful. :)   
  As for the stations playing us, they are mostly mix of college & adult contemporary. As far as we know, “Sucker For Your Love”, “Cyber Stalking Girl”, & “Wild Child” are the songs that have been played. We can’t be 100% sure as the college stations can play whatever they want and can change it up. Below is one of the lists I recently received from a station who added “Wild Child”, which is currently doing really well on the adult contemporary and AAA stations. More stations are slated to add us this week!! There is more info and a current list of stations playing us on the bands official site; www.TheSatinHearts.com.   

Q-104.9 TODAYS HIT MUSIC
WEEK OF4/23/12   

SPINS     
45  RIHANNA WE FOUND LOVE 
45  J.O..B. MESSINGER 
45  MARIAH VER HOEF SUMMERTIME 
32  KATY PERRY THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY 
32  FLO RIDER GOOD FEELING 
32  LMFAO SEXY AND I KNOW IT 
28  ANKIT LOVE BEETHOVEN BURST 
28  DAVID GUETTA WITHOUT YOU 
28  ADELE SET FIRE TO RAIN 
28  MARK WIRTZ I NEED TO FALL IN LOVE 
21  JAMIE MITGES A GIFT OF LOVE 
21  KELLY CLARKSON MR. KNOW IT ALL 
21  J.COLE WORK IT 
21  T-PAIN 5’OCLOCK 
21  JESSIE J DOMINO 
21  BRUNO MARS IT WILL RAIN 
15  YASMIN TAYEBY STRANGER 
15  GAVIN DEGRAW NOT OVER YOU 
15  THE MAIER PROJECT CRIMSON SECRET 
10  THE HOOKS COMIN’ AFTER LOVE
5   STUDER IT’S THAT TIME 
5   RICHARD ANTHONY LOVE IS THE POWER 
5   ED HALE SCENE IN SAN FRANCISCO 
5   THE NEURONS DIAMONDS & PEARLS 
5   DRAKE TAKE CARE 
5   RICHARD KINCAID AIN’T NO SUNSHINE 
5   THE WANTED GLAD YOU CAKE 
5   GOOD KING FRIDAY CAROUSEL 
5   CALVIN HARRIS FEELS SO CLOSE 
5   MACY GRAY SAIL 
5   FRANK D'ANGLEO 'YOURE THE ONE 
5   VANMARTER PROJECT TOMORROW GUARANTEED 
5   MARJI DEE THE LAST TIME 
5   THE SATIN HEARTS WILD CHILD



Fresh drum heads & spicing up stale playing routines :)

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin


Fresh drum heads & spicing up stale playing routines :)


   Late Sunday night I did a percussion maintenance session at YCS studios, replacing drum heads on one of the house kits. I fitted the "almost vintage" Ludwig toms, 12X9 and 16X16, with Remo vintage emperor coated tops / ambassador coated bottoms. This was the first time I used the vintage emperors. They are slightly thicker than the originals, which helps bring out more warmth and low end. After some playing and experimenting with different tunings, I decided to film some sound samples for today's blog. The heads worked well at a variety of pitches, especially in the low mid range, which the clip below showcases. Overall I was really pleased with the results, as was the engineer. I feel any drummer seeking out a good solid Classic Rock sound would be satisfied with this combination. Honestly If I had to use tom heads like these for a Jazz gig, I'm sure I could totally make it work. 
  Also for the video, I decided not to use any cymbals, a concept I learned from Stephen Perkins in 1998. His philosophy is basicially spend some time playing the drum set without any cymbals, to rethink or reinvent your style. He said he spent almost a month doing that once. I spent the bulk of my playing session this morning cymbal free as I've done many times before. For me, the experience is rewarding. Plus you get to hear the tom sound with no cymbal interference! I've done the opposite as well, only playing the cymbals. I'll be demonstrating that in a future blog! Till next week...
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4/30/12 blog; Fresh drum heads & spicing up stale playing routines :)
Please check out the April 5th, 2012 blog @ www.ChrisBelinDrums.com for more info on this clip.

