Charlie Perry: Buddy Rich on Practice Habits and Teaching Methods

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SKF NOTE: Among my boxes of drumming memorabilia come a couple of legal size folders full of writing by Charlie Perry. Charlie was a noted drum teacher and author. His best known method book, perhaps, is The Art of Modern Jazz Drumming, which Charlie co-authored with Jack DeJohnette. Charlie Perry also had an early rock drum method book with Gary Chester.

I studied briefly with Charlie, and he was an early Modern Drummer fan and Advisory Board member. How did I end up with Charlie’s file folders? Who knows? Charlie seemed always to have writing ideas looping through his imagination. It’s probable Charlie handed me these file folders, asking me to look them over, and do something with the contents. Do what? If I ever knew, I have forgotten.

This Buddy Rich interview is in a manila file folder labeled “Q&A Drumset Question Matter.” Charlie Perry, the interviewer, has Buddy Rich‘s answers to “practice habits and teaching methods [Buddy Rich] considers wrong and in dire need of revision.” Buddy’s answers are fascinating and, in my opinion, too valuable to leave buried in a file folder.

The original interview is on photocopied 8.5 x 11 sheets of white paper. Following Charlie Perry’s introduction, this interview is formatted with subjects in underlined block letters, followed by Buddy’s answers typewritten. Charlie has then edited Buddy’s typewritten answers with a lead pencil, removing some of Buddy’s words, replacing Buddy’s words with his, Charlie’s, own words, and sometimes just changing punctuation.

I’m presenting this interview then with Buddy’s unedited words, and – in bold type – Charlie Perry’s edits of Buddy’s words. Where the interview subject title has only Buddy’s words, Charlie left them unedited.

Finally, I have no details on when or how Charlie’s interview with Buddy took place. Neither do I know if Buddy’s typewritten responses are verbatim, or if this interview was published anywhere.

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AN INTERVIEW WITH BUDDY RICH
by Charlie Perry

Buddy Rich continually revises his style, creating and building in the process. While mastering the modern style of drumming, he has also added new and provocative dimensions (rhythmic, tonal, and technical) to his playing. Buddy is as forthright in his opinions as he is in his art. He is a performer with integrity, one who will not compromise his principle. Here he speaks of practice habits and teaching methods which he considers wrong and in dire need of revision.

THE PAD

Buddy Rich: What are you going to use on the job, a pad or a snare drum? A snare drum of course! Then why strive to adjust to the response and sound of a practice pad, when you must then readjust to the characteristics of a snare drum? [SKF NOTE: Charlie Perry deleted Buddy’s word “strive,” and replaced it with the word “bother.”]

A snare drum has “sound” – tone. You can work with pitch and duration. These qualities are missing in a pad.

PRACTICE STICKS

Buddy Rich: The practice stick is considerably heavier, and usually larger, than the playing stick. After having worked with the practice stick, you must adapt anew to the weight, feeling, and grip of the playing stick. Why bother? Practice with your regular playing sticks, no others.

Charlie Perry: The practice stick is usually much heavier, and usually larger, than the playing stick. After having worked with the practice stick, you must re-adapt to the weight, feeling, and grip of the playing stick. Why bother? Practice with your regular playing sticks, no others.

SITTING POSITION

Buddy Rich: The individual must sit in proportion to his size. If you have long legs, don’t sit too close to the bass drum and hi-hat in a cramped position. If your legs are short, move in close so you will not have to stretch and strain to reach the pedals.

Charlie Perry: The drummer should sit in proportion to his size. If you have long legs, don’t sit too close to the bass drum and hi-hat in a cramped position. If your legs are short, move in close so you will not have to stretch and strain to reach the pedals.

CLOSED ROLLS

Buddy Rich: A closed roll should sound like sandpaper being torn. It should not be a cross between an open and closed roll, each which is composed of different characteristics.

Charlie Perry: A closed roll should sound like sandpaper being torn. It should not be partly open and partly closed. The characteristics of the closed roll are different than those of the open roll.

WRIST AND FOREARM

I make most of the strokes with my wrists at a natural level (wrist level: from quarter to full level strokes).

The power and control are in the forearms and wrists. Raising your arms too high, unnecessarily, results in lost motion, loss of speed, and can interfere with your control and timing.

FINGERS

I use my fingers to supplement the motions of my wrists (fingers and wrists together, as one unit), to tighten or loosen my grip. However, there are times when I do motivate the sticks with the fingers alone.

TECHNIQUE

Buddy Rich: The concept of technique, prevalent among drummers, is ill-founded. Many of them spend countless hours practicing technique for the sake of technique itself, without regard to its ultimate purpose: a means of expressing musical thought and sound.

Charlie Perry: The concept of technique that is prevalent among drummers, is wrong-headed. Many of them spend countless hours practicing technique for the sake of technique itself, without regard to its ultimate purpose: a means of expressing musical thought and sound.

PRACTICE

Buddy Rich: I don’t believe in too much practice: your playing can grow stale. Over-practice often results in unnatural (mechanical) drumming.

Don’t dissipate your energy in practice, save it for the job.

What you should do is to play every chance you get. If you are not on a steady job (six nights a week), then rehearse with units as often as possible. But, by all means, play!

Charlie Perry: I don’t believe in too much practice: your playing can grow stale. Over-practice often results in mechanical drumming.

Don’t dissipate your energy in practice, save it for the job.

What you should do is to play every chance you get. If you are not on a steady job, then rehearse with groups as often as possible. But, by all means, play!

DRUM-SET PRACTICE

Buddy Rich: When on the job, you don’t first play with the left hand, then with the right hand, then with the bass drum, and so forth. Since you don’t play this way, why practice this way? It is nonsensical to do so.

When you do practice, use your drum-set, so your coordination between the hands and feet, and your touch (the response of your drums and cymbals to your strokes) will remain sharp, and further improve. And play as you normally do, with feeling and musical intelligence, not in a cold (strictly methodical) manner.

[SKF NOTE: Charlie Perry removed the second paragraph words, strictly methodical.]

READING AND INTERPRETATION

Most of the notation is unmarked series of notes that are unaccompanied by marks of expression). To merely “read” the part results in a dull literal playing of the notes. To convey the musical feelings of the composer, or arranger, you must inject them (the notes) with dynamic variety, phrasing, tonal effects, and such. This “coloring” can be accomplished through the rise and fall of volume, and by dividing the notes among the snare drum, toms, bass drum, and cymbals.

At the moment of performance you throw away the books and the methods: the artistic instinct of the player takes command.

THE DRUM TEACHER

Buddy Rich: Before you can be a drum teacher, you have to be a well-rounded drummer. To me, that’s someone who, in addition to formal training, has learned through doing; who has had years of top professional experience (big bands and small groups, playing dance music, shows, and jazz).

Those who teach only technique (pad technique) or reading, teach the parts of drumming in an isolated form, separated from the whole. They don’t teach drumming as it really is, drumming as it’s professionally practiced (on the job playing), with a performer’s concept, sensitivity, interpretation, and musical purpose.

Charlie Perry: Those who teach only technique or reading (reading exercises), teach the parts of drumming in an isolated form, separated from the whole. They don’t teach drumming as it really is, drumming as it’s professionally performed, with a performer’s concept, sensitivity, interpretation, and musical purpose.

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Charlie Perry’s Buddy Rich Interview Page 1

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