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

January 2013

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! 

You need Flash Player in order to view this.
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.
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