Modern Drumset Techniques For Today's Worship Drummer

Drum Legends: Steve Jordan

Thank you to all who enjoyed the article on Ringo Starr. Here’s the 2nd drummer in this 4-part feature – Steve Jordan.

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Steve Jordan is definitely one of my favourite drummers. I actually did a full-on book project on him when I was at University. I think its so important to find out about new drummers and develop an interest in those whom we enjoy listening to. It really helps us as drummers become better listeners, better players, and also helps us to play with a band more effectively. In short, we mature as musicians. So without further ado, here’s a bit about Steve, why I think his contribution to music over the past 30 years is significant, and also some wisdom in the form of comments from the man himself as well as a few groove transcriptions.

Steve Jordan was born on January 14th, 1957 in New York. After studying as a classical percussionist at the famous LaGuardia High School of Music & Art in NYC, Steve Jordan launched a legendary career in rock, collaborating with artists such as Keith Richards, Don Henley, John Mayer, The Pretenders, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Bob Dylan and Alicia Keys. As a Grammy Award-winning record producer, his inspired presence and craft have raised the standard. Steve Jordan is well known as a multi-instrumentalist, musical director, producer and a writer of exceptional quality. In addition to his late 70’s / early 80’s tenure with Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman, Steve has been one of the most in demand session drummers in the world. He has recorded and toured with such artists as The Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, BB King, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow and many more. Steve has evolved into a Grammy Award winning producer with Robert Crays’ album ‘Take Your Shoes Off’ and the nominated ‘Bring ‘Em In’ by Buddy Guy. While he has played on countless hits, from Alicia Keys ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Devils and Dust’, and he continues to produce with such works as the John Mayer Trio album ‘Try!’, the John Mayer album ‘Continuum’, John Scofield’s ‘That’s What I Say,’ ‘Possiblilties’ by Herbie Hancock, among many others. As a musical director, Steve has worked on such high profile projects as Superbowl XXXX, the Martin Scorsese/Antoine Fuqua film ‘Lightning in a Bottle’ and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Steve Jordan is one of the most influential and sought after session drummers in the world. He has accomplished more in his drumming career than he ever could have imagined. Steve isn’t known in the music industry for playing the hardest licks ever known to the human mind, or for the technical skills that would make even the late, great Buddy Rich squirm (although he has great technique and soloing ability!). What Steve Jordan is best known for is making the drums sound good in any musical situation. He can take a simple beat and make it sound great. He can take a more complicated beat and make it sound so fluid and simple. He has taken his drumming beyond technique, having studied formally, and found his own sound, making the music the best it can be on each record he appears on. He has taken his influences, from Kenny Clarke to Carlton Barrett to David Garibaldi to Steve Gadd, and formed his own unique voice, and continues to inspire countless drummers today. Steve Jordan is one of my favourite drummers ever, and has made an amazing mark on the music industry.

Some Steve quotes:

“Every building has a strong foundation. When you’re building a rhythm track, you have to provide the foundation. The drummer has to be strong and solid.”

(The Groove Is Here DVD, 2002)

“When drummers practice with time, they usually practice with a metronome. That’s fine except a key ingredient to the secret of timekeeping is overlooked. I realise that in drumming you start the note but don’t stop it. That opened me up to a whole new world for me. You need to know the full length of a quarter note.”

On the subject of groove in an interview with Modern Drummer magazine: “That’s why people play so much stuff, because they can’t play a steady beat. But when you get into playing a steady groove and you can hypnotize somebody with that beat, that’s the bomb. And it takes confidence to know you can do that and not care what anybody says. People might think you don’t play fills because you can’t, but you have to do away with all that. They’ll feel it when it’s good” (Modern Drummer October 2010).

“Simplicity is not stupidity. Just because some- thing sounds good in your mind doesn’t mean that it’s dumb.”

Some transcriptions:

WHO DID YOU THINK I WAS” by John Mayer Trio (from the record ‘Try!’)


