June 26, 2012

Mike Alba's Muscle Memory Workout Program (Module 2)

MADP Module 2, Batch 3: From left-right: Weng Saavedra, Lawrence Alba, Master Michael Alba, Ed Catalan, and Anthony Dio
Michael Alba's Muscle Memory Workout Program Module 1, which I took up and finished late 2010, has been significant to my drumming and musicianship, as Filipino drumming master Mike Alba have shown me and my peers the right path to a much better drumming performance (as documented on my Module 1 testimony, posted a year and a half ago).  Like I said, this was among the best investments I've ever made for my drumming.  Everything I learned here, I will be carrying with me all throughout my drumming life and my professional career as a working musician.

A couple of months ago, I just finished the Module 2 Program, which took every drumming and musical aspect notches higher and further challenged our drumming, in terms of technique, performance & creativity.  The way I see it, Module 2 is a super-sized version of Module 1, which pushed me and my peers to our limits.  In no particular order...

Module 2 pushed me to become a more well-rounded and versatile drummer.  Various musical styles were covered, from hard rock to smooth-swinging jazz, from pop to contemporary fusion, from funk to improvisational, odd-metered, and world music-inspired pieces...  There's always something to be learned from every genre, and all these greatly helped us in understanding and appreciating different styles.  Versatility is an important factor in becoming an effective musician especially in a session/mainstream setting.  So learning various styles do pay off.  Plus Sir Mike's selection of tasteful yet challenging play-along pieces are worth reviewing.

Module 2 simulates real-life career situations, and it pushed me to manage my time and practice habits.  Every Module 2 homework consists of at least 3 challenging play-along tracks and a couple of creativity exercises which challenged us to create our own original parts.  So it was also an exercise on time management, as we juggled our woodshedding hours with our nightly gigs, day jobs, school, quality time with loved ones, and whatever routine or schedule we're going through our everyday lives.  And with how Sir Mike gave out our assignments, he's like a musical director handing out the pieces we needed to play, and we only had a few days to nail down everything!  So it was like a real-life session scene, where we're expected to be on top of our game, learn new materials fast and effectively, and be able to come out with drum parts which will work for the music.

Module 2 pushed me to work harder on my sight reading.  For me, the Module 2 Applied Sight Reading (ASR) Exercises are like Module 1 ASR Exercises, but on steroids!  With its various mixes of notes, rests, and figures (in particular, plenty of triplets, sixteenths and thirty-second notes, and don't forget the infamous fermata), these are guaranteed to be incredibly challenging, even for drummers who are already used to sight reading.  But once mastered, or at least be able to go through it, it will greatly help with our sight reading skills, plus our speed, endurance, articulation, and dynamics.  Well, I'm still not the fastest sight reader, but thanks to the Module 2 ASR exercises (plus the more challenging play-along charts), my reading skills improved.

Module 2 pushed me to review my drumming techniques.  From the way I hit a snare drum backbeat to the style of footwork I use for my bass drum technique, Sir Mike showed us the right way to proper technique in order for us to play better and execute our parts more convincingly.  Like I said about Module 1, Sir Mike's still the Quality Control guy in Module 2.  Besides showing us and reminding us about the proper hand and foot techniques, he still made sure that our execution is a musical statement.  The dynamics, the proper volume, the effective way to hit every drum and cymbal...  Sir Mike wants us not only to play better, but also to sound better.

Module 2 pushed me to further respect and appreciate the drumming gods.  It's not that I do not revere the likes of Jeff Porcaro, Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl, John Robinson, David Garibaldi, Will Kennedy, Vinnie Colaiuta, and all these amazing drummers (I love and worship them all!).  In Module 2, we learned how to play their classic drum parts correctly and with conviction.  So our respect, admiration, and fascination for these legends grew deeper.

Module 2 pushed me to become more creative.  With the thousands of amazing drum licks and chops already invented and played over the years, are we still capable of creating a new, original drum part?  The answer is YES, and Sir Mike's system made our creative juices flow, as we orchestrated our original fill-ins during the Module 2 sessions.  Plus, whether we love soloing or not (I don't consider myself a good drum soloist, and I often dread playing drum solos), there were several activities in Module 2 which challenged us to perform effective drum solos, which should still be a musical statement instead of just scattered pieces of notes, chops, and licks.

I can go on and talk more about Module 2.  But of course, I don't want to give away too much information (for the sake of future Module 2 students).  The bottom line is, Module 2 is big boy stuff. It will push you hard.  It will challenge you.  It will inspire you.  And it can even frustrate you (in a constructive way).  But at the end of the day, as long as you persevere, remain patient, and work hard on practicing and honing your craft, going through Module 2 is a very rewarding experience.

Thank you very much Michael Alba for being a wonderful and inspiring mentor.  You did it again, Sir Mike!  You are a blessing to me and my peers.  Thank you for your passion, generosity and positive spirit.  To my Module 2 Batch 3 classmates - Lawrence Nolan, Weng Saavedra, and Ed Catalan: It was an amazing Module 2 adventure with you guys.  Thanks for the friendship and support!  To Doc Jigs Asinas, Module 2 Batch 3 misses you!  To Kent Pedraja of KNR Studio in Cubao, Quezon City, thank you very much for the excellent venue for our graduation day and drumshed session!  To fellow Mike Alba Drum Program graduates Ruben Tecson, Christian Enriquez, Nigel Norris, and Otep Conception, thank you very much for all the help, brotherhood, enthusiasm and laughter during our Module 2 Graduation Day!

Best wishes to all our drumming and musical endeavors!  God bless Mike Alba Drum Program!

Photos courtesy of Ruben Tecson (copyright; posted with permission).