Clarence Penn

222 – Clarence Penn: Copying, creating and finding your own voice

Clarence Penn is a musical man. His never-ending drive to create a feeling and add to the “conversation” has lead him to become one of the busiest jazz drummers in the world, a leader of multiple bands, a composer, a prolific producer, and an educator. The Detroit native has been crafting his sound since he was a small child, began playing professionally at age 15 and has since worked with Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Stanley Clarke, Steps Ahead, Makoto Ozone, Michael Brecker, Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider, Luciana Souza, Richard Galliano, and Fourplay, not to mention several hundred albums (including the Grammy-winning recordings 34th and Lex by Randy Brecker and Concert in the Garden and Sky Blue by Maria Schneider). One amazing characteristic of Penn is his ability to act as a “chameleon”  behind the kit, forgoing his own agenda to sound like “himself” and adapting his sound to fit the music.

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” – Ken Robinson (Tweet this)

Clarence Penn talks about:

  • Starting playing drums at an early age
  • Gigging professionally by age 15
  • Practicing approaches
  • His Dave Matthews Band / Carter Beauford connection
  • Thoughts on music as a conversation
  • Transcribing and what to do with it
  • Painting a musical picture / elongating phrases
  • Creating vs copying
  • Self awareness
  • Much more

Resources / Links / People mentioned:

Carence Penn Plays:

  • Canopus Drums
  • Aquarain Drumheads
  • Zildjian Cymbals and Sticks

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1 reply
  1. Siniša
    Siniša says:

    I found this episode one of the most interesting so far because Clarence’s shared some great ideas about improving not only technique, but creativity as well. For instance, using existing material and recreating it, or playing notes of different values on different parts of drum set. That reminded me when I did the same thing with my teacher. It’s challenging but if you’re persistent you’ll definitely see the benefits of it. All in all, great episode in my opinion.
    Nick, as always, great job, many thanks for doing the podcast.


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