I had the pleasure of attending a Tommy Igoe drum clinic at the Los Angeles College Of Music last night in Pasadena. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been to a drum clinic; the last one I attended was with Carmine Appice at Guitar Center, which was a number of years ago. Tommy started with a nice little drum solo to “wake up the drums”, then proceeded to play a Carribean tune, which he told us he hadn’t played since October. Initially, his playing was a little on the sloppy side e. g. a number of his hits were off the mark –rims being accidentally hit, sticks were clipping each other etc but overall his playing was great. He later admitted that he would’ve liked to practice [the material] the day before, but he preferred the dangerous element of not doing so; allowing the mistake factor its increased opportunity –taking chances in front of his audience– to add to the overall organic feel of his performance. This is refreshing to me as I’m tired of the Nashville ways of robotism.
Tommy spent the majority of the night educating/lecturing us rather just showing off a bunch of cool licks that he knows. I appreciated that he made special emphasis on how the music business is changing; giving us tips to survive this ever evolving industry. He simply framed the night’s talk as a “30 year discussion”, such a one with ample foresight to stay ahead in the game. We need to be fluid, mobile and adaptable as drummers to be successful he decreed. He informed us that meaningful gigs are usually made possible by referral, and that our personality is as important as our playing. (Later on he claimed that we can’t escape from our personality coming out in our drumming. Are there any angry drummers reading this?) Tommy also made mention of an educator who is turning education (and how we learn) on its head, taking our outdated 19th century approach to learning and giving it a 21st century upgrade.
There was a fun interactive portion of the clinic that everyone seemed to really enjoy. Tommy directed us to his Groove Essentials site to download the clinic handout; having us listen to the music while we read the chart. What happened next took us all by surprise, he asked for audience members to come up on stage to play what we had just listened to! He selected two gentlemen each to play a tune. He then proceeded to critique them with the help of the audience members. What a treat for those two guys! Out of all the admonitions from Tommy, the primary emphasis was that if one’s playing isn’t in time, then IT DOESN’T COUNT! (Thankfully both of these guys had a good time sense)
Amongst the numerous things that Tommy spoke of, the comment that punched me in the face was when he said a portion of every practice should be recorded, otherwise, “you’re not serious”! *Gulp* While I do understand the importance of recording your drums during practice, is recording them every time necessary? To him it is. Given where he’s at in his career, perhaps I should actually listen to him.
Here are some other sentiments he made that stood out to me:
- Drummers sit on a throne because they are king/queen (tongue and cheek?)
- One should learn both matched and traditional grip, as it opens up more playing options for the individual
- 99 percent of the things played on the drums are singles and doubles, if you can’t do these, you’re screwed
- Practice listening to music everywhere and all the time. Listen to everything BUT the drums…to hear what’s being played, this helps you to have a better ear
- If you make your drumming pretty, your musicianship goes up
Tommy finished the clinic by playing portions of the Great Hands For A Lifetime warmup (taught to him by his father but he gave it steroids), reminding us to keep our hands soft, helping one to avoid carpel tunnel. In closing, with all of the humor, knowledge and insight that he displayed last night, I look forward to seeing him again when he comes back to Los Angeles.