A Video Guide to Essential Drumset Techniques

This series of video lessons will provide students and instructors alike with a comprehensive introduction to the fundamental techniques for the drumset. Ranging from instrument selection, tuning and technique to a discussion of musical styles, fills and ensemble playing, Vic Firth artist and educator STEVE HOUGHTON delivers a essential guide for the young player and jazz band director!



01: Instrument Selection / Drum Sizes
Steve discusses how to select a set of drums appropriate for the musical style.
13: Drumset Technique, Part II: Feet Technique
A discussion of heel-down, heel-up techniques for bass drum, as well as heel-toe techniques for hi-hat.
02: Tuning, Part I: Maintenance
A discussion of issues related to head, rim and drum maintenance.
14: Musical Styles, Part I: Rock/Pop
Steve talks about the 8th/16th subdivisions for rock styles and demonstrates how to perform a confident groove in a rock tune.
03: Tuning, Part II: Pitch Relationships
Suggestions for tuning the entire drumset: Setting drum pitch relationships between snare, bass and toms.
15: Musical Styles, Part II: Latin
How to obtain a convincing latin groove with the proper hierarchy of drum & cymbal sounds.
04: Tuning, Part III: Head Selection
A demonstration of tuning concepts and head selection for musical style.
16: Musical Styles, Part III: Jazz
Steve demonstrates how to develop a swing style. Including a discussion of setting the volume levels of the different limbs, the triplet subdivision, traditional grip and basic independence.
05: Tuning, Part IV: Dealing with the Snare “Buzz”
Steve gives you a few tips on how to minimize the buzzing of the snares when toms are played.
17: Fill Fundamentals
A discussion of an approach to playing convincing fills in all the musical styles.
06: Choosing a Ride Cymbal
Having a great ride cymbal is fundamental to getting a great drumset sound. Steve discusses how to pick a ride cymbal.
18: Ensemble Drumming
Steve demonstrates how to drive the band with supporting sounds and orchestration as well as how to set ensemble hits with fills.
07: Choosing a Crash Cymbal
A discussion on picking one or two crash cymbals that work well together, as well as some stand maintenance issues.
19: Reading Charts
Suggestions on how to deal with poorly written drum parts.
08: Hi-Hat Selection / Stand Suggestions
Selecting the Hi-Hat cymbals and making sure the hi-hat stand is set up properly to get the best sounds possible.
20: Melodic Drumming
On becoming a more melodic drummer, including an extensive solo using a simple melody.
09: Color Cymbal Selection
A demonstration of other cymbals that can add to the kit: china, splash, swish, and other unique cymbals.
21: Musical Decision Making
Using the drummer's role to guide the song, Steve demonstrates how various orchestrations can be used to define parts of a tune.
10: Implement Selection
Steve talks about how to select an appropriate stick for the musical style and demonstrates several other implements should be standard for the serious player.
22: Developing Great Time
A short discussion of how to develop good time as a drummer.
11: Instrument Setup Suggestions
Setting the table for the best chance of success.
23: Listening
Steve's recommendations for listening, along with his "Big Ears" test.
12: Drumset Technique, Part I: Grip and Stroke
A demonstration of the ride cymbal grip, pivoting between cymbals and drums, as well as suggestions for playing with a relaxed stroke.
24: Rudiments Reinterpreted
How to 're-interpret' a rudimental vocabulary to where it makes stylistic sense on the drumset.
Additional Reference:
Tommy Igoe's Groove Essentials

From Tommy's smash hit book and DVD, this feature includes instruction and demonstration of the 12 'most essential' grooves for the school band drummer – including swing, jazz waltz, samba and many other styles.
Additional Reference:
Peter Erskine's “Playing with Brushes”

A fantastic lesson series from famed jazz drummer, Peter Erskine on the basics of brush playing in several musical styles.
Additional Reference:
Brian Ferguson's Lesson Series

Vic Firth artist and educator offers an extensive lesson series covering many of the styles necessary for the all around musical drummer, including an extensive approch to jazz swing and shuffles.
Additional Reference:
Skip Hadden's World Fusion Lesson Series

Berklee professor Skip Hadden combines the energy and feel of rock, Latin, and world music with the technique and improvisational skills of jazz within the formats of samba, baião, songo, nañigo, shuffle, and 6/4 rhythms.
Additional Reference:
Royal Hartigan's "Dancin' on the Time"

A fantastic resource for continued development of jazz independence using a few fundamental stickings and rudiments.
Additional Reference:
Dom Famularo Lesson Series

A series of lessons on a wide range of topics from noted educator Dom Famularo.
Additional Reference:
Drumset Features Link Page

Links to hundreds of our best interviews, articles, lessons and performances from the world's greatest artists and educators!
Additional Reference:
Vic Firth Drumset Podcast

The most extensive collection of video performances and interviews from drummers of all musical styles. A great resource for exposing students of all ages and ability levels to the wide range of musical genres.



Vic Firth Artist: Steve Houghton

Internationally renowned jazz drummer, percussionist, clinician, author, and educator, Steve Houghton initially received acclaim at age twenty as the drummer with Woody Herman's Young Thundering Herd. Since then he has shared stage and studio with luminaries Gary Burton, Clay Jenkins, Shelly Berg, Toots Thielemans, Christian McBride, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Bob Florence, Freddie Hubbard, Lyle Mays, Dianne Reeves, Billy Childs, Rosemary Clooney, Pat LaBarbara, Arturo Sandoval, Joe Henderson, Bob Sheppard, Karrin Allyson and Maureen McGovern, to name a few.

As band leader Houghton's discography includes: The Manne We Love: Gershwin Revisited (TNC), All Things New ( Summit), the Steve Houghton Quintet Live @ the Senator (Jazz Compass), Windsong (SHPERC Records), Remembrances (Warner Bros.), and Steve Houghton Signature (Mesa-Bluemoon). In total, Houghton attributes more than one hundred recordings to his credit as a participating artist.

As a classical percussionist, Houghton has performed with the Boston, and Philadelphia Pops orchestras, as well as the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He frequently appears as a soloist with numerous orchestras and wind ensembles throughout the world.

As an author, Houghton's publications boast more than thirty educational books, videos and DVDs including Kid's Drumset Course, Essential Styles- books 1 & 2 (Alfred ), The Ultimate Drumset Chart Reading Anthology, Play and Teach Percussion (GIA) and The Drumset Soloist. His latest project, Rhythm Section Workshop for Jazz Directors is a DVD-book series that addresses the entire rhythm section.

Houghton is currently associate professor of percussion and jazz at Indiana University-Bloomington, and is on faculty at the Henry Mancini Institute. In addition to his academic duties, he presents yearly clinics and masterclasses to students around the world.