Extras: Pinky and the Brain

Pinky and the Brain

The 60s where an exciting time for drummers. Rock & roll flourished, jazz was soaring. The two collided in the late 60s forming the fusion genre that continues to this day. Major jazz stars lead their own big bands, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Harry James, Maynard Ferguson, and Stan Kenton, to name a few. In 1966 Buddy Rich, "The World's Greatest Drummer", against all odds, started his second and last big band of his illustrious career. It lasted until his passing, 21 years later.

In 1967, I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. I was packing up my drums after rehearsing with the Thursday Night Dues Band. The "Dues Band" was Phil Wilson's on-going big band project dedicated to improving the student's big band chops. Some of the Dues Band players at the time, Pat LaBarbra, Richie Cole, Linn Biviano, Paul Kongeila, and Rick Petrone, all became part of Buddy's band per Phil's recommendation.

One night, after rehearsing with the Dues Band, I was approached by an on-looker Clyde Brookes, a drummer and fellow Berklee student. With great conviction Clyde said to me, "Ted, you play great, but I could really help you with your technique". What he didn't know was that some of the freshmen (me included) had noticed Clyde practicing what seemed to be beginners "stuff" on a practice pad as we looked on, laughing. "OK", I said, "show me what you've got".

He sat me down in front of "Buddy Rich's Modern Interpretation of Snare Drum Rudiments" book and began explaining his curious practice regime. "It's all about using the wrists", Clyde said, "getting out of the drum while using the fulcrum for varying the touch." "What(!)?, Buddy Rich has a snare drum book?" "Yup", said Clyde, " I study with Henry Adler, who wrote the book with Buddy."

OK. That was all at once way too much information for me. As I reeled from my discovery of Buddy's snare drum book and Clyde's message, I resolved never to make fun of Clyde's practicing routine again. When the rest of the naysayers found out what Clyde was up to, we ran to New York City and studied with Henry Adler. Within months we where transformed by the Rich-Adler method. By the way, today Clyde Brooks is a very successful first call studio drummer and ace producer in Nashville Tennessee.

From the late 1930s to the late 1990s, Henry Adler was well established New York City first call session drummer, teacher, author, inventor and publisher. At the age of 17, Buddy Rich approached Henry for help in entering a career as a jazz drummer. Henry had heard of Buddy. He was the world famous "Traps -the Drum Wonder", of the vaudeville era. "Let me see you play". Buddy picked up a pair of sticks and began playing on Henry's practice pad. Henry told me, "I've never seen anyone before Buddy or after, who could play like that!" Henry was responsible for finding Buddy's first jazz gig. In the early 40s, Buddy again asked for Henry's help in writing his own snare drum method book. At the time Buddy was on tour with the Tommy Dorsey band and was given the title, "The World's Greatest Drummer". The "mystery" of Buddy Rich's amazing drumming abilities where then first revealed for all to learn in the 1942 classic, "Buddy Rich's Modern Interpretation of Snare Drum Rudiments". Little did I know I would, in 2006, revise the "Bible of snare drum books"!

The Brains of the Operation

The Adler-Rich method, put together by these two geniuses instructs the drummer in the correct way to move the wrists, rebound the sticks, not favor the downbeat and accent from the fulcrum. The fulcrum, or balance point on the drumstick is where the thumb and index finger lightly hold the stick. When properly trained, the drummer "speaks" through the fulcrum by slightly adjusting pressure on the drumstick. By slightly adjusting the fulcrum the drumstick is able to accent, bounce, diddle, or buzz. Clinching the stick will cause the whole arm to take over wielding the drumsticks like a baseball bat, tennis racket, golf club, or hammer.

Fight the good fight of pinky management

The pinkie is the strongest finger. When it sticks out it stiffens, freezing the forearm's ability to turn the wrist. Then the whole arm takes over the wrists job bringing the drummer's speed to a snail's pace resulting in poor technique. When the pinky comes off the drumstick, all of the remaining fingers follow. The fingers are now useless,

Check this out. Place your hand around your forearm and move your fingers. Notice the reaction of your tendons and muscles. Now relax the fingers and turn the wrist. When the fingers are relaxed and around the drumsticks, the forearm is able to move the wrist allowing the stick to rebound off the drum without fatigue. Unless you put a mirror up and correct the problem, it will take way too long to gain control of the stick's natural rebounding potential.

I have used, with great success, rubber bands to correct this problem. The rubber bands are draped gently around the hand and over the pinky (see illustration).This allows the student to hold the drumsticks lightly removing any tension in the hands and arms. The wrist must follow the rebound of the drumstick and be totally relaxed in order to successfully accomplish its mission. After a short time, the hand gets it and the rubber band can go away. It's a "beautiful thing" to play totally relaxed!

Drumsticks are designed for one purpose, to rebound off the drumheads and cymbals. The more coordinated hand allows the stick to rebound easier than the weak hand. Until we realize this issue and how to fix it, the drummer will be compromised by his or her inability to keep accurate time. The rudiments consist of Alternating Single Strokes, Double Strokes, Ghost notes and buzz strokes that make up the drummer's vocabulary. Buddy's book gives 60 rudiments that are the vocabulary of the drummer and designed for the drum set. Learn them and find the key to expressing your musical ideas!


"Through your kindness, patience and extreme expertise in drumming, his natural talent has grown into something quite special." --Mary Beth Neibalski

- testimonial