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Steve Gadd

Steve Gadd is one of my favourite drummers of all time. Actually, one of my favourite musicians of all time. Steve changed the way drums were played. Of course, many before him led the way: Buddy Rich with his technical and musical brilliance, Louie Bellson and Gene Krupa swinging the big bands, Max Roach’s melodic philosophy, Roy Haynes snap, crackle and pop, Elvin Jones polyrhythmic phrases etc etc. The list could and should go on. But back to Gadd. He is a one-off. He is a pocket master. His individual style saw him being elevated as a drummer and emulated. He took marching band rudiments and made them groove in rock, pop jazz, funk, fusion, big band, latin and more. He played musically and thought only to enhance the music. He never over-played or missed a beat. He always meant what he executed. He could totally beast his chops with artists like Steely Dan and Michel Petrucciani. He could just lay back and swing playing crotchets and you would still recognise his sound. He could groove on his Yamaha drums and you would recognise the tone and the way he hit them. He influenced countless drummers and raised the bar with how drums should sound and support the band. 

For this first article in a series before my videos go up online I would like to highlight Steve Gadd, one of the most important drummers of all time.
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A (Rough) Guide To Practicing

It’s been a wee while since I’ve done anything with the website, so I feel it’s a good time to come back. In the next few weeks you will find more articles and more updates, including an overall upgrade of material on the site. To start, here is an article from my book, The Church Drummer, about practicing (pp25-6).

Why, When, What, and for how long?

Everyone has a different method of practicing, so this article is not to necessarily answer these questions, but to just address the topic of practicing. I also sympathise with drummers who want to practice but just don’t know where to start! The issue of putting time aside to practice is really down to how much you can realistically commit to. I fully understand that life can get really busy, with work, families and other commitments getting in the way. You may serve the Church in many areas, and this is just one, so how on earth can you find time to practice?

Well, there are certain obstacles to overcome these issues:

  1. 10 minutes of rudimental practice a day on a pad. Never underestimate this. (see Tommy Igoe’s Great Hands for A Lifetime DVD from Hudson Music, a must-have for those without a “rudimental” background).
  2. Listen to a different style of music or a new drummer each week.
  3. Practice time-keeping with a metronome.
  4. Learn to read charts through the Charting method.
  5. Watch the accompanying DVD performances with this package.
  6. Watch videos on or on YouTube.
  7. Practice the CD play-along tracks and various other songs either once a weekor on a fortnightly basis.
  8. Practice the concepts mentioned in this book either once a week or on afortnightly basis.
  9. Attend a gig.
  10. Watch Paul Baloche’s Worship Band videos on YouTube or read a book aboutWorship Music, such as ‘Worship Matters’ by Bob Kauflin.

To actual practice methods, here are a few practical tips which I’ve taken from well- respected drummers such as Dom Famularo, Steve Smith and Joe Morello:

1. Make Good Use of Time
A disciplined practice session is much better than one that’s spent messing about the drum kit. Of course, it’s good to practice with elements of spontaneity, but when you’re practicing on a pad it is especially useful to dive straight in. A few examples include: Stretching your muscles first, briefly warming up, checking your technique is looking efficient and relaxed, work on some technical exercises and round up with a collaboration of rudiments. If you’re on the drum kit, stretch, warm up, work on some groove ideas, play along to a song and round up with a drum solo.

2. Go Slowly at First
It is extremely important to practice all exercises slowly at first, as this helps you control everything. It doesn’t so much matter how fast you can go, I find it’s more useful having control over slower tempos! Dom Famularo says: “your mind learns and reprograms habits by constant repetition. Slow, consistent, correct strokes will ensure that you are reprogramming your old habits with more effective ones!”

3. Use A Watch and a Metronome
Simply put, if you want to improve your time the metronome is a very effective tool for that. It is also a very frustrating tool at times, but, when you learn more about time and feel and groove, you will enjoy playing with a metronome. A good way to learn certain exercises is to play them for 2 minutes with a stopwatch: eg. starting 50bpm, going up 5bpm at a time to where it feels most comfortable.

