Category Archives: Drums & Percussion

Alfred Music Joins Peaksware To Help The World Experience The Joy of Making Music

Andrew Surmani

By Andrew Surmani
Chief Marketing Officer, Alfred Music

Alfred Music is excited to announce today that it is joining the Peaksware Holdings, LLC portfolio of companies. This group includes MakeMusic, Inc., the developer of Finale and SmartMusic, bringing together the leaders in educational music publishing and music technology.

Both Alfred Music and MakeMusic will continue to operate independently. By sharing resources within the Peaksware group, additional investments and innovations will provide additional content and distribution channels for both companies. Specifically, this relationship will not change MakeMusic’s long-standing commitment to work equally with all publishing partners to provide the highest level of quality content for musicians and educators within SmartMusic.

“We are excited to be working with MakeMusic. Alfred Music truly believes in the MakeMusic products which is why we took over exclusive North American and UK distribution of the Finale suite of products in 2013. We also believe strongly in the SmartMusic platform, evidenced by the fact that we are one of its leading content providers. This partnership provides the resources needed to significantly enhance Alfred Music’s mission of helping the world experience the joy of making music,” said Andrew Surmani, Chief Marketing Officer of Alfred Music.” “We are combining the leading music education publisher with the industry leader in music technology to benefit everyone, from our music publishing partners, to music dealers, composers, arrangers, educators, students and independent musicians.”

MakeMusic owns some of the most advanced and patented technology solutions to support the composing, arranging, teaching, learning, and playing of music. Regular updates and innovations to Finale make it the industry standard for music notation software and the trusted creation tool for composers and arrangers around the world. With more than one million students and 20,000 teachers, SmartMusic is at the forefront of interactive learning technologies for the classroom. And, with their recent acquisition of Weezic, an Augmented Sheet Music innovator, SmartMusic will now be available wherever musicians are – on the web, Chromebooks, iPads, Mac and PC.

Alfred Music’s customers, dealers, and industry partners should expect business to continue as usual with no immediate changes. Alfred’s main office will remain in Van Nuys, California and additional offices will stay in their current New York, Miami, UK, Singapore, and Germany locations.

To stay current with further developments, visit the SmartMusic blog or follow Alfred on Twitter and MakeMusic on Twitter.

Helping Drum Teachers Teach Special Needs Students

Pat Gesualdo

Pat Gesualdo

As drum teachers, we all know that teaching learning disabled students can be quite a challenge, even for the most experienced teachers. My pioneering techniques of drum therapy are used on a global basis to help the special needs population. All teachers, especially drum teachers, will have a special needs student at some point in time. Some teachers push these students aside, while others try to face the challenge of helping these students straight on.

Teaching special needs students is not for everyone, which I totally understand. It is extremely difficult.

Some teachers might think that their student is “just being difficult,” as opposed to understanding that the student really has a problem. Disabilities can appear in many ways, and can affect the student’s attitude, coordination, and retention. If you have a student with one, or many issues, you need to know that there are certain ways to deal with each specific disability. Drum therapists are highly skilled, and trained to deal with all of these issues.

Special needs students can be very high functioning, or extremely low functioning, depending upon the severity of the disability. Sometimes it is very difficult to help these students, as they can have several kinds of disabilities at the same time. It takes time to work with students who have numerous disabilities, because as the drum therapy intervention starts to help fight one disability, there is another disability which is right behind the first one, then possibly one or more behind that. It can take an extended amount of time to help students with numerous disabilities.

Drum instructors should use specific lesson plans and outlines in their drum lessons. Although the mainstream drum instruction, and drum therapy intervention outlines are completely different, they are still related in some way, because they help students reach even the most basic drumming and cognitive milestones at the same time.

Drum instructors and the drum therapists should always remember the following when teaching special needs students:

  1. Extreme patience at all times.
  2. Start all lessons slowly.
  3. Increase the speed of exercises, rhythms, and patterns slowly.
  4. Repeat exercises and patterns slowly and often, at the end of each lesson.
  5. Make sure the student knows the material before they leave the lesson.

