Chris Belin Drums - Traveling Drum School & Freelance Drumming
My Blog

October 2012

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;  

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. 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.  


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