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Songs Tips for students Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2

Eddie Floyd – Knock On Wood – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2

Knock on wood was a hit for Eddie Floyd in 1966 & has been covered many times since. It’s a soul classic written on a stormy night by guitar great Steve Cropper & singer Eddie Floyd. The challenge on this song is locking in fully with the band; the horns, the rhythm guitar & the singer all play unison figures with the band. Here’s my attempt:

Eddie Floyd - Knock On Wood - Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 2 Drums

This song features a number of off-beat figures that need to be played perfectly in sync with the band; the introduction ends with the bass drum & crashes being hit with the horns on the & of 4 and the & of 1; the chorus ends with snare hits on the off-beats with the guitar & singer; the song ends with same figure as the chorus but played with the bass drum & crashes. If you are not confident playing on the off beats then these figures will cause trouble.

My favourite exercise for building confidence with off-beats is this one:

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Off-Beat Builder

To start with use a metronome that has an 8th note setting. (I recommend TempoPerfect on your computer or on your phone – search for “tempoperfect” by NCH software). Start slowly at 60 bpm, your aim is to play right on top of the metronome; you shouldn’t be able to hear the metronome when you strike the drum. You may want to dampen your snare drum so you get a dry sound so you can really hear if you are on top of the beat.

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Tempoperfect playing 8th notes @ 60bpm

Record yourself playing the exercise and listen back to see if you are really on top of the beat. Then,  if you are really on top of the beat consistently, set your your metronome to just play quarter notes, repeat the exercise & see if you can make it sound the same as it did when you had the metronome playing 8ths. Gradually increase the speed, see how fast you can go while keeping the accuracy. If you work on this regularly you will be able to play off beat figures confidently at speed.

The verse of this song should provide little trouble, however listen to the rhythm guitar and make sure you are locking in with it. I enjoy nothing more than locking in with a good rhythm guitarist. A good rhythm guitarist can really help to make your time keeping duties easier and aid in creating the right feel for the song; a bad one is a nightmare and all you can do is try to ignore them!

The pre-chorus (bars 17-21 – about 0:41 in the video) provides a nice change of groove with its syncopated bass drum pattern, but do note it is 5 bars in length which can feel a little weird and may catch you out. Try and get all the snare accents on the 5th bar the same volume; on the video I played them LRLR but you may try playing them all with one hand, this will give you a chance to throw in some showmanship with your free hand… a twirl perhaps?

The chorus features the same funky syncopated groove as the introduction with the tricky off-beat figure at the end. After playing the chorus the first time we get to play the turnaround; this features the snare on all four beats with the bass joining it on beat one. This section needs a fair bit of attention as you need to get the snare & bass perfectly in sync on beat one and crescendo over the three bars. You may want to practice this section on it’s own for a while. It looks easy but there is a lot to get right.

After repeating the verse, pre-chorus & chorus we move on to the outro; this is just a continuation of the chorus using the ride cymbal instead of the hi-hat and has the off-beat bass & crash figure discussed earlier. The final bar has hits on beats 1 and 4. Don’t rush the last hit on beat 4, practice it with a metronome to get it accurate, and count during the last bar. Too early or too late and it’ll sound wrong and will leave a bad last impression on your audience.

In 2014 I saw The Rolling Stones performing live and Charlie Watts was totally off on the hits at the end of one song; it was very obviously wrong. It was a great show, but I still remember that bad ending. When I miss something on stage (which doesn’t happen very often – honest!) I remind myself that even a legend like Charlie Watts gets it wrong sometimes & then laugh off my mistake and get on with the rest of my life & enjoy the rest of the show – and concentrate a little more!

Knock On Wood is a great song to work on and provides some great opportunities for working on your timing and dynamics and locking in with a band.

