Bryan's Blog | #6:
When Drum'n Gets Ruff...


When Drum'n Gets Ruff...

A Monster Blog Series by Bryan Lowe



Learning something new always seems to include plateaus and/or periods of sagging enthusiasm. For the past week plus I've been knocked down by a bad cold, and with it, my general energy and enthusiasm has lagged.



At first, I was seeing rapid and steady improvement. I was excited. I think that is normal.  


Then, your improvement slows or stops, and it's easy to think you’ve hit some impossible wall, or even begin to wonder if you can really do this thing.


That is sometimes a trigger to stop altogether, to give up. “This just isn’t fun anymore.” I had a touch of drumming doldrums.   


Getting beyond that is crucial in getting to my longer-term goal, learning how to play drums in a Pipe Band. My minimum goal is to experience that for long enough that I can really decide if pipe bands are really my “thing” in...

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Dave's Blog | #5: The Uncomfortable Truth about Pipe Band Drumming

The Uncomfortable Truth about Pipe Band Drumming 

A Monster Blog Series by Dave Bullard


Missed Dave's last Blog? Oh. You'd want to read it first. 

 Check it out HERE. 



Let’s get an uncomfortable truth out of the way here.

When I first saw a pipe band drum corps, I was thrown off by how ‘disorderly’ it seemed. I was blown away by what I was hearing, but there was this little voice nagging at me saying things like:


“What’s the deal with all of them shaking their sticks to the beat?”

and :

“What the hell is wrong with their hands?”


"Why are they all looking down at someone else's drum?”


“Why do they start their strokes like marimba players? ”


You see uh… Well... I mean….


Look, I think get it now, but (and not to belabor this point) a HUGE part of my musical training as a DCI-style American Drummer was concerned with...

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Bryan's Blog | #5: Doubling Down on Double Strokes


Doubling Down on Double Strokes

A Monster Blog Series by Bryan Lowe



I hit a challenge today that felt tougher than others so far. 


From class ST2003- The Double Stroke (From the Scottish Pipe Band Snare Drum Tutor Volume 2: The Drummer's Alphabet),  

we learn the Double Stroke, which is,


“one motion that produces two notes.”



Think to "drop the stick, then let it bounce twice”… but with both taps being equal in sound. Once again, my right hand wasn’t too hard, but my left hand fell into the pattern and then out again… repeatedly.  

Practice makes perfect, they say, unless you are practicing incorrectly.


I watched the video again but did everything this time with just the left hand.


I am making progress, but this feels less natural than the other skills learned so far. More practice. It will come. It will. 

This doesn’t LOOK...

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Dave's Blog | #4: BuzzBuzzBuzz


A Monster Blog Series by Dave Bullard


If I had to pick one single thing that I love about Scottish Drumming, it would be its use of Buzz Rolls. Check this out...

I mean, just listen to that.

Seriously. Don’t watch, just listen.


That sound is just plain incredible. I can’t think of anything else even remotely close to it. It’s like a combination of rain, waterfalls white noise, and a million record needles crying out in terror. Maybe with some bacon frying in there somewhere. It deserves it’s own word.


Unfortunately, over here in my LARWO (Little American Rudimental WOrld) the word, "roll" refers to the open variant. Now that I’ve learned about what can be done with the closed variety, I’m changing that definition in my head. From now on, when I write "roll" I mean Buzz Roll. American style machine-gunning will be referred to by the term "Open Roll."


From the Rhythm...

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Bryan's Blog | #4: A Salute to My Left Hand


A Salute to My Left Hand

A Monster Blog Series by Bryan Lowe



Success feels good, doesn’t it?

While I haven’t exactly tamed my errant left hand, the problem child of the two, I have made significant progress. 


I’ve looked back at earlier lessons on Rhythm-Monster with regularity. Today I revisited ST-1002 - The Muscle Groups. I wanted to see again how Super Monster Instructor Michael Eagle was using the thumb alone on that left hand.  It doesn’t feel natural yet, but he makes it clear.




As a personal challenge, I tried to carry a steady beat on my practice pad using just my left thumb, that’s it.


"The Pipe Band Drumming left hand technique requires a true one-point fulcrum. Realize the single pivot point," Eagle says.


As I started, the drumstick was doing its best to imitate the excited irregular wagging of a large dog’s tail. No...

