I’d like to talk about limb independence. I feel very strongly that if you practise any groove, idea or fill it should be musical and usable in your actual line of work as a session player. I have heard and seen many exercises for independence that seem pretty worthless considering the time you need to invest in achieving the end result. For instance, being able to play seven on the ride while playing five with the kick and three with the snare. Why? When you hear the end result, it grooves like a drum kit on the back of a trailer with triangular wheels, going down a cobbled street. Not many songwriters require this approach, with maybe the exception of Captain Beefheart. In the most part, as a working session musician you will mainly be asked to play songs or music that makes sense harmonically, melodically and rhythmically. (Big apologies if there is anyone out there who earns most of their money playing in 13/8, by the way.)
A fantastic bass player friend of mine, who sadly isn’t with us now, used to tell this joke: “A band is auditioning a drummer and asks him to play seven on the ride while playing three on the kick, two on the snare and five on the hats. With much grimacing and groaning, the drummer eventually pulls it off and succeeds in the request. Feeling very happy with himself, the drummer asks, ‘Do I get the gig then?’ to which the bass player replies, ‘Sorry mate, our last drummer could play that, that’s why we fired him…’”
I’m aware that some musicians like a challenge, and I respect that. I’ve been known to play in seven myself with the likes of Jeff Lorber and Rick Wakeman – I liked the challenge too. I do believe though, that any independence exercise should have a use for the outside world, not just the practice room.
The video and transcription feature a work out for your hi-hat foot. The hi-hat foot plays the last note of a group of six beats. You can alternate it with the kick drum too. I love these types of exercises and have many examples on my Instagram feed and YouTube channel. I always incorporate them as part of a groove, playing some simple time before you drop into the exercise, making sure you keep a steady feel all the way.
I’m fairly sure I’ve heard Steve Gadd play this or a similar thing and I’m working hard to try and get the delivery of the fill as tasteful as he would. He’s a shining example of musical independence every time he plays, and these types of ideas crop up on many of the recordings he features on. He’s not done too badly for himself and I’m pretty sure he would have a similar viewpoint regarding what to practise.