Stro Elliot is the master of the pads. Recently named as an official member of The Roots, he’s continuing his amazing run of form from the last year – leading the way for pad drummers with his signature style of performance.
We were lucky enough to witness a masterclass from Stro in Berlin, at the Ableton Loop Conference. Not only did he show off his crazy fast fingers, he also broke down some of his technique and his unique performance setup.
Here’s a few pieces of wisdom from the maeSTRO.
Breaking down the 🥁 break
Since samplers arrived on the scene, producers have been creatively chopping up breaks and loops. Rather than just playing a loop, breaking it up into the individual hits gives you a palette of sounds to work with to make it your own. Stro maps these hits across his Ableton Push controller mirroring how he sets up a normal kit with variations of kicks, snares, hats, ghost hits, and vocal chops across the pads.
See how he works with breaks in the short video below to create his own pattern.
Keeping an organic feel to the kit 🌱
Stro arranges all his kits in a specific way, based on how he plays. He plays most of the beat on his right hand, leaving the left hand to add accents, play ghost hits and add complexity. Whether it’s adding the 1/16 note hi hat, or a roll to the pattern, having the extra hits available for the left hand lets him add variety.
Watch how Stro arranges his kit, and why it helps him in the short video below.
Feel like practicing now? As a subscriber, you can play Stro Elliot’s lessons in Melodics + lessons from loads of other great artists 😎
If you want to give pad drumming a try, download Melodics and try out our free lessons today.
Music and rhythm have taken Eshan Khadaroo a.k.a Push4Life on an amazing journey over the past few decades. Transfixed by drums and self-expression at a young age, Eshan has made a career out of his passion. This has seen him tour the world as a professional drummer and more recently become an educator for the next generation. In this week’s interview we explore how he has made this progression as well as discuss his brand new course on Melodics “The Road To Rhythmic Mastery”.
Please explain how a Bruce Lee video inspired you to become a drummer?
Before I ever started drumming Bruce Lee was my biggest inspiration. Towards the end of this scene below, Bruce uses two fairly large sticks to defend himself. When I was 11 and my mother asked me what instrument I would like to learn, I said drums, not so much because I wanted to learn the instrument but rather because I thought I would be able to do what Bruce Lee did. It was only in my late 20’s that I saw his infamous interview where he talks about expressing oneself authentically as a human being that I realised that it was this message that resonated so deeply within me and I then went on to study his ideas and how they related to expression through drums and ultimately through music.
You said in a previous interview you moved to London at 18 years of age to kickstart your music career. When did you make the decision to pursue music professionally? How long was it until you got established?
I decided I wanted to be a professional musician around 8 years of age whilst still learning the piano. Chopin was my musical hero and I planned on being a classical pianist. But I moved to Germany when I was 10 so I had to stop piano lessons. By the time I could speak the language well enough to start back up with music lessons, the drums seemed way cooler for the above-mentioned reasons. Once I moved to London at age 18 it took me about 4 years to establish myself professionally and get booked for studio sessions and live tours.
Your career has had many highlights which include drumming for Cirque Du Soleil. Tell us about this experience. How did it come about? Do you have any crazy stories from touring?
From 2006 to 2008 I performed with Blue Man Group. As my time with them was coming to an end I just decided to surf around online to see if there were any interesting opportunities out there and stumbled upon Cirque Du Soleils casting website. I decided to send them an email regarding a position that was opening up for their show Kooza in 2009. They got back to me within days and had me do an online audition where I had to record videos of myself performing to a number of their songs from different shows. Within a few months of this process I was signed up to do their North American leg of the tour. The most exciting part of this tour was spending 10 weeks performing on the beach in our big top next to the Santa Monica Pier. At almost every show there were celebrities checking out the performance including the likes of Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Neil Patrick Harris to name a few. My favourite moment though was getting to hang out with one of my biggest drumming idols, Tools drummer Danny Carey.
You had a setback with your health that prevented you from continuing as a touring musician. Are you able to explain how this experience lead you to wanting to become an educator for the next generation?
I had already decided before going on the road with Cirque Du Soleil that this was to be my last major tour and that after that I was going to focus on education. I was very lucky throughout my career to to have had some great mentors in Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick and Guy Sigsworth – both major producers and unbelievable musicians. And they had always been so generous to me in helping not only in my career but also in deepening my understanding of music. It was my wish to “pay it forward” and do my part in helping the next generation fall in love with music. When I got seriously ill towards the end of the Cirque Du Soleil tour I felt all the more compelled to act on this desire to share what I had learned sooner rather than later – a brush with the grim reaper tends to have that kind of effect on you!
You had a Youtube video that went viral which is titled ‘Top 5 things every Push 2 user should know’. What inspired this video? Were you surprised by how well it was received?
