THE YIN AND YANG OF SENRI KAWAGUCHI

She looks like a typical wholesome young lady in her cardigan, loose shirt, and sneakers, her hair in bangs at the front and ponytail in the back, and her frame slight, almost delicate. Were it not for the guests expecting her and the Yamaha executives by her side, she would be unobtrusive, invisible even, as she is soft-spoken and quiet, attributes magnified further perhaps by the face mask she adorns in light of the global coronavirus scare. She picks up a pair of drumsticks and tries to find a comfortable angle on the drum stool.

She hits the snare—a Yamaha Absolute Hybrid Maple—and extracts a loud fat snappy tone that rattles the room. She then plays the entire kit with a mid-tempo funk groove so taut you could practically hang a couple of shirts that would consequently flap with each rapid double kick accent. The Recording Custom kit is barely in tune, the tom angles yet to be adjusted but she immediately is in command of the instrument: her pulse is forceful.  For eight bars, she transformed into a monster, albeit still a delicate one, as she made the drums sound like thunder. She stops, points out a couple of immediate adjustments to be made. After basic tweaks are made and a few more groove-tests, she reverts back into being someone her age, lightly giggling and standing shyly, awkwardly even.

She gamely poses for pics with the Lyric staff; she removes her mask and smiles hugely like a typical Japanese kid—yes, she is kawaii– except she isn’t really that typical: who among Senri Kawaguchi’s peers made it to Drummerworld.com’s Top 500 Drummers list at age 14?

Yamaha in cooperation with Lyric brought the now 23-year old drum phenom for a Drum Clinic at Teatrino, Promenade, Greenhills on Feb 22, 2020. The drumming community was immediately abuzz mere hours after the initial announcement was made in early Feb, as were fans of Japanese pop culture. Of the former, veteran drummers such as The Dawn’s JB Leonor were drawn to her performance videos;  Leonor in fact says he “recently copped this fast sextuplet thing she does with the cymbals, double kick, and snare from her Drumeo channel!” The latter community discovered Senri when she did drum cover videos of songs from the anime series K-on when she was 14 (anime songs tend to be metallic high energy, fast tempo affairs). The Drum Clinic attendees informally represented both communities; career-wise, Senri has mostly leaned toward upbeat jazz and high energy fusion particularly in the virtuosic Senri Kawaguchi Triangle with keyboardist Philip Saisse and bassist Armand Sabal-Lecco.

As evidenced on most of her video-documented live performances, Senri is a technical tour-de-force. Live, her power is astounding, at once ferocious and fluid, delivering sextuplet rolls with ease. Her arms are toned, the musculature manifesting with nearly every stroke; power and grace in equal measure. Yup, you can see where the power is coming from despite her slight frame. She gleefully expressed that she felt extra powerful on Clinic day due to the enthusiastic crowd response and, humorously, her sinigang dinner (she loves it) and technique-wise, she holds her sticks near the base, presumably letting the momentum deliver the extra punch. For fast rolls, she demonstrated how she moves and adjusts her grip closer to the middle of the sticks. She does not consciously start with the mindset of playing fast; Senri says she practices paradiddles (and what she refers to as paraparadiddles and paraparaparadiddles) and distributing specific accents to each  drum of the kit. She demonstrated these slowly before going to performance speed.

Senri acknowledges that, like her heroes  Ian Paice (of Deep Purple her first proper drumming idol), mentor Kozo Suganuma, Dave Weckl, and Akira Jimbo, she is known as a note-y drummer. And then she was in front of Steve Gadd who played just one note.  She recalls saying “I’m so sorry!” immediately and kept her head bowed for a long time. The audience laughed with her at the humbling recollection.

From the Recording Custom kit (which by the way was amplified by a Yamaha EAD system), she moved to the electronic DTX452. Senri started playing drums after her dad, a mecha-otaku, bought a DTX set just to find out how it worked. She was given the set when she was 5; she says she treated it simply as a toy she could play with. Needless to say she ripped on the DTX452 with no problem, playing full-steam ahead along with pre-recorded material from the Milesexperience (‘What Goes Around’) and K-on (‘Go Go Maniac’).

What makes Senri an infectious drummer is the sheer joy she brings to the instrument. Beneath all the firepower and finesse, her relaxed concentration is wonderfully broken by the toothsome smiles that show whether she is approaching or coming from a difficult fusillade of notes. There is a Zen-calm at work, an awareness of the here-and-now beyond the kit. Near the beginning of the Clinic she was already firing on all cylinders; a wingnut flew from one of the cymbal stands and despite being in the middle of a complex run, she saw it, laughed and tried to call attention to the problem without, literally, missing a beat. Later, two pieces of confetti most likely left over from a previous event at Teatrino were liberated from the rafters thanks to the sheer volume of her playing; Senri saw one falling hopelessly and laughed. The only apparent moment of panic was in the middle of the clinic when she saw that one of the snare’s wires had snapped; unbeknownst to her, it broke halfway through the first song.

