Modern Drummer Web Exclusive!

by Paul Hose

I once attended a superb drum clinic given by studio/rock great Kenny Aronoff. His playing was world-class, but the insight he gave into the mind of a consummate session artist was invaluable. This lesson is based on those ideas and covers ways to develop your musical perception, discrimination, memory, and rhythmic understanding.

Time Signature

Can you identify the time signature of any song by listening to it? When it comes to developing parts, listen for the syncopation, accents, and phrasing of the rhythms of the other instruments.

Style Recognition

Can you identify the style of any piece of music? Have you listened to enough of that style in order to be able to compose a credible part? Knowing what’s appropriate for any given the style, based on what’s been done in the past, will give you a good starting point for the groove, sound (drums and cymbals selection), dynamics, attack, and attitude that you’ll ultimately use for your own parts.

Identify the Changes

Can you identify the different sections of the piece of music (verse, chorus, middle eight, solo, bridge, etc.)? Check out my previous lesson on communication and form for some ideas on this topic.

Play-Along

When it comes time to recording a drum take at a session, Aronoff stipulated the following at his clinic, which I now teach as “Kenny’s Rules.”

  1. Make sure you have a good monitor/headphone mix.
  2. Listen to the piece entirely at least once.
  3. Ask as many questions as necessary of the musical director/composer/band leader in order for you to play the song to the best of your capability.

The chart and a drums-less version of the song in the video can be accessed below (tracks provided courtesy of Alfred Publishing). Click here for the charts. Click here for the play-along track.