Mixed Reviews – Heaney, Mendoza and Sturges

Fortunes – Mark Heaney

This new release from UK drummer Mark Heaney is what I would call a real work of art.

I know technically music is one of the arts and most of us consider what we create to be of an artistic value, but occasionally something like this comes along and you can really hear a person’s expression of self and connect with it.

At 8 tracks and just over 30 minutes long, Mark wrote, produced, arranged, mixed and mastered the entire album himself and it really is something special.

Anyone who has spent any time recording or working on a track knows just how much work goes into that and how challenging it can be.

It’s an ethereal listen, very atmospheric with the drums front and centre of the entire record. Regardless of your musical tastes, I think everyone should have a listen to this record at least once; Mark’s playing is incredibly intricate and musical.

I love the combination of jazz expressionism along with the more electronic elements in the music. There are, to my ear at least, influences of styles from different regions throughout the world scattered throughout the record.

I actually found myself showing the final track on the album, TIilphousia, to a student who is into drum and bass and electronic music as a way of connecting the two. He liked it and I think there’s a very good chance you will too!

Rob Crisp


Rudiment Creativity Vol 1 – Juan “Carlito” Mendoza

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for Carlito since he was crowned Drum Off champ in the US back in 2012.

In fact, if you haven’t seen his performance on the web yet you should look it up after reading this. You’ll not regret it and it will give you some idea of his playing style and how he adapts rudiments to the kit. Then watch the videos relating to this book.

This book has one goal, to bridge the gap between being able to play a rudiment on a pad for example and successfully applying it to the kit.

As much as I love a physical book, the fact you can have a book on an iPad with integrated media means it’s never been easier to have an exercise written and then listen to it and hear how it should sound. Having looked through I think more or less every exercise has an embedded sound file accompanying it. That’s a LOT of work, but very handy for you and I!

The first volume of this series features rolls and paradiddles and there are both some really interesting applications to the kit but also a few real challenges in here as well.

I especially liked the introduction to the book, where Carlito talks you through the various ways in which you can apply or modify a rudiment in order to create something new, such as replacing a limb with another limb, or modifying the time signature.

More experienced players who’ve been to a clinic or two may have heard or seen other players talk of these ideas but in my experience, they are usually talking about something they have done in their performance, rather than an overarching methodology for taking any rudiment and reworking it.

It’s also worth pointing out here that the sheer number of ideas and exercises to work through is huge! It’ll take even the most dedicated player a considerable amount of time to really perfect every exercise in this book.

I found that it is really non-linear to work from, i.e. you don’t need to start with exercise one and master that before you move on. Each section has a rudiment so you can jump to something that appeals and get stuck in from there.

A great digital release on iOS but I believe it’s also available through other online sources for non-iOS users and I recommend anyone having a bit of trouble migrating their diddles from a pad to the kit pick it up!

Rob Crisp

Available from iBooks and other e-distributors.


The Power of Practice – Andy Sturges

I’ve reviewed a large number of books now for MikeDolbear.com but I think this is quite possibly the most impressive book I have ever reviewed in terms of its physical size and appearance. It’s a standard page size but about an inch thick!

A classy looking book full of multi coloured pages, this is Andy Sturges’ blood, sweat and tears combined into a volume that’s designed to take you to places in your playing that you have possibly never glimpsed before.

Essentially this book is a collection of phrases, using every possible permutation of notes in a jazz/triplet counting system.

To that end many of the base phrases you will no doubt recognise if you have worked on any number of other jazz or rhythm books and you might wonder why bother with this book at all.

Given its relatively straight forward exercises, I decided to ask Andy a few questions, to get to the bottom of what this book is about.

Rob: You use the work “chunks” rather a lot in this book to describe musical rhythms. Is there more to this idea than it simply being a descriptive word?

Andy: “Chunking” is a term used to describe a way of memorising number sequences,. It is used by Grand Chess Masters in order to memorises movement sequences and I thought it was a valid term to use to make memorising the rhythms associated to 1234567 slightly more interesting and curiously different. Basically, breaking things down into (small) Chunks.

Rob: You say you haven’t numbered the exercises, but each group of exercises is numbered according to their “chunks”. It’s a logical system, but I’m curious, do you know exactly how many exercises, or words/phrases as you refer to them, are in this book?

Andy: Unless the jazz police have tampered with it, there are a total of 3392 phrases/ exercises (I hate that term, Exercises, reminds me of school) in the book and there are 2401 different rhythmical permutations of the quaver triplet.

