Nick D’Virgilio: Progressive Rock Drumming Tips (FULL DRUM LESSON)
Nick D’Virgilio: Progressive Rock Drumming Tips (FULL DRUM LESSON)

– What’s so cool about this style of music is that it encompasses all
the styles of drumming. If it feels good, anybody
who likes music at all can get into progressive rock. It kinda flows; it’s almost
waltz-like, you know? You can kind of flow
back and forth like this. To me, it’s way more
musical and groovy sounding. – Nicely done, buddy. – Thank you very much.
– Nicely done. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Nick D’Virgilio. Now, Nick, we’ve been talking a lot about gettin’ cha out here. It’s been a couple of years, I would say.
– Yeah. – [Dave] I’m so glad you’re here. – Thank you, man. It’s awesome to be here. – Yeah, absolutely. That was a medley from Spock’s Beard, one of the bands that you’ve recorded and played with many, many years. – That’s, that’s true. – And one of my favorites, actually. I’m a huge progressive rock fan. A lot of you guys know that, so to have you out, and to play that song, and for me to be able
to sit right beside you, that was very special to me, so thank you. – Thank you very much, I appreciate that. – Now, for all of you who
don’t know who Nick is, you gotta check him out. Obviously, we just mentioned,
he plays with Spock’s Beard. You’ve also done work with Genesis. You work a lot with Big Big Train. You also have done 14, and this is what really blew me away, you’ve done 1,400 shows
with Cirque du Soleil. – Yes. – [Dave] That’s a lot of shows. – It was, I never missed a gig. – [Dave] That’s insane. – I never, I never missed a show. – [Dave] That was over a
five-year spread, right? – Four years, and almost
through five years, yeah. – Wow, and that show was called TOTEM? – TOTEM, yeah. – And, so that was, that’s a lot of gigs. You have a lot of experience. You’ve also played with Tears for Fears. So, I mean, the list is massive. Go and check him out online. You can find him on Instagram at N-D-V, Nick D’Virgilio, musicfarm,
ndvmusicfarm on Instagram, and just search his name on Facebook. You’ll find him there. You also have a new
website that’s almost up. – Website’s almost done, so it’ll be, you know, open for business pretty soon. – Very cool. That’s just his name dot
com, without the apostrophe. – No, I, yes, without the apostrophe. – For the domain name.
– Yes, exactly. – And then check out Spock’s Beard., Spock’s Beard has a new album coming out, I imagine, very soon. – [Nick] May 25th, very soon,
the record will be released, and yeah, it’s pretty cool,
check it out, definitely. – For those watching on YouTube, it’s already been released,
so go and check it out there. Yeah, man, so we posted a social clip of you playing just to
kind of boost the lesson and promote the lesson. Everyone’s talking
about your cymbal salad. Explain what you’re playing with here, and why you chose all
these different mash-ups. – Okay, well, I work at this
place called Sweetwater, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I’m wearing this shirt here. And, now, my whole, basically, Sweetwater is the biggest
online retailer of gear, all kinds of gear, in the U.S. It’s a massive place, and it’s just a fantastic place
to work and make music at. Now that I’m there, in
my professional career as a playing drummer, I endorsed Mapex drums and MEINL cymbals and Aquarian heads and Vic
Firth sticks and stuff, and then now that I’m at Sweetwater, we sell every brand of drum. So, basically, I’m selling
every brand of drum. I’m not endorsing one particular thing. So what’s really cool about that is that I get to play
all of the stuff now. – Right, right. – And all these companies
make such beautiful gear. They really do. I know I was, we were
talkin’ about this at lunch a little bit, a little while ago. Excuse me, I dropped my ear. And a lot of drummers, you
know, we’re brand-specific. We get into a brand we
like, and we stick with it. Which is great, but now
that I’m at Sweetwater, I’m really spoiled. I get
to play with all the stuff and really find out the
nuances that each company has when they make their gear, and how they make their gear, and the, you know, the ideas behind it, and
it’s just a lot of fun. So, comin’ in here, you guys have a huge selection of cymbals here. – Yep. – So I just kinda went and I picked up a little bit of this and
a little bit of that, and this is what I got, yeah. – I love it, I love it. I think it’s the first time
we’ve had something like this. And everything blends together so well. Yeah, it’s all about the sound. So, but check out Sweetwater, if you’re in the U.S. and
you’re looking for gear, I mean, you guys are killin’ it, right. I’ve seen a lot of gear videos
that you’ve done as well, not educational wise, but just, well, I guess it’s– – Yeah, it’s more review
sort of kind of things, yes. And we’re trying to get a
little more educational stuff as we go on, but it’s basically, we’re here to review the gear, so the consumer can hear the gear and see it in its best light, and then decide if they wanna buy it. – Very cool. – Plain as that, yeah. – Well, today we’re talkin’
about progressive rock. – Yes, we are. – And I’m excited about this, because it’s, I’ve been, trying to produce progressive rock lessons is always tough, ’cause there’s
a mishmash of everything. You know, so we got you in because you’ve been playing
this style of music for years, recording it for years and writing it. So you’re the guy. So I’m gonna stop talkin’ and
let you kinda take it away. Progressive rock drumming tips. You even got a song that
everyone can download, so I’ll let you explain all that, man. – Yes, progressive rock. The great thing about
progressive rock in my mind, before I play the song
and get into the tips, is what’s so cool about
this style of music is that it encompasses all
the styles of drumming. I mean, it has, definitely rock and roll, but it encompasses funk
and jazz and Latin, and just everything in between. So you really have to, what gives you the impetus to go and learn a little bit about all
these different styles. You don’t have to be a lover of jazz. You might be a rocker. But it’s good to know a little bit of it. You learn the feel and the technique. And it sort of just adds to all of that, all of that vocabulary in
your brain about music. Progressive rock is a
great way to let it all out and to kind of learn a
little bit of everything. So that’s a really cool thing about it. Now I’m in a band called Big Big Train, and the song I’m gonna
play is off of a record called The Second Brightest Star, and it’s an instrumental called Haymaking. What’s really cool about this, where I thought it would be a cool song to play for the progressive
rock tip lesson here, is that it has a little
bit of all of that stuff. It’s got a lot of
groove, and it has groove going back and forth
