Syncopation for the Modern Drummer

5 Drum Education Books That Will Last a Lifetime

1. Stick ControlStick Control by George Lawrence Stone
By: George Lawrence Stone
First Published: 1935
Publisher: Stone Percussion Books, LLC

Book Premise: Series of hand exercises that were designed to serve drummers of all levels and styles. The exercises help improve control, speed, endurance, and touch, with equal attention given to both hands.

Why it will last a lifetime: George Lawrence Stone’s stick control has become the bible for drumming education.  The simplicity of the design enables the book to be used in a multitude of ways. For example, you can play a foot pattern underneath the examples or you can just simply read the exercises with your feet. You can play all the rights with your bass drum while playing the lefts on the snare or reverse that scenario while adding in your hi-hat on certain beats–the list goes on and on and so will your relationship with this classic drum book.


2. Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer Syncopation for the Modern Drummer
By: Ted Reed
First Published: 1958
Publisher: Alfred Music

Book Premise: Better known by drummers as “Syncopation” this book was designed to address just that. This book also includes many accented eighths, dotted eighths and sixteenths, eighth-note triplets and sixteenth notes for extended solos.

Why it will last a lifetime: Many drummers have developed systems to be used with different sections of this book thus making it a great tool to develop independence, coordination, and reading chops. Jazz master and educator, Alan Dawson developed about forty different systems to be used with this book.  One of his students–John Ramsay wrote a book that includes this information (see #5 below).  This classic is also a “must have” for anyone looking to develop their reading with swung eighth note interpretations.


3. The New BreedThe New Breed by Gary Chester
By: Gary Chester
First Published: 1985
Publisher: Modern Drummer Publications

Book Premise: Written by an extremely prolific and skilled studio drummer this practical book aims to develop all four limbs towards drum set mastery. Gary Chester accomplished this by creating 39 systems that go along with the exercises of his book. The systems assign different rhythmic patterns to different limbs. Master all 39 systems and you’ll have a vast amount of independence and control to play different styles as needed.

Why it will last a lifetime: The book is designed to be completed 39 times. You can also make up your own systems once you have mastered Chester’s methods.


4. Modern Reading Text in 4/4 For All Instruments Modern Reading Text in 4/4
By: Louie Bellson and Gil Breins
First Published: 1963
Publisher: Alfred Music

Book Premise: Syncopation exercises designed to develop speed and accuracy while sight reading. The text entails every possible placement of notes and rests which are written out sequentially as the book unfolds.

Why it will last a lifetime: Similar to Ted Reed’s masterpiece, this book has been used by educators to add different systems to play the exercises. Just about every rhythmic combination that can exist in 4/4 time is written out in this book–done so incrementally. You will need plenty of time to master this book as well.


5. The Drummer’s Complete Vocabulary as taught by Alan Dawson The Drummer's Complete Vocabulary as taught by Alan Dawson
By: Alan Dawson and John Ramsay
First Published: 1996
Publisher: Alfred Music

Book Premise: Alan Dawson (July 14, 1929 – February 23, 1996) was a true jazz master and a widely influential teacher based in Boston. Written by one of Alan Dawson’s prominent students–John Ramsay, the book contains all the important techniques and concepts that Dawson embraced in his own playing and subsequently taught to his students.

Why it will last a lifetime:  The first part of the book includes Dawson’s infamous “Rudimental Ritual.” You’ll have the rest of your life to work on the latter parts of his book which includes the systems he used with both Syncopation for the Modern Drummer and Stick Control.

The Drum Wallet – Review

The Drum Wallet
I heard about the The Drum Wallet while attending NAMM and was really interested in checking this product out!

The Drum Wallet is a simple muffling device for the snare drum that enables the user to apply the muffle or remove it on the fly. Having the capability of snare tone management on the fly appeals to me since I like to play songs that cover more than one style.

Installing The Drum Wallet on the snare drum was pretty easy. The product shipped with a short list of directions for application which I followed without any issues.

The Drum Wallet design is simple but clever. It’s simply modeled after a wallet (we’ve all used one to muffle a snare drum). The wallet is attached to velcro straps which get threaded around the snare drum’s tension rods. There is a wide sleeve attached to the wallet that enables a drummer to use a drum stick to manage the application on the fly. The fact that you can quickly lift The Drum Wallet on or off the snare drum is brilliant. When the wallet is placed on the snare drum it does a good job of muffling the drum’s tones without completely drowning the natural sound of the instrument. (Like the zero rings sometimes do.)

