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Questions and Answers on Jungle & Dnb drumming from a student

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Questions and Answers on Jungle & Dnb drumming from a student

What exercises did you do to get so proficient in playing drum and bass?

This question requires a detailed answer, but I'll break it down for you. One major change in my approach was inspired by Carter Beauford from the Dave Matthews Band, who is known for his ambidextrous drumming style. He sets up his drum kit in a unique way, with his ride cymbal above his hi-hat, allowing him to play it with his left hand. I wanted to develop my left-hand skills from a young age, so I set up a left-handed drum set alongside my right-handed one.


I didn't play completely left-handed; instead, I created an open-handed style. This meant playing the hi-hat with my right hand in a standard left-handed setup, but when transitioning to the toms, I started with my right hand,(right hand lead) which led to some interesting syncopated rhythms on the left handed setup. Applying this concept to a right-handed setup, I played the hi-hat with my left hand while maintaining my right-hand dominance (still right hand lead). This resulted in a unique sound where the downbeats were on the snare drum and the upbeat eighth notes on the hi-hat, creating a highly syncopated rhythm.


Playing all the eighth note downbeats on the snare drum sounded a bit unusual, so I adjusted my approach. I focused on hitting the backbeat on 2 and 4 with my right hand, while the upbeat eighth notes were played on the hi-hat with my left hand. Initially, I practiced this at slow to mid tempos.

Many years later, I heard drum and bass for the first time. I was particularly struck by a simple drum and bass beat around 160 BPM on a record by LTJ Bukem called "Logical Progression." To play faster, I studied Neil Peart & Buddy Rich and discovered the Moeller technique. I worked very hard on this technique, which became my main tool for increasing speed to match drum and bass tempos. Around 1999, I aimed for 180 to 190 BPM, inspired by a DJ Dieselboy compilation CD. 

My approach to drum and bass was based on single strokes, avoiding double strokes and paradiddles, which included diddles. Concentrating on single strokes at fast tempos created a precise, machine-like sound that mimicked the programmed drumbeats produced by electronic music producers. Including doubles or diddles would make the rhythm sound too jazzy, potentially dragging or pushing the beat in a way that wasn't the mechanical sound I aimed for. For rolls and fills, I used five, seven, and nine-stroke rolls to achieve tight buzz rolls. Another important piece was slowing down from 180bpm.  In my opinion, dnb beats that climb higher than 180 bpm fall into the new categories of Hardcore, Breakcore, metal and other types of genres. I have found a sweet spot matching the produced tracks; ranging from 165bpm to 176bpm.  Super sweet spot being 172-176bpm. 

Do you still use any of those exercises today, and which ones?

Yes, I do. I still warm up with single stroke exercises, shifting accents through the sixteenth notes of a bar. Today, I also incorporate slow single strokes, double strokes, and diddles into my warm-ups, with stretches for my fingers, wrists, forearms, shoulders, back, and legs. As I get older, slow warm-ups have become even more important to prevent cramping during performances.

Does your warm-up include any mindfulness or meditation?

I try to meditate and would like to do it more frequently. Drumming warm-ups can definitely be considered a form of meditation. The focus on warming up my body and hands helps me stay in the moment and avoid distractions. Additionally, I make sure to have at least one rest day a week, which I consider my Shabbas, as I walk and work out a lot. 

Here's my diet and workout

Do you suffer from performance anxiety? If so, how do you cope with it?

Performance anxiety is common, and I've experienced it myself. It happens all the time actually. The best way to combat it is to know your instrument and material inside out. Years of practicing for eight hours a day and rehearsing songs hundreds of times have built a solid foundation for me. Even if I feel nervous, muscle memory kicks in and helps me perform well. Regular practice and familiarity with the material are crucial for reducing performance anxiety. I've had students legs go completely numb and freeze up during performances. In the end, they didn't know the material well enough, doing have a solid performance plan and set design and flat out, didn't practice enough.  

It seems you have multiple streams of income. Is there one that dominates? How do you maintain it?

Yes, I have five pillars of business, all under my KJ Sawka brand. I've worked very hard to keep everything under one business umbrella, as opposed to having many different bands and businesses, which resulted in too many social media accounts. It was a huge mess and caused a major potential income loss due to being stretched too thin. In no particular order here 

  1. Teaching and Mentoring 
  2. Touring & One-off Gigs
  3. Website: This includes loop and sample packs, merchandise, hardware preset packs, synth preset packs, and my MasterClasses.
  4. Music Publishing and Distribution partners: Sales through Splice, YouTube, Twitch, Record Labels, Instagram, TikTok, SoundCloud, Sound Exchange, BMI, and many others.
  5. Real Estate and Investments

These pillars vary in importance from year to year. For example, during COVID, touring was non-existent, but I maintained my income through other pillars. I spend a lot of time on office work and business development in my studio/office. Even on the road, I continue to push my business forward to achieve my goals.

How much of the year do you spend touring?

This varies annually. I typically do between 30 to 100 gigs a year, depending on various factors.

Are there things that impact negatively on your life?

I prefer not to focus on negatives, but life does throw curveballs. Heavy touring can be challenging and draining, but I try to maintain a balanced flow where all my income pillars support each other. For instance, gigs help me meet new people who might need help with their careers or who are interested in my loop and sample packs. Every video or stream magnifies my brand, creating more opportunities. Despite the challenges, the positives always outweigh the negatives, and I aim to keep building and growing my business for long-term success.