SEBASTIAN HELDT (Neaera) – It is very rewarding
Neaera is a five piece melodic death metal band from Germany.They are kind of unique in the way that they have sticked together with the same lineup since the beginning in 2003. Their sixth studio album will be released in about a week and to support their new album, here’s drummer Sebastian Heldt and his core tips on how young drummers should practice and how he works to develop his drumming. This is The Blast Beast Series with Sebastian Heldt from Neaera.
What is the force behind you being a drummer, that is, what keeps you going?
I see metal or rock drumming in two ways that are both satisfying. You either play the instrument or do a sports exercise with it. I love playing musically and relaxed in the rehearsal room on my own, as much as I love drumming heavy and hitting hard giving 100% during shows. For me a huge part of the satisfaction drumming comes from the physical challenge.
You are playing in a genre where both technique and speed, together with groove, are important ingredients. What do you think is the most important of these?
In the end it should be a winning mixture of all of these.
It has to support what your band is going for.
Therefore it is important to keep practicing the right way. Focussing on the fundamentals; timing and efficiency of strokes is what it takes all the time. And knowing your fellow musicians.
Many young drummers try to push their speed before they realize it`s what keeps their band from sounding tight. I made that mistake very often myself as a beginner, speed up and and didn`t focus on the groove, giving my bandmates a difficult time to follow.
Being used to a metronome is mandatory when you have any ambitions of recording stuff professionally.
Which drummer has inspired you the most throughout the years, and what would you have said to him/her if you had the chance to meet him/her in person?
Dave Grohl- Nirvana, Abe Cunningham- Deftones
Those guys were the reason for me to keep drumming when I started out as a teenager. There are tons of awesome drummers out there and many others and more technically advanced drummers but nobody has managed to impress me during my early years. they make playing drums look and sound so exciting.
I remember spending a fortune on Cymbals back then.
Today I`d propably be thanking them in the name of all the cymbal companies that made me a poor kid 😉
Which is best while rehearsing alone: systematic progress or full improvisation?
It depends on what satisfies you and maybe what is the reason for your playing in general. Just playing random stuff and enjoying yourself doesn`t help you become the best drummer you can be. Though you can learn alot improvising, especially when you are involved in songwriting. I`d say always improvise to a certain point until your flaws become obvious. Then sit and work on them.
Do you have any "core rehearsal tips" that have given you a lot of progress in your drumming?
Sit straight. have a comfortable setup. dont sit to low. Use a Metronome if you can. Try drumming with a mirror. Use bigger sticks. Get a good teacher anyway.
The exercises will be the least thing to worry about. You will figure out warming up exercises yourself. Just practice what you want to be better at. In metal drumming it is mostly single strokes and alot of doublebass, so there you go 😉 Don`t get lazy watching Youtube videos. Drumming is all about muscle memory so be in the rehearsal room or where your kit whenever you can. Use a practice pad at home.
What is important for you while rehearsing new songs/riffs with your band? Is there something in particular you do or listen for?
I try to put my drumming in context of certain parts of a song. Meaning, I have to know at least 2 of the riffs to make decissions on my groove. I want to have diversity but not too much going on. I always want to imagine what a part will sound like with a full blown production or a kick as live sound.
I don`t want to play a thousand fill ins. sometimes it is wiser to even leave fill ins completely out. In the end the drummer has to support a certain Guitar riff. So If you like it or not guitarits will urge you to rethink drumparts sometimes.
What is, in your opinion, the biggest challenges for extreme drummers (or, generally speaking, drummers), and what can you do to work them out?
Drumming in extreme music can be physically and mentally exhausting. you have to practice and be prepared especially when playing long sets. Otherwise your precision and timing will be affected. I think its also good to do some sort of sports or workout to stay in shape for drumming. When playing a concert I normally take about 30 minutes of easy going warming up. I try to focus on hand and feed coordination. Everything else will come in time. Trust yourself.
Wrists or fingers? Heel up or down? Why?
It is always good feeling comfortable no matter what kind of stroke. As for hand technique practice both. I`d use wrist 90 percent of the time. when I use fingers it`s mostly in fast blast beat parts.
Heel up is a must. Heel down is not working for me. I have to be able to use my whole leg to hit, not being limited to one ancle.
You must have rehearsed for an insane amount of hours to be as good a drummer as you are. Do you think it is worth it, and have you ever thought about quitting?
It is definately worth it. It is very rewarding. I feel great playing. But when you put so many hours into something it becomes a part of you. You hear music differently. At some point the question whether to become a professional or stay hobby drummer will come up for any of us though. And thats really when you have do what your heart says. Once you`ve made that decission you accept it as part of your live you certainly wont quit for some time…
While playing at a concert: are you 100 % concentrated about what you are doing, or do you notice some of the mood and energy among the audience?
Once I feel comfortable with the sound and my drumming during the first couple of songs I can relax and enjoy myself. But most of the time I`m too concentrated to really feel the crowd and I only notice bigger events like cricle pits or wall of deaths occuring. As a drummer you have a ton of responsibility and you have to stay focused especially when the crowd goes crazy.
Is it expensive to become a drummer, and what does it take outside all that can be bought for money to become a clever and good drummer in extreme metal?
I`t is certainly not cheap. but having the best equipment doesn`t make you a better drummer. practicing does and I
think today this all is alot easier with youtube and internet comunities and whatever. There is tons of free stuff to get inspiration to build upon your talent. However you need a good foundation it doesn`t mean you still dont need a good teacher.
Watch your favourite drummers or bands play live! and don`t be afraid to ask drummers straight up how they are doing stuff you can`t do yet.
And then some about your equipment:
I have a standart 3 tom one kick nothing fancy setup.
Its a Tama Superstar 10"12"16" 22"
My Cymbals are Meinl Mb20 series. and I have a Derrek Roddy Signature Ride that I use for very heavy parts as a sort of crash ride. I use a 15" hihat. Im very happy with my set because I know the quality is there. Now everthing it just takes is my "talent" to make it work.
Which snare drum and configuration do you like the best? 12", 13" or 14"? And which material? Wood, steel, brass or bronze?
I`ve been playing a steel snare for a long time but I switched recently because I like the sound of wood more. I play 14" with an uncoated evans snare head.
What kind of pedal(s) do you use? And which "settings" fits your style the best?
I`ve been playing with a Tama Iron Cobra flex glide for some time now. It`s the third Iron Cobra for me since starting out. I use it with plastic beaters.
I would recommend a Iron Cobra to any drummer of any style. It is still the best pedals out there.
As always, we are rounding off with you picking the next drummer in these series. Pick a drummer, and explain why he/she deserves (!) to be one of our Blast Beasts.
Paul Seidel, War from a Harlots Mouth. He is a great drummer and a great guy. His drumming is amazing and highly creative and musical. do it! cheerz!