between odd and even time, and I’ll show you how I’m thinking about going between those meters. It has a good, lot of chops and fill, sort of in the middle, sort of like a fast,
fusiony sort of section, and then a part where
I go over the bar line, so it has chops and just
kind of all the stuff encompassed in one about four-minute song. So I thought it would be
a good one to check out for this particular lesson. Also, we’re offering this
up as a free download. So you guys can play along with it at home and have fun with it. So it’s a fun track to play to. – Absolutely. – All right?
– Yeah. – So we’re gonna get into that now, yeah? And I’ll play the song, and then we’ll get into all the tips that we have. – Love it.
– Up for it, all right? – Love it. – There’s a lot goin’ on in that song. – There sure is.
– Yeah, so. – That’s why I thought it was a good one to pick for this particular thing. – Perfect, perfect. So the idea here is to just give us some tips of how you
kind of thought that through, what you were thinking about
when you wrote those parts, and any other kind of
tips that you can think of that’ll help us prog drummers out. – Okay, well as you know, in progressive rock, let me pull this right ear out here, progressive rock, you know, has
a lot of odd time signatures in general in the music. But in saying that, you
know, progressive rock can also be sometimes a
very stiff-sounding music. That’s why I was such
a big Phil Collins fan growing up as a kid,
because he was the drummer that took all of that kind
of weird, odd time signature, sort of music, and made a groove. He was a big fan of Motown
and R&B and funk music, which, as am I. So it was a cool way of melding
those two styles together. That’s what I’m trying to do here, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do in my particular playing. This song, at the beginning
part of this tune, I like to talk about going back and forth between odd and even time, and trying to make that
flow from one to the other. So, you know, you might feel the odd bar, but still there’s a pocket and
there’s a groove to the thing going back and forth
between the two things. So let’s play the first part of this song, and you’ll see how it goes back and forth between seven and four. – So we’re listening to the different time signature changes. – Yes, and I will count it out. I’m gonna play the part first, and kind of count it out with my voice. You can hear what I’m talkin’ about, and then I’ll show you what I mean playing along to it. So here’s the beginning of the tune. Here’s this one part. (“Haymaking” by Big Big Train)
– One, two, three, four, five, six seven, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, one, two, three, four, one. – Okay.
– Okay? But, the whole point is not
to make it sound all stiff and one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, one, like a robot. You want that to all kinda
flow into each other, so. – So how do you do that? – Well, what I was trying to accomplish was still giving a pocket to the things. One, two, pat, one, two, three, four, one. What I find, let me, before I play, a lot of times, I think
it’s way easier to count and feel odd time when you
don’t count every subdivision. So like this is in seven, the top part, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. I find it way easier to go, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, pa, pa, pa, pa, pa, pa. If, kinda flows, it’s
almost waltz-like, you know? You can kinda flow back
and forth like this. To me, it’s way more
musical and groovy sounding. Okay, and then, when it goes into four, I’m just playing four, and it’s the same with the
end of the phrase, too. So lemme show you what I
was talkin’ about here. And I’ll just play this one section, and we can stop and talk about it, okay? – Sounds good.
– Here we go. – Yeah, so it’s hard to tell that there is even a lot of– – Right, and basically
what I’m trying to do is play with the melody
and with the bass player. Not necessarily kind of map out the subdivisions of the bars
of seven and the bars of four, I’m trying to play musically
with the rest of the band. So I’m listening to
this violin melody line. (scatting along with violin) So that really is defining
the drum part for me. And then what happens is
that me and the bass player, Greg Spawton, we get together and he really knows how
to lock into my kick drum to where we really sort
of make a nice groove. But really, it’s listening
to the rest of the band, and what else is goin’ on there to really make your part
fit with all of that stuff. Because whether you’re in
a band, it’s all one thing. All of those parts come together
to make the song, right? So you don’t wanna stand out too much. You wanna just have it all be, sort of, until it’s your time to stand
out, you know what I mean? So that’s kinda how I
was thinkin’ about that. That’s the groovy part. Now in the middle part, there is this, what we call, what I’m callin’ like the chops section. And what’s really great for me
in this band, Big Big Train, is that I get to play a lot, even though I try to hold
back on certain times, I really get to kind of
let out the flourishes when the time comes. And this particular
part is all about that. So let’s play this one section, I’ll talk it through you. And it’s goin’ between seven and four, and seven, and four and seven. So here we go. So it’s, three four five six seven. (“Haymaking” by Big Big Train)
One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven one, two three, four, one, two, three, four, five, six, sev, one, two, three, four. And so on. And so it’s a (scatting). So that’s how I’m thinkin’ about the particular section here. Not really thinking in seven and four. I’m trying to hear that melody, hear that bass part, and kinda,
what’s gonna fit with that? And now I have to put chops and flourishes in between all that. So what I did was, is the first half I’m playin’ around and doin’
fills in between all of that. And in the second half of this thing, I went for what I sort
of call the old style Billy Cobham, Lenny White sort of groove, which I think works a lot, works really well in a lot
of these kinds of situations. So. I sort of call that the
Lenny White kind of vibe. That corners it. That’s what I was thinkin’
of when I put this here. So lemme play this section, and then we can talk about how I was thinkin’ about these parts. How I’m thinkin’ about that is, so, you have this, the first, again, I’m thinkin’ in the melody. I’m thinkin’ about the
melody and the bass part. All of these kind of fills and things I’m putting are in between. So you’re not gonna cover
up that part of the song. Those melodies, very important. It’s very, sounds really
pretty, it’s nice. So you don’t wanna kinda