Musical Reflections & Remembrances of the Week

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin 

Musical Reflections and Remembrances of the Week 

Levon Helm 

   This past week I’ve been running into all kinds of Levon Helm tributes. For those who are not familiar, Levon passed away Thursday April 19th at age 71 after a long battle with cancer. He was primarily known as being the drummer and one of the vocalists for The Band. You can find a lot of information on him and The Band, as well as some great stories about his affiliation with Bob Dylan. On a side note, I actually got to see Bob Dylan last year (minus Leon on the skins) in concert and he didn’t disappoint one bit! This week I also discovered lots of Levon Helm solo material I was previously unaware of via Sirius radio. All the above really showed his talents as a multi-instrumentalist.   
   In the last few years I’ve performed “The Weight” & “Up on Cripple Creek” with a few bands, getting a chance to analyze Levon’s tasteful drumming first hand. Also,   two of my favorite clips of Levon that haven’t been featured in any articles i’ve seen are his appearance in the Steve Jordan drum video “The Groove is Here” as well as his scene in the “The Shooter”, a movie starring Mark Wahlberg. 

Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame 2012 induction 

   I was so psyched to hear a few weeks back that three bands I was heavily influenced by as a kid, Guns N’ Roses, The Beastie Boys, & The Red Hot Chili Peppers, were all going to be inducted into the hall of fame. I was looking forward to seeing the original  G N’R lineup perform the most, but it was not to be. I’m still hopeful but not holding my breath. Based on Axl’s letter to the hall of fame it looks like I won’t be seeing his goofy half microphone stand circa 1992 from the Use Your Illusion tour, my first concert when I was 12.  Maybe Steven Adler will donate his logo bass drum head from the “Sweet Child O’ Mine” video. Regardless, I thought Duff McKagan gave a great speech & the rest of the band seemed grateful for the honor. Looking forward to next year’s list. Maybe Kiss & Rush??   

Drum Book Update #1

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin

Drum Book Update #1

   As many people in my life know, one of my major goals is to release an instructional drum book. This vision started back in 2007 and finally the first book will see the light of day very soon. The first book will be a short self released book, focusing on a major concept that has challenged every drummer, in some capacity, I’ve ever brought it up to. Plus there has not been a book focusing on this topic as of yet so I’m psyched to introduce it to the drum universe. Now that my taxes are finally done (can’t stop smiling about that!!), it’s back to work putting on the final touches. Drum Book Update #2 coming this June. 
 
-Chris. 

Live Album Awareness

The Positive Spin on Drums 
by Chris Belin



Live Album Awareness 

  There is something about a live album that has always captivated my interest. Whether it’s a typical album opening with crowd cheers, or the fact that a live album usually captures a specific moment in time for an artist, they’ve always been an extremely integral part of my music collection. Sometimes live albums have been my intro to a new group or genre of music. Other times they’re just a more raw in-the-moment interpretation of songs from a band I’m interested in. Above all the most important influence I get from listening & absorbing live albums is the desire to be a part of a live concert experience, as a performer or attendee.    
  I started playing drums along to live albums as a kid. Back then my music collection was mostly cassettes & some vinyl. So i’d play through the first side & when complete I would flip it as fast as possible, pretending that I was playing a real concert. Even though I was an energetic 11 year old I would get tired after a few tunes, especially since the gap between songs is approximately 2 seconds on a album! Regardless I would trudge through usually completing every song. Over time it got much easier to finish. This helped me tremendously when I started really playing live.   
   As I got older & started to drive, the live album, now on CD, became a great soundtrack to a road trip. Just like playing I still loved listening from beginning to end. Nowadays I still play live albums in my car via the iPod. I usually tend to shuffle them, especially with one artist, listening to tracks that span portions of their career.    
  The following is a list of what I feel are the quintessential live albums for all the major musical genres. Do yourself a favor and check some of these out. They are in alphabetical order as there is NO way I could pick a “best live album of all time”. I would love some comments, your lists, reviews, recommendations, etc. Hope I didn’t forget any!!
 