Maybe that’s the real secret to her drumming. For all her technical advancements, she still looks at the drums as her favourite toy, and the stage her playground. She’s playing in the truest sense of the word, and it’s a lesson worthy of any musician.

Click on the gallery for more of Senri and her Drum Clinic (photos are owned by Lyric Philippines; unauthorized use is prohibited).

words by Francis Brew Reyes

SENRI KAWAGUCHI TO HOLD LYRICxYAMAHA DRUM CLINIC ON FEB 22 IN MANILA

 

There are countless virtuoso drumming legends, living and not, who achieve the the technical, and translate the emotional, peaks that most musicians aspire to achieve. Whether it’s natural talent, an obsessive dedication to the craft, or both in equal measure, the greatest drummers have, in a nutshell, a healthy balance between technical chops and a mastery of grooves from the sublime to the booty-shaking. The intent and intensity–implied or overt–  are elements that even non-drummers can appreciate on a gut level.

23 year-old Yamaha drums endorser Senri Kawaguchi is already poised to become one of the greats. She started at 5, then studied with drum master Kozo Suganuma at 8. By the time she turned 13, she was listed on Drummerworld‘s Top 500 Drummers list, the youngest one so far, and the second from Japan (the legendary Akira Jimbo is the other).

She has the technical firepower and unerring facility like all the greats before her. And she often breaks into wide smiles–in between complex rolls and funky odd meter navigation–that express: “This is so much fun!” Her chops are disarming enough but the playful spirit she injects into every drum hit and groove is rare. Frankly, when was the last time you saw smiles and serious facility together?

We’ll let you know more about Senri (in case you weren’t aware of her until now) in the coming weeks, but we’ll let you know this much: she will be holding a Lyric/Yamaha drum workshop on February 22, 2020 in Teatrino, Promenade, Greenhills. Check out the video below as she burns–with that joyful spark– with fusion vets Philippe Saisse (keyboards) and Armand Sabal-Lecco (bass) who comprise the Senri Kawaguchi Triangle.

ORIGINAL OF THE SPECIES: U2, LARRY MULLEN JR AND YAMAHA DRUMS

Anybody who is in a band knows how difficult it can be to hold it together. Rare indeed are groups that stay together for decades with no line-up changes, temporary or otherwise. U2 is one of those rare bands. The acclaimed Irish band–who will be performing for the first time in the Philippines on Dec 11, 2019 at the Philippine Arena – has pushed many artistic and socio-political boundaries AND sold millions of records.

And it all began, literally, in Larry Mullen Jr’s kitchen in 1976. He started as a drummer in a Dublin marching band called the Artane Boys Band, and eventually put up a notice seeking other musicians. Singer Paul “Bono” Hewson, guitarist David “The Edge” Evans, and bassist Adam Clayton were among those who answered the call. Initially, they were called the Larry Mullen Band and included Evan’s brother Dik and two other friends. By the time they renamed themselves U2, the line-up settled into the quartet that has remained to this day.

While U2’s  unique sound is largely attributed to The Edge’s by-now often imitated delayed and effected guitar, Mullen’s powerful drumming shares equal credit. His martial drumming on tracks like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “I Will Follow” defined the early U2 sound and reflected his marching band snare drum chops.  U2 ex-manager Paul McGuiness described him in the Pop Mart Behind-the-scenes DVD as “really, the engine of U2.” Mullen is as unique a voice on the drum kit as The Edge is on guitar, or at least was: their idiosyncratic approaches have become part of each instrument’s lexicon.

If loyalty is a defining ingredient in the U2 MO, then Mullen’s relationship with Yamaha is a fine example: Mullen has been playing Yamaha drums for 35 years, nearly as long as he’s been with U2. Yamaha feted Mullen with a Yamaha Lifetime Achievement Award and while he jokingly thought he was receiving a motorcycle and self-deprecatingly referred to himself as “the cheapest alternative because they couldn’t get Phil Collins and Neil Peart,” Mullen does own up to his uniqueness as a drummer. Watch the video below as Mullen shares U2’s early beginnings and his supposedly underdeveloped bass drum technique which lead to alternate approaches to achieve the sound he was hearing in his head.

Yamaha musical instruments are available and distributed by Lyric.

(Cover image based on an original photo from Modern Drummer Magazine)

RENOVATED LYRIC BRANCHES HAVE REOPENED

Lyric branches  in Ayala Bay Mall and SM City Cebu North Reclamation have re-opened after fresh renovations.

Should you be in any of these areas, they are located in 4th Floor, Ayala Manila Bay Mall, Diosdado Macapagal Blvd, cor Aseana Ave, Paranaque City, and 034 Lower Ground Floor,NRA SM City Cebu respectively.

