Great exercise for work between the right hand and bass drum. I’m alternating notes between floor tom and the bass (as 16th notes and then triplets). The left hand is playing the melody (top line) of Ted Reed’s Syncopation book page 38. The back and forth with the floor tom and bass drum emulate a double bass drum pedal.
IMPRESSIONS with Metronome and Trading 4’s
Here’s a great up tempo standard. Impressions by John Coltrane. I’m trading 4’s here..which means in the solo section, the soloist and I each trade 4 measure solos. This is a great way to start learning how to improvise. And using a metronome is critical to learning to keep good time, so use it as much as you can.
This video is a big band Jazz chart for drums from Tom Morgan’s Jazz Drummers Reading Workbook.
This is a great big band chart with easy figures that you can get with a little practice. Make up simple fills to play like I did, as playing more intricate fills will work against you in terms of feel. Remember, it’s not all about the drummer. We have to blend in nicely and not try to overshadow the other players. We are there to support and drive the band. The most important thing is the swing feel. Add some comping notes on the snare as well to give your Jazz groove a bit more rhythm.
It was strictly by happenstance that Sam Ruttenberg, then an 11-year-old with an impressive background in classical music wandered into a workshop on drumming at a Pennsylvania summer camp.
And happenstances can change a life — or many lives.
What this young camper saw and heard was intoxicating, and he literally had to face the music back at home in Cherry Hill.
He announced to his parents that he was so smitten with drums that he was going to forsake his classical piano lessons and become a drummer.
But they were understanding when Ruttenberg, 57, began a garage band at his home. Yes, it was the kind of noise that could drive parents crazy, but in the Ruttenberg household, his parents even learned to sleep through the practice sessions of the teenager’s band.
And that might have been that. A passing fancy. A teenage infatuation with percussion.
But in Ruttenberg’s case, there was more to come. Much, much more, including an invention that could help him share his passion with the world.
From Cherry Hill East’s all-state student orchestra, Ruttenberg enrolled at the University of Miami, a mecca for percussion education. While in college, he landed club dates and gigs with the likes of Lena Horne and Count Basie.
Fast forward to Ruttenberg’s next chapter, a stint in Houston at the prestigious Houston Ballet, and then more training at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, where he earned a master’s degree in percussion.
“I really wanted to learn from the very best, and that’s when my great respect for teaching began,” says Ruttenberg, who admits tackling percussion is, in some ways like being a juggler, mastering timpani xylophone and bells, along with drums.
Today the gentle and soft-spoken man is one of the country’s leading drummers, with credits that include playing with famous orchestras at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, and for the Pennsylvania Ballet, jazz legends and superstars. Count among them Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Robert Goulet and Engelbert Humperdinck, all of whom have had his talent backing them.
He chatted about his life’s work and his invention on a recent afternoon, in the basement of the Cherry Hill home he shares with his wife, pharmacist Hilary Mandler, and his 21-year-old daughter Molly — a student at the University of Miami.
Along with becoming an author (“Drum Tips: Practical Ideas and Insights”; Honey Rock, 2012, $24.95 with CD), Ruttenberg has added inventor to his credentials. He is being recognized internationally for his innovation. Ruttenberg’s HingeStix Practice Drumsticks, which are revolutionizing the way students master the drums.
“I was always fascinated by drumming technique — how the drumstick is best served by the player for maximum ease and speed. And that is done by holding the sticks loosely, having the proper grip, and using the fingers in an efficient way,” Ruttenberg explains.
“When I became a professional player and started teaching the drums, I found that many self-taught drummers were struggling in different ways because of improper technique,” continues Ruttenberg
“Throughout the years, I got tired of constantly reminding students to correct the way the drumstick was positioned in his or her hand.”
So Ruttenberg summoned back the brief period when he had worked at his father’s machine sop, and after years of experimentation, invented the device on the drumstick that forces good drumming habits.
Adjustable plastic swivel pads position the thumb, index finger and middle finger so the exact balance point is achieved every time the player picks up the sticks.
“Once I created the prototype, I pitched it to famous drummers at conventions, got reviews in the drumming magazines, and hoped that the Vic Firth drumstick company, the largest drumstick manufacturer in the world, would take notice.”
It did. And last year, Ruttenberg’s Stix were launched at the national trade show in California to great acclaim.
Working with a master
In his basement studio, those HingeStix were very much in evidence as Ryan Thieke, 16, a student at Cherry Hill West, and Zev Rosenbaum, 15, who attends Cherry Hill East, were having a joint lesson with Ruttenberg.
“Sam is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had,” said Rosenbaum, “because he knows how to challenge us, but is always understanding.”
Both Rosenbaum and Thieke agreed that jazz is probably the toughest percussion genre to master — and their teacher agrees. Latin style music comes next.
Practicing and working with the Stix eliminates the bad habits that so many drummers tend to develop, says Ruttenberg, noting students who use them have a looser grip on the drumsticks, which leads to better sound, and less hand fatigue, an occupational hazard for drummers.
“If drummers learn the correct grip right from the start,” he suggests, “they become better lifelong players.”
And technique is a high priority for this teacher. Ruttenberg is on the faculty at Rutgers-Camden, at the fabled Settlement Music School in Camden and Philadelphia, and also works in his studio with a roster of private students whorange in age from 4 to 90.
The 90-year-old, Roz Rodman, who began her lessons with Ruttenberg in her 80s, had seen Ruttenberg play in their synagogue, Congregation M’kor Shalom. Both she and her late husband began lessons while they lived in Moorestown, and Rodman is still playing bass and bongos.
As she wrote to her beloved teacher recently from her current home in Chapel Hill, N.C., “Thank you, Sam. You started me off and deserve the credit for making this possible.”
Being a teacher, says Ruttenberg, never loses its luster for him, and has made him a better musician.
“I practice every single day, because I owe that to my students,” he says
“And I still feel happy and excited when I come down to the basement every morning and challenge myself. I regard that as pretty wonderful way to live a life.’
Study with Sam online over Skype. Click here to schedule a lesson →