Gig Diary

Where Have I Been?

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately, all you have to do is check out this video.  Since July I’ve been up to my eyeballs in all things drumline at Buhler High School.  And it’s been worth as the kids brought home 3 Grand Championships and 3 High Percussion Awards at the Hornet Marching Invitational in Valley Center, Neewollah Marching Festival in Independence, and the Festival of Champions at the University of Central Missouri.  I am extremely proud of all my kids and I hope you’ll forgive my absence while I coached them this year.

Gig Diary | A Look Back at the 2010-2011 Performance Season

Wow!  That went fast. Seven shows in eight months along with Christmas Eve and Easter services at Newspring. And somewhere in there I found the time to start a new jazz quartet!  This was one very busy season!

Rent! Setup

Rent! Setup

The musicals were quite diverse this year. We spanned the spectrum from the classical percussion of Into the Woods to rock and roll bliss in Rent . . . from classics like Annie to newer shows like All Shook Up.  And my set up even varied quite a bit – big rock kit for Rent all the way to xylophone, bells, percussion, and the debut of my new Octapad for Into the Woods!  It was a season that really forced me to stretch out and play some things I wasn’t quite comfortable with. But in the end I’ve got some new skills and toys to use and develop for next season.

Into the Woods Setup

Into the Woods Setup

And speaking of next year . . . I’ve heard rumor of some pretty fantastic productions like Seussical and Les Miserables. I’ve even heard rumors that MTYP may use the big Century II concert hall for one show next year!  Hopefully we can also get a new worship leader at Newspring and the band can get back to recording and writing again . . . I’m tired of being in limbo!  But no matter what comes, I’m excited for what God has in store in 2011-2012!

Gig Diary | Great Debut for 4 Guys (Who Don’t Play Jazz)

4 Guys (Who Don't Play Jazz)

4 Guys (Who Don't Play Jazz)

Friday night, May 6th, was the perfect evening for a nice coffee drink, a chair on the patio, and yes, even a bit of jazz. 4 Guys debuted at Scooters Coffeehouse in Andover that evening to a lively crowed and great reviews. We had a blast playing old jazz standards from a fake book while 40 or so people milled around enjoying an absolutely gorgeous spring evening. Dan Benner and Jesse Warkentin carried the melodies for the night while Eric Marshall and I kept the groove going while stretching out for the occasional solo.  All in all, I think the night was a total success, especially for two rock guitarists, a broadway pianist, and a freelance drummer. We may have even convinced Jesse that jazz ain’t so bad after all!  Thanks to everyone involved.

Stay tuned for updates!  4 Guys will play again soon!

Gig Diary | Always be prepared!

You never know what you’re going to encounter when you’re out at a gig.  For example, I showed up at rehearsal at Newspring Church in Wichita to find the main snare on my drum kit had a completely blown bottom head.  AND we couldn’t find any replacement heads.  So this was my set up for the evening:

Tiny Snare

Tiny Snare

So . . . unless you wanna end up with a snare sound designed by Tinker Toys, you might want to make sure you’ve always got spare heads with you at the gig!

Gig Diary | Play for the song

One of the things I pride myself on, as a drummer, is my ability to play “for the song.” By that, I mean that I try to pick grooves, fills, and sounds that compliment the song and paint just the right picture for each track. I’ve also found that this can be a hard talent to learn. So, in the spirit sharing some of my knowledge, I’ve decided to write a short blurb about some of the songs that I recorded with Newspring Band on our newest album, Go Ahead. Sing.

We Shine

I wish I could say that I came up with the dance feeling for this song, but that was Lance’s doing. Brian Watts and I did come up with the intro, though. We wanted something dark and brooding, but with a lot of “pent up energy” to get things going. Hence the eighth notes on the floor tom and Chinese cymbal crashes. The rest of the song is pretty straight forward “four-on-the-floor” rock and roll. We do bring the dark and brooding feeling back in the bridge where I use the ride cymbal and hats to keep the forward momentum going all the way through the last choruses. This tune is a ton of fun and the congregation really enjoys it!

Saviour King

This one has to be on our “greatest hits album” if we ever do one – if only we had written it. Lance did a great job of condensing the arrangement from 8 minutes down to 5 or so and the key change at the end is just like throwing down on the afterburners to propel us to the end. There’s lots of fun drumming in this one too. I play the first half of the song the way Hillsong recorded it. The coolest part to me, and apparently the hardest to record, is the pre-chorus. Just like in the original recording, I add a light ride cymbal on each beat just to brighten up up the sound little. I’m not sure where Hillsong got the idea, but it sounds a lot like the end of Bartender by Dave Matthews Band to me.

Listen carefully during the guitar solo and last chorus and you’ll hear Jesse Warkentin (keyboards) and I pay a little trill up high and then down low each time we pass through the progression. We’ve gone back and forth about whether to keep these in or not, and for the recording we decided to go for it. This is an example of Jesse coming up with a little lick and me picking it up with the toms. It just goes to show you that it pays to listen to your bandmates.

Finally, just before the guitar solo, I play a fill that I stumbled on and have always liked enough to keep for three years now – a VERY rare feat for me. It’s a simple two-bar fill starting on beat two. All I do is play a series of Swiss Army Triplets (flam right left) with my right hand on the floor tom and my left on the snare. Start this one right and you’ll naturally end up on beat four for a big accent! From there it’s full speed ahead hitting the crashes to accentuate the groove, vocal lines, guitars, or all three.

