Don’t say Instagram doesn’t help bring people to the physical world.
I saw a post by Mark Guiliana stating he just landed in Chicago and was drinking Intelligentsia coffee and put 2 and 2 together. Much to my surprise he was playing with one of his groups High Risk the 1st and 2nd of July at Constellation. He was also giving a free drum clinic on the 2nd before the show! Holy crap. I set my sights on attending and I’m glad I did.
After a short drum solo because, as he stated ‘these beautiful drums are just in front of me’ Mark discussed how he goes about improvisation and how he practices. He tries to use improvisation to tell a story and fit in with the song, whether it be taking the last lick of a trumpet or bass melody and then trying to build that in to something. His main goal is to tell a story and serve the song, instead of just banging around like crazy with as many licks as he can think of to throw in the space.
He then ‘simplified 4 years of practice into 20 seconds’ by taking a basic 5 count 16th note roll and playing them as quarter notes, eighth notes and triplets to show the same type of theme, but dissecting it and giving it a slightly different feel. Mark then used an extremely simple acronym to discuss how to play the theme differently, but of course I forgot it. The clinic started at 5 and I didn’t leave til 9:30, with a lot of downtime. You get the idea. I need to start writing things down as they happen.
Anyway the general idea were dynamic and spacing of the notes, with 16(?) different ways to play the 16th note version, and so on down for 8th and triplets. Pausing for a 16th note and playing 3 hits, but switching between the rest on the 1, the e, the & and the a. He then did this variation playing 2 hit and 1 hit combinations as well. After the 16th notes he moved onto the 8th notes and triplets, with the same general idea of different hit combinations and rest placement.
As can be seen with his playing his practice technique’s were very intelligent and very deliberate. For a brief time in college he tried to play only his style and if he felt he sounded too much like someone else he’d stop playing and would start over. This type of dedication proves why he’s such an in demand and well respected drummer.
One of the main things I found interesting with his practicing was that he rarely spent 8 hours at a time practicing by himself. He would be behind the drums for 8 hours but maybe only an hour was practicing by himself, and the rest of the time he was practicing with other musicians. He was able to develop his chops in the group setting, learning to play with other musicians and how to serve the song instead of how to just do rudiments. As I’m teaching my drum students rudiments from books they’re helpful to learn your chops, but it’s also extremely important to play as a musician, so that what you’re doing will complement what the song needs, instead of just wail. I’m definitely guilty of being a gratuitous with my playing, but why else would you play metal than to just shred?
He took some questions from the audience then finished with a short drum solo. He then ‘chilled’ in the main lobby for a half hour taking pictures and signing stuff for fans before he had to get ready for the performance.
And yes I had to get a picture. Pardon the bad lighting but the one with good lighting I have a crazed stand still don’t move look in my face.