From Drum Magazine’s February 2018 Issue | Text And Transcription By Andy Ziker | Video Lesson And Video Lesson Text By Libor Hadrava | Ronnie Vannucci Jr. Photo By Francis George
The Killers’ successful formula revolves around strong songwriting, incredible lead vocals, and memorable guitar/bass riffs, but you can’t ignore Ronnie Vannucci’s invaluable drumming. He plays to the song using restraint and dynamic control, while creating drum parts filled with subtle devices and forward momentum. Wonderful Wonderful brings a more produced sound than previous albums, but Vannucci’s killer instinct still seeps through the mix.
Conjuring up Chris Frantz of Talking Heads, Vannucci teaches us how to create an infectious dance track. In this passage, he makes small changes that build from section to section: open hi-hats on the e, &, and ah, crashes with the snare, tom hits on the ah of 4, and bass drum variations. A second hi-hat comes into the mix in the last eight measures, so the notation represents a playable amalgam of those two hi-hat parts. Check out how Vannucci keeps eighth-notes going with his right hand while playing fill ideas underneath in measures 16 and 24.
“The Man” Video Lesson By Libor Hadrava
When you hear The Killers’ track “The Man” you feel a great amount of drive and energy coming right at you from the very beginning. I believe that it’s due to Ronnie Vannucci’s groove as well as his drum sound. The groove itself is very catchy and the more time you spend on it the more you will like it.
The first 16 bars are based on a straight eighth-note hi-hat pulse that is being embellished by the swung open hi-hat and the tom. In the second half, the vocals enter and therefore Vannucci’s groove becomes more straightforward. In that section I played the eighth-note open hi-hat with my left hand because it felt better and I found it was easier when making the switch to the next part that starts with a crash.
To arrive at the right feel for this opening groove I would suggest playing all the straight eighth-notes on a sound source that is very quiet in order to fully focus on the hi-hat (without opening it at first) and the tom while playing along the song.
In the video, to demonstrate the effect of a quieter sound, I used the rim of my tom.
When you are comfortable add the open hi-hat while still playing your straight eighth-notes quietly. I found it a lot easier to play with my heel up and I focused on closing the hi-hat with the bass drum that’s played right after the open hi-hat rather than trying to open it on the hi-hat stick hit. This way the open hi-hat sound is more pronounced and it feels closer to the actual groove.
Once you have developed your muscle memory for your left hand and both of your feet just simply move, then your straight eighth-note pulse back on the hi-hat and the first 16 bars of “The Man” will feel great.
In the last eight bars a second hi-hat comes into the mix. The notation consolidates both parts to be playable on one hi-hat.
The fill in the 24th measure is very interesting and because there are sixteenth-notes in the previous measure leading into it, there are two main approaches to this fill:
Switch to a left-hand lead on the hi-hat.
Keep the right-hand lead and change the hi-hat sticking before the fill.
I personally like the feel of the right-hand lead but you should definitely try both to see which one feels better to you.
Vannucci plays half-time funk reminiscent of Manu Katché. In the first half of each measure (and in the 2/4 bar), the bass drum outlines the three side of the clave. Vannucci creates two-measure phrases: one measure with a snare on beat 3 and one without. Ghosted notes on the snare lead us into an explosive fill in the last half of measure eight.
“Tyson Vs Douglas”
At first glance, the driving eighth-note groove in “Tyson Vs Douglas” might look pretty familiar. However, fans of The Cars’ David Robinson will appreciate the tightness of the closed hi-hat and the relentless punch of the snare and bass drum, and how this groove melds so well with the synth and guitar parts.