These strategies will definitely assist you in helping your special needs students to develop physical and cognitive functioning.

About The Author:

Celebrated drum virtuoso Pat Gesualdo made drumming, medical, and education history with his pioneering techniques of Drum Therapy, and his non-profit organization D.A.D. (Drums and Disabilities). Senators and Congressman throughout the United States call on Gesualdo to help them write disability legislation. Gesualdo’s most recent Legislation was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie. Gesualdo was invited to the White House to meet the President, in an effort to help wounded troops with his D.A.D. program. The U.S. Department of State brought him to the West Bank region of Israel, to help disabled Israeli and Palestinian children with the D.A.D. Program.

Gesualdo’s solo project Iceland, recently debuted #9 on the U.S. Radio charts, and features Iconic rock guitarist Michael Romeo of SymphonyX, eminent guitarist Metal Mike Chlasciak, from Rob Halford’s band Halford, among others.

Various celebrities, sports stars, community leaders, and law enforcement agencies join with him to help special needs children and adults fight disabilities throughout the world. He is the author of the groundbreaking drum instruction book Drum Therapy (Alfred Music). Gesualdo is a contributing writer to Modern Drummer Magazine, and is an artist/clinician for Pro-Mark Drumsticks, Evans Drumheads, ProLogix Percussion, and Zildjian Cymbals.

Official Pat Gesualdo websites:

The Band Director’s Afro-Cuban Survival Guide

Joe McCarthy

Part 1: The Clave

Welcome to the first installment of “The Band Director’s Afro-Cuban Survival Guide” for percussion and the drumset.

Afro-centric rhythms and instruments are present in virtually all styles of music and it is imperative for band directors of all levels to understand the core functions and applications of these rhythms. When studying this genre, one must turn to Cuba because of its unparalleled contributions to this style of music. Since the 16th century, Cuban music has been a melting pot of African and European harmonies, melodies and musical instruments. Of particular interest are deep connections to many Cuban drumming styles where enslaved African people were able to maintain their sacred and secular drumming traditions. These traditions created an essential bond between music and language.

You’ve heard this term before, but I’d like to simplify this topic so you are totally comfortable and understand it completely. This way you can explain it to your students.

Stay with me now:

One of the most important and unique characteristics of Cuban music is the clave, which translates to the “key.” Clave is quite simple and easy to understand. The clave is the structural core of Cuban music. I am referring to clave as a concept, not the percussion instrument the claves, although the rhythms of the clave patterns are played on the claves. You hear it and feel it constantly in all styles of music including classical and pop. It is a rhythmic cell or pattern which is the foundation of most Cuban rhythms. In a nutshell, the clave is the glue that holds this music together. In the Afro-Cuban style and related music, all instrumental, melodic and harmonic phrases should be in sync with the clave, this includes phrases that are improvised. The clave concept is a 5-note (5-stroke) cell or pattern phrased over two measures. The clave pattern is either 3:2 or 2:3, which means there is a 3-side and a 2-side of the clave. These numbers simply indicate which side of the clave the phrase begins.

The next step: The son clave and the rumba clave are the common types of clave. Son clave is heard primarily in salsa and popular dance music, while rumba clave is heard primarily in folkloric music and Latin jazz. Although the rhythmic structure of son clave is similar to rumba clave, the difference is the rumba has a little syncopation of the last note on the 3 side which adds tension to the music.

I’ll demonstrate the son clave, both the 2:3 and the 3:2 in 4/4 and then in cut time.

Here are three short video clips to further explain:

Now, in this short video clip, I’ll demonstrate the rumba clave and clearly show you the difference between the son and rumba clave.

