Alexander Z.: What caused your interest in the drums?
Paolo B.: Since I was child I felt the strongest attraction for both drumming and music. In particular it has been thanks to John Bonham and precisely the Led Zeppelin II LP that I decided to play the drums!
Franco Rossi was your first teacher, is there anything from those early lessons that is still impressed upon you today?
I began to study with Enzo Carpenters (best jazz drummer in Italy) when I was 19, and with Franc in my 20s. Until then I studied drumming on my own. In any case there is not a lesson from Franc or Enzo that I forgot, still today when I teach I treasure the knowledge of their lessons!
When you studied at Accademia of Modern Music in Milano what were the studies like? What was a typical lesson like?
In the academy we do an hour lesson with the teacher of your selected instrument. Studies include timing and counting/reading, groove section (the lesson of interplay between bass and snare or string bass and drums), drum & percussion (a group of percussionists and drum set players), often we organized clinics with international artists to always expand our experience and knowledge, you can learn something from everyone, that's something they really emphasize.
When you first started drumming did you ever find it difficult, did you ever feel like it was too hard or that you wanted to give up?
My playing has always been great fun, the things that I make better are those that I have learned naturally. Since I was a child I played while listening to discs, over time I have learned several things: ALWAYS and ONLY have fun! When I began to study seriously, I met difficulties at first, but my passion for drumming has always made me go ahead without problems.
Now that you are teaching are your methods and styles similar to those that you received?
As I said before, my teachers had made a great impression upon my drumming and my "learning to teach." In particular Franco Rossi at an instructive level is incredible! Nearly all the methods that I use have been written by him. Any how, I tailor the method of instruction based on the student. Every student has his own requirements and different ways of understanding different aspects of drumming. We could say that my teaching approach is to deliver basic technical concepts then the student will have fun and add "color" to those ideas based on his/her musical tastes.
As a teacher what are some of the things you try to emphasize or focus on with your students?
The thing that I love to emphasize in my lessons is that every technical concept does not have to be your absolute goal or the finest: the technique is to the service of the musicality and not viceversa.
You work with many different artists and record with many in the studio. Do you think the constant change prevents you or the band from solidifying your sound together since you aren't always playing together?
Sure, the job of session man is the ability of get in and out from the strangest musical situation. The more difficult thing is to succeed to understand the mood of the artist and the band. Obviously there are more suitable situations and situations in which the artistic process is easier because you "know" the thought process.
Does working in the studio with many artists prevent you from touring with others much?
I don't have many problems as far as the time breakdown between the studying, working, and my personal life, I employ 2 to 4 days for recording a disc (it depends on the producer). The tours in Italy are not as many or as long as they might be in the U.S.! I prefer to hosting drum clinics, teaching and to playing with several band in the clubs locally. I enjoy the variety in my drumming!
You have performed in many different situations in many styles of music (blues, swing, funk, latin, rock, etc.), for each style do you approach them differently? How does blue differ from latin or swing or rock?
I try to play blend my personality with the musical style that I am playing, the main difference is in the portamento, it is not a note issue but how they are played inside the Time, this attention completely changes the result of the groove.
From the studio to playing live what kind of differences do you use in tuning your drums? Do you use different setups in your drum kit or are they always the same?
Is is rather difficult to change the overall sound and impact using tuning alone. Rather than tune I use different sized drums, cymbals and drumheads based on the situation I face.
With all of your experience in different types of music, what type or genre of music allows the most expressive drumming? Or, what type of music is most "drummer/percussion friendly?" It seems that some music doesn't allow the drums to speak or play a major role in the music.
I enjoy playing everything, when you get in a style you understand the full range of possibilities and potential. You can begin to understand the musical language and to apreciate the musicality. Obviously in every style there are things that can be made to "hide" the drummer, the important thing is to understand the music and how you fit into it while expressing what you feel.
What lead to the creation of your drumming DVD?
The dvd, "Modern Funky Drummer", is the result of my artistic and instructing career. When I decided to write and create it I simply tried to express my concept of what a funky drummer should be. It should create a model of funk drumming and highlight aspects important to the genre. Therefore I have tried to create, in a couple of hours of video, what seemed important for being a modern funk drummer.
You use UFIP cymbals, what cymbals are in your setup? What drums and other items are in your drum set?
I have many UFIP plates, they have been a supporter since 1997. The modles I prefer (those that I use always while live and in studio) are:
- 13" HH Top - Original Series (prototype not on sale) Bottom - 13" Natural
- 21" Heavy Ride - Bionic Vintage Series
- 16" and 18" Brillant Crash - Tiger Series
- 18" China - Tiger Series
In the dvd I used a DW (collector's) set but I'm a Ludwig endorser now (classic maple) and I'm truly satisfied of the drums that I have. I use Vic Firth (AS5B) and Remo heads.