AC/DC-Live 
Aerosmith-Live Bootleg 
Allman Brothers-Live at Fillmore East  
Anthrax-Live, the Island Years  
Average White Band-Person To Person 
Erykah Badu-Live 
The Band-The Last Waltz 
Blink 182-Mark, Tom, & Travis show 
Clifford Brown / Max Roach-Live at Basin Street 
James Brown-Live @ the Apollo  
Dave Brubeck Quartet- Live at Carnegie Hall  
Jeff Buckley-Mystery White Boy 
Johnny Cash-At Folsom Prison  
Cheap Trick-Live at Budokon 
John Coltrane-Live at the Village Vanguard 
Miles Davis-Live Evil 
Deep Purple-Made in Japan  
Eric Dolphy Live at the Five Spot 
Bela Fleck & the Flectones-Live Art  
Peter Frampton-Frampton Comes Alive 
Genesis-Seconds Out 
Dizzy Gillespie-A Night in Tunisia  
Grand Funk Railroad-Live Album 
Grateful Dead-Europe ’72  
Jimi Hendrix-Band of Gypsy’s
Iron Maiden-Live in Rio  
B.B. King-Live at the Regal 
Jack Johnson-En Concert
Kiss-Alive 
Led Zeppelin-The Song Remains The Same  
Lynyrd Skynyrd-One more From The Road 
Bob Marley-Babylon by Bus  
Dave Matthews-Live at Red Rocks
Medeski Martin & Wood-Tonic  
Thelonious Monk Quartet w/ John Coltrane @ Carnegie Hall  
Nirvana-Unplugged in New York  
Maxwell-MTV Unplugged 
Ted Nugent-Double Live Gonzo 
Pearl Jam-Live on Two Legs 
Phish-A Live One  
Poison-Swallow This Live  
Portishead-Roseland NYC live 
Prince-One Night Alone Live  
Rage Against The Machine-Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium 
The Ramones-Loco Live 
The Rolling Stones-Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out 
The Roots Come Alive  
Rush-Exit Stage Left  
Jill Scott-Experience Jill Scott 
Shleigho-Live @ Ho-Down 2000 
Slayer-Decade of Aggression 
Spin Doctors-Homebelly Groove 
Steely Dan-Alive In America 
Tower Of Power-Soul Vaccination Live! 
U2-Rattle & Hum 
Stevie Ray Vaughan- Live Alive 
WASP-Live...in the raw 
The Who-Live at Leeds 
Widespread Panic-Light Fuse Get Away











Chris Brozek: "Sweet Child O' Mine" drum cover

The Positive Spin on Drums
 by Chris Belin


Chris Brozek: 'Sweet Child' O Mine" drum cover

  Today is the 5th annual World Autism Awareness Day. In honor of that my blog this week will feature Traveling Drum School student Chris Brozek, who has been diagnosed w/ pervasive developmental disorder, PDD, a mild form of autism. Below is his performance of the Guns N' Roses song "Sweet Child O' Mine", which was one of my favorite songs to learn as a kid. This clip is from a Norwin High School concert last year, for which Chris received a standing ovation! 
   Chris has been recognized numerous times recently for his talent, not just in the documentary film posted on my site, but with a great article in the Norwin Star as well (link below). Both tell a detailed story about a person with a passion for drumming and his journey thus far in learning the art.
   As I've stated before, it's been a pleasure working with Chris since 2004. He is gifted in so many ways, this video is just a small sample of what he can do. Chris & I are currently putting the finishing touches on the song he will be doing for this year's concert, which I feel is even more impressive. Look for that this summer on You Tube! The sky is the limit for him, no question. Hope you all enjoy this! :) 

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"Sweet Child of Mine" on the drums
This is my 19 year old cousin Christopher and he has autism. He is an amazing drummer and he just loves music in general.
*Norwin Star Article Link: http://www.yournorwin.com/node/13992

