Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Volume 50 - Robb Ryan


Ok peeps, get your practice pads, notebooks, pencils, recording device and maybe even a compass. We're gonna get in to some serious but fun drum talk!
There's another educator in the house and he is here to get all the craziness that's in our heads, worked out.
That's the kool thing about music, There is always some one there to help us out with whatever the issues are and we need to show some love to these people because they help us achieve our goals. This kat is from Canada and is doing some great work there. He is always sharing his skills and lessons online, so there is no excuse. And if you want a guy that has a passion for teaching, Robb is your guy. So, let's get started with today's lesson and our guest for the day, Robb Ryan. He's not just Talkin' Chop...he's talkin'  a lotta chops! 


Name or Stage Name: 
Robb Ryan

Where do you hail from? 
Grimsby Ontario Canada, small town about 45 min south of Toronto, and 20 min East of Hamilton

How long have you been playing? 
35 years

So, what is the music scene like in your area? 
Music scene is not great to be honest, the bar gigs have really dried up and the ones that do exist don't pay anymore than they did 20 years ago. 

From what little I see and hear about, it seems as if the Canadian music scene is doing well. Is that a good assumption? 
See above answer :) The corporate and wedding scene is pretty okay, but the bar scene is not dong well at all. On top of that, the bars that do have jazz music want nothing that is progressive, they really want you to play standards, as standards.

I know there are some high profile music fest and conferences in Canada. Do they help artists at all? 
I can't speak for the conferences as I've never attended any! But the music fests are always fun, I think that they absolutely help artists, it allows local guys to get up on stage and do clinics to a room full of drummers as they open for big name guys. For somebody like myself, I'm busy on the local clinic scene, but I'm looking forward to doing a few festivals next year opening for some big name drummers with a wide draw. For the attendees the music fests are great in that they get to see these big name drummers up close and get exposed to smaller guys that they may not be aware of.

Have you spent much time in the states playing around? No

You cover a number genres in your playing, was that a natural thing or did you have to really work at one or more? 
I would say that it was really natural for me, neither one of my parents were musicians but they both always played music in the house, with my mom it was new country and old rock, with my dad it could have been anything from the Buddy Rich Big Band to Latin music to 70's Rock, so I was exposed to all kinds of different music at a very young age. When I was in high school I figured out who Steve Gadd, Vinnie and Weckl were and learnt that these guys all had some kind of jazz in their background so I started going back and checking out Tony with Miles and Elvin with Coltrane. When I got to college I went head deep into Cuban music which was really tough but open my eyes (and ears) to many different things, but most importantly was how small simple parts put together make this thing that can be bigger than the sum of the parts. Studying Jazz and Cuban at College really got my independence together!!!

How did you get where you are now? 
Playing wise....practice!!! I practice a lot, I used to practice 12 hours a day (not messing around, actual practice, working out patterns) for a few years, these days its more like an hour or two a day. But to be a top of the food chain player that what it takes (I'm still working on getting there) 

But how I actually got to where I am is networking, pure and simple, picking up the phone, texting, emailing, messaging whatever it takes man! With the way the world is so virtual these days its very easy to get in touch with key decision makers, you just have to have guts to contact them, and be okay with rejection sometimes - if they say no, it doesn't always mean no forever, it just may mean no right now. You have to go into it with that mind set.

What are your goals, short & long term? 
Because of my age (I'm 41) my long term and short term goals are really the same. I spent a lot of time behind the kit up until I was about 30, then I got married and had kids and drumming really had to take a back seat, I was still playing in bars and in wedding bands but the teaching and practicing had to go for awhile. I've been back at it hard for the past year, the lay off was good, I've worked in management and marketing for many years and I am now able to use my marketing skills to better myself. In the past 6 months I've landed 4 major endorsement deals and have become a clinician, so my goal here is to become the Canadian version of Dom Famularo, I want to be Canada's busiest clinician. I also want to land a job at either Mohawk College (Hamilton) or Humber College (Toronto) as part of the music faculty teaching drums, these are two of Canada's leading music schools.

If you had the chance, what artists you would like to play for? 
hmm....Either Sting or Chick Corea, I respect those two artists so much for their song writing capabilities. 

