Most helpful positive review
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
value depends on your level of experience and expertise
on December 29, 2011
I'm an absolute junkie for drumming DVDs collecting over 40 of 'em over the decades. They come in different varieties. Some are just inspirational. You get to see and hear an excellent musician play but other than inspriation, you don't learn much. Some are fabulous instructional videos that teach basic to advanced, obvious to subtle points. JoJo Mayer's DVD is probably the best example. Some include the musical "approach" a drummer takes to developing his part of a piece. This DVD does some of all of this. For the "early intermediate" player, this is probably a 4-5 star DVD. For a late-intermediate to advanced player, it's more of a 3 star, so I gave it an average of 4 stars.
First, Mr Robinson delivers an incredible amount of information in this 2 DVD set. Only JoJo Mayer's, Todd Sucherman's, and some of Tommy Igoe's DVDs can compare for shear amount of info offered.
At first glance, especially for the first of the two DVD set, it seems JR's offering will be more of the inspirational variety with lots of excellent musicians playing some tunes (featuring JR of course). But if you watch the entire 2 DVD set, you'll see that there is much more here.
Content: Instructinal DVDs are generally targeted at a beginning to intermediate audience. Truly advanced players are too small and too diverse an audience for an instructional DVD to be economically successful. Almost every aspect of intermediate-level playing is touched on, some more than others. The exception being rudiments and fills. No attention is given this specific element of drumming. Most of the instructional content is on the 2nd DVD shich covers:
-- tuning (better than nothing, but a bit superficial - see Bob Gatzen's offering for a more thorough approach, JR does go into different tuning approaches for jazz / rock etc)
-- hand technique (very limited but OK, but honestly after JoJo Mayer's DVD, everything else by everyone else is hollow by comparison)
-- drum micing (actually pretty good with some detail -- only Dave Weckl and Dennis Moody's DVDs meet or exceed this oft neglected topic)
-- playing with a percussionist (rarely covered by anyone and only superficially covered in this DVD, but some insightful recommendations)
-- playing with a click (JR has a NATURAL gift for timing and doesn't hiself play with a click track but suggests others do and makes a couple of suggestion how to use a click track
Overall this DVD set is a valuable hodge podge collection of info for the aspiring drummer with limited experience, but with the commitment to get to the next level. Even the "late-intermediate" player will occasionally find some very interesting points presented in a slightly different way, or with an exceptional demo by JR. These tend to be peppered throughout the two DVDs so you have to watch everthing to pick them up. The style and approach of this DVD is similar to Todd Sucherman's offerings. IMO, Todd's are targeted at the slightly more advanced player and he goes into a bit more detail in his explanations and recommendations. The strength of this DVD (the breadth of material covered) is also a weakness. None of the topics are covered in much detail. One aggravation to me is the repeated cameos by his colleagues telling us why JR is such a good drummer. OK. Great, but that's not all that important to the viewer. I mean after the Quincy Jones cameo endorsement, what (additional) good are any of the others? The viewer get little to nothing from that, and it's the return on their time and money investment that must be served, not the ego of the author (it's doubley strange because JR seems so humble - not egotistical at all).
Delivery: JR is an outstanding drummer, probably one of the rare breed of near-millsecond-accurate drummers like Steve Gadd and Gavin Harrison. If he's playing the back beats 10 milliseconds late, it's because he INTENDS to play it that way, and does so on every bar. Fantastic! He also seems to be a fairly "normal" guy who clearly enjoyed making the DVD. For most of the DVDs he has a fairly clear idea of what he wants to get across and doesn't waste too much time getting to it. Some topics are traditionally fuzzy to present. Hey, the term "groove" is one of the most used, and vague terms in drumming. Even highly accomplished professionals can't seem to explain it or demonstrate it clearly. I've heard more times than I care, mediocre to poor DVD authors say things like "you have to feel/play the groove", with no coherent explanation of what that means to them (or anyone), nor how an aspiring drummer can pursue this as a goal. JR starts with the same recommendation, BUT goes on to explain and shows precisely what he means. He also often (but alas not in every case) recommends how to achieve the goal for those less gifted and experienced than he. He provides perhaps the BEST example I've seen of the "groove" difference between playing a simple pattern absolutely metronomically, and the "groove" way of playing some elements of the pattern ever-so-slightly displaced. In his personal style, that typically means being slightly behind the beat for some of the rhythmic elements. It's how he joins metronomic elements with slightly displaced elements that establishes the "groove", the lilt or swing. Absolutely fantastic demo for this on the first DVD. That's probably the highlight of the entire DVD set. If you can't see and hear and feel the "groove" with his demo, you should probably look to another instrument -- drums are probably not the best choice for you. As an example of a more advanced concept, he points out that this drumming grove works best when the drummer is recorded with the other musicians as opposed to over-dubbing after the fact, because all the other players need to hear and respond to the drummer's groove. It wouldn't sound quite right to overdub a swung grove on top of an otherwise stright 8th recording from the other rhythm elements (bass, piano etc). This excellent demo of "groove" could be worth the price of the DVD for many viewers. Spot on. As an example of the instructional elements, he provides some explanations for why young drummers will often rush or drag and offers suggestions about how to prevent or fix this.
Production Quality - Audio and video are quite good. This isn't a "technique" video per se, so you don't consistently get multiple video shots of all JR's 4 limbs in action. It's mostly a heads on, or fron atop view, but the overall lighting and video production are good with fairly tight and non-distracting editing. Audio is good. It's not a totally dry recording for most of the DVD (some at the end of the 2nd DVD appears to be the totally dry). You can tell there's been some processing of the drum channels etc, but it's not overerly processed. You can still hear some snare buzz for example and each tom actually sounds different (as they should). There were some missed opportunties. In the otherwise good section on drum micing, JR talks about the relative values of overhead versus close micing and attempts to compare them. You can hear a difference, but he does not announce, and the uninitiated might not be able to tell, which audio example corresponds to which micing set up. It was one of only a few instances where the ball was dropped from an orginizational/production point of view.
Summary: For the intended audience and for those wanting a brief look at so many topics, this DVD is definitely a success and is well worth the money and time investment.