Saturday, December 19, 2009

Twelve Things I Always Do When Recording Drum Set

 by Jim Donovan

The studio can be a wonderful place to express yourself and listen to your music come to full fruition. Other times it can become a nightmare of endless takes, inter-band squabbles and ear fatigue.

To help you make the best of your recording time I compiled list of twelve things I always do in the studio that have helped me create inventive, solid tracks that feel great.

1. Serve the song first. Only play what the song needs and nothing else.

2. Get the best take you think you can, save it, and then do one more to see if you can beat it.

3. Always record the "practice" takes.

4. Isolate and rehearse transitions and bridges 3 times as much as the verse and chorus.

5. Experiment with using different types & combinations of click tracks. Subdivide the beat beyond 1/4 notes.

6. Before the first note breathe deeply and exhale as you play the beginning of the track.

7. Breathe into and out of fills and transitions as of you were playing a wind instrument.

8. Create your fills ahead of time.

9. Plan more than one approach to a song.

10. Do a take or two that ignores your "plans". Go out on a limb, get creative and see what happens.

11. Never settle for "good enough". You'll end up regretting it in a few days.

12. Once you get in the groove of a song do multiple takes without judging or discussing. Then take a break to listen back.

Now go and make your masterpiece.
Good luck!

Do you have a few studio tips you'd like to share?
Comment below.

If you'd like to get my free Rhythm Newsletter with useful articles, updates on workshops, retreats and concerts near you, plus special members only giveaways sign-up here...

34 Easy Ways To Improve Your Drum Circle


by Jim Donovan
(Special thanks and hi-fives to all of my friends on my Blog, Twitter and Facebook for your contributions to this article!!)

If you're anything like me, you like FUN...and FUN is probably why you decided to give this drumming thing a whirl.
So let's pretend for a moment that you have your drum and you made it to the drum circle...
Now what?

Beyond the stress relief, sense of togetherness, and joy you can get from drumming with others is your ability enhance the overall quality of the drum circle experience by the way you interact with the people around you.

Here are 34 easy ideas that you can use to maximize your fun and improve your drum circles right away. Think of these tips as "drum circle etiquette".

And if you have ideas that aren't on the list, leave them below...
Happy drumming!

34 Easy Ways To Improve Your Drum Circle

1. Remove your rings if you are borrowing someones drum.

2. Turn off your cell phone...and resist the urge to text. (Your Twitter followers can wait...)

3. Listen first, play second.

4. Ask permission to use someone's drum before just picking it up.

5. Resist the urge to play louder than everyone else.

6. Get to know each other after the circle, hang out and chat after drumming.

7. Respect the drums you're borrowing.

8. Space! Leave space for others to play.

9. Make the betterment of the "group sound" be your number one priority.

10. If you are a newbie, pay attention to the more experienced drummers around you and learn from them.

11. If you are an expert, remember the newbies in the group and give them encouragement and guidance from time to time. Remember what it was like when you first started drumming!

12. Worrying about mistakes? Fuughet abahht it!
If you are a beginner, you may feel as though everyone is listening to you and your "mistakes" (even though they aren't!) Be brave and just play.

13. Unless you are facilitating, resist playing faster and louder in an attempt to speed up the group.

14. If you get lost, listen for the downbeat - the main "pulse" of the rhythm to find your way back.

15. Tired of drumming? Just dance!

16. Made a mistake during a session? Just SMILE and keep going and get back INTO the group's vibe!

17. It's okay to not drum sometimes, so that you can really listen.

18. How about some hand percussion? Try a shaker, woodblock, or bell.

19. If playing a bell, make sure there is lots of space in your rhythm. Keep the bell rhythm simple and steady.

20. Keep solos short and sweet and then come back and support the group so others can take a "solo".

21. Drum with joy. Remember how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to make music together. Have fun, you deserve it.

22. Breathe...relax...and open your heart to collective possibility..

23. Most importantly (in drumming or dance or life) drop into your heart. Move beyond the thoughts of *how* to do it, or impressing someone, etc....and into "what deep essence wishes to express through me/the drum in this now moment?"

24. Open up to the healing energy that we create when we drum.

25. Feel the group pulse, as if it were your own.

26. In the words of the late great percussionist Bill Roth:
"It's not just what you play, it's also what you don't play."
"It's not just when you play, it's also when you don't play."