How do you know which clave is correct or which one to use? Typically the 2-side clave corresponds to a melody containing less syncopation. Conversely, the 3-side clave typically contains more of a syncopated melody. There are exceptions of course. The direction of the clave is either 2:3 or 3:2 and the direction is dependent upon the rhythmic and melodic structure of the tune. In other words, begin by determining whether the rhythmic structure of the melody has a tendency towards the non-syncopated 2 side or the more syncopated 3 side of the clave.

Not every melody will outline the clave exactly, so listen for accents and figures, many of which are characteristic to this style of music. Once the clave is internalized, this concept will make more sense, as you will relate the phrase to the clave. How does this happen? LISTENING. Investigate Cuban folkloric drumming, salsa and Latin jazz. The clave is there.

Next: It is also very important to understand that clave is a fixed pattern, which means the direction of the clave does not change! Stay with me now: However, because it is an even-numbered phrase, a common technique is to incorporate an odd-numbered phrase to give the illusion of a “change” in the direction. In other words, the next phrase starts on the other side of the clave, tricking our ears into thinking it has changed, but it hasn’t. Another odd-bar phrase will return the clave to the “original” direction. I refer to this as “Moveable 1”.

Check out these short videos to further explain and demonstrate the “Moveable 1.”

Take a few moments to internalize the clave so you are able to hear and feel the pattern. Share it with your students too.

Look for the next segment in a future Alfred Ledger Line. It’s easier than you think and all the rhythms associated with the clave will make much more sense with this foundation in place.

Thanks. Keep listening and most importantly, have fun!

Joe McCarthy

Check out more instructional videos from Joe McCarthy on his YouTube playlist:

Check out his books and DVDs here.


Groove Development Through Stylistic Coordination

By Joe McCarthy
Joe McCarthy

Most drummers with some experience will eventually encounter the situation in which they need to create a groove for a new composition. Sometimes it’s an obvious decision what to play, sometimes not. How do we prepare ourselves for these situations? Listening to and studying as many different styles of music as possible is essential in understanding the effect these different grooves have on any particular style. Physical and mental control of the drumset are also essential components to successful groove development. The result of extensive style analysis and mastery of the drumset is that it allows us to approach grooves more organically, meaning we can play what the tune needs, not just recycle a generic beat we have memorized.

I would like to share an exercise with you from my new DVD, Joe McCarthy’s Afro-Cuban Big Band Play-Along Series, Vol. II. This exercise will help you develop a combination of skills required to internalize the concept of groove development. I refer to this as “stylistic coordination,” simply because it can be utilized to develop whatever style you are studying or wish to play.

For our purposes, we will target a clave-based groove. Here’s the concept: to establish an ostinato and cycle through a series of permutations, focusing on limb alignment, sound quality, overall performance consistency and multi rhythm execution. This process will also target concentration, our most valuable resource, which must be developed just as our limbs are. Playing these exercises for long periods of time with a metronome trains us to “stay in the game” which is essential when we are performing something as basic as a tune, a concert, or even a tour or long-running show. Mastery of this concept allows us to focus on all of the moving parts of the ensemble we are performing with, while sustaining a high level of performance.

Let’s take a look at the components of the exercise:

1. For the ostinato in Exercise 1 we will be using is a 2:3 rumba clave pattern. Put this in the hand you normally use to play your ride pattern. You may play this on any instrument you wish, although a jam block would give you the color of the claves.

2. Hi-hat plays on beats 1 and 3.

3. Bass drum plays the “and” of beat 2, also known as “bombo.”

This exercise will be played in cut time, so we will feel it in two. The hi-hat will be the “big beat.”

Summer Hits

4. The permutations (variations or rearranging) will be played with your other hand in conjunction with the other three voices. Begin on the beat playing the snare drum and orchestrate to the toms as you master the rhythms. Please play each rhythm many times before cycling through all of them in succession. Once you begin cycling through them, start with one measure phrases of each and continue to expand to 4 and 8-measure phrases.

