OK, this is actually useful: I like this new YouTube thing of isolating drum tracks from famous pop/rock recordings. Recording can be a horrible exercise in self-scrutiny, and is often a question of how much inaccuracy you can stand to let remain on the track vs. the amount of time/budget you have available to you. It's a little less that way now that, with sophisticated editing technology, much more can be fixed in the mix. But these videos give you a very clear picture of the tolerances for executing a classic, great drum track.
They also help me be clear on what I really like and don't like about some famous performances— in general I don't approaching music like a critic, but playing pop music is a very craft-intensive thing, you have to approach doing it more like a composer or designer, and know critically what works and doesn't work for you. For understanding what's being played, the videos are, for me, better than seeing a written transcription. I've never been a huge Neil Peart follower, but listening to his isolated drum track from Tom Sawyer, I now understand that I like the way he handles the tom toms, but am not real excited about the way he plays time— you feel there's a total lack of R&B exposure with him:
Dave Grohl is another one who is that way, though he's coming from a different place. Rock needs R&B as a direct influence, or it just becomes a march, played loud. Smells Like Teen Spirit is a great song, but this is not groove music:
Compare those performances with John Bonham on Ramble On— here a switch has gone off, and we're actually grooving:
More after the break:
Even Black Sabbath, which for a long time epitomized R&B-free Heavy Metal— Bill Ward on Sweet Leaf, though not as polished as Bonham, still grooves:
Keith Moon obviously gets much of his edge from very slightly rushing his fills— the band knows how to play with him, and does not follow him, which adds to the music a lot of little moments of tension and release. Moon plays more unisons between the snare drum and bass drum than most people, which gives his playing a lot of impact. Several phrase ending and stops are rather fluffed, but you don't hear that on the finished recording.
For really stark contrast, let's listen to a “Nu Metal” band, Slipknot. The performance here is heavily triggered, quantized, maybe partially programmed; it's been processed to death, anyway. It's kind of a sad piece of work; it would be hard for me to take much pride in this as a player.
UPDATE: Oops, as nuebeats points out in the comments, that was created with a piece of software called EZDrummer, which evidently sucks, or was really ineptly used here. My mistake— I should have actually read the video's description, and I should not have been so ready to believe Slipknot would suck that hard. The real track doesn't sound that horrible— though it has certainly been heavily edited and corrected in Pro Tools, as all pop music is is now. It's hard to make a fair comparison of this track with the other performances here, because the others have not been processed the way this one has. The others are records of one guy playing the song through from beginning to end, exactly as it came out of is hands, and the following one is, well, who-knows-what:
Finally, let's listen to Ringo Starr on Something, from The Beatles' Abbey Road. The whole opening section is quite impressive. It's really, really hard not to psych yourself out playing this tempo, with this much space: