Episode 58

 

 

 

Last week we talked about inspiration and how it's not necessarily the most important thing for getting down to business. Of course, we love inspiration. It puts us in a space where we can create, where we have extra energy that we can focus on making something happen — getting down to work, really getting down to business. But inspiration is not always readily available.

Sometimes we have a day where we want to procrastinate and not do anything. Those are the days that we talked about last week, where we have to get down to the practice room and do anything. Not something from your list, not something from your books, not something from what you've been working on, but just sitting down and playing. Just sit down and play. You are mindlessly playing.

And in that act, things will start to come back. Things begin to develop into a structure again. So sometimes it's good just to leave the structure behind and be free and play. But when you're playing, you want to pay attention to what you're doing because you will start to notice things that suddenly interest you. Maybe you notice that something sounds cool or that something isn't flowing as well as you thought it would. And all of a sudden, you start to gain structure back into your practice session just by the natural progression of cities sitting down and playing, and eventually, it comes back into a structured practice.

 

Now, the trick is, and I think we talked about this last week, I'll mention this real quick. The method is once you're playing freely, and you're paying attention to the little details that are going on, and you start to notice things that you want to work on. Now you have to decide to work on those things. So, isolate the little sticking that you enjoyed, or that was challenging you and isolate it and work on it. Spend time on it. When you find something that you can't do, and something small.

Of course, you might say, "I can't play this solo from John Pattitucci's album that Vinnie played. Well, no, you're not going to be able to play that in one sitting if you haven't worked on something like that. So we have to be practical with our goals. But when you're just jamming, and you're being conscious of what you're doing, you're going to find little things, little things that you will notice in your playing that aren't as fluid as you thought they were.

Isolate that little thing, turn it into an exercise. For instance, if you're playing the kit and you come to a pattern of RLRLFF, that's a six-note phrase. RLRLFF. And it's a little sloppy say. So you're going to just isolate that on the snare drum - RLRLFF. And then you may go — snare, snare, tom, tom, foot, foot. And then snare, tom, floor tom, floor tom, foot, foot.

All these RLRLFF patterns. And that gets comfortable (and this is just a hypothetical), but then there are six different ways to play that grouping of sticking. So you have RLRLFF, and then you have LRLFFR. And then you have RLFFRL. And then you have LFFRLR. And then you have FFRLRL. Then you have FRLRLF. So you can go through all the permutations with a click. Or if you really want to have a fun challenge, do that with a high hat on quarter notes. Or a HH every six notes, if you're playing them as sextuplets, a HH every six notes - dugida, dugida, dugida, dugida, dugida, dugida, dugida, dugida. You know, that's just an example of what might show up in your free playing that then you isolate and turn into a nice robust exercise for yourself. That's the trick.

The trick is finding things that you can't do and then doing them until you can. That's practice. Now, of course, there are tons of books and tons of exercises (and I've written hundreds of them), so there's definitely stuff that's been curated and prepared for you by professional educators that will lead you down a path of development and ability. But sometimes it's important to do it on your own. Find your own challenges and come up with exercises to work on.

This is a great instrument because it's really easy to teach yourself as long as you know some of the guidelines like - the importance of playing in time, the importance of paying attention to the actual precision of what you're doing. And the way to do that is to record yourself and listen back because it's really hard to tell in the moment if you're actually playing with complete accuracy and precision. So listen back. You can hear it. You'll know whether or not you're doing it or not.

And here is a very, very important aspect of the whole thing (and this is the foundation of the DrumMantra 100%) is repetition. DrumMantra = Rhythmic Repetition. The more you can repeat something, the more you can play something over and over and over and over and over again with awareness and with your attention and intention. The more solid it's going to become for several reasons.

First of all, you hear it over and over. Second of all, you're building the muscle memory so your body starts to know how to play the exercise, figure, or whatever it is that you're working on. And over time, it just becomes a natural expression. So when you get to that point where an exercise becomes part of your natural expression, that has just added a new layer of depth to your voice.

So, yes, it's important to work on exercises that are written out and have been created by master educators. That is absolutely important. Yes, it's important to transcribe master drummers and learn what they're doing. And a lot of great things to do with transcription is transcribe something. Learn it. But then there's gonna be little pieces in that transcription of someone else that are really attractive to you. Isolate those things and turn them into exercises. That's a great thing. And then the other thing was what I'm just talking about, play freely and pay attention to what you're doing.