have all the cymbals and toms and stuff kinda washing all that away. So I’m trying to think of things that are gonna go in between. So it’s one, two, diga diga diga, one, two, spaka diga diga dun. So a good way to practice that kinda particular bar of seven, when I’m thinkin’ about this, take my, keep my ear off, so it’s one, two, diga diga dum, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, like we talked about earlier. So I’m thinkin’ one, two, fill. One, two, fill. One, two, fill. That kinda thing. But the fills can be anything. So it’s a cool thing to practice, so just, you can put on
your metronome at seven, and a cool way to make your metronome play the particular subdivision. So it’s not playing all
of the eighth notes, it’s just playing one, dat, dat, dat-dat, dat, dat, dat-dat, kind of
internalize and feel that. So. Making sense?
– Yeah. – I’m tryin’ to just kinda fill
in the back half of the bar, and kind of stay out of the way of that particular melody line. And that’s sort of my thought process with any song like that. You know, when it’s
time to put in the chops and time to put in those
flourishes and to show off, make sure you do it in a musical way that’s not overtaking the whole thing. You know, unless it’s, I’ll give one caveat to that. If it’s a drum song, if it’s like, if it’s all about the drums, then go for it. But this is a, you know, this
particular song and this band, it’s, like I said, it encompasses all of the other instruments. So you have to be mindful of that, and place your chops and your
flourishes in the right spot, or at least try to. That’s what I’m thinkin’ of here. – Yeah, and I think it’s
important to mention that, because a lot of prog music, a lot of times the drummers
and all the musicians think it’s their time to just solo and do whatever they want,
or that as much as they can, because it’s a musician’s kind of style, or a lot of people would think that way. But you still have to have reservations and play to the music. – Right, and it doesn’t have to be a musician’s style of music. It can appeal to all kinds of people who listen to pop and stuff. If you know how to make it
feel good to the listener, – [Dave] Totally. – and to you as well, but if you know how to make it feel good to where it just feels comfortable, no matter how technical
the music actually is, if it feels good, anybody
who likes music at all can get into progressive rock. You know, it’s not this
foreign kinda thing. It’s just sometimes it can get too wiggly. There’s too much flourishing goin’ on, so that’s why all the musos love it, because, you know, there’s lots of chops and lots of technical stuff goin’ on, which is fantastic. But if you wanna kinda
broaden the spectrum and get more people to your shows and broaden your base,
you have to appeal to them a little bit at least, you know, and make it as musical
sounding as possible. – So yeah, even the chops
that you’re doin’ there, they fit well, they’re
smooth, they’re always, and sometimes you blend those odd time signatures
together through that. That’s very cool. – Right, and this particular thing, you know, I’m just, it’s
a lot of just 16th notes, these particular chops
that I’m throwing in this particular style. So it’s one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven, that’s the eighths, but then the 16ths would
just be double that speed. Diga, diga, diga, diga,
diga, diga, diga, diga, diga, diga, diga, di, so you just kind of, it’s not really getting too technical as far as putting in triplets and stuff that’s goin’ over the bar line. I’m just kinda filling in the spaces that are already there. So it’s technical sounding, but not too outside to
the mainstream listener. – Right. So what about when you
get to the technical parts in terms of, there’s a lot of different time signatures happening? That’s probably, might be
one of the hardest parts to this style, is just having
so many different changes. How do you internalize that? – You don’t have to count
all of the subdivisions. You just don’t have to do that. Feel it, any way you want. But I think that one of the best ways is to feel the rhythm that’s in there. Like this particular one. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one. That seems to be way
more comfortable to me, and this kind of flowing,
back-and-forth feeling. Even though the seven is there, two, three, four, five, six, seven, one. It’s hard to count that
fast in your brain, and count, and have
that counting go so fast in your brain while you’re
playing, know what I mean? It’s tough to kinda keep all that going. But if you just kinda relax, and you’re playing at this tempo, bomp, two, three, four, one, two, three, ba, ba, you’re kinda just, it’s kind
of this dance that you’re doing with your drum kit in
that particular time. And this could be any time signature. Doesn’t have to be seven. Same with five, or even longer ones. What I tend to do for these longer ones that are, you know, 13,
15, 17, stuff like that, is to break it up into pieces. So if it’s 15, I’d break
it up into seven and eight, or whatever the rhythm
that is underneath it. But you don’t have to
count all of those notes to get up to 15 or 17, that kinda stuff. Break it up into chunks. It’s way easier, internalize
the odd time there. – You have a piece that you have that you’ve pulled out of the song that you can count out for us? – Yeah, we could do that. This particular thing goes from, it goes from four to
seven, to six, to seven, to four, to seven, four, seven, five, nine, five and seven. – Jeez. – (laughing) Now, that sounds hard, but it’s really, it’s
not as hard as it sounds. So I’ll play it and count out for you, and again, I’m not counting
all the subdivisions. I’m kind of breaking it up, and like we were just talkin’ about. So here we go. (“Haymaking” by Big Big Train)
Three, four, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, one, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four, five,
six, seven, eight, nine, one, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, one. – Jeez. – Now, it’s not as hard
as it sounds, okay? – Okay. – Speaking all this, and
it’s such a fast tempo, it sounds difficult, but it’s
not as difficult as it sounds. It’s a pattern that’s
going from four to seven, four to seven, you’ve gone back and forth, one, two, three, four, five, four times, so it just goes back and
forth from four to seven. And then just to change
it up a little bit, which is typical progressive rock, you add a couple extra notes in one and a couple extra notes in another, just for the heck of it. So that’s where you have a bar of five and a bar of nine, and it’s just really extending the phrase that the other musicians
are playing by a little bit. And then it rounds it out
with one last bar of seven to finish, to get you
into the next section. I’m not trying to count what’s going on like we were just showin’, I’m just splicing up
the bars for the viewer and the listener here. But what I’m really tryin’
to do when I hear this is to play with that
flute and violin melody goin’ on in the background. So what’s really fun about
