FROM DRUM MAGAZINE’S MAY 2018 ISSUE | BY CHASE KUESEL
Louis Cole first gained notoriety as half of the duo KNOWER, and has seen a meteoric rise to Internet fame thanks to a bevy of remarkable (and often hilarious) music videos, like the viral hit “Bank Account.” While these settings showcase Cole’s multiple talents, his drumming is incredibly inspiring on its own. One recent post to his Instagram account showcases a particularly stunning example of his unique style, which uses extraordinarily precise linear syncopation to create a perpetual feeling of forward momentum.
Cole plays open-handed — meaning he plays in a right-handed setup leading with his left hand on the hi-hat. While trying to learn this solo, I wanted to stay true to that fact, even though I am right-handed. This challenging exercise revealed serious gaps in my own previous understanding of independence.
If you are a right-handed drummer, you might have a degree of independence in your left hand, right foot, and left foot — so long as you’re playing a consistent pattern in your right hand, which is what most method books have you do. Playing Cole’s solo with an open-handed technique immediately forces right-handed drummers to confront this limitation by placing common patterns in an unfamiliar context: The right hand and right foot are now accenting, instead of providing the foundation of the groove. Moving a particular pattern through different types of orchestration can help you get an accurate gauge of your four-limb independence.
Take this rhythm in Ex. 1, from measure 13 of the solo.
We can begin by practicing the basic bass-snare pattern (Ex. 2), which is challenging enough when played at the speed Cole performs (145 bpm).
Then, put that against steady eighth-notes in the ride cymbal, played with your right hand (Ex. 3).
Next, try to play it as Cole does (Ex. 4): eighth-notes with your left hand on the ride cymbal.
Finally (Ex. 5), move your stick to the bell and add your left foot on the hi-hat on the eighth-notes.
Start slowly and try to work it up to Cole’s speed. Even if you can quickly move through these different orchestration possibilities, getting the pattern up to speed will surely be challenging. You can extend this idea one step further: To truly internalize a rhythm and expand your creative expression on the instrument, you need to move each part of the rhythm to each of your four limbs. Doing so is incredibly challenging, but it provides remarkable insight into just how dependent your limbs are on one another. Let’s take that same rhythm from measure 13 and change the roles — swap the roles of your right hand/left hand and right foot/left foot (Ex. 6).
This is sure to be more challenging. Moreover, it is just one example of many possible orchestrations of the basic rhythm. You can apply this idea to your practice more generally: If a particular pattern is easy for you in a set orchestration, try to change the role that each of your limbs plays. Doing so will test the “independence” of a particular pattern by putting it in a far greater variety of contexts than is usually considered, and will move you closer to a state of true four-limb independence.
See the full transcription and video playthrough below.
Chase Kuesel is a drummer and composer whose musical affiliations have taken him across the world to perform and teach. A graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, he is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. He can be found on Instagram @chasekuesel.