Nothing Without You

This song is such a great expression of love and humility before Christ. Ryan Morris added the percussion on this track, including the udu. It adds such a great sound and really sets the acoustic reverent feeling for the song. Also, Kevin Hayes and Jesse Warkentin play some great fills on guitar and piano and contribute so much to this song. I say all that to point out that my perception of my job on this track was to stay out of the way. For the most part I do a good job, but the bridge does get a bit heavy. It’s always so hard to walk the line between staying out of the way and letting your voice be heard. I think you can hear me struggle with that here.

Unrefined

The first of our original tunes on the record has become the unofficial anthem for NewSpring Church. And again, I wish I could take credit for the dance vibe, but it was all Lance. Ryan Morris wrote most of this tune and first presented us with the acoustic guitar riff in the intro. Dunno why, but when I heard it, my first thought was of David Silveria and Korn. That’s what you hear in the intro and verses: heavy four-on-the-floor, big quarter note accents on the hats, and a fat backbeat.

The bridge is interesting. Live at church, I played an open ride pattern between the ride cymbal and hats and moved the snare to my auxiliary 10″ drum. But the sound tech in the studio didn’t want to mess with another snare drum, so he just ran some bit crusher effects to get the sound you hear on the album (that’s right, kids, the bridge was recoded with the exact same kit as the rest of the album). Those effects have made my ride cymbal sound more like hats and my hats fade into the back ground. The end result is a simpler grove that more closely matches the song. When I play this one live now, it’s all on the hats.

The Stand

This was the hardest song for me to play, ever since we started playing it at church. I’ve never felt comfortable with it (I still don’t when we play it live). But somehow God must have puts some notes in me when we recorded this one. I love it! I tried to keep a very open feeling throughout the track, never settling into 2 and 4 until the very end. That matches with the airy nature of the rest of the instruments and let’s the vocal shine through.

BTW, I love Melinda Morris’ vocals on this one. She sounds so hauntingly celtic!

How He Loves

In 2001 I got to go to PASIC in Nashville where I was blessed to attend a clinic with Liberty DeVito (Billy Joel). Liberty pleaded with the attendees to “get back to 2 and 4″ and to play ballads loud. Listen to songs like Honesty or New York State of Mind to hear him wail away at a nice slow tempo. That pretty much sums up my thoughts on this track. Groove groove groove and play it loud! This is the track I’m most proud of.

Let Us Run

Finally, the second original tune on the album is an example of a good mistake. In the studio, we just played each song down, never using more than three takes on any one track. So this whole track was laid down in no more than half an hour. Which is my excuse for why I completely forgot the verse groove. If you’ve heard this song live or on our first CD, Unrefined, you know that the verses are supposed to have toms on the backbeats. Instead I played the backbeats on the snare for this project, and never realized my goof. Now this new groove is cannon, but I think I like it better anyway.

In summary, as a drummer, you’re the one in the band that colors the pictures the other players paint. You have to listen to them and to the song as a whole to help you decided what to (and what no to) play. I hope this walk through the album was beneficial to you. If so, let me know!

Gig Diary | My first studio recording experience.

Last week, the Newspring Band spent a few days at GreenJeans Studios in Wellington recording some tracks for a new album we hope to be released in the fall.  We had a blast and things went really smoothly.  In fact we intended to record four tracks a day, but we got nine done on Monday.  Things were flowing so easily that we ended up adding tunes to our list.  Carter Green did a great job in capturing a nice big sound for me on the drums.  At first I thought he was going for some sort of Bon Jovi-arena-rock sound with tons of reverb.  But hearing the final product in the control room – the drums sounded deep, live, and warm.  I was really pleased.

I took my new Gretsch Renown Maple kit with me (10, 12, 14, 20).

My Gretsch kit set up in GreenJeans Studios

I have been so very happy with these drums.  The sound is really warm and round on the toms and the kick has just enough punch – especially when mic’d.  I took every snare I own with me (’cause that’s the kind of nerd my wife tells me I am).  But we ended up only using the DW 14 x 5 Edge.  We tried my Black Panther 14 x 5.5 Maple, but we couldn’t get enough of a full bodied sound.  All that gear schlepped around for nothing – alas.  For the plates we used my Sabians: 13  AAX Fast Hats, 14 AAX Dark Crash, 17 HHX Evolution Crash, 18 HHX Studio Crash, 21 HHX Groove Ride, 10 AAX Splash, and 19 AAX-treme Chinese.  Good sound on the plates too – everything was punchy and bright without being rude.  Tasty stuff.

The highlight of the sessions turned into a low-light for me.  Overall, I liked my playing, but I missed a couple of fills that had to be replaced and had a couple of moments that just didn’t come out the way I heard them in my head.  On the last night in the studio, we recorded “Nothing But the Blood” by Matt Redman.  I was ecstatic with my playing on that tune.  I was laid back, in the pocket, and tasty.  I had a lot of nice moments where I didn’t play and the track had a great feel to it.  But it all got dumped.  I was just laying down a scratch track for the guitarists so they could their parts recorded.  The next day, Josh Gonzales came in and played the final track.  Josh played some great stuff and did an amazing job.  I just wish I had gotten something recorded that was as good as what I played for that tune.

Overall, it was a great experience.  Like always, Im grateful to Lance and Newspring for giving me the opportunity to play a gig like this.  It’s just so cool!