About Frank Briggs

Updated 2022:

I am best known for my first instructional book/DVD package “The Complete Modern Drum Set,” which has remained in Mel Bay Publications’ top 10 percussion books for the past 27 years. This website (The Drum School) was the continuation of that work, and now a personal space where people can connect with me. Thanks to all 1,734 members who supported this school for over 7 years. You made a massive project worthwhile. Read some of the testimonials from students and peers.

Melonie and I 2005. Hiking China Ranch in Death Valley, CA

I am fortunate to have worked in some capacity, either gigging, touring or recording, with a host of extremely diverse and talented artists, including; Jimmy Haslip (The Yellowjackets, Gino Vanneli) Dean Brown (Marcus Miller, Billy Cobham) Philippe Saisse (Steve Winwood, Chaka Khan) Kit Walker (Solo Artist, Neil Schon) Atlantic Starr, Mike Keneally (Solo Artist, Joe Satriani, Frank Zappa) Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award winner Billy Porter (“Kinky Boots” “Pose”) Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck) Engelbert HumperdinckPat BooneFrank Gambale (Chick Corea) Christopher Harrison (AntiGravity) Jeffrey Davis, Gary Shea (Alcatrazz) Tim Pierce (LA Studio) Masters of Reality, Matthew Charles Heulitt (Narada Michael Walden, Moetar) Frank MacchiaBrian Price (The Crusaders) Minako Honda (Japanese Superstar) AntiGravity, Cirque Du Soleil, Ronnie Lawson (Joan Jett) Jeff Berlin (Bill Bruford) Pete Lockett (Tabla Master) Don Randi (The Wrecking Crew) Loren Gold (The Who, Chicago) Michael Hakes (Natalie Cole, Edgar Winter) Ryan Quinn (Scott Kinsey, Post Modern Jukebox, The Voice) William Aura (Playing For Change) Pamela Polland (Joe Cocker; Mad Dogs & Englishman) Steve Weingart (Dave Weckl, Brecker Brothers) Dennis Hamm (Thundercat, Allan Holdsworth) Andy PrattChris Poland & Ohm (Megadeth) Stuart Heinrich (Lou Reed) Bob Halligan Jr. (Ceili Rain) Julian Coryell (Alanis Morissette) Chris Golden (Rod Stewart) Scott Sheets (Pat Benatar) Wayne Cook (Steppenwolf) Vladamir Ondrasik III (Five For Fighting) Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osborne, Quiet Riot, White Snake) Freddie Fox (Chaka Khan) Lee Thornburg (Tower of Power) Mitchel Forman (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Mike Stern, John Scofield) Maxine Nightingale, Bob Magruder (Voice Over Superstar) and many others. 

Music / Television / Movies / Radio

I have appeared on various record labels, including: Universal, EMI/Sony (Japan), Warner Bros, Reprise, RCA, B&W, Tone Center, Muffin, Immune, Higher Octave, and MTM (Germany), and composed underscore for; Toyota, Galoob, Micro Machines, Disney, Ikea, Ulysse Films, AntiGravity, PBS, NPR, Deutsch Welle (Germany) Finger Music, and Chevrolet. TV appearances include; Soul Train, Arsenio Hall, Pat Sajak, Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy Telethon with Ed McMann, MTV, VH1, Studio Jams, Argentine TV Buenos Aires, and a Sudafed commercial.

Album Release

In 2008 I released an album of 10 original instrumental compositions entitled China Ranch, which consistently received 4 star reviews from Modern Drummer Magazine, iTunes, All Music,  All About Jazz and other music magazines from Japan to the Netherlands. You can find it on all streaming services including; Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Emusic, Deezer, Pandora and others. Special thanks to Brian Price, Steve Weingart, and Kit Walker, whose contributions brought the project and compositions to another level. And very special thanks to all who purchased it.

China Ranch Reviews

Liner Notes by Jeffrey Davis

Drummer, Composer Frank Briggs is joined by an All-Star group of musical soul mates on his first solo release; a breathtaking collection of compositions that celebrate the power of hope amid adversity. Inspired by a spectacular desert oasis, China Ranch takes us on a journey of musical exploration and virtuosity as expressed by an artist blessed with curiosity, compassion … and serious chops.

China Ranch is a real place, a family owned date farm in the Mojave Desert, not far from Southern Death Valley. But channeled through this music, China Ranch is not merely a destination; it is a journey into the soul, navigated by a performer at the peak of his talents.

Briggs and his amazing bandmates have pulled off an astonishing feat: The technique is mesmerizing and masterful while also maintaining an emotional truth that makes a cohesive statement.