Summer Hits

Take your time and focus on remaining relaxed. Relaxation is the key to control!

Please refer to this segment of the DVD to see and hear the exercise. The play-along montuno track is provided for you to practice with.

This exercise is simply an avenue. These are not “beats,” but are rhythmic possibilities that will enable you to tap into an infinite variety of ideas, instead of being limited to repetitive 1-and-2 bar ideas.

Continue to experiment with any combinations you wish. The result will be a more creative, supportive and interactive approach to musical drumset playing.

Have Fun!

Joe McCarthy is the Grammy Award winning drummer with Afro Bop Alliance. Please visit his website,

Structuring Opportunities for Creative Development


Nate Brown
Drum Author, Performer, and Educator

Some of the most successful toys throughout history have been those that leave the creating to the kids: Tinker Toys, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Play-Doh, Sims, Minecraft, and the list goes on. Kids have a natural drive to create and explore – even as adults we are motivated by the opportunity.

Honing that drive is not as simple as telling a student to go home and create something this week. It’s our responsibility as teachers to structure creative opportunities in a way that develops, motivates, and is within the reach of the students’ abilities. Think how motivated a beginning student might be with a structured assignment like this: Create a 16 measure snare solo using quarter notes and eighth notes, and give your solo a title. In this way, the student is taking strides towards developing his/her own style and connecting with his/her instrument.

This is the concept behind my book, Alfred’s Beginning Workbook for Snare Drum – to motivate students to create, explore, and ultimately develop a superior skill on their instrument by providing structured opportunities to be creative.

I had the amazing experience of working with Dave Black while writing this book. His best-selling method books have been in my teaching arsenal for years. When I presented him with the ideas I have used to motivate creativity, he was excited about the idea of a workbook that could accompany any beginning snare drum method.

In this workbook, students work through concepts sequentially as they are encouraged to be creative through structured activities such as composing, matching, beaming, completing duets, improvising, solos, check-ups, final test, and more. The late Louie Bellson had this to say: “Alfred’s Beginning Workbook for Snare Drum is a comprehensive, well-written, and a useful manual which achieves its overall goal of encouraging creativity in the learner. It has my highest recommendation.”

With the right tools, teachers can make strides towards encouraging students to become more connected with their music through creativity—and the best part—students will appreciate the exciting challenge. There’s a reason Legos and Play-Doh have stood the test of time: the desire to create is in us all.

Think You Know the Drumset? . . . Think Again

Daniel Glass introduces The Century Project and TRAPS

Hey everyone. My name is Daniel Glass, and it’s a real honor to have been asked by Alfred Music Publishing to contribute to their Ledger Lines blog. I’m a drummer, author and educator, known primarily for my work with retro-styled artists like Brian Setzer, Royal Crown Revue and Bette Midler. I’m very excited to announce that I’ve just released two large scale DVDs in conjunction with and Alfred Music Publishing: The Century Project looks at 100-years of American music (1865-1965) from the perspective of the drums, and TRAPS is an in-depth documentary about vintage drums, featuring one of the planet’s most knowledgeable vintage experts, John Aldridge.

These DVDs are the culmination of a journey that began nearly 20 years ago, when I joined Royal Crown Revue, the L.A. based band that pioneered the ‘90s phenomenon known as the “Retro-Swing Revival.” RCR played a lot of what I call “Roots” styles of American music – styles like early jazz, swing, rhythm and blues, rockabilly and early rock ’n’ roll. Although I had studied a lot about jazz and in school, I quickly learned that the music RCR was playing was something altogether different. It contained elements of bebop, of the blues, and of rock ’n’ roll, but it wasn’t any of these things. It had improvisation going on, but it was also dance music. It had a horn section and an upright bass, but it ROCKED as much as any rock band that we shared the stage with.