this particular section is that I can kinda play
sort of over the bar line, I’m accenting the second beat of the bar and different things like that, and not really hitting the one that often. Lemme show you what
I’m talkin’ about here. So I’m using, I’m usin’ the China and the ride cymbal to go back and forth to try
and accent the flute melody, and the flute-violin melody. Goin’ back and forth is kinda accenting those accents that they’re playing. That’s how I was thinking about it when I came up with this part. Let me do that one more time, see if you can hear that
a little bit more cleanly. – Okay.
– One more time. So now, when I’m thinkin’, when I’m, how I internalize is to memorize this part when I play it live, and play it here like this, is that I’m not thinkin’
of the bars at all. I’m just hearing the other players and playing to them. And it becomes a phrase. You start learning,
internalizing the whole thing as a phrase in your head, and you don’t worry about the bars of seven and five and nine
and all that kind of stuff. That goes out the window, and you just sort of, you feel the music, which is really where you wanna get with any style of music you’re playing. It kind of stinks to have to, I played in bands where I’ve had to just, there was no way I could ever
learn a difficult passage. Make cheat sheets, have, you know, things written on my drums and stuff to get through stuff. And that’s, it’s a challenge to be able to get through a
difficult passage like that, but it’s so much better when
you can just internalize it, forget about looking at charts
and notes and cheat sheets and just play the song. So that’s kind of what I
was thinkin’ about here when I came up with this part. I’m listening and trying
to learn the melody that I’m playing along to. – [Dave] Right, then you’re not counting. – It really helps, and
then you don’t count. The counting kinda goes out the window. – Yeah, and that’s one
of the hardest parts, when you have songs
that are 17, 20 minutes, how do you remember all that stuff, and how, do you count
the whole thing, like? – No, you don’t wanna count. Counting is only there as a fail-safe if you have to go do it. You know, when you’re learning, when you’re at the beginning
of learning how to play odd and odd times and this
kind of harder music, sure, you count, and you count
every note if you have to. But the goal is to
internalize it in your body, and in your brain, and not
worry about the counting. You just feel the music as a whole. – Right. – I know that’s easier said than done, but that should be the goal, because that’s when it
makes it all musical, and that, start to feel a lot better to the listener, and to
you as a player, too. You wanna feel good when you’re up there. You’re supposed to be havin’ fun and feeling music, not counting music, you know, especially when
you’re in a performance. In the studio, maybe you’re
not worrying about watching, you know, entertaining people, you’re just there to
coming up with a part, but if you’re on a live stage, the whole point is to be an entertainer and to give everybody a good time. So you don’t wanna be
thinkin’ about counting, closing your eyes, goin’ one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. You just wanna be rockin’
away and havin’ a good time. So it really helps to internalize it by any means necessary, really. – I love that. So you’re listening to the melody line, you’re listening to the different
parts, not just the count. You’re working on making
everything kind of flow together, so–
– Definitely trying to, yeah. – Trying to. What about like, suddenly
hiding some of those chops? You have, you’re playing a lot in there. How do you fit them in? How do you fit everything in the song? – My mindset is, when it’s time for chops
and the flourishes, make them stand out, but not take over. Make it sort of like an exciting thing. That’s why playing simple, when you play simple for a
nice extended period of time and then the chops come, it’s like whoa. Where’d that come from? Wow! And then what’s cool is
that it adds anticipation and motion for the rest of the tune, so you’re like setting up
the song for the next thing. And so that’s sort of how I try to fit in. When it comes time, I see
the amount of space I have, and see what’ll fit in there, you know. And it just, you know, it’s practice and trial and error and
all that kinda stuff. So I got another section of the tune, speakin’ of that. So this next section is a groovier part. It comes after this kind of crazy thing from goin’ back and forth, and this goes back and forth
between seven and four, but it’s much groovier. I’m supposed to, the point of this was to just kind of let it flow, while, the technical side of it
is doing some ghost notes and stuff like that underneath. Sometimes you can play a simple part and add all of that kind of linear, ghosting stuff underneath, and all of a sudden, you’re becoming a drummer and a percussionist
at the same time. All of that ghost stuff underneath you’re playing on the snare drum and stuff is, think of it as the
shaker part, you know, that kind of stuff. Your hi-hat, playing a lot of, keep in time and playing fast, could be the tambourine part. You put a tambourine on
your hi-hat if you want and add those kinds of sounds. But with all of it based around a nice, groovy playing part, okay? So with that said, let me play this next section, and I’ll count it out first for ya. (“Haymaking” by Big Big Train) One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one. That’s kinda what I’m doin’ here, okay? So it’s goin’ back between seven and four. Check out what’s going on in the music before I play the drums, so you can hear what I’m playin’ to. Ba, da, boom, boom. So the bass part’s just goin’
boom, bowm, bom, bom, bam, doo, da, dun, bow, bom,
bom, dan, doo da dun. So what’s gonna fit with
that, is what I’m thinkin’ of. Now, I did have some direction
from our bass player, Greg, when I was recording this. He said, I want you to do
that sort of Phil Collins-y, sort of, lot of stuff underneath, the kind of percolating
stuff underneath that. So that gives me room to do that, but I still have to, I’m
still listening to his part going okay, so how am
I gonna fit all of that with dom, bowm, bom, don, kam, doo ba dun. ‘Cause it’s not fast, it’s
kind of mid-tempo, right? All right, so here we go. So the bar of seven I’m playing is, This one I’m really mapping out the bars. I feel, at least. I can really hear the bar of seven. So this is the, this is
how it’s breakin’ up. That’s the bar of seven. One, two, three, ba ba. One, two, three, four, five, sicafa. That’s the bar of seven. And then the bar of four after it is just getting back to your basic
backbeat of a 4/4 groove. Bomp, two, three, a half-time feel. So lemme play it without the music. – [Dave] Sure. (drum music) – So a cool way to practice
