The passing of Joe Morello will certainly not go unnoticed in the drumming community. He died at his U.S. home in Irvington, New Jersey Saturday March 12 at age 82. Joe was an inspiration, an extraordinary talent, and one of my favorite teachers. Joe was most famously known as the drummer for The Dave Brubeck quartet. He played drums on recordings such as Kathy’s Waltz, Strange Meadow Lark, and Take Five, a composition in 5/4 which became one of the most successful singles in jazz music, according to the New York Times. His speed, mixed sticking, and feel stood out the most to me. Pay special attention to those components in the following video.

My favorite exercise, which stresses single hand independence is one called the Stone Killer. This is an exercise Joe learned from George Lawrence Stone. The goal is to develop speed, stamina, and control independently on each hand by working with them one at a time. It is mapped out like this:

RRRR LLLL (4 hits on each hand)

RRRR RRRR LLLL LLLL (8 hits on each hand)

RRRR RRRR RRRR LLLL LLLL LLLL (12 hits on each hand)

RRRR RRRR RRRR RRRR LLLL LLLL LLLL LLLL (16 hits on each hand)

This is done at a tempo comfortable enough to make it through the exercise without slowing down, straining, or feeling overwhelming fatigue. I believe Joe recommends doing each line 50 times before moving to the next. I have many of my students do 20 each, but the count should be approximate.

The Stone Killer was one of many of Joe’s great teachings. His work will continue to live on, listened to, and imitated worldwide. Rest in peace Joe, and thank you for your amazing contribution to music. Read more about Joe, his career, and teachings on the following links:

The Kansas City Star

NPR Music

Stone Killer Forum of VirgilDonati.com

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