I had only had my Push 2 for a few months when a good friend of mine in England also bought one. She was having a lot of difficulty understanding how to use it. As I live in Germany and couldn’t just pop over to her house I decided to record a video with her in mind to show her how simple it really was. I decided to make it for the general public too and so uploaded it to youtube and just sent her a link. To be honest I still can’t believe how many people have not only seen it and benefited from it but also the positive feedback has been nothing short of overwhelming.
Did this successful video get the wheels in motion for your Push4Life project? What were your next moves after you released there was interest?
At the time that I released this particular video I was focused on putting together drum related content. But the immediate popularity of this PUSH 2 video really inspired me to drop everything else and focus on creating more PUSH videos for my growing audience. The next big video that I put out that I am still very proud of is “10 Practical Ideas to Take Your PUSH Skills to the Next Level” which really is all about how I see making music and how thankful we should be for technology like the Ableton PUSH 2. And at the beginning you can also see how things come full circle again when I talk about expressing yourself as inspired by Bruce Lee. Shortly after that I also started releasing PREMIUM Ableton Push 2 content for people who want to dive deeper into the PUSH experience. The feedback has been awesome so far!
How would you describe your new course ‘The Road To Rhythmic Mastery’?
This course was conceived specifically for people who want to go from playing beats with one finger at a time to playing more complex patterns where you use both hands independently. The exercises were inspired by one of the great drumming educators – Gary Chaffee – but with my own twist to them. Most modern music is based on what is know as the 16th note grid and when you make modern day beats most of the time you are working within this grid. Believe it or not though, there are only 15 patterns you need to master in order to play anything within this 16th note grid. These 15 patterns form what I like to think of as a rhythmic alphabet and I take you through each of these patterns one by one in lessons 1 through 15.
How would you recommend Melodics users approach this course to get the most out of it?
To really benefit from this course, you need to work through all of the lessons – specifically lessons 1 through 15. Ultimately you want to be able to get at least 3 stars on all lessons (100% would be even better). The best way to do this is to slow the exercise down in PRACTICE MODE until you can play it as precisely as possible. Precision is key and that is really where Melodics excels at helping you in my opinion. Once you can play a given exercise precisely at a slow speed, then you can start upping the speed 5 bpm at a time using auto bpm until you hit the target speed of the exercise. Every 16th note pattern is equally important to master. Just like when you learn to count to 10, each number is equally important to understand and if you miss one out there will be a significant hole in your understanding. It is the same with each of these 16th note patterns. You will only ever be as strong as your weakest link and if you want to be really great, you will need to master all 15. The most important exercise of the whole course though is exercise 16 where you have to play each exercise for a bar consecutively. Once you have mastered this exercise you can rest assured that you have a very solid foundation to work with.
Talk about the background of making this course? How much time has gone into it? What was your process to creating it?
I made a similar course for my drum students back in 2012 when I set up my teaching studios here in Germany. I started working on the Melodics version of this course in January 2017 after meeting the Melodics team on my trip to New Zealand. The bulk of the work was done in the last 3 months where I had been working on both production and post-production. It’s been a lot of work and a challenge to do all of the jobs including video editing and sound engineering but at the end of the day it was a lot of fun because I am doing something I love and to know that it will be online for a global audience is a real privilege.
What will Melodics users be able to do after finishing this course? How will it help in regards to their finger drumming and overall music production?
If Melodics users put in the time and effort to not only get through the levels but to master them (3 stars to 100%) they will have a solid foundation for playing the bulk of beats in modern styles of popular music, from Hip Hop to Rock, from Pop to R&B. And above all it will give them confidence in themselves to know that they have what it takes to take their finger drumming to the next level. And as far as music production is concerned it will show them the basic building blocks out of which most beats are put together and hopefully inspire them to create beats they weren’t even aware that they could do.
Are there any other comments or things you want users to know about this course and the new Melodics lessons?
As with all things, if you really want to learn something properly it requires discipline, concentration and above all patience. This course is no different. But I guarantee that if Melodics users put in the necessary work, they will greatly benefit from these exercises. And best of all they can then take advantage of the more intermediate and advanced levels Melodics has to offer that may have been to complex beforehand.
Have you played your lessons much in Melodics yet? How have you got on?
I have played them all multiple times and it even took me a while to get 100% on all of the lessons. It just takes a microsecond of your mind drifting and before you know it you have missed a beat enough for it to be too early or too late and then you have to start all over again. But I am a person who loves a good challenge and I didn’t give up until every single lesson was played at 100% as you can see in all of the video tutorials on youtube.
What does the rest of 2017 have in store for you? Any big plans or other projects?
I have been working on various online courses solidly for the past 13 months and definitely need a break. But a break in my world just means working on fun projects. I have recently discovered modular synthesis and Reaktor Blocks so I am going to use my free time to dive into that rabbit hole. The final major project I hope to get off the ground in 2017 though is to start my own podcast and get a handful of episodes out by the end of the year. So watch this space…!