The guys in the band kept telling me “Daniel, what you’re playing just isn’t quite right,” so – not wanting to be an ex- band member – I decided to “hit the woodshed.” Much to my surprise, when I went looking for the instructional materials that were going to teach the nuts and bolts of these styles, I found next to nothing available. At that point – around 1999 – it became clear that if I was going to be a master Roots drummer, I would need to go straight to the source. I had discovered that many of the drummers who had played on the records we loved were living right in Southern California, so I started calling them up and interviewing them. I also began intensively researching the history of the drum set, trying to understand when and why many of the pieces – hi hat, ride cymbal, tom toms, etc. – had first appeared.

What emerged from all this research was an incredible story – a side of the drums and the way we play them that had never been documented before. The results are brought to life in The Century Project. This high energy, multi-media lecture-performance takes viewers on a thrilling journey through 100 years of music history and reveals a side of the drums never before seen. It traces the story of the drum set from its inception at the end of the Civil War (1865) to the dawn of the British Invasion (1965), and shows how – unlike any other instrument – the drums evolved hand-in-hand with America, and influenced American music in a totally unique way.

The Century Project introduces a variety of classic styles and techniques, including: double drumming, ragtime, New Orleans jazz, Chicago jazz, classic swing, bebop, rhythm and blues, rockabilly and early rock ‘n’ roll. To bring these eras to life, The Century Project incorporates eleven stunning vintage drum sets, hundreds of rare product and vintage catalog shots, and a dozen high energy performances from an all-star band featuring members of Royal Crown Revue, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Conan O’Brien house band, and Bette Midler’s “Kiss My Brass” Revue.

Filmed and recorded in stunning high-definition, The Century Project will turn your conception of “history” on its ear, and show 21st Century musicians just how much they actually have in common with their forbears. Believe it or not, understanding the origins of the drum set will make you a stronger and more competitive musician, even if you play “modern” styles like rock, hip-hop, funk, reggae, punk, metal, etc.

TRAPS: The Incredible Story of Vintage Drums brings together an unprecedented collection of vintage gear – including many rare and museum-quality pieces – and looks at the same 100-year period (1865-1965) from the nuts-and-bolts perspective of the gear itself. Featuring special guest commentator John Aldridge (author of The Guide to Vintage Drums), TRAPS brings the vintage world to life through eleven stunning kits that cover all the major American drum companies (Ludwig, Slingerland, Gretsch, Leedy and Rogers). TRAPS also uses more than 300 vintage catalog shots to touch on a wide range of vintage-related topics, including: badges, finishes, pedals, calfskin heads, Ludwig Black Beauty Snares, Slingerland Radio Kings, K-Zildjian cymbals, and much, much more.

If you’d like to learn more about me and my obsession with Roots drumming, please feel free to visit the Drum History section of my website:

Alfred’s Drum Method, Book 1 Celebrates 25 Years of Enduring Success

Alfred's Ledger Lines Blog

Birthdays are always fun to celebrate. It’s the one day of the year that the world gets to revolve around you; people make you a cake, sing to you and give you presents. It’s a wonderful thing.

Even though today might not be your birthday, we’d love to give you a present anyway. (We’d include cake too, but that’s much harder to send through the internet.)

In honor of this special occasion, we are sharing a sample lesson from the book that music teachers and aspiring drummers make a beeline to when they want to teach or learn the basics of drumming. Authors Dave Black and the late Sandy Feldstein paved the way for all future drum authors, devising a drum education method that focuses on teaching specific techniques and following that up with a solo that emphasizes that technique.

Many drummers and teachers alike have found Alfred’s Drum Method to be both incredibly helpful and fun at the same time. To give you a taste for the way the book is organized, you can download this sample lesson and solo on the 5-stroke roll.

Download a sample lesson from this classic >

Joel Leach, Emeritus Professor of Music, California State University, Northridge says about the book, “25 years ago, the authors set out to write what they hoped would be the finest beginning percussion instruction book available. More than 500,000 copies later, it’s obvious they achieved their goal!”

