Welcome to the first of what will be many product reviews. I’ll foreword this and all future reviews now by saying I won’t be giving away arbitrary scores at the end. Instead I’ll try to provide as much information as possible along with the results I’ve experienced to help you decide if you want to check it out. So without any further adieu, here’s my review of ‘Tommy Igoe’s Great Hands for a Lifetime’ DVD.
I used Hudson’s online download service rather than buying the physical DVD. At the time I was on tour and didn’t want the hassle of carrying around a DVD, and it was an absolute bargain at £12! The only downside to not having the DVD is that you don’t get the accompanying ‘Lifetime Warmup’ poster which would be a useful teaching resource; the positive side of this is it quickly forced me to memorise the warmup…but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
The DVD can be split into 3 separate sections. It begins by covering the fundamentals: establishing a working fulcrum. Igoe provides a simple but incredibly effective method for “visualising the fulcrum” which helps to clearly see how the fulcrum and stick interact. This was a massive game changer for my playing as I quickly realised my over-emphasis on controlling the stick with the wrist (as a hinge) rather than the fulcrum (as a pivot). Igoe then demonstrates a few exercises to develop a controlled bounce stroke; this would be a great time to crack out Stick Control (you’ve got Stick Control, right?).
The mantra of Great Hands for a Lifetime is without doubt “soft hands.” After covering the basics Igoe introduces 5 students of varying skill levels . The purpose of this is to show that everybody’s hands look different when playing, and that effective results are achievable without holding sticks exactly like Vinnie/Weckyl/Lang/Barker (delete drum idol as appropriate). While playing through the exercises Igoe is constantly monitoring their technique, shouting “soft hands” where appropriate and generally having a bit of fun; it must be something else to study with him in person!
The DVD then covers the individual elements of the lifetime warmup. Igoe splits the rudiments into 5 families: ruffs, rolls, diddles, flams and drags, and proceeds to cover each in excellent detail. There is some superb advice on the correct execution of these rudiments, and additionally some very helpful ‘check’ patterns to help you develop a solid double stroke roll (amongst others).
Finally Igoe moves onto the Lifetime Warmup itself. This was a system developed and taught to him by his father, Sonny Igoe. We’ll cover that in full detail below.
The Lifetime Warmup comes in 4 forms: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and a 5 minute version. Each of these has a corresponding mp3 file that can guide you through the workout while on the road. There is quite a difference between each version with increasingly higher tempos and more and more of the rudiments thrown in to add to the level of difficulty.
Similarly to Alan Dawson’s ‘Rudimental Ritual,’ the Lifetime Warmup guides us through the essential rudiments. It begins with a warm up section, with 8 notes per hand, then 7, then 6 etc, before moving the various rudiment groups: rolls, singles and doubles, ruffs, paradiddles, drags, flams and ratamacues. I personally prefer the Lifetime Warmup as these rudiment groups are tied together by a long roll which in my opinion gives it a more fluid and progressive feel.
In terms of difficulty it really comes down to how much time and effort you want to put into the exercise. The higher speeds in the advanced warmup are particularly daunting, and when watching Igoe and his students perform these effortlessly it can be humbling to acknowledge where you are ability-wise, but also to see the results these guys have achieved after years of practice using effective methods.
So how has working through the Lifetime Warmup actually affected my playing? One word: massively. As mentioned earlier the fulcrum visualisation exercise allows you to see how the fulcrum operates, and this one element led me to begin re-evaluating my technique.
I’ve been working through the Lifetime Warmup now for around a month, and am already feeling the benefits which include increased speed, higher levels of relaxation while playing, and improved tone out of the drums. However this is very much a work in progress. I’m slowly but surely working towards playing the warmup at the advanced level though 180 BPM+ is a huge challenge! The most important obstacle as with any technique is transferring the ideas from a practice pad to the feel of real drums. I’m happy with the progress made in this area; I’ve noticed a definite difference in my playing over the last few gigs but accept that this ‘re-engineering’ process as I’m calling it will take a long time to see the full benefits.
I also need to mention the improvement of my double stroke rolls – an aspect of my playing that I was generally happy with. Since incorporating more fulcrum control my execution has improved substantially allowing for more power, clarity, and speed. I’m hoping that with more work the much feared doubles around the toms will become possible; this is definitely something I’ve neglected over the years! An excellent piece of advice Igoe gives on developing good doubles and avoiding the first stroke being much louder than the second is that while the second note is often described as being weaker it could also be said that the first note is a bully; by playing this as loud as we would a full single stroke hit we’re effectively ruining our chances of getting a good second note.
To conclude: the DVD is excellent, and the Lifetime Warmup is well en-route to becoming an integral part of my daily practice. Having worked through the Rudimental Ritual in the past I found the Lifetime Warmup to be more ‘contemporary’ in nature as it focuses on rudiments and stickings that can be easily transferred and applied to the drumset. By ‘gluing’ the elements together with a Long Roll the warmup progresses in a logical and linear fashion, and will truly push anyone’s hands to the limit. You will however have Tommy Igoe saying “soft hands” forever ingrained into your psyche when working through this!
My only criticisms are the omission of buzz rolls and six stroke roll variations in the warmup, and a slower mp3 play along for the full warmup. While Igoe covers the six stroke roll in the DVD it isn’t included in the Lifetime Warmup, which is a shame as it is such a useful rudiment for drumset playing. Buzz rolls are not covered at all which I must admit to being quite surprised at as the fulcrum and relaxation is so important for a nice sounding buzz. A slower play along would have been useful for someone comfortable playing the full warmup – just not at the designated speed (yet!).
In terms of this being a technique DVD the obvious comparison must be made to Jojo Mayer’s ‘Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer.’ As I haven’t seen this all I can only assume that in terms of covering various techniques it is far more in-depth. However I believe ‘Great Hands’ still has something for everyone who wants to improve their playing and technique, and the Lifetime Warmup provides drummers with an easy to digest (hard to master) warmup routine to be proud of.
For such a low price as well you really can’t go wrong. Check it out!