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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Bryan's Blog | #1:
Old Dog Learning
New Tricks

Old Dog Learning New Tricks                             

A Monster Blog Series by Bryan Lowe

My father died about a year after he retired, and nobody was more surprised about that than he was. Dying young wasn't a part of his life plan in any way. It rarely is. So more than 3 decades later, as I got set to retire at the same age as my father, 61, I knew I needed a plan that would give me a different outcome.

My father, Cecil Lowe.


With my retirement, I was leaving behind a career of 39 years with the same company. I worked my way up the ladder to the rung that was second from the top. I loved the challenge, the people, the work itself. I'd be leaving all that behind... but for what? I needed a plan. I knew that to be happy in retirement I'd still need a challenge, I'd need people in my life, and I'd need to do something I loved.

Well, I've come...

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10 Ways to Improve Your Pipe Band Drumming Today

Competition season is almost here again! Most people in Pipe Band Land are gearing-up for weekly practices with their sights set on earning more prizes, and the competition gets more fierce each year. So what determines the top band from the others? What’s the edge the winning soloists seem to have? What tips, tricks, and skills are needed to get your drummers to the next level? What routines are potentially holding them back? Here’s a list of 10 things that just might be the difference between you and the top prize this year:

1. Practice Standing Up

We all know the comforts of sitting at the good ol’ table. Snare Drummers, Tenor Drummers, Bass Drummers; we’re all guilty of it and do it far too often. If we’re not careful, this can be super detrimental to our playing. The reason is very simple: tables and chairs are not designed for drummers! They do not put the playing surface at the appropriate height for the vast majority of...

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Creativity: A Casualty of War & Competition


Creativity: A Casualty of War & Competition

A Centennial Observation of Wartime & Modern Bagpipe Bands 


Only a few miles from the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO on Veterans Day 2018.

I can see the poppies from here...


Bagpipes were instrumental in times of war. 100 years ago on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 the first declared war of the worlds ended. The Great War waged for 4 years, other disputes followed, and despite the peace for which these brave men fought, the war continues.


Pipers once marched through trenches and atop hills to relay signals and pronounce attacks. Now these warriors of bagpipes with batteries of the most unique drums gather in local basements and other secret dwellings in preparation for battle still. They now circle their ever-growing ranks, assembling “sets” and “medleys” of music, every individual keenly focused on the same...

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