These are in line with Lyric’s ever-continuing efforts to expand and enhance our branches nationwide.

Check out the gallery below for a peek at our refreshed digs.

JACK THAMMARAT: ASIAN GUITAR HERO

“I don’t  have good  technique…”

The comment elicited a few gasps of disbelief, even indignation, from the enthusiastic 300plus strong crowd that showed up for Jack Thammarat’s Lyric and Yamaha-sponsored guitar clinic in Robinson’s Magnolia Momento Hall.  Is this guy kidding, modest, or humble-bragging? He then elaborates a bit with a hint of an embarrassed smile: “My fast alternate picking isn’t very good.” He plays a short alternate-picked lick, very well in fact, then stops. The soft-spoken Thai virtuoso then played to his technical strengths.

With his mastery of cascading hybrid picked lines delivered with elegance and clarity, blinding yet fluid speed, and a tuneful no-note-wasted approach, his self-perceived lack of good technique in a specific area is a moot point. He uses Ultex Jazz III picks for punchy single notes, but so developed is his hybrid picking that you can’t tell whether the pick or his fingers are producing the fat arpeggiated tones he easily coaxes from the strings.

Gear-wise, Thammarat flew in with just a Macbook Air for his backing tracks and a small Rockboard pedalboard which housed a mini-volume pedal, a boost pedal, a wireless system, and an HX Stomp multi-fx. He uses the HX Stomp not only for chorusing and stereo delays—the crystalline tones he admits are inspired by Eric Johnson—but also to switch channels for the Yamaha THR100HD amp head. One channel is set up for clean, the other for distortion; he also uses the amp channels’ respective onboard reverbs. For solos, he uses the BB boost pedal he’s had for years (“Just to raise the volume a little, when needed”).  He used four off-the-rack Yamaha electrics: 3 Revstars and a Pacifica. The resulting tones were loud and huge, and never grating or harsh. He also backs off the gain a bit because “too much high gain feels like your fingers are not doing anything.”

Jack warming up with a Yamaha Revstar

The workshop itself featured Jack’s most well-known songs including “Mr Frontman”, “On The Way”, and “Falling In Love Again” plus a dynamic take on Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Asked about technique specifics, Thammarat says, “I hear the melody in my head first: I have to hear it, and then I try to develop the technique to play the melody.” He proceeded to scat while playing lines on the guitar. Does he sing? “Only at home!” Prodded by the audience, he continues, “This is the first time I will do it in a workshop…” What followed was a superb vocal/guitar rendition of Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” While Thammarat’s more well-known version of the Hendrix classic is smoother and city-slick, his impromptu performance was closer to its r&b roots; a revelation indeed.

“You know this, right?” He plays the infamous and challenging “Cliffs of Dover” pedal-point lick; the technique required is the basis for some of his cascading improvisations. Thammarat says that in general, he avoids a step-wise scalar approach and breaks up scales into different intervals. He plays a blazing run all across the fretboard. “That’s just pentatonic.” A few souls “protest” that it isn’t but Jack patiently plays the run again which is based on a series of inter-connected pentatonic shapes. He also says he does not necessarily play off the parent chord right away. “If I’m on a G minor chord, I don’t play the G minor scale. I play maybe the Bb major arpeggio (on top of it), which is an inversion. It is the same notes, the same scale, but from a different angle.” (This approach implies harmonies on top of the parent chord; using a Bb arpeggio on a G minor chord, for example, emphasizes the seventh and ninth on the G minor, producing a Gm9 tonality) In compositions, he adds modulations and shifts in key for both the improvisational challenge and harmonic variety. In a special clinic for Lyric Branch Managers the day before the main workshop, he revealed, “I play rock, and I love jazz, but I don’t want to be a jazz guitarist. But I learn something like this (plays John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”) to improve my playing. Rock musicians only talk to rock musicians, jazz musicians only talk to jazz musicians. But for me, it’s all music.”

Jack also admitted to being a John Petrucci fanatic (“But I forget how to play it now!”) and quoted “Glasgow Kiss” albeit all too briefly. The workshop ended with a three way jam with a fan and Tanya Markova’s Isabel Ole.

Post-dinner, Jack met with friends local guitar warriors Fidel De Jesus—himself a hybrid picking virtuoso—and Fayeed Tan. The conversation went the usual route involving music and guitars.

What was revelatory, and perhaps the best lesson unexpressed during the workshop, was Jack saying, “Life is not just music.” It was not necessarily a music lesson, but it manifests in the romanticism that his fans vibe on. On Jack’s first night in Manila the normal exchange of pleasantries happened of course: would you like to try Filipino food? Have you been to Manila before? Asked if he has a girlfriend or a family, he almost immediately grabs his smartphone and looks for a video. “This is my daughter.” He says proudly. “She is 8 years old. It was her first time to go to a camp, and she’s happy and scared. But happy.  Look, those are her friends (smiles).”