27. Realize that there are many different kinds of drum circles that will lead to different kinds of experiences.  Appreciate the value of diversity and try to be conscious of the group dynamic or you may feel disappointed that "they" didn't play the way you like!

28. Bring your best self! Your energy can positively or negatively impact the circle - let go of negativity, feel the rhythm - listen - drum - dance - be

29. Leave your ego at the door! (Or even in the car...)

30. Listen, feel, listen, breathe, listen..

31. Bringing children to a circle can be a great thing, and it can also be incredibly disruptive depending on how it's approached. Etiquette would mandate that if you bring young children, spend a bit of time with them prior, so they understand what's going on.

32. Understand that some people come to the circle with a different method of "feeling" the music due to disabilities they are triumphing over.

33. Why not turn the circle into an excuse to eat as well? Have a potluck afterwards and get to know each other.

34. Relax.

If you'd like to get my free Rhythm Newsletter with useful articles, updates on workshops, retreats and concerts near you, plus special members only giveaways sign-up here... 

Are you looking for some new grooves?
Check out my play-along learning tool "World Rhythm Seeds CD".

Monday, December 14, 2009

How much of your life are you willing to GIVE away?

How much of your life are you willing to GIVE away?
by Jim Donovan
A story....
I was stuck on Interstate 80 in the middle of nowhere PA. Ice storm, jack knifed trucks, cars flipped over...what a mess. As I lay on a bed of djembes in the back of my Kia waiting for the road ice to melt I had a moment of clarity. The idea struck me that holding on to unhelpful ideas and behavior patterns is akin to giving portions of your life away. A new year is coming soon, and with it, another opportunity to start fresh. Is it possible that we can reclaim our vitality simply by revamping how we choose to invest our moments? How much of ourselves do we give away maintaining the safety of our status quo?

Imagine an apple...
The place from which the apple grows is from the core outward. Inside the core of an apple are the seeds which represent future potential. In human beings, these seeds are our beliefs and what grows from them are all of the ways in which we interact, understand and behave in the world around us.

Imagine when a parasite gets into the core of the apple- how suddenly its integrity is compromised and the decay begins from the inside out. In a similar way, unhelpful habits and beliefs are the parasites within our core that keep us from reaching our ideal potential.

Which of your beliefs help you to grow?
Which ones drain your energy?
How much of your life are you willing to GIVE away by holding onto beliefs that no longer serve your betterment?

Comments are always welcome...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

WInner of Drummers Bundle DVD/CD Package

Congratulations to Marcus Cook from San Francisco, CA!
Your Drummers Bundle DVD/CD package is on the way....

More giveaways are coming soon...Stay tuned!
Peace, Jim

Friday, December 11, 2009

Your Invited to my New Years Eve 2010 Party...

Looking for something memorable to do on New Years Eve?

Well, I am having a BIG New Years Eve bash and you are invited. Join many of our Rhythm Renewal friends as we welcome 2010 at the Four Points by Sheraton in Manassas, VA (near DC) where Drum the Ecstatic International will be performing live in concert.

So far Elie Kihonia, Mike Deaton, Harry Pepper, PJ Roduta, Bryan Fazio, Etse Nyadedzor, Brian Bromka, Dan Murphy, Kent Tonkin Brandon King, Stephanie Smith and yours truly will all be there....
How about you?

Packages for the evening include lodging, concert, gourmet snacks, a champagne toast at midnight, noisemakers, party favors, and complementary breakfast buffet.

Overnight Packages: Only $149 per couple /$99 Single or
$89 for just the concert & party.

Space is limited. First come first serve.
You can make your reservation online here,

or by calling 703-656-4511 (M-F 8-5 pm EST) to make your reservation today.

Driving Directions

The band has much new music and several surprises in store for you. I hope to see you there..
Jim Donovan

Sunday, December 6, 2009

WINNER Jim Donovan Relaxation CD Catalogue

And the winner of my relaxation collection is.....
Kimber Sternberg
from Richmond, KY .

Your discs are on the way!

If you didn't win, but still want to get the 3 CD collection, it's on sale right now for $39.97.
Order Here...