About Music, Drums & Lyrics

This album is called Invisible Signs.  I’ve written some details about the thinking behind its building blocks. Also, know that this music is just one aspect, or module of my songwriting database.  It is made to bring my brand of drumming and songwriting to a general audience. This is not a “prog” album, but does use advanced drumming elements in a palatable way. Not everybody cares about what’s behind the music and prefers to just feel it. For those that are interested in knowing more, read below.

Before I made this or any album, I wondered if I should make an instrumental one that catered to drummers and musicians, or one with vocals catering to an average listener. My instinct was that I was already playing instrumental or progressive music and that I should try to write songs for a more general music listener. Of course, it hit me to weave in some uses of chops and rhythmic patterns beyond the norm. Once I decided which path to take, I felt like a female singer would be right for that end. A few music business people I trusted said that they valued hearing something ‘different.’  I made, then played one a demo of the first incarnation of this and they said supportive things about it being different. That gave me some confidence to stick with it.  

I became very busy working as a drummer for hire and did not work on my music except intermittently over the years.  One day after the recording of Dream Theater’s “The Astonishing," I woke up quite early hearing "it has got to be a habit to change” in my mind. I took that as a cue to get straight up to my studio to get to working trying to make music to suit that phrase. It also made me think that catch phrases to learn various things might engage people in a good way.

Once I got into it, I realized that my previous attempt at lyrics that were comedic should be shelved for more serious ones, but not to ‘prog’ in nature for this music.  The process then began.

I had and have computer folders full of music clips, full songs, drum beats and lyrics and lyrical phrases.  Some are very complex and ‘progressive,’ and some are very simple. I started extracting the ones that were kind of in a middle ground between the two while maintaining some kind of consistency to the genre of the ones I chose.

My intentions were that the drumming should display the use of my symmetrical set up, that the music stemmed from commonly liked grooves and structures and that none of the lyrics were about personal stories or things. I wanted them be about common things open for interpretation by the listener related to whatever deeper topic that inspired me. I hoped that the use of my kit would eventually be brought to an audience that was used to them being just a time keeper.


Starting with the music, I wanted it to make people move. I also paid attention to what kind of radio music made my young children move.  I know all too well that complex meters are not processed easily, so I wanted to steer clear from using any of those ideas I have tucked away.

While attending a Rock concert in a stadium, I stopped and observed what songs played before the band came out moved people, if at all. I noticed that what made them move together were slower beats with riffs. I was aware that fast beats work too, but for a different kind of target audience I had in mind.

Since I had lots of computer folders full of song clips, some of them matched the same slow, riffs “thing” that I saw move people. Since I already had formulated midi demos for some songs on this album at that time, I knew to take those and put them in separate folders for consideration.  When I was young, I bought Led Zeppelin IV.  There was something about the riff on ‘Black Dog’ that made me love it.  That helped me feel comfortable such that I’d enjoy sticking to my vision.


As a drummer, my source intent is to share what I play and use with such a unique drum set up. With this set up, I can follow the music more accurately with drum orchestrations and ambidextrous moves that align with key signature changes, simultaneously play simple beats and carefully fuse in rhythms and note groupings that would normally confuse an average listener. In words, I keep a standard “common time” beat while placing odd note groupings in an ‘easy to feel’ pulse, or spread an odd pattern out over a number of bars of common time such that a listener who could care less about a phrase of seven notes being superimposed against an easy to feel beat.

About the kit itself, I imagined a purely symmetrical one earlier in my life that would require completely ambidextrous skills to play it.  I am not ambidextrous. I set it up and could not play it at all because I needed full and total ambidexterity, which I didn’t and don’t posses naturally.  That means that I had to learn how to play the kit. What became 'Rhythm Knowledge’ is the system full of exercises and philosophies that I used to attain the skills I needed to play it. I’ve published books called “Rhythm Knowledge” that explain what these things are, how they work and how to learn them.  If a person investigates this system, they’ll understand where I’m coming from. In essence, the drum kit itself became a development tool for me to evolve my musicianship. I would love for more people to share that joy with me.  My kit and its use is foreign to the casual player.  I want to reach people, not turn them away.  I found that playing and using complex things all the time seems to turn people away in general. 

Accordingly, I decided to stay away from lavish drum fills by opting for using the kit melodically to follow the musical phrases within the simple sounding grooves and transitions.  In this way, I thought I could attract an average listener in hopes they would notice the reality of what I was playing and that it was unique. My hope was and is to inspire musicians to act on what moves them, decide if they want to attain some new skills and then hopefully learn how to achieve them and learn how to grow. In the end, I really would like to be more understood because there’s so much satisfaction when we share similar interests with others.

