DVD review – Thomas Lang’s Creative Control
Thomas Lang’s original work Creative Control was my first introduction into the druminator. I remember I was looking for a video on stick tricks and stumbled across a clip from Hudson Music promoting Mr. Lang’s DVD. I was all like “that was too cool!!!” so I rushed out and bought it as soon as it came out. I re-watched it recently for this review and while I’m still blown away by his skill, I’m definitely in a different place in my walk as a musician then I was when I first purchased it.
Looking back on this dvd I think that it would have been better marketed as the drummer’s equivalent to those Jane Fonda work-out videos. The exercises and patterns are great for working your independence and your fluidity around the kit but they are so busy that you’d be hard pressed to be able to fit it into most music. That being said, Thomas grew up with electronic music which typically has allot going on… so it’s not surprising that his playing style has so much going on.
The vast majority of this DVD set is Thomas going through different patterns and moving them around the drum-set. most all of them involve very busy patterns that almost always involve all four limbs. Often Thomas will set up an ostinato and then move different note cluster around the drum-set. The driving idea behind these patterns is to be able to play all permutations that you possibly can given four limbs. They aren’t aimed a making music specifically; the logic being that if you can play these patterns you could play any pattern the music deems necessary. The problem is that this method ignores the stylistic differences between different types of music. A rock player doesn’t sound like a jazz player if he plays a jazz pattern with a rock mentality. Once again, Thomas is heavily influenced by electronic music where snare hit is usually the same sound file being played over and over again. this means that only way that the drums part will sound different is if you change the pattern, tempo, or volume of the drum(s.) Because Thomas usually plays electronicky parts this practice method works pretty well. I don’t think it will for your average drummer.
If you approach this DVD with the mindset of getting a work-out as opposed to practicing music however, this DVD becomes much more valuable. Most good practice routines involve some form of conditioning to that you can perform the music better. This stuff fits in that area perfectly. Granted you need to be pretty good to be able to do most of the stuff on this DVD in the first place, so don’t buy this until you’ve got your basics down pat. In addition to being great warmups and exercises, these patterns are just a treasure trove for drummers who love double bass and most of the patterns later in the dvd, also make great fills for most metal and progressive music.
There quite a few cool topics that he did cover that you wouldn’t find covered anywhere else… at that time anyway. Two topics that immediately come to mind are his section on the Twin FX pedal and the stick trick section. The Twin FX pedal is one of the models featured in Sonor’s Giant Step line of pedals. It features an independent heel plate that controls it’s own beater. This allows you to mimic double bass with one foot (given some time and practice.) Thomas goes through some of his ideas incorporating the Twin FX pedal but they really aren’t anything that you couldn’t figure out by yourself. It really serves more as a chance for Sonor to get some free promotion of one of their wackier pedals. The stick trick section however is phenomenal. There is pretty much everything you need and more to cop Thomas’ style of showman-ship. It’s pretty much the best stick trick section in any DVD i’ve ever seen… and that includes DVDs that are about nothing but stick tricks.
Something that I appreciate Thomas going over is his multiple pedal technique. Pedal bridging, which is where your playing more than one pedal with a single foot at one time, is an often neglected technique. You may never ever use any of the patterns he goes over in this section but knowing how to splash your hi-hat and get a bass drum hit at the same time w/one foot is something you might find useful. Thomas Lang isn’t the only guy to do this stuff: Marco Minnemann, Denis Chambers, Tony Royster Jr, and Carter Beauford have all been known to use these pedal bridging techniques. Thomas is just the only guy to sit down and get in-depth about some of the subtleties and variations that you can get with pedal bridging. So, good on him.
This DVD has a healthy dose of special features, for all you extra content nuts. There is allot of bonus footage, including a gear tour, a live performance with a band, and a drum-solo at a modern drummer type festival. There are separate audio files so that you can loop all the exercises and performances and even change tempo without effecting the pitch. I wasn’t able to get the audio files to work for me but it is in there somewhere. This dvd also has all of the exercises transcribed in PDF format that you can download off the dvd. This is a real boon because the exercises are so busy that trying to break them down without transcription is just painful. The PDFs are so well done and so comprehensive it’s almost like buying a book when you get the DVD. Speaking of which, there is indeed a book published by Hudson Music that corresponds with this DVD. Just throwing that out there incase you were looking for some supplemental information.
overall, I’m gonna give it 3.5 mics. Thomas is an ok host but he’s not very personable in this DVD. He comes off as very serious, which is counter to the way he acts everywhere else i’ve seen him. You’re not going to get much of the wacky cartoon Thomas Lang that we all know and love in this dvd. 🙁