4. Stay Relaxed At All Times
Dom Famularo states: “there is a major difference between tension and intensity. Tension is the tightening of your muscles. Intensity is full commitment and total focus.” Make sure you are relaxed as you practice, both on and off the drum kit.

5. Be Patient
Sometimes you feel like your not making any progress with the sounds you create from the drum kit, but its important to remain patient. Some things do take longer to understand, control and then execute out on the drum kit. I often find when I’m working on a tried and tested method of practicing, I persist with it, especially if a particular exercise is going to be useful in my playing.

6. Think About the Overall Tone of the Drum Kit
What I mean here is thinking about each part of the drum kit as several instruments, or voices, if you wish to use that term. Think like a painter who has many different colours. How is he going to use them effectively to create his masterpiece? Relating this to the drum kit, when you play grooves, think about how loudly everything should sound. Is the hi hat too loud, is the bass drum lining up with the hi hat? You could also practice with very few parts of the kit, or just on a pad using very little notes, and then build from there. In short, analyse your playing, scrutinise it, but don’t be too critical. In a short time you will find yourself twice as good as you once were.

*For more useful information on this topic, please check out Dom Famularo’s drum book, It’s Your Move, published by Warner Bros.


My Drum Solo

This video has been up for a few weeks now on YouTube but I haven’t actually posted it via my website. So here it is, my final video…a drum solo. As I said on the YouTube notes, it was literally me blowing all my frustrations from two days filming as it was the very last thing that was filmed. Coming up later on in the week will be two new tracks on my SoundCloud channel, so keep posted for that.

How Great Is Our God

At the tail end of last week I uploaded my fourth drum video on YouTube. Currently that video is uploading onto Vimeo, which is slightly higher quality. Also being uploaded to YouTube are the two final drum tracks, which I won’t unveil yet. In the meantime, enjoy ‘How Great Is Our God,’ one of the best tracks I think that was cut through the project, with Steph Macleod particularly shining.


Video Filmed at Holy Trinity Church, Wester Hailes, Edinburgh on Friday 27th January, 2012.

Video Filmed by Jelizaveta Burhanova, Chris Gillies & Molly Gibney.

Video Edited by Jelizaveta Burhanova.

Drums Engineered by Michal Jankowski & James Parnell. Mixed by Michal Jankowski.

Backing Track Engineered & Mixed by Frazer Knox.

Backing Track Musicians:
Steph Macleod (vocals & acoustic guitar)
Mark Cameron (electric guitar)
Peter Crockett (piano)
Dave Biddulph (bass guitar)
Brian Macleod (percussion).
Backing Track Musicians:
Steph Macleod (vocals & acoustic guitar)
Mark Cameron (electric guitar)
Peter Crockett (piano)
Dave Biddulph (bass guitar)
Brian Macleod (percussion).

Modern Drummer Magazine

This is a continuation of a series of things that have inspired me to be a better musician. The next thing I would like to speak well of is Modern Drummer Magazine. I have to unashamedly admit that I’m a bit of a magazine geek. I always have been. I loved trying to create my own sort of magazines as a youngster and still have a big collection of football magazines. In February 2004 I bought my first issue of Modern Drummer. It was one of the first times I had ever seen a drum magazine, I didn’t really think they existed. And, for one to be in a newsagent in Stornoway, I was taken with it. To go with that, Travis Barker, my favourite drummer at the time was on the cover. I have since collected every issue (just about). And with that I have learnt a lot about drummers, music, general concepts and tips, sight reading as well as interviews with today’s top pros and how they work in the industry. In short, I think Modern Drummer has influenced countless drummers across its history. I also have one of the book’s they published for their 30th anniversary (titled “The Drummer”) and some special editions (“Drum Gods I & II”). All in all, it continually inspires me month after month and I look forward to every issue. Call me a geek or whatever, but Modern Drummer has inspired me in so many ways and continues to do so. 

Here is an article from the website, showing just one of the many good points of MD.
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New Inspiration Vol.2

Some more great drumming videos!

