Hey, this is Jarrod Montague, drummer for the band Taproot. Thanks for checking out my blog for Modern Drummer–one of the best mags out there!
I sometimes wish that I would have gotten a drumkit when I was three, started taking lessons when I was five, and played drums all through school and college. I often wonder how much better a drummer I’d be if I had started that young. That was not the case, however. I took piano lessons for eight years through my school days and played cornet in middle school band for four years.
As most of you reading this know, the piano is a percussion instrument and is great for teaching you not only how to read and play music, but also the separation of hands. I found that this translated well when learning separation of my right hand and foot for drums.
I started teaching myself how to play drums on a friend’s drumkit around the ninth grade, then I bought my own kit in the eleventh grade. My rockin’ band in high school was called No Passing Zone; the name seemed cooler then. In college, I started jamming with my roommates, one of whom was the cousin of my future band mate in Taproot, Stephen. And the rest you can read about on Wikipedia.
When people find out I taught myself how to play drums, they often ask how I got started. I basically played along to classic rock with simple beats like The Eagles & AC/DC, first starting with just the kick and snare, then slowly figuring out how to add the hi-hat, cymbals, and finally, the fills. I remember first working out the separation of my right hand and foot by playing along to the verse on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with the cut time on the hat and the 16th-note pattern on the kick. Something else I practiced this with was the first chorus of “Under The Bridge,” with the constant quarter notes on the snare and the kick still doing its own thing. After a while, I started challenging myself with Rush and Primus.
My favorite rock drummers are Tim Alexander (Primus), Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews), Neil Peart (Rush), Chad Sexton (311), and Mike Cosgrove (Alien Ant Farm). Enough said there.
Taproot’s new album, Our Long Road Home, came out this past September 16. This is our fourth studio release, and I’m very excited for people to hear it. Recording the drums on this album was much more creative and spontaneous than the previous records. On our past records, we would rehearse every song for several weeks before going into the studio. So, the drums barely changed from what we worked out during pre-production. This time we had a skeleton of what we wanted to do, but we tried a lot more things in the studio.
One thing new that we tried was recording a scratch vocal and guitar track to a click, then making sure that the drum beats, fills, and transitions complemented and accented the vocal changes and accents. Many times, you can hear parts of the songs where the kick pattern exactly matches the syllables accented by the vocals. It’s fun to start thinking of songs this way rather than everyone just writing a part that seems to work with the other instruments. Well-placed drums (or their absence) can really bring a song to the next level.
I still consider drumming a really fun hobby and never want to see it turn into “work.” Make sure you BUY the new record, and check out a live show coming soon to a theater near you!
Thanks for reading,