CAN A PARADIDDLE SAVE THE WORLD??? For those who don’t know, a PARADIDDLE is one of the technical/rhythmic building blocks from the drumming vocabulary. It is from a family of said building blocks called the rudiments. (Bounces and accents) Basically 26 in number. Like the alaphabet, the 26 are “rhythmic letters” that form words…that become sentences… that become the voice of an individual player. Many consider the rudiments to be a the absolute foundation of approaching the drum set. While not a big believer in absolutes, the rudiments have been helpful to me, so I teach them.
Four summers ago I had the first opportunity to teach at session two of the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls(www.williemaerockcamp.org), NYC. named for blues great better known as Big Mama Thornton. This is the fifth year for rock camp in NYC. Girls ages 8-18 are chosen and come from New York & all over the country to learn to rock. It is a week long program for girls where they are given group and individual instruction in their musical interests. There are bass players, guitarists, drummers, vocalists, keyboardists, percussionists, violinists and brass players. The girls are put into bands for the week where they collaborate and write a song together to be preformed at the end of the week rock showcase with their band with friends and family in the audience. In addition to the creative process of playing, and writing music, they attend seminars to learn music history, recording, and a bit of the promotional side of things as far as coming up with a band name, logo, silkscreening t-shirts, and designing posters.
It is a joy working with the girls who are of varying skill levels – but unified enthusiasm. I also enjoy getting to know the other teachers, many of us strangers before Willie Mae, but all connected by the shared desire to pass on our love for musical expression so much so that we were cool with VOLUNTEERING to do it! In the truest spirit of cooperation we all teach the girls from our experience. We also share in moving & setting up gear to accommodate the schedule of the day. Drums have to be moved daily out of the morning group teaching room to individual rooms for afternoon band practice, and then returned to the room for the next morning group session. While “chopping wood, and carrying water”, I was get to know other musicians who have bands that record, and tour, and are out there doing their thing.
This session there were 25 drummergirls ages 8-18. They all learned how to identify, set up, adjust, and strike/play each voice of the combined percussion contraption known as the drumset. All of this was taught within the context of groove, and creative timekeeping. They also all learned the paradiddle. First the developmental side…taken alone it is an effective hand to hand challenge that builds the control and dexterity of each players “chops”. Once learned, when moved around the drumkit to the different voices(snare,toms,hihat,bass drum,rims,and cymbals), the paradiddle is a extremely effective and versitile musical statement. As the girls developed their drumparts for their band songs, they learned how to incorporate the seemingly mundane repetition of an exercise to musical devices. The joy of being able to witness that spark with the girls is difficult to express. One young lady built her whole drum part around the paradiddle. It really was nothing short of beautiful.
Can a paradiddle save the world? Although rhetorical in nature, I’m not hard pressed to answer this question after teaching at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls for the last five years. I have seen the paradiddle challenge, inspire, and become incorporated as a building block for the most honest level of creative expression. This is why I followed my heart and dream and became a drummer in the first place. This is what I choose to give to the world. Seeing the girls take the information a run with it down their individual paths was true confirmation of the fact that yes, a paradiddle can perhaps save the world – quiet as it is kept. Teaching at this camp has been the brightest lights in my career as a professional drummer.
Please check out the cool video made by MTV news in support of the camp posted above
Also, Thankyou to Vater(Chad Brandolini) & Sabian(Paul Celucci) for kicking in sticks and cymbals to the camp from the beginning!