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Show me your new book, Ralph Humphrey

He is one of the top players and educators in the drum business: Ralph Humphrey. At age 71 the drummer from California published a new drum method book. For my blog Ralph opened it up and quickly demonstrated what it is all about.

Back to my L.A. roots

When I went to my first NAMM Show in the beginning of this year, I availed myself of an opportunity and went by my old school: the Los Angeles College of Music (LACM) in Pasadena. It’s always great to go back where I had some of the greatest months of my life. And even 17 years later some of the staff members are the same, passing on their knowledge to new students from all over the world.

The drum department chairs are still Ralph Humphrey and Joe Porcaro – two teachers I learned more than a lot from. For it would be a shame not to meet them while at the school, I made two appointments. The first one I had been with Ralph, who told me via e-mail that he had just published a new book. His first one, Even In The Odds, has been part of his lessons and a real success among drum method books for decades now. The new book is called Rhythm By The Numbers* and comes as a guide to creative practicing.

Seeing and hearing Ralph Humphrey

Have you seen Ralph Humphrey play the drums live? Well, it’s not such an easy thing to do, unless you study with him and get to appreciate his craftsmanship and artistry from row one to five. Or if you watched the Oscars this year, you at least did hear him, for he was the drummer of the event’s band. But hey, Ralph Humphrey is a session legend. How many fine and truly incredible studio musicians are you aware of?

Back in the 1970s you could have seen Ralph play with the music genius Frank Zappa. Actually a new dvd from the legendary concerts at the Roxy in 1973 came out last fall called Roxy The Movie*. It stars Ralph Humphrey along with Chester Thompson on drums. Today you might be lucky and catch Ralph playing some genuine fusion music with the band Babaghanoush by guitarist Jimmy Mahlis. 

Meeting Ralph Humphrey

When meeting Ralph at LACM, he not only brought enough time, but also his very new Zildjians. Lucky me, because of course he wanted to try and play them. And what better way to do so than playing an example out of one’s own new book?! Watch, listen and learn.

In addition to a short insight into the book, I was able to draw out some more info from Ralph. His answers result in a short profile. A whole interview hopefully will follow next time. But let me put down some links for you in order to get a more specific picture about Ralph Humphrey and what he did as a drummer.

Stay on or by(e)
Yours Cat

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Ralph’s books

Rhythm By The Numbers (book & dvd | 2015)*
Even In The Odds  (1980)

Recordings with Ralph Humphrey on

Frank Zappa & the Mothers – Roxy The Movie (2015)*
The Drummers of Frank Zappa (dvd | 2009)*
Manhattan Transfer – Swing (1997)*
David Garfield – Tribute To Jeff (1997)*
Wayne Shorter – Atlantis (1985)*
Al Jarreau – This Time (1980)*
Frank Zappa – Apostrophe (1974) & Over-Nite Sensation (1973)*
Don Ellis At Fillmore (1970)*

Recordings Ralph mentions in the video

Pete Fountain – Greatest Hits*
Paul Cacia feat. Jack Sperling – Portrait*
David Bowie – Black Star (2016)*
Chris Potter – The Sirens (2013)*

Ralph loves to play …

Yamaha Drums
Zildjian Cymbals (14″ K-Series Hi-Hats*, 17″ K Dark Thin Crash*, 18″ K Crash Ride*, 20″ Kerope Medium Ride*)
Vic Firth Sticks (5A American Classic*, Akira Jimbo*-, Jack DeJohnette*- and Keith Carlock-Signature Sticks*)
Remo Drumheads (Ambassador® Coated*, Ambassador® Hazy Snare*)
ProLogix Practice Pads

Getting in touch with Ralph


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  • The first time I heard Ralphs playing was on FZs Apostrophe. His performance in “Saint Alfonzo’s” is incredible. The frequent change of feels on the spot, the perfect time and technique, the breathtaking fluency….
    This man is a legend! Thanks for showing.

    • Thanks for watching and the feedback, Mick! 🙂

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