March 2012 Publicity

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin 

March 2012 Publicity   

   This morning for breakfast I started my day as usual; coffee, cinnamon toast,   morning drumming. Then after finishing my originally planned blog for this week I decided to check my email before posting. After re-reading the awesome 4.5 out of 5 star review for The Satin Hearts record, I stumbled upon The Woodpile article from ThePghMusicReport.com. I discovered a link to a really cool promo for the band in the local spotlight section. Bob tells the story of The Woodpile plus adds some good insight on being in a band, as well as real perspective on the Pittsburgh music scene.    
  So after reading all of this I decided to repost both, holding off on my initial blog plan, which will no doubt be saved for a later date. I’m really proud of my performances with both projects so receiving positive feedback put a smile on my face all day! Please click the links below to view the full pages each article originally appeared on. Hope you all enjoy!!  

March 8th, 2012 by hux

The Satin HeartsLiving On Overdrive: Full throttle rock and roll with over-driven guitars highlighting Fran Rifugiato (Francis Kidd of The Fingers and The Features) drives through this album with a punk anthem. They wrap the album up in a bow using a rhythm section that employs sounds original to Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins.  The throwback sound is showcased on the title track “Living On Overdrive” with rockabilly galore featuring 1950s guitar sounds. “Wild Child” is more akin to a ska beat with jangly guitars and the one acoustic song on the album, “Untied,” is a welcomed break from the fast paced, in-your-face anthems.

Local Spotlight - The Woodpile - March 2012 - Pittsburgh

Our local artist spotlight for the month of March is The Woodpile. The band just recently completed their debut LP, Life Vacation, which you can download for free from their bandcamp site. The band was kind enough to answer our normal 'spotlight' questions. You can find their album throughout the interview with links to their sites at the bottom. 

How did the band come together? Were you all friends that went to school? 

My old band, The Douglass Brothers, broke up. We could never really get it together, but I didn’t want to abandon the sound that I thought we should have gone for. So, in early 2008 I wrote about 20 songs and hired a band to rehearse and record what would become Life Vacation. I have known Steve Whooler, who played guitar in TDB, since we played in a couple high school bands together, and his metal style was a big part of what I envisioned for the project. Chris Belin handled the drumming. He was a go to guy on the skins when a drummer flaked (happened all the time), so I worked with him on and off over the years. A word of advice to someone starting out who wants to earn a living playing music…learn the drums. If you can show up on time and learn your parts before rehearsal you’re miles ahead of most. Anyway, Big Cat Lynch did a lot of vocals on the record. His musical talent is rather diverse and he’s a friend I have known since college so he was a clear choice. Lastly, E Graham played guitar and did background vocals. He posted a Craigslist ad that simply said something like “e-mail if you’re not a p*ssy.” I instantly knew what he meant so I hit him up. We got on real well and the timing was perfect because I had just finished the demos and was in the process of gathering the band. 

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?  

I still don’t have a very good answer for this question. Maybe after more people here the album and we get some feedback it will be easier. From the first rehearsal to release was about three and half years and during that time no one heard anything, not even the guys involved. Besides the first weekend where we cut the drums and some rough guitar tracks all recording sessions were periodic one-offs with each member. So they ended up hearing the finished product about one week before it was released. It seems like new genres are popping up constantly these days, but I don’t think any of that’s necessary here, it’s just rock music.
 
Are you all originally from the Pittsburgh area? Families here as well? 

Everyone is from the Pittsburgh area. Besides Lynch, who grew up in the south hills, we’re all originally from the eastern suburbs. 
 
Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture?  

Chris Belin’s traveling drum school has been freaking parents out in their own homes since 1999 and he does freelance gigs and studio sessions, so he’s been fortunate enough to pay the bills that way. The rest of us, to a varying degree, are giving it go, but we’re certainly all still punching the clock. 
 
Do you have day jobs? 
 
Whooler is in charge of keeping produce fresh as a manager at a local chain supermarket. Graham worked at a piano store, but apparently it’s hard to make a living on the commissions from sales of $30,000.00 pianos since no one has the money to buy one. Lynch most recently worked for a software company, and I trade bonds at a large financial institution. 