His personal life informs what he plays, and he lives it. A female Lyric employee remarked, “I don’t know anything about guitar. But what he’s playing, it feels so good.” And that is probably the most important lesson of all.

THE YAMAHA REVSTAR SERIES: WHEN MOTORCYCLES INSPIRE GUITARS

Yamaha can do no wrong. When it comes to innovation and high quality, the company makes no distinction between its incredible range of products from concert pianos to motorcycles. This is a company that is revered by musicians and motorists. U2 drummer Larry Mullen once joked that when Yamaha contacted him about giving him something for his decades-long association with the company, his first thought was, “Yes! A motorbike!”

Still, developing an instrument that links Yamaha’s legacy of musical and motoring worlds is a pleasant surprise; one that would lead you to think, “Oh yeah, why didn’t they think of it from the start?”

[center][/center]

 

Designed with Yamaha motorcycles as an aesthetic reference, the Revstar series of electric guitars is that link. The Revstar line has garnered numerous design awards since its introduction in 2016 and not only does the line-up look cool: each model from the basic RS320 to the RSP20  Professional is designed for comfortable playing ergonomics and tones that you can push to roar like, well, a finely-tuned Yamaha motorcycle.

Revstars share an offset body shape with pointy horns, a belly cut, and round bottom that variate on Yamaha’s own iconic SG/SBG series (the SBG has been revived, but should you see an old used one from the late 70s/early 80s, go buy it!) and a pair of control knobs. All necks are set-in with a slim three-per-side “Gumby” headstock adorned with a metal Yamaha logo.  It adds a touch of class to even the meat-and-potatoes 320 which is equipped with a pair of humbuckers and tune-o-matic stop tailpiece. In fact, the 320’s playability and fat tones is an excellent indicator for the entire line’s quality.

All Revstars (save for the 320) feature Yamaha’s proprietary Dry Switch which can be accessed via the push-pull tone knob. It acts as a bass roll-off circuit when engaged (knob pulled up) to simulate the clarity of a single coil minus the associated hum and buzz; it is not a coil-tap or a coil-split, but something entirely different. The result is subtlebut  the lows do become clearer. There is no output drop so there is no need to say, compensate by turning up your amp or pedal’s gain knob as one might do when switching from a humbucker to a single coil.

Up the ladder is the RS502 which has soapbar-style single coils that deliver a throaty throttle-y tone even at high gain settings.

The RS502 has a TonePros wraparound adjustable bridge; its sister the 502T has a tune-o-matic with an extended aluminum tailpiece that looks like a hip motorcycle gas tank. The 502s on up feature body binding, matte finishes, and hand-brushed hardware including TonePros bridges (the 502T has a gloss finish that contrasts nicely with the brushed tailpiece).

The RS720B features a Bigsby-licensed vibrato bridge and locking tuners; admittedly, the “faded denim” finish may not be to everyone’s taste (it does however point back to the Revstar’s motorcycle lifestyle fashion aesthetic).

The RS820CR features an anodized aluminum scratchplate and gloss racing stripes that are simply gorgeous against either the grey or “rust rat” finishes.

At the top of the Revstar garage is the RSP20CR which is a higher-grade 820CR with a copper scratchplate and Japanese craftsmanship (the other ‘Stars are made in Indonesia) and heftier price tag. The CR by the way stands for ‘Café Racer.’

Whichever Revstar catches your eyes and ears (and your budget) is nearly secondary to every model’s fast comfortable action. The build quality is consistent throughout the entire line, and you feel the care and precision engineering as if they were actually motorcycles.The Revstar line is a nod to Yamaha’s creative range. It may seem to be a self-referential Yamaha tribute, but thankfully, these ‘Stars are as reliable as anything the company has produced throughout its amazing history. There’s a lot of form in the Revstars, and also a huge heap of functionality…but that is what Yamaha does, isn’t it?

Chick Corea on MOTIF XF8

Legendary jazz keyboardist and Yamaha Artist Chick Corea played Miles Davis’ “Spanish Key” off the legendary  album Bitches Brew on the MOTIF XF8 during the celebration of International Jazz Day at the White House. Guitarist John McLaughlin also played; both were part of the 1970 recording sessions that purportedly birthed “fusion” which sparked debates in the jazz community as to whether Miles Davis was expanding the idiom’s vocabulary or destroying it.

The event also featured big names in Jazz and Soul such as Herbie Hancock (himself a Davis/Brew alumnus) and Aretha Franklin, who together performed memorable tunes such as “A Song For You”.

Visit your nearest Lyric store and experience greatness with the MOTIF X8 and other Yamaha keyboards.