Rich Lackowski: On The Beaten PathThe Drummer’s Guide to Musical Styles And the Legends Who Defined Them

On The Beaten Path is a must-have guide for drummers, providing insight into the history and development of a wide selection of genres, including Funk, Alternative/Punk Rock, Metal, Progressive Rock, Classic Rock, Jam Band, Fusion, Jazz, and Reggae, and explores the legendary drummers that impacted each style. The book will lead you through the styles, licks, and grooves that made each artist famous, with insight into their approaches, the gear they used, the bands they played in, and the drummers who influenced them. The easy-to-follow lessons delve into authentic transcriptions of 85 infamous beats and solos from songs by Led Zeppelin, The Who, Rush, Metallica, The Police, Dream Theater, and others. Dozens of amazing photos are featured as well as a listing of essential recordings. All the beats and solos that are presented in the book are performed on the accompanying CD.

Drummers covered include Travis Barker (blink-182), Carlton Barrett (Bob Marley and The Wailers), Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews Band), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Danny Carey (Tool), Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Tré Cool (Green Day), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Sly Dunbar (Sly & Robbie, Black Uhuru, Peter Tosh), Topper Headon (The Clash), Bill Kreutzmann & Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead), Gene Krupa (Benny Goodman Orchestra), Keith Moon (The Who), Vinnie Paul (Pantera), Neil Peart (Rush), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Buddy Rich, Max Roach (Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Ringo Starr, Clyde Stubblefield & John "Jabo" Starks (James Brown), Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Dave Weckl (Chick Corea), Tony Williams (Miles Davis), and many more!

Aimed at drummers of all skill levels, from enthusiasts to advanced players, this 250 page book provides a beginner, intermediate, and advanced lesson for each drummer. It's library, and at $29.95 (SRP) for the book and CD, it also makes a great gift! Now available at your local drum shop or favorite online dealer.


Congratulations to Rich Lackowski for all the time, energy and hard work that he obviously put into this book. As you might guess with a 250-page book, there's a lot of information here ... so let me break it down for you.

The book is divided into nine style categories; Funk, Alternative/Punk Rock, Metal, Progressive Rock, Classic Rock, Jam Band, Fusion, Jazz, and Reggae. Each style section begins with a general historical overview of the style and a time line which begins in 2006 (the year the book was written, not published) and works backwards, noting various important (or interesting) milestones for the given style. Despite what the subtitle says ("The Drummer’s Guide to Musical Styles And the Legends Who Defined Them") it's important to note that is not a thorough or in-depth work on drumming styles. It is however, as the author points out, a book which guides you through a cross-section of drummers, all of which played a role in defining the music style they were most known for.

For each of the nine music style genres in the book, three drummers are featured, each one with:

  • A brief bio and photo(s)
  • Quotes about the drummer
  • Drum set-up diagram and equipment listing
  • Three different grooves; one for each level (Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced).

At the end of each style section the author provides a list of other drummers from the genre that "you should know". The cited drummers are briefly discussed along with a list of "must-have recordings".

The fundamental strength of this book is that each groove (that is three grooves, times three drummers, times nine styles) is accurately notated with the original tune's tempo and is broken down into a mini drum lesson. In addition, the supplemental CD that comes with the book demonstrates each groove at the correct tempo. Another way to look at this is 27 lessons for each level student (Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced); that's 81, plus a few extras totalling 85 different grooves in all.

As great as this book is, there are a few things that bother me about it. First, a vast majority of the set-up diagrams and equipment lists are circa 2006 ... as opposed to set-ups from the time period when the grooves were actually recorded and/or made famous. Perhaps a mute point, but the ad for this book says "the gear they used", and should read the gear they use ... not used. A few caveats would be deceased drummers and those drummers whose set-ups have been well documented by other sources. I'm sure readers who enjoy seeing the set-ups of their drum heroes won't mind a bit. Personally I don't think I would have included 2006-2007 set-ups, especially since most of them are current and readily available on the Internet. The few old/original set-ups provided are definitely nice and help to give a bit of sense and insight into the artist's approach and sound.

Another minor irritant is how several of the drummers or the groups they play with have been categorized. Some will agree while a vast majority may disagree, but I just don't think of Chad Smith and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as funk, but rather alternative rock with elements of funk, punk and psychedelic rock. I don't think of Stewart Copeland and The Police as a reggae, rather a rock band with elements of reggae, punk and jazz. These are just two examples that come to mind after working through the book. It's not a big deal perhaps, but it may be misleading to a young/beginner drummer. The good news is that On The Beaten Path always cites at least one drummer/ band in each of the nine music genres that are without a doubt in the correct category.  That's the problem with labels I guess, but we do need them for clarification purposes. I have to believe that the author is trying to show would-be students the roots players as well as those artists that took their influences into a pop (western) culture.

Lastly I'd like to point out how important it is for those using this book to actually go back and listen to the original artist's recording. While the author does a fine job of performing and recording the grooves on the enclosed CD, there are sometimes subtle things missing in the performance that are crucial ... to my ears at least. Things like the ghost-strokes, on particular grooves, not being quite soft enough, or the phrasing isn't quite like the original drummer's performance. As picky as I may sound, if we are going to fully learn and glean from the masters, we've got to move beyond the notes on the page and get into the feel and musical phrasing. It's these subtleties that separate us from those who defined the style/groove/feel. Overall, the CD is great, demonstrating how to take a groove and make it your own; a fine supplement to the book. The CD definitely ssists the reader with making sure he/she is correctly performing the coordination aspects of the notated groove. Too bad a sound byte from the original artist recordings could not be used, but then you wouldn't have the benefit of the isolated drum track like we get with this supplemental CD.

Drummers who are just starting their journey will find On The Beaten Path a huge benefit. If you don't have time to do your own transcriptions, a valuable learning tool in itself, this book has done most of the homework for you. Can't read music? The book gives a nice overview of standard music/drum/rhythm notation. If you can't find an drum instructor to study with locally, you'll find this book extremely helpful. If you do have an instructor, this would make a fine book to use while learning the many styles of a wide variety of household name drummers! Even the pro/advanced drummer will get something from this book, especially if you haven't studied some of the stylings of the artists included.