Friday, March 28, 2008

Shadows Round Table: Rock Band

I recently got an email from my old buddy Scott Farr. For those who don't know, I met Scott through ROQUE keyboardist Neil MacPherson, and later played drums in the studio for their band, Shadows. Scott has also infamously interviewed me on the old Torch & Bacon site.

But today, poor Scott Farr was in dire need of some expert assistance on a most important musical question --one with great relevance to millions of people. And I feel that beyond the lackluster entertainment I provide you, my faithful reader(s), this exchange in aid of Mr. Farr was a rare opportunity for me to reach out and do my part to cure one of our society's most pressing ails.

The Topic: Rock Band (tm).

The Panel: Neil MacPherson and myself.

Panelist Bios:
Neil MacPherson: Neil's about as talented and versatile a keyboardist as you're likely to find, with a new solo album out, as well as a really great, groovy jazz/funk album. He also was the keyboard player in Tubby, which had the #1 Rock song on GarageBand and also was a top 10 finalist on NBC's STAR TOMORROW contest before tragically separating.

Me: And well, you've heard my playing. Obviously, Scott asked me to be polite and also perhaps because of the aforementioned desperation. Really, will any of us ever know the twisted mind of Scott Farr? I can't see how we will, I really can't.

The Discussion:

Need a little advice… So as Neil knows from our conversations, I’m going to be Phil Collins when I grow up. That said, I can’t get my feet to move independently of my hands… so I’m playing Rock band with my kids… (who love it) and I’m on the easy level drumming, because it’s basically all hands and occasional footwork, but now we have to move to medium and a song like “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden or “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden have a ton of footwork and quick 1/8th notes between the hands an feet that are driving me crazy… I don’t want to let my kids down, so what is your suggestion for a non-drummer that needs to get his kids to the next level. (playing the guitar is not an option, as that is Bryon’s chosen instrument and it’s about the kids)… :) should I count the song in my head? Should I count out loud? I think I have good anticipation with my hands on the cymbals and such, but feet are a definite problem.

Thanks guys,

Scott Farr

Due to the fact that I also play a strictly hands-based instrument I will have to defer to Cody on this one. I will say that the method I use to solo over complicated left-hand lines is to practice the left hand lines...a lot. So much that I don't have to think about them.

Good times.

Full disclosure: I've never played the game, so my advice is strictly towards the premise "I need to get better at drumming with my feet, pronto!" Forgive me if I miss the point.

1. In a typical rock beat, the right-hand hi-hat/ride cymbal is the real motor as far as a beginning drummer's concerned. You're going to be laying down constant 8ths with your right hand. Your goal is to not even think about this, just keep it steady.
2. Practice a core rock beat anywhere you've got a spare moment. Think of it as the "We Will Rock You" beat: two eighths on the kick, backbeat, all the while keeping your right hand going. You'll know it when it sounds right, but here's the pattern, where Foot=F, L=Left hand (snare), R=Right hand (hat): (F+R), (F+R), (L+R), (R), and repeat
3. For the time being, we're going to assume that as you count these patterns in 4, you'll almost always hit the foot on 1 and the left hand on 2 & 4, but what happens in between will vary. In real patterns, you'll very rarely hit snare and kick together, so let's discount those as well.
4. You want to practice different combinations of these as a prelude to just hearing what you want and doing it, without even thinking about what it's built out of.
5. When you get lost, it's like falling off the merry go round --don't bother chasing the spinning wheel, just stop, re-orient, and get ready to hop back on the next downbeat.
6. The following exercise will give you some common 2-beat 8th-note patterns that follow the assumptions above (I've broken this into bars of 2/4 to show each pattern individually):


Good luck,


Good Job you two…. The game forces what one on my other buddies calls an “open handed” technique so I’m switching Cody’s R and L, but that is a great example that I shall diligently practice this week in preparation for our European tour… :) by the way… if you guys get a chance throw in “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden and check out the drum line… it’s unfair. :)

Excellent work you two… we are all the way through the medium level and are prepping to go to the hard level, which if you’ve youtubed it is basically impossible… still can’t play “Run to the Hills” or “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who…. But we’ve been lucky with the song selection so far…


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