Eight years in the making, this "prequel" to The Commandments of R&B Drumming delves into the rhythm and blues of the 1940s and '50s, an incredible musical era when shuffles ruled the airwaves and modern groove playing was in its infancy. Loaded with in-depth historical information, photos, graphics, exercises, and transcriptions, it also includes the most comprehensive, step-by-step guide to shuffle playing ever written.

The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming was written by Zoro, voted "No. 1 R&B Drummer" in Modern Drummer's Annual Reader's Poll, and Daniel Glass, drummer for the Royal Crown Revue and one of the foremost authorities on classic rhythm and blues drumming. In addition to the comprehensive book, you'll also enjoy a demonstration CD with more than 100 authentic groove and fill examples, as well as 11 play-along tracks. Featuring styles including swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues, Chicago blues, New Orleans R&B, Texas blues, "faux" Latin, gospel, and early rock & roll, this long-awaited prequel is the most comprehensive and influential book on R&B drumming ever written.

EXCERPT 2 Article 1:
R&B Extra: Independent Labels - The Voice of R&B

Throughout the book, Zoro and Daniel Glass include various “spotlights” on aspects of R&B music. These pages show a little bit about the environment or about the drummers of R&B that otherwise would not be covered in a book on R&B grooves.

(Synopsis from The Commandments of Early Rhythm & Blues Drumming)

Prior to the 1940s, three major record labels – RCA-Victor, Decca, and Columbia, dominated the American music scene. In general, these labels avoided black musicians as a matter of principle – “race” music was seen as too vulgar to be marketed. Even as blues and other “race” music grew more popular these labels avoided all black artists with only a few notable exceptions.

Yet without the help of mainstream labels, R&B and the blues managed to take off in the late 40s and early 50s. This came about because independent labels were now able to sell their music to a growing African American demographic, which had taken a step up the economic ladder as a result of the war effort. Independent label owners came from a variety of backgrounds but all shared one thing: their love of the blues and belief in it’s market potential.

To reach their audiences, these labels went to extreme practices. Lacking promotional abilities outside of small regions, owners drove city to city, selling records out of the trunk, using their garages as record “pressing plants” and doing whatever it takes to sell their records. Since there was little R&B on the radio, word about the music spread throughout an underground network in black communities. Barbershops, grocery stores, and mom-and-pop outlets served as record stores. Even African American train porters were in on the business, serving as a distribution channel by carrying copies of hot R&B releases from city to city, to sell at up to five times the original price.

Despite their many hardships, independent labels held some major advantages in the music world. Being community level entrepreneurs, these labels had a better chance to sign the best local talent, and most of the major R&B artists began their careers on indie labels. Independents could also churn out records in no time to meet local demand, recording on a Friday and releasing the tracks to stores by the next Monday. Also, by using second-rate recording equipment (which was all they could afford), independent labels like Sun and Chess were able to create a signature sound that increased the popularity of their music and could not be replicated by the bigger, richer studios.

To read the real article and to read about the end of independent labels, purchase “The Commandments of Early Rhythm & Blues."




EXCERPT 2 Article 2:
Shuffle Basics: "What's Goin' On?" (Excerpted From The Commandments of Early Rhythm & Blues Drumming)

Also in The Commandments of Early Rhythm & Blues Drumming, Zoro and Daniel Glass try to help fix the problems plauging today's shuffle drummers:

For starters, let’s identify a few of the common pitfalls that many rock-based drummers run into when encountering jazz, blues, country, reggae, rockabilly, and any number of other styles that utilize a shuffle feel.

  1. Poor understanding of swung eighth notes.

For the last 30 years, most drummers have grown up playing rock, funk, and other styles that are based in a straight eighth note feel.
The result: they feel uncomfortable when they have to play a groove that swings, and their playing reflects that discomfort.

  1. Improper sound balance

The main timekeeping elements in rock are the kick and the snare, so it’s only logical that rock drummers would feel more comfortable anchoring their playing around these two instruments.
The result: their R&B shuffle sounds far too bottom-heavy, more like “Detroit Rock City” than “New York, New York.”

  1. Misdirected motion.

Because rock drumming stresses power and volume, rockers tend to focus on downward force when striking a surface.
The result: their shuffle has a heavy, plodding feeling – it lacks lightness and forward momentum. It doesn’t dance!

  1. Lack of understanding.

Many rock drummers don’t consider shuffles to be in the “groove” category along with other basic styles like rock, soul, or funk; rather, they assume that in order to play a good shuffle, they must first learn how to play jazz or bebop.
The result: their shuffles are full of syncopated chops, but lack the smooth flow that needs to be at the heart of good R&B timekeeping.