Find something that you want to work on and turn it into an exercise. It can be something that you turn into an exercise in your head and work on and record and listen back. Or, now don't let this distract you, because it does to me a lot. I'll be practicing, and I'll get this idea, and all of a sudden, the next thing I know, I'm writing it down on paper. Or even worse, I'm turning the computer on and turning Sibelius on, and transcribing it into an entire lesson series. And the next thing I know, two hours have passed, and I don't have sticks on my hands anymore. I'm sitting on my computer.

So you have to be careful. At least I'm saying you as I'm speaking to myself, I have to be careful about the process because I can distract myself so well and so easily. It is crazy how the first part of my life up until probably 35 years old, I always thought it was cool and important to be able to multitask or at least believe that you're multitasking where you can pay attention. I thought, "drummers have great coordination - we can do things with all our limbs." So we should be able to carry that into our lives, and we should be able to do lots of things at the same time just like in drumming. Well, it's not the same.

You can coordinate your body because that is mechanical. You can organize the muscles in your body to make each limb do something else with lots of practice. You can overcome physical limitations with the body. But, and I think that's because the body is one thing. It just has the four limbs coming out of it. When you're trying to think about more than one thing at a time, it doesn't work. And so what happens is - usually it's trying to concentrate on things in the imagination. So your mind might be thinking of, "what am I going to have for dinner?" And it also might be thinking, "what am I going to practice?" And it is also thinking, "what movie do I want to see later with my friends?".

So first of all, all three of those things are in your mind and really you're going back and forth between the three. So you're really just kind of, you know, flipping through your Rolodex of thoughts and kind of spending some time on each one, going around in a circle, not getting much done and the big point of this is you're not focused on actually what's happening in life, which is whatever it is, wherever you are, the room you're in, the book you're holding, the conversation you're having with the person that is sitting in front of you. That is where the disconnect happens, so.

I spent so much time thinking I'm developing my mind to be able to be coordinated and multifaceted, just like coordinating our bodies. Well, the second part of my life since 35 and it's not the second half, I mean, I guess I'm in the next part of that, but I had a very stark realization that focusing on the present moment, everything happening in the present moment is vital to being connected to creativity. Vital to be connected to the awareness of reality. Vital to be connected to the ability to function really well requires attention in the moment and using the mind as a tool to figure something out that's related to the moment, but not using the mind to like escape into this playground of imagination while you're sitting here having a conversation with someone else.

That is something that I think we all deal with, and I think it's something that it's just like a muscle we have to develop the ability to concentrate, to improve the ability to stay in the moment. And staying in the moment is where life is actually happening now, the crazy thing is (and this is almost going to be opposite of what I said last week) when you're completely in the moment and you are not being pulled by your mind into your imagination, into your memory, into the projection of whatever is going on in your thoughts you are more aligned with true inspiration. Where inspiration is not coming from outside sources, when you're very present, you don't have to wait to be inspired by something someone said, or something that you read, or something that you saw. All of a sudden, because you're entirely present, your mind is aware, and you can entirely focus all the energy of life into the moment that you're in.

That is where the infinite well of inspiration lives. Kind of like the inside of you already is this endless source of energy and inspiration that can only be accessed when you are not stuck in your mind thinking about things - this is Zen practice; this is the practice of a lot of spiritual traditions. To become very present, which means not in your mind, not in your imagination, but present in the moment. And when you're present in the moment, you actually can sense life differently because you are at one in the moment with the energy of life itself, and the inspiration is there. And it's infinitely accessible. So there you have it.

I love being able to argue two sides of something. I think it's really important to see things from lots of different perspectives. And I think it's interesting and maybe even ironic that last week I said inspiration is not your best friend, that you should not wait for inspiration. You should be driven to do something. And now today I'm saying if you want to access true inspiration, you can't search for it outside of yourself, because the inspiration I talked about last week comes from something you've read, something you've seen, something you've heard. Real inspiration comes from inside, and the only way to access that is to quiet the mind and to be present in the moment. And what better way to be present in the moment than to be playing your instrument?

Because when you're playing your instrument, I'm sure you've experienced and if you haven't, I know you will sometime in your life, when you start to perform with musicians, just like any pro athlete, you find yourself in the "zone," which people call the zone. And the zone for musicians is - time goes away, thinking goes away. You are merged as your instrument and you are communicating at the level of sound. And if you are completely connected to everybody, you're not thinking. You are interacting in real-time from a pure space of inspiration, creativity, and expression. So that's the goal.