This is why I love the Drum Community so much and why I have such great friends in it. They know I love and respect what they’ve done to become the best they can be in their unique ways and that I simply want to share my path with them and with as many people as possible. With that said, I had to include some playing that utilized some of my chops or this album would contain the full ‘me.’  The full ‘me’ doesn’t mean playing fast and complex all the time. I don’t think I played but a couple of ‘fast as I can go’ or complex fills while playing either Cory Wong’s or Zakk Wylde’s music with them in 2023, because my playing needed to fit the music.

Still, a part of my path is earning certain drumming skills that make me happy and are a lot of fun to play.  I found that the songs’ solo sections would be a great spot for them since those were the sections that non-drummers usually get to let loose. I didn’t want to put people off, nor squander my gifts, talents and earned skills, so I thought that playing in unison with a solo instrument was a sensible way to use those things.  The song, So Alive, is about this.  I hope some kids into music, sports or anything hear this and are inspired to put effort into developing the gifts they were given.


With the lyrics, they start and end with sound.  I realize that meaning is important and that meaningful lines absolutely ‘hook’ listeners, but I know all too well from my studies in cognitive science that the first thing we to is hear music. Processing it follows and can take time. I prioritized the sound aspect along with common words because there isn’t much time to engage a listener. With the lyrics themselves, most songs can be interpreted in more than one way.  This is why none of them are about personal stories or a singular application to something in life.

Since I had to find words that matched the sound I heard, I used a thesaurus and a dictionary while searching topics on the internet related to those words, put them in separate computer windows and picked up what I could from all the information.

I tried to use aspects of various topics to fuse together in order to create various interpretations.  I thought I could that knowing that the existence of very different opinions on things is part of life.

As an example of this, I realized that a color blind person could see a green apple as being brown.  I fully understand that it is brown to that person, but in the reality of the dimensions we exist in, the apple is not brown.  Relativism seeps into this kind of situation via subjectiveness sometimes leading to the misuse of words. Also, errors occur from insufficient, or faulty data, be it accidental or purposeful to suit an agenda of some kind.  For example, the field of physics has concluded certain ’truths’ only to find out decades later, that the findings were insufficient or not correct even though they looked correct at one point. Experiments using the Scientific Method done per its protocols really don’t allow for manipulation. Not everyone adheres to this method and we find ourselves with varied stances on a similar subject. Knowing this made me think that I could relate to more people by contructing lyrics with room for interpretation.

With the song Freak of Nature, I thought about unstoppable forces like hurricanes and some elite athletes. People can criticize and rate them against one another, but nobody can change their nature. It’s a really cool thing to be aware of. I thought others might enjoy the beauty and purity of these forces too, but also to realize that opinions have no affect at all on how things really work even if the best we can do is theorize on some of them. To further the point of taking personal stories out of this album, I thought that writing about a specific athlete would polarize the experience. As a lobster eating New Englander with pictures, plaques and shirts from the Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots, I didn’t think writing about “Gronk” would go over with the rest of the United States. Like Bird, Brady, Orr, Big Papi and others, Gronk played like a force of nature to me and while penning lyrics, was in the midst of the team making the Super Bowl at a 50% rate over 18 years. Thus, hatred thrown at them had no effect at all on that statistic. Acknowledging and enjoying the skills of others is why I can watch any game, or applaud for any of my drumming peers that have worked tirelessly to develop their gifts.

With the song, Not Drowning, I left a stand alone page for that because its construction was a bit more complex than Freak of Nature.

The Final Result

I ended up with demos that were just me after all of this work. I used virtual instruments and my drums to form the music. Since my voice is horrible. I used studio techniques to form vocal guides in order to communicate the parts.

After sharing demos with various friends, that led to my hiring of the musicians on the album to replace most of my virtual instruments.  The riffs, sound effects and some solos still contain original parts that I played and programmed using midi. 

You can read how each musician ended up being on this album through a circumstance or a recommendation. Coming full circle, I ended up using Jen Majura for "Invisible Signs." She used me to play drums on Stevie Wonder’s, "Sir Duke” during one of her “one minute jams.”  This music was a part of my background. 

In addition to my brother constantly giving me various albums will amazing drummers on them to learn, my sister pointed me to Motown albums.  This is why I look so comfortable playing Sir Duke, as well as when I performed with Cory Wong in 2023.

Sometime after this experience with Jen, I thought that this ‘swing’ plus her affinity for the metal genre as a guitarist might relate well to what I was trying to do more than a decade prior. I simply wrote her asking if she’d like to hear my music to consider singing to and she said that she was, so I hired her.

In the end, the sound and feeling from music hits us or it doesn’t.  But sometimes upon a little inspection, we find something special that sparks our interest.  I’d love for my drumming on my unique set up to be better understood as seen as one thing that one person can do to develop their gifts and share them, while appreciating others that do it. Also, it would be great if a listener likes just one or two songs on this album.  Some are more “riff” oriented, while others are more “loop” oriented just like the names on the computer folders they came from.

© 2023 Mike Mangini ®