Drummers, On the Beat

Rick Steel

Rick Steel Blog on Modern DrummerHello, MD readers! It’s BooM (Rick Steel). I still remember the last time I spoke with Modern Drummer founder Ron Spagnardi. After receiving a copy of his latest drum book at the time, I called to thank him. We talked about his writing process. I let him know that I was not published. Ron told me one thing I would never forget. He said, “Whatever you write, pour your passion into it!” These were wise words that I never forgot.

As I was getting ready to perform at the 1998 Montreal Drum Festival, I heard someone talking about a drummer using double strokes while tearing it up on the double pedal. (Later I found out it was Virgil Donati.) Once back in Los Angeles, I attempted this. I was unsuccessful, frustrated, and unhappy—but I was motivated and determined! I wanted to be in the “200 Club,” playing 16th notes at 200 beats per minute. Thus, I continued searching.

Then I remember seeing an ad in MD. It was something about “Ballistic Drumming.” I called the 800 number and left my information. What arrived was amazing! Joe Stronsick (“the ballistic drummer”) sent me a tape of some insane, scary double pedal grooves. This got me to order his system. When his package arrived, I dropped all the items on my bed. There were DVDs, CDs, cassettes, and charts. I jumped right into it. By “reverse engineering” all the material, I boiled it down to two key items. This put me on a crash course to learn these techniques as fast as I could. After about a month, I was able to play constant double strokes on my double pedal. I thought I was getting closer to “the club.”

Once done, I thought, “Now what”? Then I remembered what Roy Burns did when I was his student. After Roy beefed up my hand chops, he had me review all the forty rudiments. I had an epiphany: If it worked for my hands—and it did—it could work for my feet! Unknown to me at the time, I was taking my first steps to putting rudiments on the feet. First I applied my double strokes as a five-stroke roll, then as a seven-stroke, etc. Later I picked out some flams. After that, it made sense to work out some ruffs. Finally I whipped up some paradiddles. Along the way, I jotted down all my notes. I had to create tutorials for each. When I finished, I realized I had created twenty-six rudiments for the feet. Thus, I called them the “footiments.”

Now it was time to step back and look at what I had created. I thought, “What’s the use of just playing a seventeen-stroke roll with my feet”? It was time to create drum beats for each footiment. When I finished, I realized I had boiled down a technique to two main moves, created tutorials to apply these moves as footiments, and came up with multiple drum beats for each one. I had a book.

After getting some publishing tips, I put the book together. My book is now available online at www.thefootiments.com. If you want to see them in action, go to www.youtube.com/thefootiments. I hope my book inspires you and that you can sense my passion for the double pedal. It looks like Ron was right!

Posted in Drummers, On the Beat Tagged 1998 Montreal Drum Festival, Ballistic Drumming, Joe Stronsick, Montreal Drum Festival, Rick Steel, Ron Spagnardi, Roy Burns, Virgil Donati, author, blog, book, footiments, footiments book, weblog

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