How do you create your music? What is the song writing process? 
 
It varies. I like to sit with the bass or guitar and just jam. If something comes out that I like I’ll lay it down. Sometimes it builds on itself right away and other times it doesn’t, but either way I try not to force it. Many times I’ll come up with something much later and realize that it happens to work well with an older riff, and that can happen a few times and then there’s a song. A lot of lyrics pop into my head while I’m at work or some other random place. It usually results in a chorus or a couple of verse lines I like, and then that becomes the topic of the song. 
 
What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label? 

That really depends. I would love to rehearse all the time and play a bunch of shows and go on tour. I’m ready to throw it all down on a moments’ notice, as I always have been. But the saying that you’re only as strong as your weakest link is so true when it comes to a band. The opportunity cost is too high for me to spend any time in a project where everyone involved doesn’t take pride in what we’re doing. I want to be the guy who cares the least. I wouldn’t lose any sleep if no one liked us, as long as we’re tight. The dudes involved in this case are all solid, so it’s feasible that we could pull it off, but it’s been so long since we started making the record that I need to sit down with everyone and see where they are in their life. I’d be open to having a label release Life Vacation on a larger scale, but it’s not something I’m actively pursuing.
  
What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it? 

I’m definitely not the person to ask that question to, but I could tell you quite a few things not to do. How much time do you have? 
 
Have you all toured nationally? Or do you usually stay more regionally?  

Whooler and I toured regionally with TDB. I booked all of our shows and we played a bunch of cities, Cleveland, Buffalo, Ithaca, Syracuse, NYC, Philly, just to name a few. It was very ambitious, but never resulted in much because we weren’t where we should have been as a unit. We had a great time though, and have a lot of memorable stories that will be told for years to come. 
 
Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed? 

There are disadvantages and advantages of every city or town. It comes down to how you make those things work for you or against you. I lived in Fishtown in Philly for a time and the scene there was pretty robust. There were so many bands/studios/venues operating at a professional level. Was it easier to get noticed or easier to get lost in the shuffle because of that? I don’t know.
 
What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh?
 
Many regional and national touring acts seem to skip Pittsburgh, so not as many people get into the routine of going out to smaller club shows on a regular basis, which I think would have a positive trickle down effect for local bands. That being said, I think there have been some small improvements in that area over the last couple of years and that it will continue to get better. 

What are the positive benefits of being in the area?  

People here are loyal and they know what they like. Those are positive qualities. Bands that have a loyal fan base, even if it’s not that big, will be better off than some buzz band from a bigger market. Additionally, I believe Pittsburgh is on the up and up in general. There was a brain drain here for years, but many people I know who moved away after college were able to find a good job here and move back. I’m one of those people. 
 
Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area? 

Club Café is a nice club and always very accommodating. The Rex Theater is good for a louder band like those I’ve been in because the sound system and size of the venue, but only if there are 100+ people. I really like the setup at Howlers, and it’s the perfect size for local and smaller touring acts. 

  1. 1.I Gotta Get Out Of Pittsburgh03:45
  2. 2.Captain Ron03:01
  3. 3.VHS Days03:42
  4. 4.The Grifter03:09
  5. 5.Life Vacation04:40
  6. 6.Are You Freaking Out Yet?03:22
  7. 7.When You...?01:39
  8. 8.30 Dougs03:43
  9. 9.Who's Gonna Call Me Out?06:16
  10. 10.Bob Snartled05:30

More information about the band can be found at these sites:

Choosing The Right Pair Of Sticks

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin 



Choosing The Right Pair Of Sticks

   I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a music store to officially buy a pair of sticks. I was 11 years old. The previous 9 years of my playing life I used sticks that came with drum sets, gifts from teachers, or hand-me-downs from drummer friends. Never actually choose a pair for myself until this point. As I stepped into Plum borough music center I was faced with a difficult choose; 7A, 5A, 5B, or 2B sizes. I believe all they had was Pro Mark & JoJo models but my memory is hazy on that. I do remember the guy at the counter not acknowledging me at first, probably assuming I was loitering as a lot of kids did. I knew I liked to rock out daily... so I choose the Pro Mark 5B nylon tip figuring it would take me to stratospheric heights!    
  When I got home I realized the 5B’s were much heavier that what I already owned. Plus they were a bit thicker, but my rationality in the store was heavier meant you could rock harder. I thought the plastic tip was cool in the store but I didn’t realize it would make everything sound different, especially the cymbals. I was definitely playing louder, but found myself getting tired much faster. I wised up after awhile & switched to lighter sticks during sessions before getting burned out. Regardless, about a year later I returned to the store and bought some Ahead sticks, Tommy Lee series. These were even bigger than the 5B’s, still with nylon tips but more length! Both pairs lasted me a long time, even into late junior high. My best friend gave me his old Remo practice pad & the heavy models put a hurting on that!    
   Looking back I should’ve chosen the 5A weight. The early models I had I believe were 7A’s. That’s most likely why they felt so different and awkward at first. A regular 5A would’ve been an much easier adjustment. I definitely did adapt pretty quick though as my grip has always been very loose & relaxed, breaking less than 5 pairs of sticks in my life...and NO cymbals!! Still, everyone is different in their approach, choice of techniques, and goals. Here are a few things to consider in your quest for finding your perfect stick; 

Overall weight:

  This is a huge factor depending on your preferences. Generally Jazz / Pop players prefer lighter sticks for quieter dynamics and Rock players prefer heavier sticks for louder dynamics. When playing you should never feel like you have to overwork yourself to achieve a certain sound, plus if you’re using the correct weight of sticks in conjunction with appropriate techniques for the situation they wont just break on you. Sticks should break only after wearing down. I normally replace mine before they get to the level where they could break. 
 
Length: 

   Most sticks are around the same length, with an inch difference between two models being a drastic variation. Be sure to take into consideration your size, especially arm length, and your set up. Are your drums close to you or set up more spread apart? Are the cymbals placed high or low? You should always have a set up where you naturally hit the center or each drum for an overall sound. The cymbals should be placed where the main tone you use most often is reached naturally. Cymbal bells & back side of the cymbal should be a slight extension. This should help you in your quest for perfect stick length. 
 
Tip: 

  The tip plays a huge role in sound, especially the cymbals. Nylon tips produce a brighter sound than wood.  Ball tips are brightest in both, also helping to project the cymbal sound more. Acorn tip is next in line followed by Olive tips, which are usually produce the deepest & darkest sounds depending on which cymbal part you’re striking.
 
Finish:

  Most drummers I know seem to like the regular smooth wood finish, but there are other options. A lot of companies have added models w/ rubber grip. Plus Regal Tip has the special lacquer that adds a different feel. Pro Mark has the natural feel sticks, which are rough feeling at first but smooth out a bit over time. The grip area of Ahead sticks is metal. Some signature model sticks even include indentations to help with grip. Lastly, different color sticks can also add some different visuals in live performance.
 
Taper: 

  The taper starts at the shoulder of the stick to the base of the tip. Short taper is a shorter path between the shoulder & tip. This type works well for drummers who play on the edge of the hi hats often. Since there is more density the stick brings out a fuller sound from the cymbal. This is also true for a drum as the these sticks are normally heavier at the top. The stick can feel more like a hammer.   
  Long taper sticks are typically good for lighter playing since the length between the shoulder & tip is more drawn out. There are definitely exceptions, especially if the stick is an extreme size w/ length or weight. Overall, I feel long taper sticks make it easier to play subtle and achieve the quieter range of dynamics. 
 
Shoulder density: 

  This goes along with the taper discussion above. Most sticks labeled as Rock or an extreme size, have a thick shoulder which will add more weight & produce a fuller sound. This also really affects the sound of your rim shots, cross sticks, & overall feel. 