Supple melodies dance over shape-shifting modes and contrasting instrumental voicings. The players carve deep jazz- and funk-based grooves while playfully displacing beats and inverting expectations around every corner. Driving everything is the deft and explosive pulse created by the composer, producer and engineer of this project.

Musically inventive and as sonically lush as the desert flowers that inspire these tracks, China Ranch is Frank Briggs’ musical thank you note to a locale which proves that even the most barren and forbidding places we know can bear fruit of remarkable sweetness. …


All Music/iTunes

On China Ranch, Frank Briggs writes a Return To Forever-esque treatment of ten killer tracks that display strong drumming, Rhodes and synths, guitar and bass soloing. The compositions, inspired by a visit to the family-owned date farm in the Mojave Desert, keep an eye on the jazz-rock fusion tradition pioneered by such influences as Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Pat Metheny and others, while still moving the genre forward.

On “Desert Flower” the solos run the gamut from lush, modern electronics and dramatic harmonies to wide-open solo sections for Kit Walker on Synth and Brian Price on guitar. Briggs’ powerful and rhythmic drumming keeps this song musically focused, energetic and shifting freely between the jazz and rock elements.

“Tecopa Moon” may be too hip for the room, as they say, since its laid-back ambience and walking bass lines is an example of how Briggs’ arrangement takes an electronic marvel to another level of melodic excellence. The feel shifts from the very beginning and the tempo ranges from Briggs’ moderately slow drumming and soundscapes to the lightning fast guitar licks of both Price and Jeff Miley.

The title track, “China Ranch” features twists and turns with surprises and a funky groove that will have both the band and their listeners enjoying themselves through this musical ride. The entire recording is beautifully conceived, expertly crafted and is a must for fans of jazz-rock fusion

Paula Edelstein; (All Music Guide)


All About Jazz

Regardless of the myriad labels thrust upon it, good music is simply good music. With that stated, drummer Frank Briggs’ release, China Ranch, could fit comfortably within many categorizations, its elements including fusion/progressive rock, electronic music, grooveacious funk or contemporary jazz with plenty of creative substance.
A propulsive drummer in the style of Tony Williams, Briggs has been active in the Los Angeles area for a number of years. With this debut he enlists the help of a stellar cast of musicians; some lesser known in addition to recognizable veterans such as guitarist Frank Gambale and keyboardist/composer Kit Walker. With inspiration from a desert hike in China Ranch, a Mojave Desert oasis, the music mirrors Briggs’ experience witnessing the vibrant colors and renewed environment after a desert rain, teeming with new life and positive energy.

The spark is ignited with “Desert Flower,” a fusion up-tempo piece with Kit Walker providing his strong synthesizer and Fender Rhodes chops, an elastic Jaco Pastorius-like bass solo from Ric Fierabracci, and a torched guitar solo from Brian Price as Briggs commandingly works the kit. His drumming covers a broad range, from thundering backbeats to cymbal finesse on the slow-cooked “Tecopa Moon,” a piece with thick electronics and a hypnotic pulse.

Like a view of the desert terrain, a closer look reveals variety that might otherwise go unnoticed; a picturesque ballad in “Melonie,” neon-lit dance floor persuasions in “Dreams” with its moog-synth bass line, Return To Forever jazz funk-rock on the title piece, and some ‘Weather Reporting’ on “Furnace Creek,” a perfect swirl of electronics and driving beats.

Briggs’ writing admirably balances both melody and progressiveness throughout the recording, including the final track “Saints,” where Mitchel Forman’s piano and keyboards, Gambale’s guitar fireworks and the author’s own tremendous drumming all converge in harmony.

China Ranch is a solid debut that is consistent and filled with memorable tunes and impressive performances that would appeal to a variety of listeners.

Mark F Turner (All About Jazz)


Percussive Arts Society Review

Frank Briggs : China Ranch

Drummer/composer Frank Briggs’ first solo recording is a brilliant collection of great tunes performed by world-class musicians. The music, all composed by Briggs, is reminiscent of the fusion music of Tony Williams, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham and Miles Davis, but very contemporary in its conception. Along with Briggs on drums and keyboards, the musicians include LA’s finest. The recording is very well produced and the playing is consistently great.

Each tune is highly arranged and on the complex side, but there is plenty of room for improvisation and interaction. Several move between a funk/fusion groove and a jazz/swing feel. Briggs is equally at home in both styles and the band makes the transitions effortlessly.

Among my favorites is the opening track, “Desert Flower,” a high-energy fusion tune that is very much in the Tony Williams Lifetime vein. “Melonie” is a lighter swing tune that is very interactive, especially between the bass and drums during the bass solo. Briggs’ drumming is very present throughout the recording but never intrusive. His musical support for the ensemble sections and the improvised solos is masterful. This may be most evident on the final selection, “Saints,” which is more open and flowing than any of the other tunes. The solos by Mitchel Forman on piano and Frank Gambale on guitar are excellent, and Briggs finally lets loose with his own solo near the end, which is a fitting climax to the whole album. 