something like this before you, is to just
play the bars of seven over and over and over again. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. One, two. (drumsticks clacking) (drum music) So I’m playing the kick drum like I was speaking out this other part, just a second ago. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. I feel if you don’t think of every note in the bar, if you break it out into smaller parts, it’s way easier to feel the
seven over and over again. And now, goin’ back and forth now, play the bar of four, the
sort of half time feel, which is pretty typical and normal. One. Typical half time groove. Now, try and put the two together. One, two, three. So, and really, what happens is once you have that sort of internalization of the odd bar, whatever the time is, you’re not counting every
beat of the subdivision, you can do all kinds of stuff in there. You start, it really frees your mind up tremendously to just be creative, to use all the chops. When you sit down at that
practice pad every day and you start workin’ on your
flams and your paradiddles, and you’re workin’ around the kit and all this kind of stuff, this is where it all comes together. When you stop counting, and you’re just feeling
all of that practice you do on the pad and at home can come out on your kit and in the songs that you’re recording. It really is, I think, a huge help to be able to internalize
and feel those things, and breaking it apart I think is a good way to think about it. – I love it. And, yes, I’ll have the track, well, you’ll be able to download the track once this hits the archives so you can practice this stuff with the stuff that you
were just talking about, with the demonstrations, with the actual song by Big Big Train. Now, lots of great tips in there. I really liked hearing how
you kind of broke it down and how you thought of it and the stuff you were
thinking when you were playing. Any other tips, any other last-minute
tips you’d like to add? – A really good tip, I
think, in progressive rock is dynamics and musicality. So you have to, again,
take all that training that you do on the practice pad where you work on your, the height of your
stick and your technique and all of those things come apart, come into the dynamics of
the song you’re playing. So there needs to be swells
of volume and drops in volume, and swells of excitement
and then relaxation and all this kind of stuff. That’s what makes songs
so, music so wonderful, is you get tension and release
and all of these things. So playing with dynamics is a huge part. So that thing that I
played from Spock’s Beard at the beginning of this whole thing, it’s a lot of fun because there’s parts where I can just beat the living heck out of the cymbals and the snare drum, but then I have to kinda bring it back and just kinda let it flow for a minute, and then when it’s time you do it again, and then just, the swell
of excitement is in there. So dynamics is a huge part. Playing soft, you never wanna just play all of the same volume
all the way through, no matter what you’re doin’. So that’s one of the biggest tips. Really kind of flow with the music, ‘kay? And technique is a really good way. So when you practice playing soft, practice playing really soft. It’s a good way. And practice your technical stuff at all kinds of volumes, all right? So that particular thing, I’ll play going back and forth between the seven and the four, just because that’s what
we were talkin’ about. But I’ll try and play it for
you like I’m talkin’ about. Really soft to really loud and then everywhere in between. And, just demonstrate that. So here we go, from seven into four. Two, three, four, one, two, three, four. The point in playing
it like that is to show there can be so much
musicality and excitement when you play soft and precise and, and quietly, as there can
be when you’re bashing, you know, the bejeebers
out of your drum kit. Bejeebers is a very technical term, ‘kay? It’s my own term, but it is. My wife makes fun of me, I say all kinds of stupid
things that aren’t, I make up my own language
sometimes, you know? – I love it. We’re gonna leave it there, ’cause we’re running low on time here. But we have a full course that we’re gonna be
filming with you, Nick. It’s all on the four
pillars of progressive rock. We’re gonna expand on these tips. These are just– – Yeah, this is, this is small. We’re kinda just getting into little bits. But tomorrow, yeah, we’re gonna get into, into much more detail
of all of these things. – Yes, yes. So make sure you come
check us out We’re gonna do a full course as well as a podcast tomorrow as well, so it’s gonna be a lot
of cool things happenin’. And thanks again for comin’ out, Nick! – Dude, this is a pleasure, man. I’m a fan of Drumeo, all
of just the amazing players that have been in this room. It’s a real honor for
me to be sitting here knowing all of the great guys and gals that have played for
Drumeo over the years. So I can’t thank you guys
enough for having me along. – Wow, man, you’re more than welcome. You’re always welcome here. Now you’ve got a home here, and set up this song before we roll out. What is this song called,
and play one for us. – Okay, so the new Spock’s record is coming out on May 25th,
which is pretty soon, here. And almost every Spock’s record that I’ve been involved with, our keyboard player Ryo
Okumoto writes an instrumental. And he writes some crazy instrumentals. And this one is crazy. I hope I, I mean I practiced this a ton. I think I can get through the whole thing. So it’s called Box of Spiders, and this goes, I mean, all over the place. It would take a whole hour just to kinda talk you through
all the bars in this thing. It’s a nutty song, but
it’s a lot of fun to play. – And just for the
record, you’ve got notes. – I do, what I have here, I have my iPad and my little Bluetooth page turner down here by my left foot. – So I can, this is a great
thing to have on gigs and stuff. It’s really, the technology’s great. So, but what I’m looking
at is not the drum part. He doesn’t really have
a drum part written out. It’s the bass part. But what helps me is I can
see the rhythm of the notes and I can see the way the bars break up and I can see the time signature, when the time changes
from four to 10 or nine, and back and forth. So it just helps me follow
along this particular piece. Now, this piece is hard. I’m sure I could probably memorize it if I played it a million
times, but in this situation, we were just talkin’ about what do you do to kinda help you through. This is one of the things. (laughing) – Very cool. Okay, well, enjoy the song. It’s the new one from Spock’s Beard. It’s called Box of Spiders. Make sure you follow Nick online. You can find him on
Facebook and Instagram, on his website, just
search his name on Google and you’ll find everything. Thank you again, and bye-bye.
– Thank you.