Each phrase is just the framework of each pattern, the starting point. Each rhythm has many orchestrations and it is down to the learner to explore each possibility. I find this kind of stuff really exciting, there’s a sense of self-discovery and it’s highly rewarding.

We live in an era of ‘give me it for free’. We seem to only want information that we can use with little to no research and just use it straight away. This book is exactly not that. This book is work hard, research, investigate, try, explore, fail, know, justify and succeed. I think that’s a pretty good way to learn!?

Rob: The pages of this book are all coloured, is there a particular reason you have used colours and if so, what do they mean?

Andy: The pages are coloured for a number of reasons.

When I qualified as a teacher in 2005, part of my studies was the ‘psychology of learning’. Part of this module delved into how learners concentrate and from there, to students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

A technique used to help students with dyslexia concentrate and improve focus on work papers is to put a coloured film over the paper. I thought this might have some relevance to my book as there are so many things to read and conformed in a similar way, anything to help one concentrate would be subconsciously very helpful. But a coloured film within the book was totally impractical so I thought of coloured pages. If you ever write a book, never construct it of coloured pages and especially not in sequences of seven reoccurring colours over 284 pages! Very expensive to produce and a complete nightmare to construct!

The other thing is that it’s never been done before and I think it stands out. I needed something about my book to make it different as soon as you picked it up or saw it in a shop. I’m not a famous drummer so I can’t sell book just from my name.

Plus it looks great and the quality of the book itself is something I am very proud of. Things aren’t always just black and white, you know!

Rob: You talk of the 10000 hour rule, so how far along are you now?

Andy: Passed 10,000 hours (easily) ten/ twelve years ago. But progressive, highly productive, honest, acute, mind numbingly microscopic, can’t even talk about what I’m doing, practice, that’s a whole new level and something I’ve only been doing for about 18 months or so – since I started the book.

I practice every day, between 20-30 hours a week. I gave up full-time teaching to dedicate myself to the practice of jazz drumming (specifically) and subsequently the writing of the book.

I believe, many people think there are practicing but they are actually playing. There is a massive difference. If you play along to music as your normal practice routine (as I use to) what are you learning? The song? The drum pattern? Yes, but is that progressive, investigative, where is the why and how and the in-between? It’s learning by parrot fashion, by wrote. In many ways, it’s like – play this, this is cool, because it is. I want to be able to turn things upside down, inside out if I want to, hear things backwards and translate them to something coherent, that’s my practice, putting everything under the microscope – that’s what I strive for on a daily basis.

Rob: I like the fact you have referenced other, non-drumming books, including “Elon Musk”. What was it in these other books that inspired you so?

Andy: I love to hear other people’s stories. People who have seen something they are not happy with or have a passion to do something, define all the odds, failed, failed again and again, then publicly, looked like an idiot, succeed, prove everyone wrong, then fail dramatically again and still continue what they believe to be right. None of them are driven by money per se. Money is tool but not a vehicle, a residue of success.

When I started to write my book it was extremely daunting. There were lots of lows and some highs throughout (a lot more lows) but it was never about money, or I want to sell X. I just wanted to finish it. Then once that was done I had a new goal, to physically produce my book, the way I want to do it because I believe it will help people. The end. They were my motives and the books I mention helped me keep faith and also help me research parallel factors towards drumming and practice. Like the myth of talent. I don’t believe in it (but that’s a new question altogether and one which is much better answered in the excellent book “Bounce”). And via these books it led me to research how Olympic athletes train, boxers, meditation and so on, it’s all so relevant to a practicing musician.

Worlds away from the humble quaver triplet! Fascinating.

Having spent some time with this book and sitting on a nice slow metronome for 5 minutes per exercise/phrase, I can say that although it may be a very simple concept in some ways the meditative state I found myself in after sitting on a few of these ideas was fantastic. I did feel as if I was a lot more in tune with the flow of the rhythms and more relaxed as I played them.

The challenge really is taking this book and sitting down with it for hours on end. I think only then will I be able to understand perhaps where Andy is at right now and as I have only managed a few sessions I can only guess at how much of an impact this book will have.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is potentially a great book, but it’s not a paint by numbers and unless you are prepared to go on an in-depth discovery of triplet based music, rhythms and ideas, you won’t get the most out of it, especially as it’s not a cheap book at just under £25.

Jazz players should definitely have a look at this book, it might well appeal to you and I’m sure if you put the time in, you’ll get results.

Rob Crisp

More info available through andysturges.com

By | 2017-11-30T14:50:59+00:00 December 1st, 2017|Categories: Reviews|Comments Off on Mixed Reviews – Heaney, Mendoza and Sturges

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