hi I'm Peter Erskine that was a high happy very simple and as simple as it is I think it demonstrates something that I've come to realize is not only I think very important for any drummer to be able to do but something that I'm enjoying doing more and more which is the act of playing simply and playing to the best of my ability so the reason I mention it because very often we tend to think of drumming and the best of our ability in terms of pushing the limit and that could be in terms of speed or complexity and yet most often when I'm working with other musicians the complex stuff there's there's the there's there are small opportunities for me to do that hopefully well-chosen moments in the music but most of the time were just part of the story we're not the center of the story so when you're part of the story and as you're telling the story the story has to begin well like once upon a time
I'm here to Berklee College of Music during a three-day residency thanks to the support of the Zildjian cymbals me and this is the Armin solution residency and I just gave a class and I demonstrated something to the class that I played I had the honor of working with the great film composer John Williams and it was kind of a high-pressure session or about 40 musicians their best musicians in Los Angeles and I was excited and honored to be there John doesn't write so often for drumset nowadays but here I was in the middle of the small Orchestra playing drum set and it was about four-minute cue or piece of music and it's a main title for a new Steven Spielberg film called the adventures of tintin and the tempo was one and what did I play for four minutes one two ready go performance now that's not easy to do for four minutes and to do it at the precise dynamic marking that's notated in the music at one point it got fancy and it went from the hi-hat one two one two one two two and so on now if one of those taps was a little loud a little out of rhythm it stuck out like a sore thumb and we did enough takes until maestro John Williams was satisfied that it was perfect and he even told us he said don't attempt to add interpretation to this beyond what's written play exactly and specifically what's notated the dynamics etc don't add any accents any phrasing the shilling will all come out if we all owe Bay the music Network and and this sense of honoring the music whether it's carefully notated as in the case of this young woman's four or four improvising playing with a band our job is to provide rhythmic information to the music and of course to the other musicians if you're playing in an ensemble this might involve doing setups I've always thought of it in terms of preparing the musicians to play their next phrase but I realized that we're also preparing the listeners for what's coming next so drumming is not just a matter of physical ability and learning the coolest you know bunch of licks and and putting them into a library and then just pulling one one after the other off the shelf it takes a little bit more patience and if you have the patience it's a lot more fun because when you do introduce something and that something has to it has to has to be meaningful in the context of the music and at a certain point the musical intensity and motion builds up really want to say it with feeling I really want to say the feeling you really want to say it with feeling you know play something that explodes well you've created the groundwork to do that so the best way to learn how to play simply is to practice simply so for my friends in this house in Milan Italy try this one two three four just play quarter notes on the high and notice how much are raised to the finger motion aren't using not very much just enough to play these quarter notes there consistently that's important because when you're playing a beat it can't change tempo and we can't have accents where we don't want them or mean that to be so I recommend practicing on a hi-hat because you're not distracted by the sustain of the cymbal and not tested
that's all fun stuff but if you can't do this that other stuff that will just be a bad invitation of a good drum do you want to beat the drums not an imitation now let's add the syncopation or the jazz rock beat to this so basically I'm just going to play a pickup through this quarter note pulse you hear how the quarter note stays the same so doing this exercise on the hi-hat I call it the truth o meter or the truth ometer it enables you to hear exactly how clear your pulse is how steady it is and what your swing beat feels like now it's easy to swing a whole band with
that's fine but can you swing the hold back if you can swing a ban with just one stick and I think you know how to swim so that's the orientation that all my students at the University of Southern California where I teach that's how we start off our studies just working on a quarter note pulse and then eventually moving over to the right
okay once you have that under reasonable control if it's feeling good then you want to practice at different tempos not just that same tempo that you like to practice everything slower
and then you want to be able to add basic we use the word independence but basic coordinated comping rhythms accompanying rhythms on the snare drum and/or bass drum that help to propel the beat and the music along without interfering with this ride cymbal beat if the ride cymbal be changes either in intensity or the actual rhythm and you don't intend for that change to happen then you're not doing yourself or the music any favors
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Peter Erskine has played drums since the age of four and is known for his versatility and love of working in different musical contexts. He appears on over 500 albums and film scores, and has won two Grammy Awards, plus an Honorary Doctorate from the Berklee School of Music (1992).
Thirty albums have been released under his own name or as co-leader. He has played with the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson Big Bands, Weather Report, Steps Ahead, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Diana Krall, Kenny Wheeler, The Brecker Brothers, The Yellowjackets, Pat Metheny and Gary Burton, John Scofield, et al, and has appeared as a soloist with the London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Frankfurt Radio, Scottish Chamber, Royal Opera House, BBC Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. Peter premièred the double percussion concerto Fractured Lines, composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage, at the BBC Proms with Andrew Davis conducting, and has collaborated frequently with Sir Simon Rattle. Peter has been voted 'Best Jazz Drummer of the Year' ten times by the readers of the Modern Drummer magazine.
Peter graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and studied at Indiana University under George Gaber. In 1972 Peter commenced his pro career playing with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Four years later, he joined Maynard Ferguson before working with Jaco Pastorius in Weather Report and moving to Los Angeles. Peter recorded five albums with the band. He won his first Grammy Award with their album '8.30'. During this time in LA, he also worked with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Farrell and George Cables. Peter then moved to New York City where he worked for five years with such musicians as Michael Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Eddie Gomez and Eliane Elias in Steps Ahead, John Scofield, Bill Frisell and Marc Johnson in the legendary group Bass Desires, the John Abercrombie Trio plus Bob Mintzer's Big Band.
Peter's lived in LA since 1987 but has been travelling around the world all of that time, working with such artists as Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Vince Mendoza, Steely Dan, plus European musicians Jan Garbarek, Kenny Wheeler, Palle Danielsson, John Taylor, Kate Bush, Nguyen Lê, the Norrbotten Big Band in Sweden plus Sadao Watanabe in Japan. He won his second Grammy Award as the drummer of the WDR big band in Köln along with Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Vince Mendoza and others for the "Some Skunk Funk" album. Meanwhile, Peter keeps busy in LA with such artists as Alan Pasqua, Bob Sheppard and Bob Mintzer as well as playing in studios. Films where Peter's drumming can be heard include Memoirs of a Geisha, the new Pink Panther films and all three of the Austin Powers movies, plus the title music of the upcoming Steven Spielberg/John Williams collaboration 'The Adventures of Tintin'.
Peter produces jazz recordings for his record label, Fuzzy Music, and is an active author with several books to his credit; the latest titles include Time Awareness for All Musicians and Essential Drum Fills. Peter is currently Professor of Practice and Director of Drumset Studies at the University of Southern California. His latest album, "Joy Luck," is available from Fuzzy Music. Peter is 57 years old as of the taping of this video for Drum Brother.
His website is petererskine.com