100 thoughts on “Nick D’Virgilio: Progressive Rock Drumming Tips (FULL DRUM LESSON)”

  1. Willy V. TV says:

    Shout out to the Indiana drummers! Nick is awesome!

  2. Bill Bigler says:

    Phenomenal lesson. And yes is a very humble and personable guy. He is the kind of teacher you just want to learn from.

  3. Dennis Rivenburg says:

    Holy crap I've only seen him do demo videos of products before this, awesome playing and those dw drums sound amazing.

  4. David Hale says:

    Get Phil Collins' son, Nic Collins on here!!

  5. Squonk says:

    Please try to get Blake Richardson of Between The Buried and Me to do a Drumeo video soon too! He is also a prog/death metal guy that has technical chops you would not believe. His brain and his groove is otherworldly, please try to make that happen!

  6. turtlenecks says:

    This was fantastic. I always wondered whether progressive rock drummers playing complicated music counted out all the parts, or just memorized the phrases.

  7. Bruce Villa says:

    I swear this guy sounds like Casey Kasem.

  8. klchu says:

    He also played with Kevin GIlbert! He even help complete KG's posthumous album.

  9. David Bergman says:

    Aside from being an EXCELLENT musician, Nick always comes off as very humble and genuine. Glad to learn more about his playing-thanks Drumeo!

  10. Dave Gods says:


  11. Alfonso Quintanilla says:

    It's the sweetwater guy

  12. Seantagonist says:

    no sheet music ?

  13. DjinnePasse says:

    Great drumming but that instrumental is terrible :/

  14. bat trap baby says:

    Omg yass!!!!! 😗 I love him

  15. Kevin Osborn says:

    It finally happened.

