The study of Jeff Porcaro's musical style and the development of an analytical model for the study of drum set style in popular music

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Anthony B. Artimisi (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
David Nelson

Abstract: Jeffrey Thomas Porcaro was one of the preeminent drummers from the middle of the 1970's through his untimely passing on August 5, 1992. He was a founding member of the Grammy Award winning band, Toto, and the list of albums on which his drumming appears includes six hundred ninety-three entries. His willingness to help others and commitment to excellence made a lasting impact on the drumming community and the music industry as a whole. The goal of this research was to complete an analysis of Porcaro's drumming style. In order to accomplish this goal, a model was developed that allowed for the analysis of drum set performance based on Robert Breithaupt's article entitled "Musical Considerations for Drumset Improvisation." This article identified nine strategies teachers can use with young students regarding drum set improvisation. Seven of these strategies were used to form a comparative analytical model of musical elements which created a summary of drumming style implemented on Jeff Porcaro for the purposes of this paper: Dynamics, Rate of Strokes, Accents, Rests and Rhythmic Figures, Unisons, Hand-to-Foot Distribution and Special Effects. Porcaro's peers and colleagues identified six songs as being representative of his drumming: Boz Scaggs's "Lowdown," "Lido Shuffle," "Gimme the Goods" and "Jojo," Steely Dan's "Gaucho," and Toto's "Rosanna." The analytical model applied to the choruses of these songs shows that Porcaro manipulated the different musical elements in a variety of way in order to build to a musical peak during the final chorus of each song. Most consistently, but not exclusively, this includes an increase in Dynamics, Rate of Strokes and Accents coupled with the manipulation of Rhythmic Figures and Hand-to-Foot Distribution resulting in an increase in musical energy as the songs progress. It is hoped that this model can be used to create a database of stylistic analyses to further the pedagogy of the instrument.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
Analysis, Drum Set, Jeff Porcaro, Toto
Drummers (Musicians)
Percussion instruments $x Research
Toto (Musical group)

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