Drumming (Fast Drumming, WFD, DrumoMeter)
Rise of Speed Drumming
By George Broyer
once in awhile, an innovation comes along in music that helps shape
the future of the industry. Still, people fear change. Many view the
advancement as an attack to the establishment. They try to resist
for as long as they possibly can until it becomes accepted by the
majority thus making it mainstream. When Rock & Roll came about,
many thought it would lead to the downfall of America's youth. When
Ray Charles combined gospel music with R&B, many said it was blasphemous
and degrading God's work. Yet, Ray Charles is now considered one of
the greatest music innovators of the 20th century. Enter speed
drumming. Not immune to the same criticism, this latest craze
is taking the drumming world by storm and creating quite a stir. Although
it's been embraced by many drummers young and old, others see it as
an infringement upon their revered tradition.
the practice of fast drumming is not entirely recent, the ability
to accurately measure and rank it is a new concept. The beginnings
of modern speed drumming started in the windy city of Chicago
during the year 1975. It was there that Boo McAfee was present at
a demonstration by Barrett Deems where he claimed to be "The
World's Fastest Drummer." A voice of doubt emerged from the crowd.
"Oh, yeah," the person asked. "What machine did you
use?" McAfee turned to see the voice belonged to none other than
drumming legend Buddy Rich. The memory of that event lingered in McAfee's
mind. Then in 1999, McAfee collaborated with fellow drummer and engineer
Craig Alan to develop a machine to measure the speed of drumming.
After two months of work, the device was developed and dubbed The
Drum-o-meter. It calculated the number of strokes for up to a 90 second
time span for such rudiments as the single stroke roll, the double
stroke roll, and paradiddles. The DrumoMeter
was first showcased at the 1999 PASIC and, then, released for purchase
on April 2, 2000, the anniversary of Buddy Rich's death. This new
innovative invention paved the way for the world of speed drumming
to emerge as a credible faction of drumming.
With their new stroke-measuring device, McAfee and Alan needed a creative
way to market their idea into the world of drumming. So, they decided
to establish the World's Fastest Drummer Organization or WFD for short.
The idea was to pit drummers against each other in a competition to
determine with accuracy the indisputable fastest drummer of the world
using the DrumoMeter.
In the first event of its kind, Johnny Rabb won the competition sponsored
by the Nashville Percussion Institute. He performed an astonishing
1,026 single stroke rolls in one minute. Rabb was asked to later defend
his title on VH1's live broadcast of Rock & Roll Record Breakers
in Orlando, Florida. His fast drumming produced 1,071 strokes in one
minute and earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records
as the fastest drummer in the world. The WFD started to pick up steam
and, in 2002, they established a regular competition at the annual
NAMM show. The winner of the competition was presented a championship
belt similar to the ones awarded on WWE wrestling. The exhibition
was eventually split to include separate recognition for the fastest
hand drummer and fastest foot drummer. This fun, exciting showcase
spotlighting the skills of speed drumming propelled the movement
to another level.
As the modern speed drumming movement gained momentum, the
number of drummers participating grew. With most new areas of music,
there are those that will rise above the others and carve out a name
for themselves as the pace setters to which the rest of the field
must catch up. The drummers of speed drumming that fall into
this category are as follows:
Mangini, drummer for Extreme and the Steve Vai Band, set the current
world record at the WFD
by achieving 1,203 single stroke rolls on the Drum o Meter
in one minute in January 2005.
Jotan Afanador of Bronx New York -1,199 single strokes. WFD, Summer
Art Verdi held
the title of fastest drummer from April 2001 through May 2002
by performing 1,116 strokes in sixty seconds. ArtVerdi.com
Tim Waterson holds the Guinness Record for being the fastest foot
drummer. Waterson, also known as "The Drumcan Man" because
of he built and performs on a kit he designed entirely of recycled
materials, managed to bang out 1,239 double strokes in one minute's
time on the Drum o Meter in November 2001 at the Montreal Drum
Festival. He later broke that record in January of 2002 by reaching
1,407 double strokes in one minute at the Musicians Institute
in Hollywood. (Tim holds both the World Fastest Feet records for
singles at 1,030 and doubles at 1,407.)
Seth Davis is the current World Record holder for double stroke
rolls. He executed 1,200 double stroke rolls in sixty seconds.
Davis also holds the prestige of being the first drummer ever
to complete 1,200 clean double strokes.
holds the record for most paraddidles in 60 seconds at 1,032.
help the foundation for the future speed drummers of the world.
They blazed a path for others to follow and, with the growing interest,
there seems to be plenty of drummers lined up to make their own
mark in the world of fast drumming.
As mentioned previously, with anything new, there are always going
to be detractors who are against change. In the case of speed
drumming, there are two schools of thought. The first believes
that speed drumming is a valid and viable new aspect of drumming.
They insist that fast drumming assist in building chops. Supporters
of fast drumming contend that these chops are a vital facet to a
drummer's repertoire and they represent a crucial element in one's
ability to be innovative and creative when playing. However, the
opponents of speed drumming believe that building chops is
not a vital part of drumming. They claim that time spent on fast
drumming is time better spent on learning the musicality of drumming.
Speed drumming is seen as a frivolous expenditure of drumming
that offers no significant benefits to the drumming industry. Another
movement within the speed drumming community is to establish the
style of fast drumming as a new sport. This notion of extreme sport
drumming is being propelled by those who assert that drumming is
an intense physical activity and should be able to qualify as a
sport. Many traditionalists in the drumming world also disagree
with this perception. It seems that some in the sporting industry
would also reject the concept of drumming as a sport. In May 2004,
ESPN ran an ad for its Junior Golf Academy in USA Today where it
bashed drumming as a trivial recreation. The ad focused on the accusation
that children should do something more meaningful than spend their
time playing drums like learning to play golf. The Percussive Arts
Society took quick action in an attempt to get ESPN to remove the
ad. With pressure coming down from its parent company Disney, ESPN
pulled the ad from circulation after five days. Still, the one of
leading sports identities had expressed its feeling on the marriage
of drums and sports. Still, despite all the resistance it has encountered,
the modern speed drumming movement continues to plow ahead toward
earning credibility in the world of drumming.
Like a newly hatched duckling, speed drumming is still spreading
its wings and learning to fly. Its popularity is growing exponentially
and is especially interesting to the younger drummers. It provides
an edge that most other forms of drumming may be lacking and the
aspect of competition is always a driving force in humanity. Speed
drumming falls right into the well-known American maxim of "Bigger,
Better, Faster, Now." The technique of fast drumming provides
an opportunity for drummers to experience a component of drumming
they might not be able to encounter in a band or other project.
There will always be people who denounce the modern speed drumming
movement just as they rejected Elvis, Ray Charles, and other pioneering
music figures. Still, at the present moment, there doesn't appear
to be any signs to contradict the fact that speed drumming
will continue to carve out its niche in the drumming community and
stay there for a very long time.
Note: I've noticed other parties out there creating speed drumming
events and organizations, and calling it their own. It's unfortunate
because it's not only wrong, but it discredits Boo McAfee and Craig
Alan and all their hard work over the years to bring speed drumming
to the forefront of the drumming community. I urge drummers and
industry leaders everywhere to support the original
WFD movement only and speak up when necessary to help fend off
copycat organizations. - Mike Donovan
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