  16. Maria Carrillo says:

    loved every part of this lesson: nick is a passionate drummer and an amazing teacher!! we need more of him in Drumeo! we need more of him and his passion in our drumming.

  17. Sebastiao Lago Jr says:

    Amazing drummer! I love Big Big Train!

  18. Trevor Schnedler says:

    Unreal. Best video ever! Been listening to Spock's Beard since Octane came out. Nick is soooo good. Watching these great drummers I badly need to build my left foot independence for running hi hat in the background. If anyone has tips they are much appreciated.

  19. Alex Mok says:

    He should’ve done the singing as well.

  20. Martin Gregory says:

    Brilliant video. Thanks! Nick is simply superb. So glad he is playing with the fabulous BBT.

  21. Ted Schoenling says:


  22. Ted Schoenling says:

    Nick is such a musical player… always a joy to hear him!

  23. Mike Delima says:

    He is a smart musician.

  24. Damian Quadro says:

    There's not a single cymbal brand that has the best cymbal for every type of cymbal in my opinion, so… Cymbal salad for me waiter!!!

  25. erik Jacobsen says:

    This man is incredible

  26. Matthew * says:

    when you don't play the pocket, you get vergilio'd .

  27. BrendrumJones says:

    great player, fantastic speaker to i thought he only did reviews.

  28. Torbjörn Janson says:

    This is such an inspirational video drumming lesson by one of the absolutely finest musicians I know!

  29. Sideoutside says:

    I hate progressive music. But I love hearing their drummers! Nick, Gavin, awesome stuff!

  30. Jordan Kaiser says:

    @Drumeo: could you PLEASE tell me what china cymbal he was using on the far right? LOVE THE SOUND OF THAT THING and finding the right sounding china is tough IMO. Brand, model, size and all. Thanks!!

  31. Adam Block says:

    I think Frost* do a real good job of making prog music for ordinary folk, as well.

  32. Geoff Gill says:

    I also watched Nick destroy Totem w/ Cirque. the day i checked the show (hanging backstage w/ Charlie Dennard on keys), he was playing as Musical Director that day…so in addition to playing the parts perfectly, he is counting everyone in, cueing stuff, etc. We are talking Zappa level awesomeness.

  33. Henk-Jan Wormgoor says:

    Thanks. Like prog. rock. Great drummer. Great Lesson.

  34. Post Toastee says:

    When talking modern progressive drummers, Mike Portnoy comes to mind. For me, Nick D'Virgilio is right up there. Spock's Beard, Kevin Gilbert, you name it. Great drummer and a great guy, and an amazing singer as well.

  35. Jerónimo Luis Dalla Via says:

    One of the best drummers. Great.

  36. יניב בלאס says:

    helooo from israel….

  37. Diatonic5th says:

    I love the loose feel approach that he uses in odd time signatures. It almost swings a little bit and doesn't sound clinical or soulless.

  38. Chris West says:

    What set of zildjian hats is he using? Thanks.

  39. Ian Touzel says:

    Effortless, such a pleasure to watch you play.

  40. David says:

    you guys put out top notch videos! ….Very thankful you guys put up this free content for drummers! fantastic stuff

  41. Enzo Nicita says:

    My favorite drummer in the world… Always he smiles, he feels the music… Thanks Nick for your music.

  42. Davey Long says:

    Cool dude, great video!

  43. Ben Levi says:

    Nick! Nick! Yes!!!!

  44. Michael Claudio says:

    NICK IS AMAZING!!! ONE OF MY FAVORITE DRUMMERS!!! seems like such an amazing guy.

  45. Nathan Walsh says:

    Great drummer and great guy but always reminds me of Guy Smiley from Sesame Street…

  46. Johnny Tsunami says:

    Immaculate technique

  47. Carlos Trillo Mitjans says:

    he's having a lot of fun…

  48. Rockton Privatmusikschule says:

    Its all about the music. He is a great drummer, singer and musician. I can here a lot of Collins influence in his playing. Both are so underrated. Great!

  49. Joel Redula says:

    One of my all time favorite drummers. Very versatile and he can play almost all instruments. Amazing and talented man. It's great to see him in Drumeo.

  50. The Guy From WI says:

    This is up there with Kaz's lesson. Not sure whether to call you a monster or a gentlemen.. thank you Nick and Drumeo!

  51. Mike Flavin says:

    Who are the 14 losers down voting the great NDV??

  52. Goro Daimon says:

    Favorite drummer

  53. Nitro says:

    Love that he used a collaboration of the best cymbals he could put together for this setup. That China sounds amazing and I hate those things! All in all Nick is a solid drummer who I love watching even if it's a demo on sweetwater.

  54. malebitch92 says:

    best part: 19:56

  55. james mccarthy says:

    No thanks get Steve Smith Dave weckl Vinnie or Marco minimum please?

  56. Glockenspiel 223 says:

    Get Scott Travis to attend Drumeo! That would be Awesome.

  57. AWMA Ace says:

    That china😭😭

  58. Roger Singh says:

    I came to see The Great NDV!

  59. Kira Sundberg says:

    i think i cited this guy for a science fair paper i did

  60. Waylen Beare says:

    Aye Sweetwater guy

  61. bill boquet says:

    Better than the bitch Mangini

  62. Robert Latzer says:

    Simply amazing.