Dr. Tom Morgan PAS -2.09


Amazon Reviews

I first learned of Frank Briggs through his Mel Bay instructional book, and was puzzled how this virtuoso drummer wasn’t included among the pantheon of great American set players. He is every bit as skilled and versed as legends such as Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl. What he has lacked is a high-profile venue to showcase his art.

His new CD, China Ranch, may very well be that launching pad to notoriety. The list of drummers who successfully lead jazz projects is a short one, but it’s rare to find such a skilled composer and arranger such as Frank. This effort is reminscent of a different era of jazz fusion, when players played music and there was more concern for the art than the commercial viability of the project. Fans of ground-breaking acts such as Weather Report and Allan Holdsworth will find a kindred spirit here, and there is no shortage of players among the guest list; Steve Weingart, Ric Fierabracci, Frank Gambale, Jimmy Earl, and Jeff Babko are just a few of the “who’s who” of elite players gathered for China Ranch.

You would expect a drummer to give himself room on his own CD — and there is no doubt a wealth of stretching here to linger over — but the pleasant surprise is the strong quality of composition. The freedom the musicians have never overwhelms the music. Tracks such as China Ranch and Desert Flower stand out as excellent cross-over material with a nod towards the past, where ballads such as Melonie and Riverwalk are welcome retreats to thoughtful melodies. Like his hero Tony Williams, Briggs leans strongly towards the original jazz-rock idea, and avoids old fusion pitfalls such as out-dated synth sounds and crass funk jams. This is an earnest musician playing earnest fusion. Clearly, Briggs had a broader vision here than to merely blow his own horn — or bang his own drum — and is able to communicate it in an age when jazz fusion sorely needs a return to its roots.

-Matthew Self

Lone Lee Radio Show (Boulder CO)

Strong and melodic. Powerful and introspective. Pure. That pretty much says it all about this album. Frank has covered all the bases with China Ranch. This CD will be appreciated by jazz purists simply for the approach and production and the way in which each piece has been handled with pure artistry. The melodies and traditional-sounding lines found on these various pieces are simply beautiful.

The musicianship is flawless. Why shouldn°t it be? Besides being a world-class drummer, Frank is a gregarious young man. He has enlisted for this project, players that are among the best to be found anywhere. China Ranch is one of those albums that allows the listener the luxury of not having a favorite cut. As you listen to each track you find something very cool about each one that just stays with you. Here is my take on a few of the tunes.

The second selection, °Tecopa Moon° is reminiscent of Billy Cobham’s °Spectrum° L.P. I do not mean that from a plageristic standpoint, not at all. It is just the feel and the attitude with which the piece is delivered that invokes mystery and a dark atmosphere. Very cool.

“Melonie” the third track, is produced in a traditional manner, with pure instrumentation. It begins as a serious piano piece that falls into a really hip, romantic swing carried by pianist Steve Weingart. The tandem melody played by guitar and piano is magical. As this piece moves along there is a beautiful bass solo by Ric Fierabracci followed by a perfect guitar solo provided by Brian Price. The interplay throughout this piece is remarkable. This compostion is one that any serious student of music will appreciate both as a listener and as a piece to study.

The title cut, °China Ranch° is a funky one. Heavy and slightly dark with what I would say is a Miles inspired line. Cool vibes and keys. This one is on the other end of the spectrum from the afore- mentioned °Melonie°. I suggest it be played loud.

Okay, I am going to get a bit heady with this one °Spirit Rider° is aptly named for sure. It is a breathy piece that gives the listener a sense of sailing high above the western landscape and taking in all of the majestic beauty below. It comes back to ground with the rhythm section playing a °Frank Zappa-ish° kind of reggae style melodic line over which there is the perfect compliment of fiery guitar solo performed by Mark Doyle.

So bottom line is this °China Ranch contains 10 remarkable instrumental cuts that you have to hear. It takes you to a lot of different places musically and you will enjoy the trip.

Gary Dean Smith, Lone Lee Radio Show (Boulder CO)

Endorsements

I started receiving official endorsements from instrument manufacturers after my first NAMM appearance in 1989. Since then, over a period of 33 years, I have had contracts with Remo, Evans, and Attack, (drum heads) Noble & Cooley, Drum Workshop, and Yamaha (drums), Regal Tip (sticks), Istanbul Agop, and Paiste (cymbals). I exclusively play Istanbul Agop cymbals, but don’t officially endorse gear anymore, as I no longer perform clinics, teach, or tour. I still have my yellow 1991 Noble & Cooley Horizon Series set that N&C gifted me at my Los Angeles home/studio, and a 1965 Ludwig Club Date drum set I keep parked at my house in Joshua Tree, CA.