Manu Katche – (Most famous for playing on Peter Gabriel’s “So”)

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Drum DVD Recommendation: Russ Miller: Arrival – Behind The Glass

Another of my favourite drummers is Russ Miller. A well-known session player who has played with artists such as Nelly Furtado and Cher as well as on many soundtracks such as Lethal Weapon 4 and The Killing Game. His 2008 DVD/CD play-along release, Arrival – Behind the Glass, is a great instructional manual. I highly recommend it. In the DVD he plays different styles of music, many of them drum duets with legends such as Steve Gadd, Jeff Hamilton, Johnny Rabb and Rick Marotta . He then breaks down each song, along with the concepts involved. There are performances of each song on the DVD, as well as play-alongs of most of the tracks, with excellent charts and notation in the e-book to go with it. Here is an excerpt of his e-book, showing a unique perspective on timekeeping:

‘ Timekeeping: It is so important to be able to keep consistent time. It is very difficult to create a “Pulse” when the timekeeping is inconsistent. Time is not the beats per minute of a piece of music. That is only one part of timekeeping. Most players get the fact that the meter has to be consistent. It is very obvious when someone’s meter is having major problems. It is not so obvious when the second part of keeping time is having an issue. That is the “Subdivision” between the beats. Subdivision is the space between the notes that we play. Controlling this space is the key to everything that we perform. Your mind and body need to hear and feel what it is like to play in perfect time. We are not robots, but we should strive for being as solid as possible. If everyone in the ensemble has great time, it will always sound really tight. This is the reason great players can play a song for the first time together and sound so “rehearsed.” ‘

Russ Miller Arrival E-Book pp4-5.

Russ Miller’s Official Website

Review of “Arrival: Behind the Glass” from Drummer Cafe:


Presenting one of today’s leading drum artists along with a host of LA’s top studio musicians and more than a dozen of the world’s best-known drummers and percussionists, Arrival: Behind The Glass (Hudson Limited) by Russ Miller is an unprecedented, three-disc package that contains a full-length audio CD, a minus-drums play-along CD and a jam-packed DVD with artist interviews, extensive instructional content and documentary footage of these historic recording sessions.

“I had been working on the concepts and material for a new record more than two years when the idea of exploring how different musicians interpret rhythm and pulse came to me,” Russ explains. “Nine ‘superstars’ of the drum world agreed to be involved and we composed pieces featuring two full drumkit parts, based on the styles of the drummers I was going to play with. Then, those pieces became the inspiration for the songs with the band. This was a huge project and a very humbling, exciting and incredible learning experience for me.”

“Arrival”, the featured 80-minute audio CD, is Miller’s third independent record project and features ten new compositions performed by an all-star line-up of musicians, including world-class percussionistsPete LockettLuis Conte and Richie Gajate Garcia. Interspersed with these ensemble performances are nine “Rhythmic Conversations”- original drum duets between Russ and modern drum heroes Steve Gadd, Steve Smith, Jeff Hamilton Rick Marotta, Zoro Johnny Rabb, John “JR” RobinsonAkira Jimbo and Wolfgang Haffner.

A second CD containing minus drums tracks and printable transcriptions of both parts of the drum duets, gives players an opportunity to sit in with some of the greatest drummers in the world and learn a variety of challenging rhythmic concepts and techniques.

Completing the multi-media learning system is a 3-hour and 20-minute DVD in which Miller demonstrates and explains how to analyze, play and develop many of the musical ideas used in the Arrival pieces. The DVD also includes interviews with all the drummers and documentary footage taken throughout the 3-year production process. Additional bonus features on the DVD are split-screen video for multiple views of the recording sessions, DTS 5.1 surround sound and an e-Book with printable charts and exercises as well as Pro-Tools® data files that allow the listener to re-mix the tracks.

One of Los Angeles’ top studio musicians, Russ Miller has recorded with a wide variety of internationally-acclaimed artists. He has also performed on more than 300 albums including multiple Grammy® award winning recordings as well as the soundtracks of many feature films. The five-time Modern Drummer Readers Poll winner has also released two books, three videos and two solo albums while remaining active as a clinician and part-time inventor of drum accessories.