DVD Review – Advanced Funk Studies

     I should note that for this review that I have neither Advanced Funk Studies nor the Contemporary Drum-Set Techniques books themselves but given the information in this DVD I will soon. Rick Latham wrote those two books over twenty-five years ago and they’ve become favorites of the drumming community over that time. At some point along the way Rick decided to supplement the books with a video for each book respectively. Fast forward to today, for the 25th anniversary of  Advanced Funk Studies Rick rereleased both of the DVDs together in a single disk with a bunch of extras and it made its way to my house via Netflix… and that’s the story so far.

     Before I talk about the instructional content I’m gonna talk about how the DVD is organized because it can be kind of confusing. I’ve read reviews on Netflix from users who obviously didn’t figure out how to access the meat of the DVD and scored it one star and returned it disgusted. I’m not surprised that this happened because the way they set up the DVD menu is really awkward. In most DVDs once you get to the main menu and tell it to start from the beginning it’ll play all the way through the main feature of the DVD; if you want the extras they’ll be neatly packaged in an extras section. In this DVD if start at the first section (the introduction) it’ll play through all the extras and completely skip the main feature! You actually have to select the feature you want to watch and it’ll play through that feature only. The other major flaw this DVD has in its design is that there is no chapter select menu for either of the two main features. You just have to fast forward or skip ahead to the place you want. So in terms of being user friendly this DVD loses some big points.

     I can see why the books are so popular if the DVDs are any indicator of the quality of the books. It’s exactly what you want/expect in something titled Advanced Funk Studies, everything in the book is musically applicable and very funky. Much like the Thomas Lang DVD’s it’s pretty much one example after another with some musical interludes and a short talk before each new section of the DVD. The difference is that all the examples sound really cool whereas with Thomas Lang’s DVD the examples will start to grate at my nerves after about 30 minutes. Now, the DVD’s do not follow the books exactly, they skip many of the exercises but still cover enough ground to be informative. They definitely provide a good guide to what the final outcome of the exercise should sound like.

     In the Advanced Funk Studies portion of the DVD he covers subjects such as: fixed hi-hat patterns, combination exercises, fills and funk patterns, and transcriptions of solos. I especially enjoyed the fill section of the video because I swear i’ve heard drummers like John Dolmayan and Tim “Herb” Alexander use these fills verbatim in some of their work with System of a Down and Primus (respectively.) In Contemporary Drum-Set Techniques, he talks about: applying rudiments to grooves and fills, grips and contemporary rudiments, using contemporary rudiments, drum-set interpretation exercises, hand/foot doubles and hi-hat substitutions, and contemporary triplets.


     Content wise this thing is full and very well done. It’s meant to be a paring with the corresponding book so all the stuff he does and more is transcribed in there so there’s no need for PDFs this time around. It’ll definitely have the most value for people who are new too using the book because it’s a great learning aid and shows you what you should be shooting for when you play the exercises. It is to the books what the Groove Essentials DVD was to the Groove Essentials Poster. Yes, technically you could probably play all the grooves on the poster and sound great without ever using the DVD, but using the DVD makes it that much easier. Especially for those of us who don’t have teachers or someone to ask for help.

     Presentation wise it’s… lacking. Like I said before the way they decided to organize the DVD is just crappy and all of the main content was shot decades ago. Only the stuff that was shot for the 25th anniversary edition of this DVD looks well put together Rick makes sure you’re paying attention to all the little details that can make or break your practicing session so props for him being a good teacher.

     It’s a 25th anniversary edition so it’s got lots of extras as you would expect. In fact it’s one of the few Non-Hudson DVDs that really has a good amount of extras. There is two new lessons from Rick and and interview with Louie Bellson and Ed Shaughnessy, a gear tour and a picture slide show. Normally I hate picture galleries on my DVD’s but when it’s in slide show form with music in the background it’s not so bad. Oh and as far as the music played on the DVD it’s… not my thing. It’s really really light funk fusion that I think has no real bite to it. It’s a minor nit pick but hey, that’s my job.

     Over all if you own the two books you should own this. Because of it’s symbiotic nature with the books it’s one DVD that I actually recommend buying and keeping for as long as you keep the books. The exception to this rule are people who just honestly easily grasped the material without aid or have gone through the book so many times they can play it in their sleep. It’s an instructional aid, not much additional material so if you have no need for aid then you might want to rent it for kicks and giggles or maybe just skip it.

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