“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
— Leonardo da Vinci
I’m going to start with the one book that I would take if I were to pull a Tom Hanks and be a castaway. I am of course assuming that when the plane or ship goes down a drum kit washes ashore alongside me!
‘Groove Essentials’ is indeed as it claims to be, ‘essential’.
As a student of drumming for over 20 years (and tutor for 10) I have probably studied or taught out of 100’s of books and from DVD’s. To be brutally honest this blows everything out of the water. It is a play along but it’s so much more. By going down the ‘blank canvas’ route and only providing a road map style chart Tommy has avoided the pit fall of many a play along. There is NO one way to play these tracks. There is NOT a transcription to learn and perfect. Only the skeletal outline of a full, pro style drum chart remains. Basically the book treats you as a session musician and says ‘okay let’s see what you’ve got’. Tommy provides 3 sample grooves and the rest is up to you. All the grooves are also included on a full size wall poster for ease of reference.
The book is divided neatly into sections. ‘Rock/funk/R&B-Hip Hop/Jazz/World and ‘Global Tours’ (good luck on that last one). Each style is remarkably well researched and laid out. I would have gladly paid my money for the world section alone. Honestly…. I’m not kidding. Tommy adds some words of wisdom at the bottom of each groove which act as a pep talk. I re read these often.
The common complaint with ‘play-alongs’ are typically, that they are cheesy. I would add most are very brief, (some play-alongs have a mere 6 tracks on them). Groove Essentials has (wait for it) 86 tracks? I mean, come on!
Also, this is not cheesy at all. The musicians on the tracks are world-class. Another saving grace is that the click tracks are used sparingly as to simulate an actual gig. There are some interesting ensemble figures for the more seasoned player to sink their teeth into or you can of course just groove through them. The difficulty level organically ramps up through the genres and some tracks are just plain hard.
As I always say to my students, in the pro world of drumming you are often given very little information for a session or gig. Having these styles under your belt is invaluable. Not to mention being able to play through sections and count bars.
The DVD that accompanies the book is as classy and exhaustive as the written material. Tommy gives a quick run down on some key points for each style and then plays a mouth-watering rendition of the track. Watching Tommy navigating each style with ease and taste is great motivation to go and shed these styles.
PRO’S: Too many to mention. With this book Tommy has over delivered and then some. 86 tracks, hours of audio play alongs and 3 and a half hours of DVD? And don’t underestimate Tommy’s spoken pearls of wisdom either, (Are you recording yourself?). Some fantastic home truths for sure. This book did indeed help my groove, helped expand my active style vocabulary and helped immensely with my reading. By default it helped (and simplified) my own charts. It also improved my teaching.
Not for total beginners. The style of the material assumes a decent level of competency and some reading chops. If you are a beginner please grab a good teacher to help you navigate this invaluable resource. This book is an examination of your time like no other. That isn’t a fault with the book but just an indication of who it’s aimed at.
LOWDOWN: Groove Essentials caters to any and all drummers. Highest recommend for players of any level. Personally I have found Groove Essentials to be a revelation. This is my go to reference material when I need to brush up on a style. In an overcrowded market of learning material this gets down to the nitty-gritty. Groove is and always will be King.
The book is available with and without DVD . Just get the full DVD version. Whatever Tommy is serving up, you want to eat.
RATING: I’ve gotta go ‘Spinal Tap’ and give this an 11 out of 10.
I had a go at some of the tracks here!