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DVD Review – Jeff Queen: Playing with Sticks

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Let it be known before I get this thing going, I’m not a snare drummer. At least, I’m not the kind of snare drummer like the target demographic of this DVD is. The type that probably have spent time in a marching band of some kind and play HUGE snare drums that sound like popcorn popping. This DVD made me very very hungry because I didn’t hear the snare drums as snare drums, I heard them as popcorn. How is this relevant? Not at all. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Back to the subject. I think that anyone who’s ever had a drum lesson has gone through the snare drum lesson before the teacher will allow you to bang on the whole kit. It makes a lot of sense too. The snare drum is an integral part in the development of the drum kit as we know it today. If you want a full understanding of the drum kit, you need some snare instruction. Plus the snare drum is the perfect tool to use when teaching the basics of drumming & rhythm to new drummers. Y’know… this is a quarter note, these are sixteenth notes, this is a rudiment called the paradiddle etc etc.

But this isn’t about trap drummers! Nope, this is about the drummers who decided to stay in the world of snare drumming and take it to absolutely crazy levels. Jeff Queen is one such man and he’s recognized for being the best at what he does. Jeff will take you from the basics all the way to the stuff you need to play the crazy frankenstein hybrid rudiments that Dave’s been tackling on show as of late.

This video IS NOT FOR BEGINNERS even though it may seem that way at the beginning. I mention this because I myself picked this up thinking that it was for players of all skill levels after reading a vague description on Netflix. The funny thing is that I got through a significant portion of the DVD before I realized my error. After all, he does start out the video by teaching you how to hold your sticks and how to make a stroke. Very basic stuff right?

Actually first segment dealing with hand technique is easy to understand and replicate. It’s extremely similar to Jojo Mayer’s S.W.F.T.M.D. DVD during the hand technique section. In-fact Jeff teaches much of what Jojo does in his DVD until the end of the hand technique section, which is when this DVD goes off in a different direction.

This point really intrigued me as I thought there was probably enough difference between snare drumming and trap drumming to warrant a noticeably different approach to their hand techniques. I was wrong. Which is nice because you don’t need to relearn how to walk to get through the hand technique section.

After he gets through the hand-technique selection he starts talking about note groupings and something called “the grid.” It was at this point I realized that there was no way this DVD was suited for beginners. The grid actually reminded me very much of Thomas Lang’s matrix. The grid is a constant stream of sixteenth notes with constantly shifting accents that forces you to play virtually every accent pattern possible. It also comes in a triplet variety, and you can throw diddles, flams, and drags in there too. Jeff claims that many drummer came up with hybrid rudiments that we know of by messing around with this grid thing. I don’t doubt him.

The big problem with this DVD in general is that Jeff moves through the explications of what he’s doing really fast and then proceeds to demonstrate what he was talking about too fast. It’s like listening to two lawyers discussing something in their native language, legalese. Because you, the non-fluent speaker, have to decode the jargon to process what they are saying, you get left behind. The good thing is that you have rewind and chapter navigation features so you can get Jeff to explain himself as many times as you need.

From note groupings he continues on in the same way through the rest of the DVD. Chugging on through: Timing, Buzz Control, Diddle Control, Flam control, Grid 2.0, Hybrid Rudiments, Tricks, and how to develop crazy nasty speed.

Time for the breakdown

For content this gets three of three mics. This is flat out the best snare drum instructional on the market. It’s also the first DVD in a long time to get all three mics in the content category.

For presentation it doesn’t get a mic. Jeff is a “meh” host and also suffers from blowing through certain things without enough explanation. However you can get around this by having him explain it multiple times it’s not horrible. The film isn’t very well segmented and would have greatly benefited from having some of the solo’s in the bonus section placed throughout the film. Also maybe some clips from him performing in blast or in any of the drum corps he’s been in. Honestly this film deserves about 1/4th of a mic for presentation but I can’t a quarter mic so i’ve got to round down.

For extras this one gets the whole mic. Like most Hudson music DVD’s they do the extra section right. PDF’s, gear talk, lot’s o solos (which i wish they included in the main feature) a photo gallery (lame) and audio commentary on most of the drum-solos.

So there you go 4 mics  4mics

It’s nice that It’s so info packed but they could have done a better job with making it easier to digest… and that’s the only thing keeping it from a perfect score.

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