So happy birthday to you Alfred’s Drum Method!

Learn about the history of this great method >

How to Sight-Read 55 Big Band Arrangements in Three Days

By Steve Fidyk

Alfred's Ledger Lines Blog

As a professional big band drummer, I often have the pleasure to record the demo tracks for the newly published jazz ensemble music for the Belwin Jazz catalog. Along with sixteen other excellent musicians, the challenge is to perform these charts with no preparation. That means to sight read everything but it must be accurate, clean and sound like you already have rehearsed the music. What’s the rush? In the music business, like most professions, time is money, so we need to do it right the first time. The Belwin Jazz band leader and session producer, Pete BarenBregge, provides us with clean parts and a simple talk down describing how each arrangement is to be played. The session engineer hits record, Pete counts it off and we are sight–reading. In many instances what becomes the “final take” is actually the band’s first run–through. All solos are live as there is no time for over-dubs. The music difficulty ranges from easy grade 1 to advanced grade 5 or 6. The various musical styles include swing, shuffle, jazz-waltz, Latin, ballad, straight-eighth groove and Afro-Cuban to name a few.

Does this sound like a challenging gig? For most professional musicians, sight-reading on the job is a daily occurrence. The majority of live and recorded jazz, music for films and television that you hear was minimally rehearsed. The performance is executed without fail as a result of the ability of the musicians to sight-read, which includes: playing the written notes, articulations and dynamics, interpreting the musical style, and adding nuance to the music. This skill, I believe, can be developed through education, practice, and experience.

A Macro Approach

There are a number of variables that come into play when sight–reading the drum chair. Below are some big-picture concepts and suggestions that might be of value to aspiring students.

(1)  Form! As you look over the drum part for a big band arrangement, begin by looking for the double bar lines which can help outline the different sections of an arrangement.
(2)  Usually, the first four or eight measures is an introduction.
(3)  Next, the melody is stated which is an opportunity to change texture—for example, moving from brushes to sticks or from the hi-hat to the ride cymbal or vice versa or perhaps some other variation.
(4)  The melody is usually followed by the solo section, which often includes background figures played by a section of the band—saxes, trombones or trumpets. You’ll quickly need to determine who is soloing and temper your volume to suit that soloist and then what section has any background figures.
(5)  After the solo section, many charts develop into a shout chorus for the full ensemble, followed by a restatement of the melody.
(6)  Focus on these larger segments of information as you try to weave the beat patterns, fills, articulations, and dynamics through each macro section of the arrangement.
(7)  Dynamics! Jazz ensemble dynamics are ultimately dictated not only by the written notation, but by the drummer. So, scan the chart for dynamic peaks and valleys, and play accordingly.

The Art of Interpretation

My approach when sight–reading is based on how the band responds to my ideas in the moment. In addition to the written rhythms on my part, I pay close attention to the articulation makings notated above the rhythms. These markings give me a sense of how the phrase is going to swing with the horns in the band, and I apply each “long and short” articulation to a corresponding drum or cymbal. For example, a legato tenuto marking above a note dictates a long sound, and a short sound is indicated with a staccato symbol or a marcato (^) rooftop accent. Sometimes arrangers neglect to put articulations on drumset parts. In that case, it helps to consult the score to be sure that the articulations match with those played by the lead trumpet. Some drum parts have ensemble figures written in the staff and sometimes the figures are notated above the staff in cue-size notes—and sometimes a combination. So, listen, react and always look ahead in the chart.

Why Learn to Read?

As a professional musician, it’s business. Sight-reading is another skill—the more you can do as a musician, the more marketable you become. If you want to be a working player in this economy, it’s essential to take whatever gig comes your way, and being able to sight-read can bring the opportunity for more work. I pride myself on being versatile and sight-reading was a very important part of my development. And I most certainly wouldn’t have gotten the call for this session if I didn’t have strong sight-reading skills.

Have fun and make great music!

–Steve Fidyk