  The Musical Bass Drum 16-Bar Pattern (CD 15)

  "I Put A SPell On You"

The above is an example of a 16 bar exercise to increase bass drum variation in shuffle playing.

Throughout the Book are transcriptions of the groooves from classic R&B tracks. (See above)


Early R&B Hits You May Already Know: Remade in the '60s

Song Title Original Artist Popular Remake

Rock and Roll Music

Chuck Berry

The Beach Boys/The Beatles

Twist and Shout

The Top Notes

The Isley Brothers/The Beatles

Night Train

Jimmy Forrest

James Brown

Since I Fell for You

Buddy Johnson

Doris Day


Barrett Strong

The Beatles

Long Tall Sally
Little Richard
The Beatles
Louie Louie
Richard Berry
The Kingsman
Over and Over
Bobby Day
The Dave Clarke Five
House of the Rising Sun
Josh White
The Animals
Little Red Rooster
Howlin' Wolf
The Rolling Stones/Grateful Dead
Howlin' Wolf
I'm So Glad
Skip James
Robert Johnson
Killing Floor
Howlin' Wolf
Jimi Hendrix
Bring It On Home
Sonny Boy Williamson
Led Zeppelin
I Can't Quit You, Baby
Otis Rush
Led Zeppelin
You Shook Me
Muddy Waters
Led Zeppelin
Backdoor Man
Willie Dixon
The Doors
I Ain't Superstitious
Willie Dixon
Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart
I Put a Spell on You
Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Creedence Clearwater Revival

Ball and Chain

Big Mama Thornton

Janis Joplin


The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming is truly a masterpiece, drawing from the past and the present to arrive at a well-rounded, insightful tale of the early R&B scene. To arrive at this incredible content, the authors spent much of their time interviewing authorities on the subject of R&B music. Some names include: Remo Belli, Art Laboe, Earl Palmer, David “Panama” Francis, Francis Clay, and many more.

The book is careful to note is that while the drummers of this period are not as well known as those disciples who followed in their footsteps, it is not because these giants lacked talent. Instead, the nature of the music put the spotlight away from the drummer’s and technical ability, and more onto the groove. From Early Rhythm and Blues: "[…] Unlike swing or bebop, early R&B was not about technical virtuosity. It was a groove-oriented style geared to get people dancing, and therefore based on simple, swinging rhythms that made you feel good. […] The number one job for an R&B drummer was to keep time, plain and simple, and most people didn’t see that as particularly special."

So while you may have never heard the names of any of the drummers featured in this book, remember that this does not mean that the drummers, or the book, hold any less value. Remember instead that this lack of coverage was a founding value of drumming, and thus worthy of being learned by any drummer. This book will teach you that.

It is not just Vic Firth Inc singing the praises of The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues. In fact, this is an award-winning educational text, having won first prize in the “Beat Instructional Book” category of the 2009 DRUM Magazine Reader’s Poll. If you want to learn about modern drumming and R&B drumming, then The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues is a book well worth buying.

Simply put, this is an essential requirement for every drummer’s library.
-Drummer Magazine
This book/CD package is well researched, clear in its goals, and enlightening and inspiring in its approach. Keep this one on your bottom shelf; you’re going to want to return to it again and again.
-Modern Drummer Magazine
I am so impressed with what Daniel and Zoro have done to secure the heritage of the modern drum set.The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming is a must—every inspired drummer needs to experience and learn from this masterpiece. The book will take you on a journey through our history—and knowing where we came from will assist us in our vision for the future! Thank you both for your hard work, so that generations ahead of us can forever enjoy this magical era!
-Dom Famularo


A native of Los Angeles, Zoro is one of the funkiest drummers on the contemporary music scene today. His stellar playing has led to an impressive range of worldwide musical adventures including performing with such artists as: Lenny Kravitz, Bobby Brown, The New Edition, Philip Bailey, Jody Watley, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, Vanessa Paradis and many others. He is respected by both the R&B and Rock N’ Roll community and his musicianship has kept him one of the busiest drummers today. Zoro’s enthusiasm for music is contagious, but he is perhaps best known as the tenacious groove drummer, that one-named guy with the hat.

Daniel Glass has played drums with the pioneering "retro-swing" group Royal Crown Revue since 1994. He has also recorded and performed with many top artists, such as Bette Midler, Gene Simmons, Mike Ness, and Freddy Cole. In addition to his work as a musician, Daniel is an award-winning author, historian, clinician and producer. He has published three books, including The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming and The Ultimate History of Rock'n'Roll Drumming: 1948-2000. His writings on drum history have appeared in The Encyclopedia of Percussion, The MusicHound Swing Essential Album Guide, and countless publications such as Modern Drummer, DRUM!, Classic Drummer and Percussive Notes.


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