And the good news is, well, first of all, I think it's important to try to learn how to meditate. And even though I've been dabbling with it for probably a decade now, I still, at the end of the day, catch myself and say, "dang it, why didn't I meditate today?" And I actually remember at the end of the day to do it and I tried to do it. And a lot of times it turns into a nap. And so Steve Lyman was on the podcast a few weeks ago and he actually goes to his Zen doh and practices meditation for almost two hours every morning where it's a formal sitting with a group of people. And, you know, that's one way to do it. That's one to make way to make sure that you're doing it the right way where you're sitting properly and breathing properly and maybe being reminded by a master of when you are not doing it properly. So, you know, building that discipline is just like anything else, just like we say. I mean, you know, sitting and learning how to breathe. We breathe naturally but learning how to breathe on purpose. That's a discipline. That's something you have to train yourself to do. It's weird when there's something that the body does naturally, but you can also do it on purpose. That means you have the opportunity to master something else in your life. And mastering breathing is a huge one. And the basic foundation, I mean, the underlying theme of anything that's going to make you be present. Here's a great way to be in the moment. Focus on your breath. Because when you focus on your breath, the only place your breath is happening is right now, right here. So you're breathing in. You're breathing out, you're breathing in, and maybe you're thinking to yourself, breathing in, thinking yourself, breathing out or in, out or whatever it is. But you're paying attention to the moment that you're in and using your breath to be that doorway into present moment awareness. Do that while you're playing. So you sit down and you're playing your drums. And while you're playing. Think about your breath.

Let the body do its thing. Let the body express itself what the body do, its movements and yes, give that some attention, but try to focus on your breath. That is super hard. That's almost like adding another limb to your coordination to literally think about your breath.

And I've done a lot of exercises where, in the DrumMantra stuff where you're playing and you're breathing in for two bars and you're breathing out for two bars and you're really paying attention to the timing of your breath in relationship to the phrase that you're playing. And it is very challenging. But I've found it to be very helpful, very rewarding to do so.

I'm giving you a new angle to the idea of inspiration. This week, inspiration comes from within its infinite and you can access it anytime you want. All you have to do is focus on your breath, be present and try to stay out of your mind and realize that true inspiration does not come from anything outside of you. Of course, you're going to get a breath of inspiration. Yes. When you go to the art museum and you see an amazing painting, if you know, you see, gosh, we were just there and saw some of our favorite paintings. And, you know, you're looking at a Joan Mitchell and you are inspired or we went to a beautiful concert the other night from the Jay Ayers piece called Rod Roddy The Celebration of Holy. And it was an amazing piece of music. And it inspired me so much to go come home and practice or, you know, you see a great movie. You read a great book. Yes. You were going to get inspiration from outside of you. Absolutely. But in those moments where you're not. It's inside of you already.

The thing that's recognizing the stuff outside of you that gets inspired, that thing inside of you that recognizes the things that tell you that this is an amazing piece of art. And it inspires you. That's just the inspiration inside of you. Recognizing it on the external level. The thing that is recognizing things in the world that comes back to you as inspirational. That's just you saying you have inspiration inside of you and it's in it's like it's almost like it's being projected outwards and then reflected back in. But it's always inside of you. Just sit, stay present, breathe. Get out of your mind and you can access that that infinite well of inspiration anytime you want.

Well, I did not think that that's what I was going to be talking about today. It is so funny. I turn the mic on and I just start talking and that is not the direction that I intended this to go, but I think that felt pretty good. And here is the thing that I actually intended. This is something that I wanted to talk about and something I want to challenge you on. This week is doing something that I love to do. And I actually did it. I'm in the process of it right now, is to find something on social media that you like, and feel free to use any of the exercises that I post on DrumMantra or Rich Stitzel music. If you're interested in the things that I'm doing. Feel free to use that or find something that makes you excited from some other source. And then instead of just passing by, excuse me, need drink of water real quick.

Instead of just saying, oh, that was cool and scrolling on and oh, that was cool and scrolling on. Stop. Check it out. Save it. Figure out how to download it because it's very possible to download at anything nowadays. Download this. Whatever it is that excited you, get it to the practice room, analyze it, transcribe it and learn how to play it.