The 2018 version of the Trinity Grade 2 Rock & Pop book is great to work through if you’re around 6 months to a year into your drumming career. You don’t have to take the exam to benefit from the book. The songs are great to work on & fun to play and will help to improve your drumming. In Singapore you can find the book at Robert Piano – Paragon Shopping Centre (and probably their other outlets). It’s also available from Amazon if you’re happy to pay the shipping!

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Gear Tips for students

Best Metronome Apps

Playing in time is a fundamental skill for any musician. Finding a metronome that you enjoy working with will help you to nail this important skill. Here are the metronome apps that I enjoy working with the most.

1. TempoPerfect by NCH Software – free app that you can get on all platforms (Search for TempoPerfect – don’t insert a space.)

This app allows you to play in a number of time signatures and will mark the subdivisions for you using different sounds. A lot of free metronomes will use the same beep sound for all subdivisions making it hard to truly know which beat you are on; TempoPerfect uses different sounds for beat 1, the other main beats and the subdivisions. You’ll always know where you are in the bar & it’s great for working on your rhythmic accuracy.

This is my go to metronome app for almost everything. The other apps on this list offer specific features that TempoPerfect doesn’t have, but if I’m not in need of those features, then this is the app I’ll use. A great general purpose metronome app.

2. Time Guru by Decibel Consulting/Avi Bortnick – not free.

Time Guru really helps you to work on your timing by missing out random beats in the bar or by allowing you to program a series of bars that are either sounded out or silent. I’m not a big fan of the random beats missing function, I find it rather distracting – but I am a big fan of being able to set up a series of bars with some sounded out and some silent.

I often use this metronome to play 4 bar loops – 3 bars loud & 1 bar silent, or 2 bars loud &  2 bars silent. I use  both these loops for testing my timing when playing grooves – can I keep time when the metronome drops out? I use the 3 bars loud & 1 bar silent loop for practicing drum fills;  Play the fill during the silent bar – are you rushing or dragging? Do I need to throw something at you? (If you haven’t seen Whiplash, go watch it, great movie!)

Once you can keep your groove consistent with one or two bars of silence, maybe add some more silent bars? I normally have at least 2 or 4 loud bars to help me settle into the groove before the silence starts. Extend the silence as far as you like, challenge yourself – 4 bars loud & 4 bars silent, 4 bars loud & 8 bars silent? I’ve always treated this as a game. Start with a simple groove and see how far you can push the silence.

The other great thing about this app is it gives you plenty of choices on the sound – including voices counting out loud. For students who are new to using metronomes a loud voice counting 1, 2, 3, 4 (in one of 5 languages!) is sometimes just what they need to really know where they are in the bar.

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The only downside to this app is it doesn’t mark subdivisions very well. To get 8th notes in 4/4 time you need to select 8 as the meter and then change the note value to 8th notes – the 8th notes will all sound exactly the same – not easy to differentiate between the downbeats and the upbeats. The human voice option will also count all the way up to 8.

3. Metronome: Tempo Lite by Frozen Ape Pte Ltd – free

There is a paid version of this app, but I haven’t needed the extended features yet, I’m happy with the free version.

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The main attraction of this app is that it can automatically increase or decrease the tempo for you every X number of bars or after a certain period of time. So if you’re practicing your paradiddles, you can set the metronome to speed up by 3 bpm every 16 bars or every 2 minutes. Start it off at 120bpm and keep paradiddling until you can keep up any more. It saves you having to keep stopping to alter the tempo and losing the flow. Use it to find out how fast  or slow you can play your favourite grooves before they fall apart. The latest version also features the ability to mute bars after every few loud bars – maybe you don’t need time guru after all.

You can select from a few time signatures and the ability to accent or mute certain beats in the bar is a nice addition – you may just want to accent beat one to start with! It will also play different subdivisions but doesn’t quite execute it as well as TempoPerfect.

Conclusion

It’s worth spending the time to find a metronome app that you enjoy working with. Time spent practicing with a metronome is time well spent and will only help you to improve as a drummer – your main job in a band is to keep time! The more you practice it, the better you’ll get, the stronger your time feel will be.