Butt end: 
 
   Most sticks have a rounded butt end. Some companies also add their trademark there, Vater with the butt end cut flat and Regal Tip with the black dot. I do occasionally like to use the butt end for louder sounds, especially in the studio. This even works well when your playing lighter sticks, flipping them around can give you a Rock sound even with a jazz stick. I also use the butt end of mallets if I’m playing a song where I mix stick sounds & mallets, two-in-one deal! 

Stick choices for electronic drum sets:

  I'd recommend wood tip sticks for electronic drum sets if you are using rubber cymbals. Nylon tips usually leave marks over time on all the black surfaces. Zildjian introduced a line called "Anti vibe" which reduces vibration to your hands. I find those work well with traditional rubber pads. Mesh heads seem to rebound nicely with any stick. No matter what, electronic kits have a different feel than real kits so you may want to modify your stick choice you for these. Most drummers tend to use lighter sticks than their normal for electronic drum set playing.   

In Conclusion
 
   I’ve experimented with hundreds of different sticks thus far, and a ton of those have been within’ the last ten years of full time teaching. I did pretty much spend 5 years of my life, 1997-2002, playing Vater 5A Los Angeles as my main stick. That stick feels like another finger even to this day when I pick one up, muscle memory indeed!! Today I mix them up often. My current favorites are the Pro Mark 7A wood regular and the 5A naturals, both wood tip. I have a ton of other sticks I use; nylon tips, brushes, bundles, mallets, Johnny Rabb rhythm saws, etc. I’ll try any model, no limits!!    
  There are so many choices out there. Every stick company produces quality products. I’ve tried all the major, most small, & once designed a stick. Finding a good pair of sticks is easy!!  Most stores today carry dozens of different models. Please take in consideration all that is mentioned above. My last pieces of advice is to experiment often & go with what feels right. Even step outside of you boundaries a bit and try some speciality sticks, like brushes, bundles, & mallets, if you never have. Hopefully with this knowledge you can make the process much easier plus save money & most importantly your body! Good luck!!

-Chris.  

92 BPM

 

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin

92 BPM
 
   This morning post breakfast I had a pretty normal practice & playing routine. This clip from my office, 92 BPM, is an except from the session which followed an extensive hands & feet warm up. A regular routine in my playing is to pick a tempo each morning & just play whatever rhythms come to mind. This usually follows the above mentioned warm up, helping me to get loose on the kit for the more intense topics I work on next.    
  As a drummer I try to find a balance between practice & playing. I feel it is essential for every player to do both. My sessions are normally filled with multiple topics mixing coordination patterns, sight reading, metronome playing, composing, learning songs, & improvising.   
  I choose 92 BPM as my tempo today because it’s very commonly used in many genres, such as Rock, Pop, & R&B. Since this was my second topic of the day, I did not overexert myself w/ any extreme drumming. The focus was just a steady “on the beat” 8th note feel w/ various bass drum syncopations, some of which I’ve been revisiting at more challenging speeds of late (slow - fast). I spliced in some off beat snare hits as well as some 32nd note fills & busier hi hat patterns for some extra flavor.    
  Hope you all enjoy the clip!! I will be discussing my philosophies on the difference between practicing & playing much more coming up. I strongly encourage all the drummers out there to experiment with this idea. Start with a tempo to that feels good for you then move it up or down at your own pace. Would love to hear feedback! Please comment & subscribe!! 

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92 BPM
Please check out the March 5th, 2012 blog @ www.ChrisBelinDrums.com for more info on this clip.
 
     

Weekly Blog Starting Monday March 5th!!

Hello Friends!!

  I am pleased to announce I will be doing a weekly blog via this website every Monday morning starting March 5th. This will be my "positive spin on drums" discussing something new each week. Whether it's a performance clip, technique analysis, drum cam from a recent show, product review, personal story, or just talking music, I hope you all join in, subscribe, & comment!! I promise it will be a good time! I'll be geeking it out w/drum knowledge each & every week, coffee in hand, preaching the gospel of this fine art. Hope to hear from you all.

-Chris Belin
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