In a beat-up old folder labeled "Drum Video," I found a letter from Paul Siegel dated September, 1984, when this project was first proposed. Yes, it has taken twelve years to get around to actually making it, but I have to say that I'm glad. I don't know much now, but I knew nothing then!
By the time we worked together on Burning For Buddy, I had become friends with Paul and his partner Rob Wallis, and once more they raised the subject of an instructional video. I told them that I wasn't very interested, mainly because I would have no idea what to do in such a medium. By that time I knew that I knew nothing, and considered myself more of student than a teacher. If I had anything to show anyone, it could only be through "teaching by example."
Well, Rob and Paul came back with the idea of filming me at work in the studio as I recorded a Rush album. "That would be 'teaching by example,' wouldn't it?"
The rats - they had me there! I saw how it could work, how we could show the "Work in Progress" of Test For Echo as well as the "Work in Progress" of my own adventures in Drumland over the years.
The three of us put together a "lesson plan" which used the songs to illustrate various aspects of my approach to creating and performing drum parts, and the whole production team assembled at Bearsville Studios to recreate the recording process-this time for both microphones and cameras.
That was the easy part, recording the whole album again - that's just playing. Then I had to look that camera in the eye and try to express the internal world of Drumland: all the abstractions and non-verbal processes involved in making music out of all that banging. This was the most demanding task my poor brain has ever been asked to perform, and it made for an exhausting few days.
However, I did enjoy the challenge, and I also enjoyed being part of the process of "stitching it all together" in the following months, working with Paul and Rob and their team of professionals.
We've all been waiting a long time for this, and we hope you find the result worthy of your time.
Recently I saw an interview with a tabla player who said that although he practiced every day, only rarely-maybe once every two weeks-did he really "shine." I understand about that.
Some days you just "go through the motions." Still, that's okay-that's what you're supposed to do! However, I find that once in a while when I sit down at the drums for the daily routine, miracles occur.
"Going through the motions" brings its own rewards, by increasing your facility and control of the instrument, but those rare days when you "shine" are truly transcendent. Difficult things flow out effortlessly, and new ideas and breakthroughs emerge in sudden revelations.
Another musician, a virtuoso violinist, was asked how often she practiced, and she replied, "I never practice-I only play" I understand about that too.
When you're just starting out, practicing has to be a mechanical thing, painstaking and repetitive, but once you've acquired some basic "tools," your practice sessions can become a kind of private performance. Playing through a set of loose exercises and musical themes can allow you to go through the necessary "motions" to keep your playing sharp, but it can also permit you to "shine" when you're able.
Ben Mink, an old friend and longtime musical director and co-writer for k.d. lang, told me that he grew up practicing his violin in front of the TV-it made the exercises less tedious for him, and in the long term it gave value to what would have been a lot of wasted hours in front of the "box."
In the past couple of years I've had a lot of repetitious work to do on Freddie's exercises, and in adapting back to traditional grip, so I gave "The Ben Mink Method" a try. It really works!
In addition to my regular daily session on the drums, I found that sitting with sticks and pad in front of the TV confers unexpected benefits. Not only does the distraction help you through the repetitiveness, but invariably you find yourself playing along with the "incidental" music as well, which is good for you in other ways.
As for how long to practice, the real answer is "if you have to ask..."
When I was starting out, I would happily have practiced every waking minute if I'd been allowed to, and most successful musicians I know had the same kind of single-minded obsession.
However, these days I find an hour a day is good, both to keep things working well and to keep new ideas developing. On a day when I have to perform, either in the studio or onstage, I need at least a half-hour warmup to get things "flowing."
Of course, these parameters may be different for others, but the important thing is not to rationalize your way out of it?I know as well as anyone how persuasive laziness can be!
On this DVD, Neil Peart documents the "work in progress" of recording Rush's bestselling album TEST FOR ECHO as well as the work in progress of Neil himself and his endless apprenticeship to the art of drumming. On this history-making DVD, he uses the songs from TEST FOR ECHO to demonstrate concepts such as:
• Constructing a drum part
• The drummer's role in a band
• Selecting rhythmic approaches
• Drum set orchestration
• Creative timekeeping
• Odd times
A complete studio performance of each song is captured by four cameras as Neil lays down the fiery, creative drumming for which he is known-but with new finesse gained from two years of devotion to study and practice. Following each performance, Neil presetlts a specific analysis of the drum part's relation to other elements in the song, as well as breaking down and demonstrating key sections, fills, and solos.
Booklets are included.
Special Features Include:
• Performance Only
• Neil Peart Interactive Drum Set
• Artist Video Previews
• Internet Connectivity
Feature Running Time: 3 hr 40 min
Produced & Directed By: Paul Siegel & Rob Wallis
Cover Design By: Hugh Syme
Photography: Eleonora Alberto
DVD Coordinator: Perry Bashkoff
Menu Creation: Ernesto Ebanks
Companion booklet to A Work in Progress
Booklet Edited by Dan Thress
Music Transcriptions and Engraving - Wally Schnalle
Design - Jack Waltrip
Neil Peart plays D.W. Drums, Zildjian Cymbals and uses ProMark Drumsticks