The veteran fusion drummer’s new online tutorial is most concerned with opening doors to self-expression.
“Drumming is, and should be, a constantly evolving art form,” says Gary Husband. “And I feel we all carry the responsibility to at least strive to take it forward. I’m just putting in my ten cents to encourage deeper investigation into the vast resource of imagination, which I believe is inside all of us, should we choose to be open to it.” Husband knows a thing or two about taking the art of drumming forward. In addition to contributing to the work of famous boundary pushers like John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, and Jack Bruce, the multi-instrumentalist’s advanced keyboard skills have enabled him to work alongside some of the most groundbreaking drummers of the modern age, including Billy Cobham and Jack DeJohnette. Like any good teacher, though, Husband has a fondness for emphasizing the basics, but has little concern for teaching others to play “his” way. “Through these videocasts, I’d like to be a motivational and inspirational influence,” he says, “drawing on my personal, particular experience and ongoing development as a musician, and serving as an example to those striving to cultivate their own voice and establish a path of development for themselves.”
MD: What inspired this project?
Gary: There are some great teachers online already, but my aspirations behind my own project are largely to try to reintroduce into the world of drumming some fundamentals I strongly believe in, and to expand on the value of aspects I feel aren’t commonly being considered to any meaningful degree. Especially in the more creative areas.
MD: How are you doing that?
Gary: I’m coming at the subject matter quite instinctively from as many angles as possible, in the hope that what I put across proves to be empowering for developing players. And it’s directed at those who are keen to explore their musical expression at the kit, however differently, and to reach a bit more.
So in the videocasts, for example, I’m encouraging drummers to really broaden their musical horizons by researching not just drums in alternative types of music to what they are naturally drawn to, but also looking back historically at some of the game-changers in our art. I often provide with the videocasts PDFs of links to stand-out performances, to kick-start the process. I also tackle areas such as the incredible value of playing and interacting with other musicians rather than just concentrating on practice room work, the cultivation of open-handed playing, effective ways of looking at fluidity within odd time signatures, approaches to soloing, and the broader aspects of being creative within all these.
I’m also looking at sound, gear—getting the instrument to work for you as opposed to vice versa, and I’m delving into bringing as much meaning into your expression as possible, being clear and articulate. I give my own take on stuff like warm-up sessions and practice routines, discuss being a bit of a rebel on drums, breaking the mold, and hopefully a lot of expanding stuff that makes you a bigger musician. My conviction in all these areas stems, in a large part, from reading interviews with some of the great rebels in drumming whose audacious nerve, courage, and innovation gave me both inspiration and a kind of license to pursue rebellious ideas that were coming up in me.
MD: What’s your general philosophy regarding helping drummers establish their own voice on the drums, while at the same time working to master the drum vocabulary that we all share?
Gary: It’s my belief that each of us has a voice and highly identifiable touch on the instrument. Each of us is unique. Yet it seems increasingly that with more and more young drummers there are a reluctance and a lack of self-confidence to really indulge in their inner musical aspirations, and to get behind impulses of their own that come up, often out of some general fear that they won’t be accepted.
There is way too often a whole insecurity about not being able to “shred” as hard as the new flashy guy on Instagram, which I find deeply disturbing. This intimidatory, competitive thing in playing is so alien to me, and particularly at odds with this whole wonderful all embracing, supportive, and celebratory fellowship of musicians that is the drumming community.
Funnily enough, there isn’t anything like the same kind of community with piano. Indeed, I went through a lot of misery at a young age with the competitiveness and one-upmanship that surrounded my classical piano studies, which caused me to abandon the instrument for a few years. Thankfully a little voice deep within me called me back, reminding me there was still this music in me waiting to be realized on the keyboards. So I’m lucky—piano gave me a second chance!
But going back to your question, at the root of all this is the fundamental that if you’re a drummer, you’re a musician! When and where and how and why you do something on our instrument have a very big impact on the music. It has a very big impact also on the people you’re playing with, and, of course, those you’re playing for— people that want an experience from you.
I set out to encourage an exploration and application of such things as dynamic effects, understatement, silences, and a whole multitude of approaches that present a journey from the drums in tandem with what your fellow musicians are doing, or simply within a composition. How to punctuate effectively, how to punctuate interestingly! I encourage endless experimentation. Indeed, through trial and error, I found ways—and am still finding ways—of articulating what I need to say from the kit. It’s fundamental that a singular and intense commitment to music is intact behind it all. Beyond that, I want to know the person, you know? Tell me a bit about your life and your story through the drums.
MD: What age and types of drummer do you think the series would be most appropriate for?
Gary: Oh, it’s really open season on that score. Young, old, all styles… it’s just about being us in music that’s meaningful, corresponding with the person we are and subsequently the musician we are.
MD: Please talk a little about the Track Analysis part of the series.
Gary: For this strand of videocasts, I give some background to the chosen track, break down the key musical and structural elements of it, and suggest different approaches to tackling it from the drums. Crucially, I’m coming at this from a creative perspective, encouraging a playing approach to the track in a highly personal way, as opposed to taking on board—and worse, doing a karaoke version of— what the original drummer did on it, or what I do on the featured demonstration of the track.
The other thing is, it’s often highly challenging music that I’m featuring. For example, there’s a composition of mine, “City Nights,” with Allan Holdsworth on guitar and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, that we recorded back in the late ’80s, and to this day I’ve yet to meet anyone who has a clear conception of where the first beat is, or who doesn’t believe there’s something really complex about its structure. So I’ve finally had the chance to clear that up in one of these Track Analysis sessions.
I also tackle the old Mahavishnu Orchestra piece “Miles Beyond.” I’ve loved that piece since I was twelve years old, but I never understood the routine of it until we actually started playing it in John McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension group just a few years back. Through John’s initial score I was like, Ah, okay!
MD: Besides the video aspect of the series, you offer drum-less play-alongs and PDFs of charts.
Gary: It was always really important to me that anyone can come and have the opportunity to throw their own ideas and everything that occurs to them at the music I play in the videocasts. Sometimes I tackle a piece in two or three different ways to show alternative approaches and how these can profoundly affect the shape and feel of the music. I’ve already had a few drummers send me their own versions of given tracks, and it’s so exciting and rewarding to hear their individual personalities spilling out all over the piece.
There are also charts or drum guides, and the drum-less mixes come with either a click track or without one if preferred. As long as the tracks speak to the listener, and they’re excited to dive in, they can come and stretch themselves in the track. It may just happen that they will find themselves playing on a track with the likes of Allan Holdsworth, Jimmy Johnson, and Jerry Goodman from time to time, too!
MD: What made you decide not to have subscriptions?
Gary: We wanted to avoid that financial tie for people. I was keen to make the tutorials affordable and ones that the drummer could pick and choose according to his or her needs and interests. Treating yourself to a videocast or two when you can manage it is like treating yourself to an album, or a coffee and cake. Except this one is really enriching—but without the caffeine and calories. [laughs] Hopefully the experience will be really positive and enjoyable, and people will be inspired to check out accompanying ones, too.
Gary Husband encourages drummers to approach his video series in whatever way works best for them. “Whoever goes to garyhusband.com will see the scope of what we’re covering and putting out,” he says. “Each videocast has a good, clear written overview showing exactly what it covers, allowing people to take just the ones they fancy. It’s a constantly evolving project, and I’m putting up more tutorials regularly, working around my touring and recording schedule. I don’t consider there’s really a starting point, so in that way it doesn’t follow the routine of a conventional course as such. It’s really my mission to make it all as comprehensive and inspiring as I can make it. That’s all I want to do by it—inspire!”