Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kenny Washington overheard

Or the cyber-equivalent. Mark Feldman at the Bang! the drum school blog features a Facebook post by jazz drummer and scholar Kenny Washington, in response to a question about how to take one's drumming "to the next level." Here's a portion of it, but go read it in its entirety:

[...] For me, I never thought about next levels and all the superficial shit. I thought about the next gig. Your hands and overall technique are very important. I say this all the time. [...] I’m up every morning at the crack of dawn practicing trying to play better. What helped me coming up was practicing out of Charlie Wilcoxon’s “Modern Rudimental Swing Solos”. Practice these etudes slowly bar by bar and take them apart. This will help your control, brushes and help you to get a better sound on the instrument.

Listening to records is very, very important. I checked out tons of music. Too many records to mention. I listened to just about every drummer you can think of. At one time or another, I tried to play like all of them. I learned what made them all tick. All of them have something to offer you musically. If you do that, you’ll eventually get your own sound and start to formulate your own ideas from what you’ve heard. Don’t just listen to the drummers, but listen to how they accompany the other musicians. It’s what I call “musical action and reaction.” Learn the melodies and solos of other instrumentalists as well. This will teach you about musical form which in turn will help you to play musical drum solos. All of these things helped my approach to the drums.
[...] Playing with local musicians that have more experience than you is also very important. Ask for comments from these musicians. It might not be what you want to hear, but listen and give thought to what they’ve said. When you’ve really put the time in, then try to sit in with the more established musicians. It’s like applying for an office job. First impressions are everything. If the boss is not impressed, you won’t get the job. It’s the same thing with music. If the boss likes your playing, you’ll get hired. If he doesn’t, you won’t get the gig. If you come back months later even if you’re playing much better, he probably won’t be interested. He remembers you from the first time. Take your time and put the work into the instrument. If you do that, you’ll reap the benefits and eventually your phone will start to ring. Speaking of which, it’s time for me to go and practice. 

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