...the WFD (Worlds Fastest Drummer),
Rise of Speed Drumming
By George Broyer
once in awhile, an innovation comes along in music that helps
shape the future of the industry. Still, people fear change. Many
view the advancement as an attack to the establishment. They try
to resist for as long as they possibly can until it becomes accepted
by the majority thus making it mainstream. When Rock & Roll
came about, many thought it would lead to the downfall of America's
youth. When Ray Charles combined gospel music with R&B, many
said it was blasphemous and degrading God's work. Yet, Ray Charles
is now considered one of the greatest music innovators of the
20th century. Enter speed drumming. Not immune to the same
criticism, this latest craze is taking the drumming world by storm
and creating quite a stir. Although it's been embraced by many
drummers young and old, others see it as an infringement upon
their revered tradition.
$159 $149.95 at
the practice of fast drumming is not entirely recent, the ability
to accurately measure and rank it is a new concept. The beginnings
of modern speed drumming started in the windy city of Chicago
during the year 1975. It was there that Boo McAfee was present
at a demonstration by Barrett Deems where he claimed to be "The
World's Fastest Drummer." A voice of doubt emerged from the
crowd. "Oh, yeah," the person asked. "What machine
did you use?" McAfee turned to see the voice belonged to
none other than drumming legend Buddy Rich. The memory of that
event lingered in McAfee's mind. Then in 1999, McAfee collaborated
with fellow drummer and engineer Craig Alan to develop a machine
to measure the speed of drumming. After two months of work,
the device was developed and dubbed The Drum-o-meter. It calculated
the number of strokes for up to a 90 second time span for such
rudiments as the single stroke roll, the double stroke roll, and
paradiddles. The DrumoMeter
was first showcased at the 1999 PASIC and, then, released for
purchase on April 2, 2000, the anniversary of Buddy Rich's death.
This new innovative invention paved the way for the world of speed
drumming to emerge as a credible faction of drumming.
their new stroke-measuring device, McAfee and Alan needed a creative
way to market their idea into the world of drumming. So, they
decided to establish the World's Fastest Drummer Organization
or WFD for short. The idea was to pit drummers against each other
in a competition to determine with accuracy the indisputable fastest
drummer of the world using the DrumoMeter.
In the first event of its kind, Johnny Rabb won the competition
sponsored by the Nashville Percussion Institute. He performed
an astonishing 1,026 single stroke rolls in one minute. Rabb was
asked to later defend his title on VH1's live broadcast of Rock
& Roll Record Breakers in Orlando, Florida. His fast drumming
produced 1,071 strokes in one minute and earned him a spot in
the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest drummer in the
world. The WFD (or Worlds Fastest Drummer) started to pick up
steam and, in 2007, they established a regular competition at
the annual NAMM show. The winner of the competition was presented
a championship belt similar to the ones awarded on WWE wrestling.
The exhibition was eventually split to include separate recognition
for the fastest hand drummer and fastest foot drummer. This fun,
exciting showcase spotlighting the skills of speed drumming
propelled the movement to another level.
As the modern speed drumming movement gained momentum,
the number of drummers participating grew. With most new areas
of music, there are those that will rise above the others and
carve out a name for themselves as the pace setters to which the
rest of the field must catch up. The drummers of speed drumming
that fall into this category are as follows:
Mangini, drummer for Extreme and the Steve Vai Band, set the
current world record at the WFD
by achieving 1,203 single stroke rolls on the Drum o
Meter in one minute in January 2007.
Jotan Afanador of Bronx New York -1,199 single strokes. WFD,
Summer of 2007.
held the title of fastest drummer from April 2001 through
May 2007 by performing 1,116 strokes in sixty seconds. ArtVerdi.com
Tim Waterson holds the Guinness Record for being the fastest
foot drummer. Waterson, also known as "The Drumcan Man"
because of he built and performs on a kit he designed entirely
of recycled materials, managed to bang out 1,239 double strokes
in one minute's time on the Drum o Meter in November 2001
at the Montreal Drum Festival. He later broke that record
in January of 2007 by reaching 1,407 double strokes in one
minute at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. (Tim holds
both the World Fastest Feet records for singles at 1,030 and
doubles at 1,407.)
Seth Davis is the current World Record holder for double stroke
rolls. He executed 1,200 double stroke rolls in sixty seconds.
Davis also holds the prestige of being the first drummer ever
to complete 1,200 clean double strokes.
holds the record for most paraddidles in 60 seconds at 1,032.
help the foundation for the future speed drummers of the world.
They blazed a path for others to follow and, with the growing
interest, there seems to be plenty of drummers lined up to make
their own mark in the world of fast drumming.
As mentioned previously, with anything new, there are always
going to be detractors who are against change. In the case of
speed drumming, there are two schools of thought. The
first believes that speed drumming is a valid and viable new
aspect of drumming. They insist that fast drumming assist in
building chops. Supporters of fast drumming contend that these
chops are a vital facet to a drummer's repertoire and they represent
a crucial element in one's ability to be innovative and creative
when playing. However, the opponents of speed drumming believe
that building chops is not a vital part of drumming. They claim
that time spent on fast drumming is time better spent on learning
the musicality of drumming. Speed drumming is seen as
a frivolous expenditure of drumming that offers no significant
benefits to the drumming industry. Another movement within the
speed drumming community is to establish the style of fast drumming
as a new sport. This notion of extreme sport drumming is being
propelled by those who assert that drumming is an intense physical
activity and should be able to qualify as a sport. Many traditionalists
in the drumming world also disagree with this perception. It
seems that some in the sporting industry would also reject the
concept of drumming as a sport. In May 2007, ESPN ran an ad
for its Junior Golf Academy in USA Today where it bashed drumming
as a trivial recreation. The ad focused on the accusation that
children should do something more meaningful than spend their
time playing drums like learning to play golf. The Percussive
Arts Society took quick action in an attempt to get ESPN to
remove the ad. With pressure coming down from its parent company
Disney, ESPN pulled the ad from circulation after five days.
Still, the one of leading sports identities had expressed its
feeling on the marriage of drums and sports. Still, despite
all the resistance it has encountered, the modern speed drumming
movement continues to plow ahead toward earning credibility
in the world of drumming.
Like a newly hatched duckling, speed drumming is still
spreading its wings and learning to fly. Its popularity is growing
exponentially and is especially interesting to the younger drummers.
It provides an edge that most other forms of drumming may be
lacking and the aspect of competition is always a driving force
in humanity. Speed drumming falls right into the well-known
American maxim of "Bigger, Better, Faster, Now." The
technique of fast drumming provides an opportunity for drummers
to experience a component of drumming they might not be able
to encounter in a band or other project. There will always be
people who denounce the modern speed drumming movement
just as they rejected Elvis, Ray Charles, and other pioneering
music figures. Still, at the present moment, there doesn't appear
to be any signs to contradict the fact that speed drumming will
continue to carve out its niche in the drumming community and
stay there for a very long time.
Note: I've noticed other parties out there creating speed drumming
events and organizations, and calling it their own. It's unfortunate
because it's not only wrong, but it discredits Boo McAfee and
Craig Alan and all their hard work over the years to bring speed
drumming to the forefront of the drumming community. I urge
drummers and industry leaders everywhere to support the original
WFD movement only and speak up when necessary to help fend
off copycat organizations. - Mike Donovan
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