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Dave's Blog | #3:
Still Drag'n it Out


Still Drag'n it Out

A Monster Blog Series by Dave Bullard



More fun with the Pipe Band Drag:


It’s important to resist the tendency to raise my arm and sort of ‘stab’ down onto the head at a sharper than normal angle. This cheats the gesture and in the long run will become a liability when it comes to fluidly dropping them into quicker patterns. Starting the motion flat and at grace note height helps keep it nice and delicate.

Plus, why stab when you can dip?

The Dip

You may have not have noticed the ‘dip’ before. It’s something that McWhirter and other Monsters do when they play a Drag.

The best way to isolate this motion is in the Open-Closed-Open classes on Rhythm Monster. They have most of the common Pipe Band rudiments broken-down, plus some American rudiments. 

Check out this McWhirter left hand:


I love how he’s like “Allow me to present my fantastic...

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Bryan's Blog | #3:
Progress, Meditation & Stick Control

Progress, Meditation & Stick Control         

A Monster Blog Series by Bryan Lowe


Learning a challenging skill is far better done when young, or so they say. For example, learning a language. It's a snap for kids, and nearly impossible for adults.  So it goes for adults learning musical instruments as well.

I am no expert on adult learning, but in my experience, while there are learning challenges for us as we age, there are also ADVANTAGES in learning a challenging skill as an adult.  True, neuroscientists say it is harder for the adult brain to learn a complex skill. I understand it's brain plasticity or lack thereof.



And yes, you are right, as adults we don't have parents to make us practice. Then there is the problem of time, given work, spouses, children, house repair, etc.


But we (adults) can learn!


Our adult brains have some skills that are totally absent in kids. Off the top of my adult brain, these...

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Dave's Blog | #2:
The Drag is a Drag

The Drag is a Drag

A Monster Blog Series by Dave Bullard


Oh man...the Drag.

I have never once worked on anything remotely like the Pipe Band Drag.

Of all of the many differences between DCI and Scottish Pipe Band Drumming, this is one has been the most difficult for me to come to terms with.




I could handle that I needed to disconnect my thumb and first finger on my left hand and I could break the open roll monotony, (I always felt they were cheating anyway), but this was something else entirely.

Trying to play the Pipe Band Drag made me feel like I was in high school, learning Inverts again*.


The American Left Hand thumb-to-index connection


Inverted Flam Taps

* Learning Inverted Flam Taps can be a difficult rudiment for many Drummers, as it requires the Invert Motion: a Tap followed by an Accent in a single motion. ST1006- The Drummer's Alphabet breaks down this and all the other singular hand motions


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Bryan's Blog | #2:
Sink or Swim

Sink or Swim                      

A Monster Blog Series by Bryan Lowe


My drum set from 50-some years ago.  


I wasn’t quite as dapper as this young fellow. My parents liked when I played with brushes. I preferred the sticks. My father played the pipes. Once he took me along with him to play for the teachers at a grade school… over the intercom... before class started. His piping accompanied by my drum. To say I was embarrassed doesn’t quite cover it. 


Step One:



As a drummer, I am a total noob. Well, my parents did buy me a snare drum when I was in second or third grade back in the mid-60s. It was red with gold trim, almost totally plastic, with a few rather limp snare springs on the bottom and a single cymbal. In retrospect, I'd say the drum head had as much tension and stick bounce as the side of a box of fruit loops.  

That little drum was an...

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Dave's Blog | #1:
A Whole New Drag

An Intro to Me & How did I Ended-Up on Rhythm Monster

A Monster Blog Series by Dave Bullard


I learned Flam Drags at the knee of the Bayonne Bridgemen in the pre-kevlar days of DCI (Drum Corps International).


 This is a Flam Drag, btw, for us American Drummers: 




My first snare drum was a megalithic 15” Ludwig hanging from a strap.I messed around at audition camps for the (then) Cadets of Bergen County and made the quad line there in ‘89. In ‘91 I did the same with the Blue Devils. Unfortunately, my bad back kept me from ever completing a season with either group.


After I aged out, I kept up with what the DCI guys were up to and managed to keep my chops at a reasonable level over the years.

Then about 2 months ago, deep down a YouTube hole of, “in the lot with Broken City,” videos, I stumbled across this video, uploaded by something calling itself “Rhythm...

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