Learn how to play something, you know. I say in the old days, but back when I was in college, we had to transcribe 16 or 32 measures of something that could be, you know, two minutes depending on the tempo. But definitely a minute. And it just so happens that, as we all know, Instagram videos are a minute long. So it's not that big of a chunk to spend time with, but take something. And actually go through the entire process of learning it. Learn it so you can play it and then post it and give credit to where it came from and celebrate the person that it came from and talk about your process. This is what I did. I saw this. It made me excited. I went to the practice room. I practiced it. I figured out what it was. I transcribed it. I understand it now.

And I'm honoring the person that put this out. And here is my version of it. I think that is an amazing experience to go through that process, first of all, of working on something and then what a great way to honor and celebrate somebody else to say, "I liked what you did so much that I took it and learned it myself because it was inspirational". There it is, that inspiring moment that comes from outside of you, where it's very accessible and lots of it in the world, especially if you're on Instagram and looking at videos, you can find a lot of inspiration out there on the external. And now take it inside and work it out and do it. And I challenge you this week to find one thing. Spend the entire week learning it.

Perfecting it.

Filming yourself, playing it and putting it back out in the world and celebrate the person that inspired you to do that. Right now I am in the process of that. With a Pete Lockett piece of music that I saw him perform, I saw it about... I actually saw it about six weeks ago and just it just blew my mind. And it was a commercial for his new brushes, his new remix brushes with Vic Firth. And so I immediately called my guy and our person Joe at Vic Firth and said, send me those brushes, please. And I also made a stick order, and of course, the box comes and all the sticks are in there and the remix brushes are not in there. And I write, I'm like, what's going on? These didn't show up. And he said, these are on complete back order. They've sold out everywhere. We're trying to make more. And so I kind of for about two weeks, I almost forgot about it.

 

And then I got an email from Vic Firth saying remix brushes, the ones you ordered still aren't in. But we're gonna send you some other ones in the meantime. And I'm like, oh, yeah, that thing, that Pete Locket thing. So I went back to the video and I'm like, OK, I'm going to do this. So I downloaded the video. I stripped the audio from it. I dropped it into Ableton. I got it all beat-matched and cleaned up so I could loop it. And I sat down and I just started playing it. I've started out by figuring out what the heck is going on. I can kind of hear a pattern. I can kind of hear a groove. I can hear the rhythm. And little by little, I learned it by ear.

 

And then I'm like, OK, I'm going to see if I can figure out what's really going on. I didn't know time signatures. I could almost play the whole thing I still had no idea what time signature it was in because it's such a strange, beautiful phrase of music. And so I spent time on that. And I've spent probably four or five days, at least an hour each day on a 30-second passage of music. And I'm not quite there yet because I almost thought I had it. I did have it. It's just a snare drum and a bass drum. That's it.

 

And I thought, I've got this. OK, I've got it. It's pretty clean. It's pretty fluid. And then I went back and watched the video and I was like, wait a second. And I saw that his left foot was clicking quarter notes on the high had the whole time. I'm like, that is impossible. Whatever he's doing in this phrase is so awkwardly related to the quarter note pulse I thought, this is, I'm never gonna get this. I saw Pete in a clinic in Chicago just about, I guess it was in the summertime and he did a demonstration where he was playing Indian rhythms in an odd time. Odd groupings. And he was singing and then clapping them and then he said, "and now let's play a quarter note with it."

 

And as soon as he did that, I'm sitting in the front row of this clinic and I'm trying to do it. And I see him look at me and he looks at my foot. And I was so embarrassed because at the moment he looked I was not doing it because I couldn't. And I thought, man, I am like, a lot of people know me as the coordination guy. And all of a sudden I'm like falling apart on something that I should be able to do. And it was really a weird moment for me. And there it was again in this video. There's that darn left foot quarter note playing with this completely wacky phrase that did not feel like it was related.

 

So I'm in this process and in every, it's like uncovering the mysteries of something every little piece of the puzzle that you put in, you get more excited about it because there's more stuff that you understand. And my goodness, I feel like I've been. I feel like I've spent a semester in school just by studying this one 30 second long passage of music that Pete Lockett performed. And I can't wait to have it completely perfect so I can film it and post it. I gave a little hint today on Instagram saying I'm working on something. So that's exciting to me.

