Mike Dawson Of Modern Drummer Magazine


Mike Dawson is managing editor for Modern Drummer, the world’s most widely read magazine for drummers, and he serves as book editor for Modern Drummer Publications, with most recent releases including FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids by modern country great Rich Redmond and co-author Michael Aubrecht, Stick Technique by rudimental drumming specialist Bill Bachman, and Exercises in African-American Funk by University of Miami professor Steve Rucker and top touring drummer Jonathan Joseph (Jeff Beck, Joss Stone, Richard Bona). In the pages of MD, Dawson has authored dozens of artist features, educational columns, event reports, and product reviews.


An active performer, teacher, and session drummer in the New York City area, Dawson has a bachelor’s degree in music education from West Virginia University and a master’s degree in music from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s Senior Lecturer in music journalism at the University of the Arts. Mike also produces drum tracks for artists all around the world out of his home studio in New Jersey.

Follow Mike online

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Projects By Mike Dawson

Drum Influence Series

Modern drummer – Podcast with Mike and Mike

Raw Notes On Mike

12 years with Modern drummer

Original goal to be a NYC jazz drummer

Drum nerd at heart

“You couldn’t have planned it” – on working with modern drummer

From Maryland, attended University of the Arts

Rick Van Horne was a faculty member – previous modern drummer employee

Mike and rick became good friends. Mike was Rick’s assistant

Mike took to Rick and became a drummer through modern drummer

Studied Concert, not Drumset

Peter Erskine, David garibaldi lessons

Took to the idea of music journalism

Wasn’t a writer or English major

Mike’s advisor also taught a transcription course

Roy Hanes – reflection solo – final college transcription

Was careful not to cross the line of relationship with Rick

Was in grad school when first published – became jazz columnist

Rick offered Mike Dawson a job with Modern Drummer

Had to decide: When am I going to move to New York City, LA or back home to Maryland?

Luck is when preparation meets timing

“Your work should do the speaking for you” on why he didn’t just approach Rick in the middle of class

Mike’s excited about technology getting rid of the gatekeepers

Mike’s Wisdom

“Every assignment I’m going to do the best that I can. I’m going to do the work and be the best I can be.”

“I was never aloud to quit a sport… to sign up for an activity and not see it through.”

“If you’re good and honest and find your path, there’s no excuse not to pursue it.”

“Now, if all you have to do is focus on being the best you can be and the opportunities are just there… that’s really exciting.”

“People are worried about (technology) levelling out the playing field, but I think it’s really exciting.”

“The cream is always going to rise to the top.”

“Your marketing and endorsements aren’t as important as your unique content.”

“Be honest, work hard.”

“Each product has it’s own tone and focus.”

Mike on Interviews

“I’m so fortunate to sit down with some of my favourite drummers on a personal level… That reveals so much about their personality.”

“I ask the questions I wants to know.”

Steve Jordan

– Hanging with steve jordan for 4 hours – played drums for 90 minutes
– Mike: ”How do you get that snare sound?” Steve: “Mike, maybe it’s not how I tune the drum, it’s how I hit the drum.”
– Traditional grip a little off centre – That Steve Jordan sound
– Flips stick over with butt end – different sound
– It’s less about gear tuning and mic’s than intention and vision with sound
– It didn’t open up for me (sound) until I focused on touch, time and inner dynamics
– Steve Jordan had his snare SO tight
– Reinforced that it’s all in the touch
– His groove is pretty loose and his time is not metronomic, his snare’s a little later than he would have thought
– Dynamics are up and down. But it still felt amazing. Steve was intentionally playing that way. Giving his groove an “egg shape” intentionally

Matt Chamberlain

– Potentially Mike’s favorite drummer of all time
– So honest open and welcoming
– Watched Matt drum for Tori Amos at Radio City Music Hall
– Hung with Matt for an hour before the gig
– Instantly friendly, very nice, no sense of “I’m better than you”

Shannon Forrest

– 20 years killing it Nashville
– Mike had a Paradigm Shift watching Shannon
– He can hear time on another level
– So honest and straightforward
– His BS filter is so sensitive
– Excellence is the word that describes Shannon Forrest
– What Shannon produces is going to be better than what anyone else would have expected. It’s going to be unique.
– The feel and sounds will be as perfect as it can be
– If you’re ever going to play the drums on anything, make it the best you can
– His dad is a long time producer
– When he was 13 years old, he had sat in on sessions and played
– Born focused and determined

Jeff Porcaro

– Received bootlegs of Jeff Porcaro from Chris Brady at Aquarian
– Jeff played intense even if he’s playing drums quietly

Aaron Spears

– His sound is simply amazing

“It’s takes just one track to appreciate a drummer in a new way.”

Nir Z

– Drum assassin
– Nir kills it every time he plays the drums
– Precise, emotion, consistent
– Toured with Chris Cornell, Genesis

Other Drummers Mike Discusses:
– Glenn Kotche
– Bernard Purdie
– Steve Gadd story

Mike's Job

– Working on 3 issues at a time
– Starting one, Finalizing another
– Enjoying the subject matter
– Doesn’t define himself by his job
– Avoids talking about work when not at work

1) Professionalism trumps everything

– Be on time
– Call people back, if you’re a basic professional
– If no one wants to be around you, you’ll never work
– Career of communication

2) Don’t always look to the next best thing

– Be the best where you are, let that lead to other opportunities
– Earn stripes and respect
– It takes time
– Don’t worry about that other stuff, it’ll come

“You can’t be wishing for something you didn’t prepare for… You are where you are because that’s where you’re supposed to be, given what you’ve done.

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