Gene Krupa’s Wisdom for the Ages

Gene Krupa

SKF NOTE: This is worthwhile drumming advice from Gene Krupa. I’ve written before on Krupa’s comments on starting “a roll or sequence of beats with the left or right hand.” Glad now to have identified the quote source.

Krupa’s comment on “how to keep the bass and snare drum in tune” is also unclear. Is Gene talking about keeping the bass/snare drums tuned to each other? Or is he talking about the importance of keeping both drums tuned well?

Either way, this is good stuff. Put it in your “Drummer Wisdom for the Ages” journal.


Any idea that I knew anything about skins had to go out the window once I started hitting those [Chicago] South Side joints. For one thing, I had no idea of the wide range of effect you could get from a set of drums. I picked up from Zutty Singleton and Baby Dodds the difference between starting a roll or sequence of beats with the left or right hand and how the tone and inflection changed entirely when you shifted hands. Those Negro drummers did it nonchalantly as though it were a game.

Taking my cue from what I heard, I next went to work on the tom-toms trying to get them in tune and knowing when to use ‘em. I punched holes in them with an ice pick, as Zutty told me, until they were just pitched right.

Another trick I got from Baby Dodds was how to keep the bass and the snare drum in tune and how to get cymbals that rang in tune and were pitched in certain keys.

Then came the cowbell and the wood block.

You see, most white musicians of that day thought drums were something you used to beat the hell out of. The monotonous pattern made you feel weary after listening to it for a while. Few of them realized that drums have a broad range of tonal variations so they can be played to fit into a harmonic pattern as well as a rhythmic one.

Source: The Book of Jazz: From Then Till Now, by Leonard Feather, Dell Publishing, 1976

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