Monday, 3 June 2013

What a Week That Was!

I first picked up on Mike Dolbear's Ultimate Drumming Experience (UDE) a couple of years ago and sadly work prevented me from going. Last year's UDE was on hold due to Mike taking care of 999 drummers and me at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. So then... this year came along and I had a couple of things in the diary, including trying to finish the on-going saga of my studio.
In early May I was lucky enough to go to a Tony Robbins seminar as a guest. Yes, this had a price of £1900 but I went for diddly. I learnt so much about me and what I want to achieve, I came home to Sarah, bouncing off of the walls. The UDE was not on my agenda due to my diary. During the Tony Robbins four day seminar, as well as walking on hot coals, I learned about “Total Immersion.” If I wanted to get better and improve things quickly and efficiently I needed to immerse myself. A quick email to Mr Dolbear secured my place and on Monday May 27th Sarah gave me a lift to Barnet and the very nice Bull Theatre where I was to be drummed into the middle of next week!
The students were split into several groups, I was yellow group (For those who care!) We were rotated at 80 minute intervals in classrooms between Ash Soan, Billy Ward, Thomas Lang and a variety of guest speakers / teachers in the theatre.
The choice of tutors was inspirational. They couldn't have been more different.
Ash Soan in teacher mode
Ash Soan. Captain groove. Ash knows his stuff.. Recording and playing for the likes of Adele, Leona Lewis, Rownan Keating, James Morrison, Seal, Robbie Williams the roll call of 'A' listers from current pop is seemingly endless. Ash went into detail on a number of subjects that included covering straight rhythms and shuffles (You try and play Slave to the Rhythm all the way though with out a seizure!) He had a new Sakae kit (Check his web site for the story  and a snare drum tuned so low my cats could dent it. But if it's right... it's right! Ash is a really approachable guy and his lessons very informative and challenging. Ash brought along bass player Winston Blissett to give us all the opportunity to "groove out!" That was fun fun fun! Great player indeed! 

Billy watching every note!
Billy Ward, the happy chappie from Nashville sets the grooves for Carly Simon, Yoko Ono, BB King, Robbie Robertson and Richard Marx but as the whole list would fill this blog, I'll stop now. ( Billy took the drum set in a completely different light. First conventional playing, then with hands, a tin can and anything else laying around. Billy boils over with enthusiasm and zooms down more tangents than a smoothie hitting the fan but every one totally valid and well worth while.

Thomas and Mike (Down time!)
All nine seconds of it!
Thomas Lang was parked out of the way in the big Portacabin. His lessons should come with a health warning. You think you can play? Go see Thomas! It was crazy, fun, eye opening and I found every chink my armour. Yes he's fast and feet as quick and accurate as his hands, but the man has feel. It's not just 32nd notes at 120BPM making your eyes go funny, it's music, dynamics, tasteful.. ..oh, and bloody mind blowing! After one session on Friday the room was like a gym without air-con'. The mirror was steamed over and people flooded out gasping for air, water and trying to get the feeling back in their fingers. Be afraid, be very afraid! You don't get to work with Robert Fripp, John Wetton, Glenn Hughes and Kylie to the Vienna Art Orchestra without thinking outside of the box!
If I really push on with the information gained over the week (and I will) my playing will start to get to the next level, and I though I could play a bit!!
Billy, Brian, Mike, Thomas, Clem, Phil (Gould not me!)
It was good to also have visiting teachers. Ralf Salmins came over all jazzy! (Nice) I first met Ralf at the Olympics last year, he delved into the art of swing with some detail. Only small changes do make all the difference! I saw Ralf with the BBC Concert Orchestra and later in the year we are going to see The Water Boys where Ralf is in the hot seat. Now There's diversity. Phil Gould (Formally Level 42) sat in for Ash on one day and we all got funky. There was an excellent visit from drumming royalty in the shape of Brian Bennett and Clem Cattini for a Q&A and Jeff Davenport gave a session on drum heads and tuning. I can now bring my Ludwig 402 out of retirement as it was my fault it sounded rubbish all a long!
Ash and Billy in clinic drum off!
The evenings were full too. We had a jam in the theatre on Monday. Then a clinic by Thomas and a joint one with Ash and Billy.
Billy. Arrived with a smile, left with a smile! 

I have my two new Billy Ward videos to go through and a pad full of notes. I'll be downloading the Ash Soan app from his site and I'll be screwing new heads on to my kit soon. On top of that I will arrange a session with Mike to further kick me into shape and carry on progressing. We go on learning guys!!
Worth it? Every penny.
The chance to get so close and talk drums with these men was quite an experience. I learned loads from just chatting and meeting people from so many drumming backgrounds. To have a breakfast cup of tea in a cafĂ© with Clem, Billy, Thomas, Ash, Mike, Brian, Phil, Jeff and Ralf was quite a hoot! 
Do yourself a favour, if you are a drummer of a good standard or teacher GO NEXT TIME you will benefit from the experience. Go to and register for the mailing list. The man really has his fingers on the pulse of all things drummy and a very impressive phone book!

Thanks  to Mike's family and the people making it all happen behind the scenes. Brilliant!

Unless I am gigging away I will certainly be going on the next one.

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