John Riley's The Master Drummer DVD

John Riley's The Master Drummer: How to Practice, Play and Think Like a Pro is based on over 40 years of observing and studying the master players. Throughout this DVD, renowned player, author, and teacher John Riley defines and explores the four key musical components drummers must develop in order to play at the highest level. John's insightful approach will help any drummer grow, regardless of level or style, and will lead to positive results in the achievement of one's musical goals.

Sharing his straight-shooting teaching approach and deep historical insight, Riley presents concepts, strategies and exercises specifically designed to strengthen each aspect of music making.


The Master Drummer is a 2-hour DVD and comes with an E-Book containing all of the exercises described in the DVD as well as 9 play-along tracks (minus drums) to practice with. It's important to note straightaway that this DVD is mainly focusing on jazz drumming, the foundational drum style and music genre in which the drumset itself first came into being ... however ALL drummers can learn and glean from John's teaching and music insights.

The DVD is divided into four chapters; Technique, Groove, Creativity, and Musicianship.

In Chapter 1: Technique, John discusses two different stick handling philosophies, firm grip and lose grip, explaining the benefits and weaknesses of both. He then applies these "philosophies" to Traditional Grip, Ride Cymbal Technique, Moeller and "Mini Moeller" (ala Morello) Technique along with the mechanics of finger, wrist and arm movements. John goes into Foot Technique for the Bass drum and HiHat, applying the same approach with the feet that he does with the hands.

Included in the Technique section is Coordination, that is, controlling the hands and feet, whether it be individually or together, in any combination or in any order. John performs 11 examples using the supplied play-along tracks — pre-recorded jazz "walking" bass lines, at various tempos. He also demonstrates playing these same examples in "double time" or twice as fast as the play-along track pulse.

Chapter 2: Groove goes into the Micro and Macro Dimensions of time-keeping. John discusses the Emotional Dimension of the groove and demonstrates this concept using 3 different exercises. He talks about Transitions and how music is (typically) not one dimensional; the song often grows and changes in feel and/or orchestration. He goes on to say how these "transitions" often times need special attention so that the pulse of the music is not upset. Examples like apparatus transitions, changing from brushes to drumsticks and vice versa, or a style transition, such as moving from Swing to Latin and back again.

In Chapter 3: Creativity, John shares a collection, 25 in all, of various classic jazz solo phrases to help improve the movement around the kit, as well as a way to provide interesting ideas that can then be used to create new phrases, fills and solo ideas.

Chapter 4: Musicianship is an assimilation of the three previous chapters, Technique, Groove and Creativity; learning how to integrate these three elements into the band. John discusses how to make good decisions and judgments as to when or what to play by analyzing a recording from a live performance with a jazz quartet.

The Master Drummer is a scholarly offering and not for the faint at heart. If you truly want to learn and grow as a jazz drummer, with aspirations and goals of being a pro jazz musician, you most definitely need to add this DVD to your educational library. Riley is articulant — his words (and playing) carry a tremendous amount of weight — having decades of playing and educational experience in the art of drumming and jazz. Although The Master Drummer DVD does come from a jazz perspective, every drummer, beginner to advanced, regardless of his/her preferred music genre interests, can glean a life's worth of advice and wisdom on how to approach music, in practice and performance ... like a true, professional musician.