Headphones for Drummers

I don’t play very loud, but hearing protection is still a concern because I have a bit of tinnitus from my years of playing in bands without earplugs.

When I have a gig or go to a show I’ll typically wear my Westone ES49 custom earplugs. These are really great, but when practicing for a long time I need something more (and something I can plug into my phone to play along to albums or use a metronome app).

KAT Ultra Isolation Headphones

I’ve been using the KAT headphones for a couple of years. They sound fine and the isolation is pretty good, though I still get a lot of “boom” from the bass drum that causes some hearing fatigue.

The build quality is okay and for $70 I don’t expect a lot more. I’ve had to make some minor repairs, like re-gluing the pads on and fixing a broken clip. Not really a big deal.

My only major complaint with these headphones is that the size of the ear pads is a little small. My ears hurt if I practice more than a couple of hours because they are being pressed on by the headphones.

Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones

The Vic Firth headphones are very similar to the KAT headphones.

The reviews are slightly better for these and they’re just $80.

If I were starting my headphone journey again I’d probably order both and return the pair that isn’t as comfortable.

UltraPhones High Isolation Studio Headphones 

I was recently was given a used pair of UltraPhones by a friend. I’ve been aware of them, but the $200+ price tag kept me from buying them. I wish I had gotten these sooner!

Created by drummer and educator Gordy Knudtson, these are simply the best, featuring 3M Peltor hearing protection headphones fitted with Sony 7506 Studio Monitor components mounted inside.

The UltraPhones are incredibly comfortable and the sound quality is awesome. They also block out more bass frequency than the KAT headphones.

I can’t overemphasize how comfortable these are. I’ve worn them for up to 4 hours and barely knew I had them on.

If you can afford it, don’t hesitate buying a pair of these. You can buy them directly from GK Music.

Advice to young musicians: Protect your hearing. You won’t regret it.

The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing

The Jazz Musician's Guide to Creative Practicing

The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing by David Berkman isn’t a drum book, but it’s one of my favorites of all time and I count it right up there with Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery.

What this book provides is a way to approach practicing that actually makes the best use of your time and helps you to avoid pitfalls.

I first heard about The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing from drummer Phil Hey, who studied extensively with Ed Blackwell.

When he told me to get the book, I did not take the recommendation lightly. That said, if you’re like me you might be thinking something like “I already know how to practice” or “I’ve got my own system that works.” I get it and I put off picking up this book for a long time, which I regret.

The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing breaks down practicing many of the areas that jazz musicians struggle with in a way that makes them manageable and easier to master.

Some of the topics might lead you to believe that this isn’t a book for drummers. While it’s true that not every chapter will be as valuable for some, the book as a whole is wonderful. It’s filled with hundreds and hundreds of concrete things to work on, along with anecdotes illustrating the ideas presented.

The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing covers a really wide range of topics:

  • Basic jazz theory, clearly explained
  • How to practice tunes
  • Rhythm, deep groove, metronomes and odd meter
  • How to play fast without losing your ability to make the notes sing

Once again, do yourself a favor and get this book.

David Berkman is also the author of the famed Jazz Harmony Book, which I got to help me with piano and writing tunes.

Continue reading “The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing”

Open Studio Jazz Lessons

Wanted to give a quick plug for Open Studio, a great site that features jazz lessons from world-class artists that you can take at your own pace.

I’ve personally purchased courses by jazz drummers Ulysses Owens Jr. and Gregory Hutchinson. I even bought a course by pianist Peter Martin after getting a keyboard and wanting to dive deeper into jazz theory.

I can’t say enough about the quality of the courses offered. They’re worth every penny and you can check out a sample lesson on any of the course pages.

If you decide you want to get one of the courses, here’s a link that will get you $30 off. Full disclosure: I’ll get a credit I can use toward other courses if you do use that link.

Meet the Bass Player

Meet the Bass Player by Allan CoxWhile I still practice with a metronome every day, I like to mix it up, especially when practicing jazz independence and sticking exercises. Lately I’ve been using Meet the Bass Player by Allan Cox. It’s a staple of my practice routine.

This playalong is simple, just bass and rhythm guitar that doesn’t get in the way.

There are a good range of tempos from slow to fast that make it usable whether I’m working on something for the first time or trying to push myself.

I’m currently working a lot on feathering the bass drum (with a strong hi-hat on 2 & 4 and a standard cymbal beat).  Meet the Bass Player has been invaluable.

I end each practice session by focusing on my feathering technique with the bass tracks at 180bpm, 220bpm, 260bpm and 300bpm. Just two weeks ago my max was 260bpm, so I’m encouraged.

Here’s a detail of the tracks and tempos:

Meet the Bass Player by Allan Cox

The other thing this jazz bassline playalong is great for is when working on brush patterns. Having a clean bass line to focus on really helps to hear the brush rhythms and highlights any weaknesses that may need to be worked on.

This is very easy to recommend and a great value at around $10.

Clave Metronome App

I recently started practicing Latin patterns and working out of the book New Ways of Brazilian Drumming by Sergio Gomes. I’ve also been working on Latin independence exercises while reading from the Ted Reed Syncopation book and playing those patterns with my left or right hand.

I quickly got tired of listening to a straight click while practicing and instead of programming the various clave patterns into my drum machine or computer, I searched for an app and found one that’s perfect!

The Clave is highly recommended. It’s also free.

The interface is brilliantly simple and gives me everything I need. Tempo adjustment, several different patterns, the ability to invert the clave from 3:2 to 2:3 and an option for low or high pitched claves.

Here are some screenshots:

 

Clave metronome

Click here to get the Clave app

Here’s the book I mentioned above. It came highly recommended to me by one of the faculty of the Jazz Studies department at the University of Minnesota.