List some of your accomplishments: 
I have recently signed on with Mapex Canada, Dream Cymbals, Aquarian Canada and Los Cabos Drumsticks as an endorser, and have become a clinician for Mapex, Dream and LC. Outside of drumming my greatest accomplishment is my children. 

You're an educator as well. Teaching private lessons and online. How did all of that come about? 
This was just something I always wanted to do, I'v always considered myself more of a teacher than a player, obviously I can play a bit, but I believe that my real strength is my ability to dissect very complex things, reverse engineer them and teach them in a way that people can understand and apply it. Most people spend their life practicing for the big stage, I spent it with the goal of doing drum clinics as my first priority. The online thing is just such a natural extension these days, if your not online you really don't exist (musically). 

You focus on patterns, technique, sticking, polyrhythms and phrasing, just to name a few. Why a focus on those types of things? 
Well that's a big question!!! There are a couple of reasons, the first time I heard Vinnie (Colaiuta) I was literally floored, I mean the guy can just play anything in any style, this lead me to research where he came from and I learnt that he had studied with Gary Chaffee. I ordered a couple of Gary's books (Rhythm and Meter Patterns and Sticking Patterns) and I realized how easy it was to play complex things using Gary's methods (easy being a relative term here!). I had always heard music in different levels, I mean I would hear triplets over an eighth note pattern but I didn't know what it was until I started studying Chaffee's material, this is what introduced me to Poly-rhythms. Of course Gary's books are all based on "patterns" and stickings mixing and matching them to create interesting phrases. Once I was done college I had the opportunity to study with Rick Gratton (author of Rick's Lick's drum book), Rick knew the Chaffee stuff inside and out and gave me a fresh perspective on it - I had been studying Chaffee's stuff on my own up until that point because no other teacher even at the college level was into this stuff. The technique side of things really came from my first teacher when I was 6, it was a female teacher and she was super big on the rudiments, so I learnt all the basic rudiments and did a bunch of rudimental snare drum etudes with her. My grip was not good though and when I got to Humber College my first teacher was Roger Flock, he was the head of the percussion department and was a real hard ass when it came to technique, he tore my hands apart, we literally started at ground zero, new grip, Moeller technique and the free stroke, I hated it at the time because I couldn't see the end game, but 6 months later and my hands were literally flying and everything became effortless.

Drum Solo - using Gary Chaffee stickings and linear

What is a good way for players to work on their independence? T
o me there is no secret when it comes to working on independence, its really just about working through the patterns. I started my journey using Gary Chester's the New Breed which takes "systems" as he calls them on three limbs while you read other patterns with the fourth limb, this really opened up my playing in my teens. From there I went on to Chaffee's Time Functioning Patterns which is not dis-similar to New Breed but includes jazz independence. Once I was in college it was Syncopation and there are literally a 1000 ways to go through that book!
But the reality is, that all of these books approach the same thing in a similar way, to gain independence you really just need to see how the notes line up against the other notes in the other limbs, there is no secret magic pill, this is the one part of drumming that truly takes a very long time to develop. Having said that, there is no area of drumming that has bigger payoffs though. As much as I love good technique, if I had to choose only one area of drumming that I could master it would be independence, because you cannot play many musical styles without good coordination, jazz, afro-cuban, modern funk. You need good dexterity with your limbs to pull that stuff off! Technique is great but there are a lot of really good players out there with technique that is just adequate, you can't groove without independence. Just put the time in!

You have also done work with as well as being a clinician for Mapex Drums, Los Cabos Drumsticks and Dream Cymbals.
Basically, you're a busy guy! Did you ever think you would be doing these kinds of things? 
The clinics have always been a goal of mine, so yea I knew eventually I would end up doing them if I just kept after my craft and marketed myself accordingly. What I didn't expect to happen was to work with 180 or Drumeo. I've been invited to go out to Abbotsford, Brittish Columbia to record 3 lessons for, that I never would have expected to happen because I know some big name guys that have wanted on there and Drumeo has said no to! This is really a dream come true as Drumeo is really the pinnacle of online drum education. 