In your drumming you seem to use the entire set to create many different ryhthms and voices, you incorporate the entire drum set but not in an over powering way. How can other drummers work to perform in such a manner instead of playing the same snare, bass, and hi-hat rhythm over and over again (like so many of the drummers in "popular" music)?
It's a matter of choices, I always loved a melodic and colored drum voice. I studied latin drumming more than the other styles and this is my favorite for independence and the construction of more complex grooves. It's not simple to explain my drumming because it is been born istinctively. I can only say that for me it has been important to watch many artists, and understand that everyone had his own style, I never copied a style but I've learned from all!!
In this lesson you are playing various rhythms at the same time on different drums, using your whole body and the whole drum set. What can young students or any students work on to improve their coordination to such a level?
The ostinato system is my preferred method to create drum solos. In order to play different phrases at the same time it's important to play them individually until until I play them all in various combinations. The groove however is divided into two basic things: hands and feet. The foot ostinato is the melody on which I make the improvisation with the hands. It's important to understand exactly how the voices fit, otherwise it comes out sounding confused.
In your videos it seems that you have your tom-toms arranged differently than most drummers. Most drum sets have the highest tom on the left, then the next largest, and then the largest on the right being the floor tom (opposite for left handers). The toms mounted on the bass drum are the opposite, how does this work for you? Is it easier? More fluid motion around the drums?
The base set was 12" tom and 14" floor tom, the 10 was placed and added to be used as additional "color" when I need It. In this way the sounds came out more unique! I have always used at least one tom and the floor tom, but I have added a floor on the left and I must say that I find it very nice, new set and new phrases!!
In years past it seemed to be that most drummers were strictly right-handed and every aspect of their drumming reflected it. Do you believe it is better to be strong with both hands? Or does drumming on a drum set favor one hand over the other? Many left handed drummers still play on a drum set that is setup for right-handed drummers, shouldn't they change their setup to make it easier?
I think it's only a personal choice and something born from habit. I tried playing a right-handed "open" style and since I don't have technical problems in the construction of the pattern I did not succeed to have the same feeling of fluidity of groove or in the nature that I was using the right hand. In any case as far as pure technique I try always to strengthen all the limbs in the same way.
In the "solo" in "Calexico" you have very clean singles between the bass, toms, and snare. How can a drummer work to improve the speed and quality of their singles on one drum and between all of the drums?
The correct technique is what creates the perfect sound, from this come the fluidity of the movements and the cleanliness of the sound. As far as the application to the drum-set the the important thing is the initial slowness of the study, only starting with low speeds we obtain a clean and harmonious sound. Naturally the foot technique is all fundamentals, we must create solid technical bases for being able to express at the highest levels and to best express our own musical ideas.
Do you think all of the drum rudiments are important to drum set drumming?
The rudiments are very important! The study of the rudiments helps to have a good development of technique and musicality.
What area is more important in a drummer, being technical or musical? Is it more important for other drummers to notice the crazy notes you just played or for the "non-drummer" in the audience to also enjoy what you're playing?
A drummer must first of all be a good musician! He can't base the drumming on the technique, as I said before, technique is exclusively for supporting for the musicality, an artist without technique cannot express complex concepts and therefore is limited. I believe that the balance of study of technique and musicality is the only true way to go.
Is it possile for a musician to ever reach a point where they have mastered EVERYTHING? Can a point be reached where you don't have anything more to learn?
We never stop learning, must have always "child" spirit that drives our curiosity and without prejudice. I also think I've learn a lot from my students!
Thanks to Paolo Bertorelle for taking the time to chat. To learn more and to watch more videos and check out some sheet music visit the following Paolo drum sites:
Paolo on Myspace.com
Paolo on Youtube.com
DVD "Modern Funky Drummer"
Band "Soul Jam"
Educator, live/studio musician, from Italy
Paolo Bertorelle was born on November 18, 1974. He began playing the drums at the age of 10, taking lessons from Franco Rossi he is a graduate of Accademia of Modern Music in Milano, Italy.
Since 1995 he has been recording in the studio and is currently involved in a project of the Italian singer-songwriter Luca Bassanese with the band Soul Jam and has just finished recording their first album.
In 2005 he formed the jazz-funk band "Side Up", playing in clubs and parties and continues to play live with many bands:
De Blanc (Police tribute band), Mana Mana (r&b, hip-hop, dance), Three of Power (funk blues rock), Hiroshima (rock/pop), N.Y.C. (easy listening), Crazy little swing (swing), and Bluesmakers (blues). The list goes on and on and as you can see, Paolo is not limited by genre and his resume proves his versatility.
Since 1998 Paolo has been teaching as a National Educator at the Accademia of Modern Music of Franco Rossi in Padova, Milano and Adria. During this time he has produced his didactic dvd "Modern Funky Drummer". He has recently been collaborating with the music magazine Drum Club (drumsportal.com) - writing instructive articles about funk music and is involved in drum-clinics in different Italian regions.
Paolo Bertorelle proudly uses Ufip Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks, Remo Drum Heads and Ludwig Drums.