Breakfast with Vinnie: A Drumming Legend’s Gary Chaffee Insight

June 19, 2024

In a recent episode of “Breakfast with Vinnie,” host Vinnie Colaiuta had the honor of interviewing his former drum instructor and mentor, Gary Chaffee. 

The conversation delved into their shared history, the evolution of drumming techniques, and Chaffee’s profound impact on the drumming community.

Early Influences and Education

Vinnie Colaiuta began by reminiscing about his early days at the Berklee School of Music, where he first encountered Gary Chaffee. He recalled being awestruck by Chaffee’s performances with jazz greats like Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius. 

Colaiuta expressed his gratitude for Chaffee’s mentorship, which he credited with shaping his career.

Chaffee, in turn, praised Colaiuta as one of his most talented students. He recounted how Colaiuta arrived at Berklee already equipped with significant rhythmic knowledge and proficiency. 

This advanced understanding allowed Colaiuta to grasp complex drumming concepts quickly, setting him apart from his peers.

The Birth of Linear Drumming

The conversation soon turned to Chaffee’s pioneering work in developing the linear drumming system. 

Chaffee explained that his system emerged from a desire to integrate bass drum patterns with stickings, thereby expanding the drummer’s ability to create intricate rhythmic phrases. 

He initially conceived of linear drumming as a soloing device but soon realized its potential for enhancing groove and feel in various musical contexts.

Rhythmic Complexity and Cadences

Chaffee also shared insights into the importance of phrasing and cadences in drumming. He emphasized that understanding how to manipulate cadences can create a more elastic and dynamic form of musical expression. 

This concept, he noted, was something he incorporated into his teaching to help drummers develop a more nuanced approach to their playing.

Reflections on Modern Drumming

The discussion touched on the current state of drumming and the impact of modern technology. Both Colaiuta and Chaffee expressed concerns about the overwhelming availability of information online, which they feared might hinder the development of individual artistic voices. 

Chaffee lamented the decline of live, visceral musical experiences and the homogenization of drumming styles.

Legacy and Retirement

As the conversation drew to a close, Chaffee reflected on his career and legacy. Now retired, he has no plans for further publications or performances. 

However, he takes pride in the significant contributions he has made to the drumming world, particularly through his innovative teaching methods and the development of the linear drumming system.


Vinnie Colaiuta expressed deep gratitude to Gary Chaffee for his mentorship and for sharing his vast knowledge with the drumming community. 

The interview provided valuable insights into the evolution of drumming techniques and the enduring influence of a legendary teacher on his students and the broader musical world.

This episode of “Breakfast with Vinnie” offered a rich, historical perspective on drumming and celebrated the profound impact of one of its most influential educators. 

Check out full interview here

Denis Loncaric
Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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