Easy Drum Chops - using a 6 note linear phrase

Things have changed a lot for musicians now. It's not just the live gigs and the studio. We now have the internet, which has become another part of the industry.
Do you think it's important for drummers to get into all of these avenues and keep themselves busy & working? 
I don't know that its important avenue for drummers to keep themselves working, but I can say that it is priceless when it comes to networking and marketing yourself, if you have a product to showoff its very easy to do so through social media. Also, if there is anybody that you need to meet again you can do this through social media. My entire relationship with Drumeo, Dream Cymbals and Los Cabos sticks was started through Facebook messenger. 

Have you done any touring? 

Please describe your current set up & gear - heads and sticks...ect? 
Currently I use a 6 piece Mapex Armory kit for my clinics, 18x22, 7x10, 8x12, 12x14, 14x16 with a 5.5x14 snare. I use Aquarian coated response 2's on my tom batters with classic clear resonants, super kick 1 for the bass drum and texture coated on my snare drum. My cymbals are all from Dream and come from the Dark Matter and Bliss line, I use different cymbals depending on the gig, my current clinic setup is from left to right, 16" bliss crash, 15" bliss hats, 22" dark matter flat earth ride (over the first rack tom), 22" dark matter energy ride (over the second rack tom), 19" bliss crash/ride, and an 18" dark matter crash stacked on top of a 20" pang. 

Do you have a “Dream Kit”? 
 The Mapex White Widow in the same configuration that I currently play. I would also love a 60's era Gretsch in 14x18, 8x12, 14x14. 

How do you describe your drumming style? 
First off I'm all about groove, I love Steve Gadd's playing, and his influence runs deep in me because of his groove and his rudimental style. Outside of that I like to think of myself as a bit of a renaissance player as I can play anything from hard rock to trio jazz and sound pretty authentic. I always prided myself on really knowing a lot of musical styles, not just knowing the patterns but I mean if somebody said to me play a pattern like Spug from Mudvayne or Elvin with Coltrane I could do either. At my core, my style is really a lot of linear patterns as I find that they groove really hard because they allow for a lot of space, especially if the music is busy, constantly hitting the hi hat sometimes gets in the way of a keyboard and most really good musicians don't need a drummer to keep time that way. When it comes to playing fills and solos with a band I don't like to be bombastic, again I really feel that it takes away from the other players, because I've studied all these poly's and what not it gives me the ability to really play open with the fills, I can drop a pattern of say 9:2 as a fill and nobody knows that its a poly, it just sounds a bit off time and allows me to kind of weave around what the other players are doing without stepping on their toes, Vinnie does this all the time but it never sounds "out there". 

Drum solo - Polyrhythmic Quintuplet solo

Why the drums? 
It was my calling, from as long as I can remember I wanted to play them, no other reason, its just a part of me and I feel so much love from the instrument. 

If you weren’t playing drums, what would you be doing? I would certainly be depressed LOL

How has drumming impacted or changed your life? 
I was always shy growing up, it was the only way that I could actually express myself, honestly man it got me through the teen angst years! As a teenager I didn't understand my emotions well, but I definitely understood that after playing along to some heavy metal albums I felt a whole lot better! 

Are you doing music full time? 
No but I'm working hard towards it, and the way things have been going the last 6 months I don't think its too far away.

Are you involved in the local music scene in your hometown? 
No so much in my home town but I live close enough to 2 fairly major music centers that it allows me to be involved in various bands, I sub in bar bands and play the corporate and wedding scenes. 

Name 5 of your drumming influences? why?
1)Vinnie - he can play anything, any style with conviction. Also he led me to Chaffee. His use of Polyrhythms and phrasing is unlike anything that anybody else on this planet can do
2)Gadd - groove, groove and groove! he always plays the right part for the song in any style of music and his use of the rudiments on the kit are amazing
3)Elvin Jones - Modern Jazz pioneer, great comping abilities, he used very complex rhythms (often 3:4) to drive the music hard 
4)Tony Williams - because he's Tony, he redefined jazz and fusion just an amazing player
5)Gavin Harrison - precision, great drum sound always, amazing groove and just goes for it always

Name an inspiring concert that made you want to go home and start shedding? 
Chick Corea Electric Band with Weckl on drums, hard not to be inspired by that! Dave was on top of his game the night I saw him, though I don't know that he is ever not on top of his game but seeing him live was just awe inspiring!

When you listen to music or go see an artist in concert, what do you like to hear from the drummer? 
I like to see the drummer just going for it and playing with intensity! Now that doesn't mean laying down chop after chop, listen to Garabaldi with Tower of Power, tons of intensity in his playing but it was all groove, very little drum fills, Vinnie with Sting same thing, man the list can go on. Without intensity I just find the music boring, the drummer needs to be laying it on the line. Now if the music calls for it I love to hear the guy going for some big off the wall fills, but only if the music actually calls for it.

When you do practice, what types of things do you like to work on?  
I always work on technique first, some kind of hand or hand foot patterns that are designed to make my playing easier, be it faster or with better dynamics or whatever. Outside of that I just like to push myself, right now I am working on subdividing polyrhythms, but playing the subdivision with linear groupings, this is giving me a lot of interesting phrases to play around with. Just to be clear this is not a new thing, Chaffee has a whole section on this in the back of his sticking patterns book, but I am using it in a different way than he wrote out. I have also recently gone back to study with Rick Gratton, so working on whatever he gives me, though at this stage he is more of a coach than an actual drum teacher. 

What things do you learn from your own videos? 
I've learnt a ton, the first thing was I got used to the sound of my own voice, this is difficult for a lot of people and it certainly was for me! I also learnt that some of my body language needed to be changed, I over exaggerate some things, hand gestures and whatnot. Research shows that people with exaggerated body language are not trusted as much as people with regular body language so I needed to change that to. I think its important to be open to look at yourself as if its not you that you are watching so that you can actually critique yourself from an honest place, most people can't do this, I've always been able to, with myself and my playing. 

Do you have a crazy or interesting gig you can share with us? 
Nothing crazy sorry

What are your words of wisdom for your fellow drummers out there? 
Be open, learn to see yourself through somebody else's eyes/ears, listen to yourself as though you were a vocalist not a drummer, drummers won't hire you. Most drummers play to impress the one drummer that may be in the room, but that guy is not going to hire you, play to the audience and for the band that you are playing with, those are the people that are going to hire you. Also, put yourself out there, use social media and your phone, contact people, chances are if your phone isn't ringing its not going to unless you make it happen. Figure out what you want to do musically and contact the guy that is already doing it, you may be surprised what happens. Quick story about this, about 6 months ago I decided that I wanted to write for magazines and websites but like most people I didn't know where to start, so I found somebody who is doing what I want to do, this person is on a very big magazines educational team, I looked him up on Facebook and messaged him, I sent him a video that I had of a solo that I had performed and told him that I wanted to do what he was doing. I wasn't expecting anything to be honest, he could have said get lost, or maybe he wouldn't respond but hey you don't know unless you try! He got back to me within 15 minutes, by the end of that night we had laid out a road map of what I needed to do to get to where he was. You have to remember that drummers are pretty awesome people and generally we all want to help each other out. 
(#DrummersSupportDrummers) We have a great community!

Last Words, Links, Hashtags and Thank You’s??? 
I just want to say thanks to the company's that I support, Mapex, Dream, Los Cabos and Aquarian, the support that these guys have given me has been unbelievable!

Well, my mind is blown. How about you?
This is why it's kool to have educators here, to give us the Where? Why? and How? in this thing called drumming. I know sometimes I work things backwards, I've been playing a certain pattern or groove not really knowing what I'm playing and so I go and deconstruct it or find where I got from and realize where it comes from.
But I had to have the knowledge to know what I'm looking for and how to go about it. Now with guys like Robb and others, it makes things easier for all of us.
Big Thx Robb for doing what you do and I have a feeling you will be the first call clinician and get that position at one of those Universities. Continue the great work you're doing!

I hope you guys enjoyed this interview and it makes go into your practice room and work on your craft.


Are you an drum educator? private lessons, online, clinician...?
Maybe you're a gigging professional or a studio player?
Weekend warrior or you have a band and you're hustling around town?
Either way, TALKIN' CHOP wants to interview you. Give you a chance to tell your story.
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Hit me up:
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