 

And that's also a great way for to motivate me to and to keep me on track. It's like if I announce something that I'm about to do and I'm not quite ready to do it, it's going to hold me to it, because now and I've had some people respond to it and so that's going to hold me to it. And of course, I'm going to complete it. But that's a great little scary way to hold yourself to something.You know, I go back and forth on that idea of like, don't tell anybody what you're doing until you've got it ready and then share it. But sometimes I always had this little thing in me and I don't know if it's right or wrong, but it's just what I do is sometimes I'll leak a little bit of information even before I've completed it, just to keep me honest, keep me going, keep me like, OK. You've told the world now you've got to make it happen. So, you know, you play games with yourself, with how you inspire and motivate your own process. But that's just something that I've done from time to time. Sometimes I wait and do the big reveal right when I've got it ready to share with the world. In this instance, I've been so excited about my progress with my development that I just I was like, it's getting close. I want to say something. So I did. And hopefully, before the end of the week, I will be posting my tribute and transcription of the great Pete Lockett.

 

If you don't know who Pete Lockett is, please go find him. Look him up. Check him out. He is. He's just an awesome human and amazing player. And I'm really excited to continue getting to know him better. We've had a few communications since his clinic. He's a fellow Sabian artist and Vic Firth artist. So we have that kind of, you know, instrument family bond. But he's amazing. He's really been something, quite a light in my world for this last week as I'm playing his stuff and just really realizing the depth of his knowledge. So that's been cool. And I challenge you to do the same thing. And I tell you, when you do something like that, it makes you feel great because you've honored someone else.

 

And then, you never know someone might grab something of yours and do this. And that's been happening to me lately and it's crazy. It's an amazing feeling to say, see someone post something and say, inspired by Rich. This is a here's you know, here's a twist on just recently. The drummer from Switzerland, Lucas Landis, created an entire modification to my DrumMantra 3030 course. So Section 2 of the course is in 3/4. It's great challenging stuff. And then he did a modification for entire drum set based on section two of the 3030 course. And it blew me away so much that I added it to the course.

 

So when you take the 3030 now, when you get to the end of section to boom, this whole thing opens up to section two modifications by Lucas Landis in Switzerland. What an honor. How humbling is it to to have someone else take your material and do something with it? And everyone has that opportunity now. So when you put something up on social, make sure it's good. Make sure it's meaningful to you. Make sure that it makes sense and someone might grab it in and do something with it. If you do anything of with my stuff, please tag me because I really want to see it. I always send people messages in and pump them up and thank them. Tag @richstitzelmusic. Tag @DrumMantra and I will find it. And I love doing that and connecting with people of the world.

 

So if you choose to do something with me this week, it's always an honor to have someone do that. And I just recently had another one from Rob Coleman. I think he's in he's in the United Kingdom. So I'm going to say that that's a pretty blanket thing. But he might be in England. I'm not totally sure, but he just did a modification to my book, the Primary Series. And we've had a little conversation about it because it's a really hard modification. And I've spent a little bit of time working on it myself. And I just can't even tell you what an honor it is to have someone take the time to learn something that I've created. And I really want you to have that feeling, too. So hopefully when you put something out. Hopefully we can get this trend happening where everyone's sort of honoring each other because that really is what the drum community is all about and feels so good to share these things with each other.

 

OK, well, you know what? I think that we've we've done a good job today. Digging deeper, thinking about things on a different level and really trying to hone our ability to become a better human through the act of being present to access our own inspiration from internally instead of always looking for it on the outside. It comes from the outside in many forms. Absolutely. Yes. That's what makes life beautiful. All the art that's in the world, that's inspirational. But you are yourself, an infinite well of inspiration that's ready to come out. And the way to access that is to be present. Focus on your breath. Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Even try to stay out of your mind. Try not to sit on any imagination, thoughts or anything just for a moment and see what that does for you. And always pay attention to what you're doing when you're playing, because that will give you, that will inform the way that you practice.

 

OK, great. Hope you have a great week. I'm really excited for next week. I have a special guest that's gonna be on the podcast. So definitely spread the word and tune in. We're gonna have a fun one next week. In the meantime, happy practicing. Talk to you soon.

Thank you so much for listening to the DrumMantra podcast and your time and attention is much appreciated. I would love it if you went to the iTunes store and left a rating. And please share this with anybody that you think would like to go deeper with their practice. Take care.

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