  63. Ian W says:

    Really great lesson! I seen this guy do demos for Sweetwater drum gear, but I had no idea he was such an awesome drummer. Much respect

  64. David Wheeler says:

    Flowing artistry and a naturally gifted player! Great musician and teacher. Awesome skills, thanks Nick!

  65. David Wheeler says:

    The realization that odd times are counted at different tempos within the section/part is an ah ha moment for musicians/drummers. Ex. 1, 2, 3,.1234567, 1, 2, 3, 4,.1234567. Cool great way to phrase and understand the feel and make the music have groove.

  66. The True Naastmorkh says:

    what about the russian market?

  67. Evan Frankel says:

    Maybe you can get into progressive rock drumming if you have $1,000,000 dollars worth of symbols and equipment

  68. Bill Brandt says:

    You SOLD me Nick – I'm totally jazzed about playing progressive music and I'm looking for a progressive band to join.

  69. fanfan fanfan says:

    C'est super jubilatoire de te voir jouer Nick. Je suis un fan absolu, oui tu as au moins un fan en France, je plaisante!!!! Merci, merci etttttttt merci

  70. Darin Wood says:

    How did I miss this 4 months ago? I really enjoy hearing about the thought process that goes into play the song. Excellent explanation of how to play odd time.

  71. Blackasthesky says:

    I have played prog and odd signatures years before learning how notes and signatures even work, all by feeling, instead of counting. That really sucks often, but it also helps listening to the band and using their melodies and grooves and adapting to it.

  72. gabrieldaigle says:

    Beyond amazing. Always in the groove. Always smooth and flawless. That sticking on the snare alone kills me. I can only aspire to be Nick. And a super nice guy. If I could add one more item to his portfolio it would be his time with Kevin Gilbert. Go check out the Shaming of the True, the album released after Kevin's death. He had a huge part in finishing that thing up. A masterpiece. As is most everything Nick touches.

  73. L.R, Music says:

    D'Virgilio is a beast behind the kit.

  74. Dragon Slayer says:

    Other than classical there is no other music than Prog. The rest is elevator music for Orcs.

  75. marshmello witisfy says:

    That is a very cool drum lesson and ilike drum lessons if they are long📺🎩🛄😮

  76. Torbjörn Janson says:

    Watching this for the umpteenth time!! I love this man!! The finest drummer out there!!! Period!!

  77. Jerome Michael Tarona says:

    I believe everything Nick D'Virgilio does and says in sweetwater, He's one of the most luckiest guys to have fun at work playing all the nice drum kits, gears and whatever he could get his hands on. I love the way he does his magic on the drums.

  78. Dave Mieze says:

    That kit sounds soooo good. And nick is just a killer player.

  79. KCrimsoniano says:

    A great drummer and a great singer too

  80. Wayne Baker says:

    Great drummer and would rather see him demo a kit than anyone else. Only lacking in killer double bass rudiments but knowledge is every style of music.

  81. Ed van Esch says:

    Man I love to hear Nick talk. Cool!

  82. Chris R says:

    Love Nick. Great drummer, great teacher, great person. I would love to meet him! He seems really cool!

  83. David McAninch says:

    A wise man said, “it is important to draw wisdom from different sources. If you draw it from only one source, it becomes rigid and stale.” That man was Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

  84. Jesusname71 says:

    Awesome Drummer! One Of The Best!🤘🤘

  85. Revolutionaire Rebel says:


  86. Jhonnattan Alexander Cornejo Herrera says:

    Nick uno de mis bateristas favoritos, tanto su tecnica y la forma del desempeño como musico. saludos desde El salvador

  87. Zafrius Rasnake says:


  88. Papapoo Do says:

    Fuckin' good!!!

  89. BFO says:

    Crashes? 😍

  90. teh yi shern says:

    Lesson Index:
    0:00 – SONG: "Snow Medley"
    4:34 – Introduction
    8:37 – Lesson begins
    10:27 – "Haymaking" by Big Big Train
    14:20 – How to make prog rock groove
    17:54 – Chops in prog rock
    23:37 – Counting and structure tipe
    30:32 – How to write parts that fit
    43:14 – SONG: "Box of spiders" by Spock's Beard

  91. Brad Anderson says:

    I just love Nick!

  92. AeroSS87 says:

    Which China is that??

  93. Cody McElroy says:

    “Ok so I work at this place called Sweetwater.” Oh we know.

  94. Jellybeantiger says:

    Love prog,my fav genre of music especially all the classic 70s stuff.

  95. Harry Davis says:

    so effortless

  96. Kevin Thompson says:

    Is there anything this man can't do? :), always seems like a nice guy too. His vocal performance on "The Bottom Line" is amazing and soulful, puts a lot of so-called lead vocalists to shame frankly.

  97. pedro gabriel says:

    The one and only Nick di Virgílio!

  98. Rita Brooks says:

    Nick is a great player. Really getting sick of the tired most underrated drummer comments. Get some new material!

  99. David McAninch says:

    What Nick is saying reminds me of a saying from one of my favorite cartoon characters of all time: “It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others will help you become whole.”

  100. Alessandro Beato says:

    very godd job! underrated this man… he plays in a way similar to Collins

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