Musical Director / Composer

I had a 20 year run (1996-2016) contracting, band leading, music directing, composing and performing for Fortune 500 companies’ general sessions, product launches, and award shows, including; American Express, Toyota, Forest Labs, Roche Diagnostics, GameStop, Johnson & Johnson, SAP, AstraZeneka, AMEX Blue Card, Sepracor, Xopenex, Amway, Pfizer, Lunesta, Celexa, Lexipro, Novartis, and Eli Lilly, – with the biggest event producers in this genre. My bands performed with Jay Leno, Jeff Foxworthy, Riverdance, Cirque Du Soleil, The Answer Guys, AntiGravity, Kenny Loggins, Caroline Rhea, Hector Elizondo, Billy Porter, Earth Wind & Fire, Hip Pickles, Bill Nye – The Science Guy, and many others.

Books / DVDs / Master Classes

I have published 10 instructional books and 2 DVDs on drum set with Mel Bay and Hal Leonard Publications. My educational books and videos have been used worldwide by professional drummers, educators and music schools, and traveled North and South America giving masterclasses on drum set vocabulary and performance. Some of my hosts include;  The Collective (NYC), Musicians Institute (Hollywood, CA), Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY), Berklee School of Music (Boston, MA), Emu Educación Musical, (La Plata, Buenos Aires),  Red House PAC (Syracuse, NY) and many retail outlets, including Guitar Center (29 locations), Sam Ash (Hollywood, CA) Tom Lee Music (Vancouver, BC), American Music (Seattle, WA), Big Apple Music (New Hartford, NY), The Music Center (Syracuse, NY), House of Guitars (Rochester, NY), Drome Sound (Albany, NY) Music Go Round (Phoenix & Mesa, AZ), Creative Music (Wethersfield, CT), Mackenzie Music (Eugene, OR) DRUMEO, The University of Southern California (USC) (where I subbed for Will Kennedy of The Yellowjackets) Winter NAMM, and many more.

Complete Modern Drum Set 

Modern Drummer Magazine recognized the Complete Modern Drum Set instructional package as one that helped set the standard for the industry, and has consistently given my educational books 4 star reviews, and a featured interview. Thank you Mike Haid! 

Complete Modern Drum Set Reviews

This package is one of the most comprehensive collections of material for the working drummer on the market today, covering some of the most important and “usable” styles of music, including; rhythm & blues, soul, funk, rock, blues, jazz, world beats, odd meters, and over-the-bar playing.

Briggs begins the book with some enjoyable rudimental studies that move from basic to advanced, and follows with linear patterns that lead to interesting beat-displacement patterns. Each musical style is introduced with a brief suggested listening index to help guide the student to capturing the essence of each groove. He also closes the book with some good advice and practice tips and includes a very comprehensive suggested listening guide of music for drummers.

The CD is similar to the Dave Weckl play-along package (with drums/without drums) and features six somewhat complicated tunes. The catch is that the charts for these tunes are only found in the book. The video is most helpful in understanding a lot of what’s found in the book and on the CD. Overall the information on the video will help bring this well-rounded package together, making it a worthwhile investment for gigging drummers looking to improve in almost all areas of playing.

Mike Haid – Modern Drummer Magazine – 02/09

 

EPK from 2012

It’s weird retiring after 54 years in music, but it’s time. I started playing professionally at 12 years old, and have been teaching drum set since my teens. I am 67 this year. It’s easy to feel I didn’t accomplish anything notable, or contributed to the art, or was ever any good at this, but in retrospect there were moments, and more was accomplished than I thought, or remembered, but nowhere near what I hoped for, and I’m fine with that. Learn from and enjoy the journey, because we don’t control the ride, or the destination.

If you aspire to a career in music, or the arts in general, good luck. While it’s possible to make a good living (I eventually did), that living can come with a hefty price tag. A music career isn’t for everyone. The ‘business’ of music wasn’t for me. It can be extremely hard, ultra-competitive, dark and challenging from a hang perspective. That being said, do it if you have the calling, but for the right reason, the art itself. Save every penny, plan ahead, figure out how to make it work, what situations and people to align with, who and what to avoid, and what kind of life you want to live, because there is nothing normal about it. Here is my EPK from 2012, the last year I put one of these together. There were plenty of projects after this, The Drum School for one.

BRIGGS_EPK

 

 

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Today

I am a happily married musician from New York who settled in Los Angeles in 1988, where I am now retired from the hustle. I am currently managing my bed and breakfast in Joshua Tree, CA… and doing anything else I feel like.