Written by Ted Reed
Copyright 1956 by Ted Reed
Copyright renewal 1986

Published by Ted Reed

Popularly known as Syncopation, this book is widely held to be one of the only two books you'll need in order to learn to play the drums: Syncopation, and Stick Control. That's not to say you can't learn to play without them, or that you can't learn anything from any other book, but that there's nothing out there that is not in these two books.

Mr. Reed's declared intent for the book was to help drummers learn to read music. He goes about this by giving progressively harder musical examples, leading up to not only amazing reading and sight-reading skills, but also a profound degree of rhythmic ability (chops).

The examples themselves are written on a music staff, using bass clef. All examples are in 4/4 time, and consist of two lines - one that stays on the "c" below middle c, and the other that stays on the "f" below that. The brilliant part of the book is that Mr. Reed does not tell you which drums these notes correspond to, what tempo to play at, or what feel to use, though it is widely accepted that the "f" is the bass drum, and the "c," the snare drum. This leads to a vast amount of learning and practice for each exercise, and illustrates the importance of a good teacher while using the book.

The book has very little by way of organizational direction. There is no table of contents, and the header information is quite vague. What follows, is the breakdown of the book that my teacher imparted to me.

The main body of the book is broken up into two sections. The first section consists of 28 pages of one-measure exercises on a variety of topics. There are "exam" exercises, ranging from 16 to 48 measures, which follow the topics. Following these progressive examples is the main section of the book: Syncopation. There is a brief introduction, followed by the nine syncopation exercises. In keeping with the rhythm of the book, these exercises become progressively more difficult.

There is a third section of the book, as well - a kind of bonus section for advanced practice. The topics covered in this section are accented eighth notes; accented dotted eighth and sixteenth notes; accented eighth note triplets; triplets with mixed sticking; and accented sixteenth notes. As with the first section of the book, these topics are explored using a series of progressively harder, one-measure exercises. Most, but not all of these topics also have "exam" exercises, ranging from 28 to 36 measures long.

Personally, I have learned a great deal from Syncopation. I still use it during my practice sessions, and it's the first book I recommend to anyone learning to play the drums.

Some time ago, the book was reformatted. It contains all the same information, in the same order, but the font-based headers take away some of the charm for me.

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