Snare drum tone management

I was curious to see just how quickly I could add and remove the wallet on the fly. I attached The Drum Wallet to the left side of my snare drum and then immediately started playing while the camera was rolling. I attempted adding and removing the muffling device using both traditional and matched grips–all while keeping time. My first try was a little rough (as seen below). I soon realized that placing the wallet onto the drum takes slightly more coordination than removing it. Once I got the feel for that it was smooth sailing for both grips!

I’ve since taken The Drum Wallet with me on a few gigs and really like the flexibility of having multiple sounds for the snare drum. I’m also looking forward to using it in the studio. You can purchase one on Amazon or on The Drum Wallet’s website. For more information you can check out

NAMM Show 2015 – Highlights

I got to experience my first California NAMM show at the Anaheim convention center this past weekend and boy did it live up to the hype. It’s fitting that the convention center is right next door to Disneyland because NAMM is a disney experience for musicians and gearheads alike.

I was advised to download the NAMM app and the have a plan of attack so right after getting my badge I headed directly to the Sabian booth (more like a fortress) to check out their new big and ugly collection of cymbals. These cymbals are all 22 inches and above and they are some mean looking cymbal machines! These dark and dry cymbals are perfect for jazz drummers. They have the look and feel of the Meinl sand rides but are bigger and uglier! Some of them even have burn marks! I really loved the feel of the HH King ride! Sabian’s booth looked amazing and I think they hit a home run by bringing their hand hammer master Charlie Brown out with them to demonstrate that entire hand hammering process! Check out Sabian’s A&R Chris Stankee giving the low down on these:

Paiste’s new line PSTX line of cymbals also caught my attention. These special effects cymbals actually sounded good with just hitting them with my hands. These cymbals would make a good fit with a hybrid acoustic\electric kit as they are more metallic sounding than most effects cymbals I’ve played. They also added hi-hats to this line which were kinda weird to play but sounded very cool-especially when closing the hats together with the pedal. Check out Paiste’s Andrew Shreve’s demo.

Another product that caught attention was the Overtone Labs Tune-Bot. This product has been around for a at least a few years but what was interesting is that Pearl is now selling it as one of their products. It’s a pretty cool product that I think has great value in the studio especially when you want each lug tone to be matched. Check out the demo given by Glen Caruba:

Another highlight was Rotodrum. This Italian based company makes an extremely versatile and innovative line of drums. Inventor Riccardo Martinazzi engineered a drumming system that enables the drummer to change the drum tones very quickly by adjusting the position of the top and bottom heads. This means you can change sounds of any drum on the fly.  Pretty cool. Perhaps the best innovation about these drums is that you can place the mic directly between the batter and resonate head. They also make a three headed snare drum which gives you endless sonic capabilities.

You can find out more info at

Rounding out some of the other highlights for me in the custom drum category was getting a chance to play a birch Sakae kit, the beauty of the new maple Craviotto timbales, and the great tone of the Brazilian based Odery drums.

HingeStix Learning Tool

I’ve been meaning to write a review for the HingeStix since I started recommending them last year. Basically, they are a training drum stick to help students with the concept of rebound as well as to teach them proper grip.

Drum educator and musician Sam Ruttenberg developed these sticks for his students. Sam (whose father was a machinist) decided to create a hinge in the grip area of the stick. He did this by drilling a hole through the stick for a pin to connect swivel pads on each side–one for the thumb and the other for the index finger. His concept was to simulate the stick’s natural rebound while forcing proper grip (fulcrum). With the sticks now “floating” on the hinge, Sam’s students had to relax their grip and keep all their fingers connected to the sticks in order to operate them. The design of the hinge essentially forced students to play utilizing the stick’s natural rebound. They also forced his students to use their back fingers to propel the stick all within the framework of a proper fulcrum.

This tool helps my students in three areas. First, HingeStix enable grip relaxation and internalization of the stick’s natural rebound. Second, HingeSticks teach proper thumb and index finger fulcrum while utilizing German grip. Third, it helps them with incorporating their back three fingers to propel the stick. Also, I think they are a great tool for any level player to circle back and check-in with their grip. I like warming up with them to get my back fingers going!

You can buy HingeStix at

For more info check out this interview of Sam Ruttenberg by Bart Elliott from Drummer Cafe: