Video lesson and text by Libor Hadrava | Print text and transcriptions by Andy Ziker | From Drum’s Summer 2018 issue
This month’s Video Groove Analysis features Barry Kerch on “Black Soul,” from Shinedown’s latest album Attention Attention.
After an electronic, tension-building intro, verse, and pre-chorus, Kerch unleashes a fierce groove full of energy, precision, and feel that makes you believe that there is a train coming right at you. When you first look at Andy Ziker’s transcription in the summer 2018 print issue you might think to yourself, “Meh, that’s simple and anyone can do it.” But that’s far from the truth. These few measures are packed with a lot of nuance and technique.
Just the very first two measures have so much to talk about.
This section features straight eighth-notes on the crash without accenting the top of each beat for any hits that are together with the bass drum or the snare drum. This requires some level of independence because our body naturally wants to accent those notes.
In both measures we have three sixteenth-note bass drum phrases. That itself is technically not as difficult, but when it comes to the right feel and execution of this phrase, it is. In order to achieve all three bass drum hits being equal in volume I recommend focusing mentally on the last note as the end of the phrase as opposed to the first one. Many times our feel changes dramatically just by simply thinking about it in a different way. To practice this, try to purposely dropping down your heel after the third bass drum note and let your beater off the bass drum head to get the feel and gain a bit more power throughout the phrase. When you get comfortable, go back to the way you are used to playing your bass drum and you should notice that all three notes are now much more even in volume.
At the end of these two measures there is a unison quarter note (Snare+Floor Tom) – “The easiest thing ever” right ? Not at all. Right before that quarter note our right hand is leaving the crash area and our left hand is underneath it and slightly above the snare drum. When it comes to the stick height difference they couldn’t be much further apart. It becomes a challenge to move them down to the drums so they don’t end up playing a flam between the Floor Tom and the snare drum. One of the approaches to make sure that they do play in unison is start moving your right hand down toward the floor tom and when you know/feel/sense that it is at the same height as your left hand above the snare drum start moving both of them at the same time. Because this approach assumes that both surfaces (Snare Drum + Floor Tom) are at the same height I developed an exercise that will easily help you map your drum surfaces. Instead of executing a regular unison hits, poke your drums without your sticks bouncing back. This way you will feel and remember the exact height of each surface. After while you will be amazed how easy it is to play in perfect unison between any two surfaces.
In the fourth measure, we have four thirty-second-notes as a fill at the end. Stick height difference is yet again the reason why the fill might not come out as even as we would like it to.
Let’s try a simple “repositioning” exercise before we move on to the actual fill. Right after the last crash and before the upcoming fill, move your right hand down fast to the same height as your left hand without hitting the snare drum. Practice this several times until you are comfortable with the “repositioning movement,” then move on by adding the actual fill. You will notice that the fill will be a lot easier than it seemed before and it will also come out even.
Measures six and seven present a completely different challenge. The seventh measure is a lot more syncopated and therefore making sure that it’s execution doesn’t destroy the feel being carried from the previous measure is not as easy as it might seem.
Make sure that the straight eighth-note crash feel doesn’t change. Syncopations often make us throw in extra accents on the crash or break the eighth-note flow. Play through and loop both of these measures to make sure that the feel carries over to the second measure.
The last measure, with four hits in unison, takes us back to the different stick heights we are at just before these flat flams. Use the same “poking” exercise before moving on to the floor tom and snare drum unison notes with rebound.
Arranging As He Goes
By Andy Ziker
Shinedown can’t be easily pigeonholed into a particular style, in that same way Barry Kerch’s drumming defies categorization. Kerch’s influences are as diverse as Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Abe Cunningham (Deftones), and the drummers of James Brown. He paints on a decidedly mainstream canvas — Shinedown has secured 11 number one singles — so displaying blistering chops is not important. Instead, he makes every lick count. His parts are key to the band’s vibe, sound, and arrangements.
The intro begins with eighth-note triplet ensemble hits. Kerch plays flat flams between floor tom and snare into a one-measure fill that crescendos and matches the vocal line: “pick it up, pick it up, pick it up, pick up the phone.” The verse groove is a swampy funk with eighth-notes on partially open hi-hat and busy, swung sixteenths on bass drum. The fills in the last beat of measures six, eight, ten, and twelve involve sextuplets, either played as snare-bass combinations or consecutive snares.
After a tension-building intro, verse, and pre-chorus (sans drum kit), Kerch unleashes a fierce groove: eighths on crash cymbal and a bass drum pattern reminiscent of John Bonham. Check out the use of space when he lets flat flams between two toms ring out in measures two and eight.
Kerch plays quarter-notes between snare and floor tom and inserts bass drum hits on offbeats. The fill in the last half of measure four uses double-bass on the last three sixteenths of beats 3 and 4. Notice how the drums contrast the droning guitar part.
This time, Kerch plays an intro pattern that goes hand in hand with the bass, guitar, and synth parts.