Ed Soph: Knowing the Reasons

SKF NOTE: Ed Soph was living in a small Garrison, New York house in the middle of the woods when we first met. My friend, Chris Conrade – a terrific drummer and teacher now living in Oregon – studied with Ed. He suggested I interview Ed for Modern Drummer.

I first heard Ed Soph in 1974 – years before meeting Chris – on trombonist Bill Waltrous‘s “Manhattan Wildlife Refuge” album. Ed’s playing on that date is so clean and precise, even in uptempo songs such as “Zip City.

Soph moved to Connecticut, not far from my home. We visited several times. Once, Ed asked me to listen to two cuts of a guitar/bass/drums trio with which I was unfamiliar. The first tune had a rock beat. The second tune was in swing time. Afterwards, Ed asked me, “What do you think of the drummer?” “Who is it?” I asked. Ed wouldn’t say. Finally, I said, “He sounds more comfortable with swing than rock.” Ed nodded. “Who is it?” I asked again. “It’s me,” Ed said.

Ed was smart, funny, curious, methodical. He was a wonderful person to interview. No matter what question I asked, Ed had a thoughtful answer.

I don’t remember if this exchange on rudiments from my Ed Soph interview transcript is part of Ed’s MD feature story. But let me clarify a photo MD used showing Ed playing a drumset with four sticks. We – MD’s editors – didn’t know it at the time, but after Ed’s interview was published he laughed about the photo. Ed said he was just clowning around with the photographer. Nothing against using four sticks. It was just that Ed Soph didn’t use play drumset using four sticks.

Ed Soph

Ed Soph

Scott K Fish: Going back to the rudiments/no rudiments argument. If you found the most unschooled backwoods drummer in the world – would there be anything in his playing that could be rudimental?

Ed Soph: Sure. Single-strokes and double-strokes. I think the rudiments are very valuable because they teach a certain discipline. Plus, they teach a linear concept that can then be translated into a drumset concept.

Man, what would rock drumming be without the paradiddle?

There’s something magical about the rudiments. If you play drums, you’re going to play a rudiment.

Where did the ride cymbal pattern come from? Why does ding-dinga-ding exist? Where did that come from? Why is the hi-hat played on two and four, and not on one and three? Why was the bass drum played on four beats? Why was it played on one and three? And why is it not played either of those ways anymore?

There are reasons for all that. Why did guys start playing drums with single heads? Knowing the reasons for all that is how you find direction in your own playing.

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