Drumming Tips From Tom Brechtlein

Drummer Tom Brechtlein shares some insight about being prepared for anything on a gig and some of his warm up exercises that he uses before a gig.  Brechtlein may not be a name you recognize, but he has appeared with music greats Chick Corea, Joe Farrell, Wayne Shorter, Al DiMeola, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Robben Ford & The Blue Line.  Brechtlein is an experienced and versatile drummer that has been able to morph his playing into a variety of music styles and situations.  A versatile drummer will always have a long career in the music industry.

Tom Brechtlein from drummerworld.com

Brechtlein shared an experience in a post at Drum! Magazine that I found to be very interesting.  It highlights a perspective that most drummers don’t see for themselves until they are on a gig.  See what Brechtlein has to say at http://www.drummagazine.com/lessons/post/keep-your-ears-open/#When:16:50:13Z.

Today’s drummers have so much educational material to work with — books, videos, play-along cassettes — that it seems like you can find hands-on information about practically every drumming style and technique that exists. But sometimes I wonder if a player has the ability to reach into his or her bag of tricks on a moment’s notice, and pull out the right beat, lick, or fill for a particular style. You need to be able to take all the stuff you’ve learned off of videos, records and books and start using these things musically in a playing situation.

Let me give you an example. I remember the first gig I did with Robben Ford. We had already rehearsed what we were going to play on the gig. But during the gig Robben called out a tune that we hadn’t rehearsed. I asked Roscoe Beck, our bass player, what kind of groove this tune had. He turned to me and said, “It’s a double shuffle.” I had to think fast because Robben was about to count off the tune (this, folks, is called on-the-job training). During these few seconds I was thinking, “Well, I know what a shuffle is.” The question was, “What did he mean by ’double?’” I remembered this tune back in high school on a Thad Jones/Mel Lewis record. Lewis played a shuffle on the tune like you see in Ex. 1.

This had sort of a double beat in the left hand. The other thing I thought of in that moment was the first couple of beats I had learned out of a drum book when I was a kid in junior high (Ex. 2). The book was called Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer by Jim Chapin.

This is what was going through my mind in those few moments. Well, Robben counted off the tune and I played the pattern in Ex. 3. Roscoe and Robben turned around with big smiles on their faces. It was the right groove, which contributed greatly to my becoming a permanent member of the band.


Warm ups are extremely important for every performing drummer.  I spend a lot of time teaching warm up exercises in my course that are effective on the drum kit and loosen up your limbs for gigs.  Brechtlein has his own series of drum warm ups that he uses before he plays and I thought it would be cool for you to see the exercises another pro drummer uses.  Find the first few here at http://www.drummagazine.com/lessons/post/tom-brechtlein-wicked-warm-ups/#When:16:24:17Z.

Here I am again! Thought you could get rid of me, didn’t ya?

A lot of people have asked me how I warm up before a gig. Well, prior to 1987 I didn’t warm up at all. I used to stand by the side of the stage and shake my body loose to get relaxed. When I joined The Blue Line, I found the need to warm up before the gig. The music was a little more hard-hitting and I found that I needed to actually warm up to stay strong and loose.

Before we get into these warm-ups, I’d like to make you aware of a very important thing. When you warm up, make sure you don’t overdo it. “Warm up” means exactly that – you do this action with your hands and limbs until you feel some good blood circulation throughout your hands and arms. If you warm up too much, the elasticity and the looseness of your muscles and limbs can become played out before you even get to the bandstand. As I said, it’s called warming up, not sweating your butt off.

Enough said!

I learned the basics of these warm-ups from a percussionist who taught me in college. His name is Ronnie Gould and he’s played with the New York City Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. As well as being an incredible percussionist, he’s also an incredible teacher. In this issue I’d like to show you some of the basic warm-ups he taught me, and then next time we’ll look at some exercises that I made up from these basic ones.


More exercises from Tom Brechtlein can be found here at http://www.drummagazine.com/lessons/post/tom-brechtlein-more-wicked-warm-ups/#When:17:11:33Z.

If you’ve been following my column – and why shouldn’t you? – you’ll remember that last time we talked about the importance of warming up before you sit down to play. Well, things have been pretty busy lately with Robben Ford & the Blue Line, so I’m going to follow up on our last lesson by giving you some specific warm-up exercises that I have developed.

These ideas were inspired by some basic warm-ups that were shown to me by a percussionist who taught me in college, Ronnie Gould. I kind of made these up on long bus rides during my early touring years. In other words, I had a lot of time on my hands.

Tom Brechtlein

Warm ups like these from pro drummer, Tom Brechtlein, are not only designed to loosen you up, but also be applied on the drum kit.  You can learn more exercises like these that are useful on the drums from my own course called Play Drums By Ear.



Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  1. frank

    Tom Brechtlein is a big name in the drumming community, great player his insights are always welcome. Thanks Tom
    Frank Dasaro
    Bayside N.Y.

  2. Gail

    Flams (warm up exercises) and drum notation guide… Thanks Tom!