Friday, April 21, 2017

What's the point?

Yeahhh, you probably don't
need to bother with this one.*

* - Not a terrible book, actually.
Since we here at CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! dump countless pages of quality practice materials onto the internet annually, and with the unprecedented quantity of drum stuff generally available to practice— some authors hell bent on dominating the rest of your natural life practicing their stuff— it's a good idea to talk about what we're supposed to do with all that. There's obviously too much out there to “master” in a lifetime, and seemingly every nook and cranny of drumming has been covered, so what's the point? Why continue buying books? Why write more?

First, realize that just because you have a lot of drumming books, doesn't mean you have to blaze on every single thing in them, or else you're a failure. We don't have libraries because we're going to memorize everything in them and then burn them down; we have them so they're available when you need something, to give you choices of what to focus on.

Let me put this as politely as I can: not every drum book doesn't suck. A lot of books from my formative years were mainly about some guy's fascination with writing down “hip”/“funky” drum patterns (ahem see any number of 70s/80s funk/fusion books). Or they use archaic notation and are way too hard to read (kof  Realistic Rock / Moeller Book). Some of them are sub-par rehashes of standard material better presented elsewhere (koooff many Mel Bay titles). There are genre books that are now hopelessly out of date (see that early 80s rap drumming book). Most pre-80s “Latin” books are completely inept, with the authors having no idea of how to introduce you to those musics (sorry Ted Reed, that book doesn't make it).

Currently a lot of books seem to think you're stupid as well as vision impaired (kofkofkoooff hack argh see any Drumeo/Drumming System-related pdf). I've seen a few recent books with a high internet profile, which are largely dedicated to a very laborious rehashing of things covered in Chaffee, New Breed, flipping Stick Control, and other standard books. Most of those repel me from practicing them— they refuse to stay on my music stand.

With all of that off the table, among the x-hundred pages remaining, things you actually would want to practice, there often just aren't that many pages dedicated to any one particular subject. Or even if there are, each presentation of an area of drumming will be a little different, and will be conducive to practicing certain ways, and resistant to practicing other ways. One page may be way too difficult for you to use this year, but it will open your eyes to a certain way of thinking, and you'll find a way to work on that using something else in your library— and maybe you'll be ready for that hard page in 1 or 5 or 10 years. And sometimes you just want to vary the terrain.

Listen: I'm of the opinion that you really only need one book, which costs about $7. You can make a Reed interpretation to practice virtually anything, and that's usually the best way to go, if possible. But Syncopation doesn't have everything in it, and some items are boringly presented. Or just because of the nature of the writing, Reed exercises may be ill-suited to doing certain things with them. There are also some things you'll want to practice that it would be counter-productively difficult to try to do with Reed. That's the reason for the page o' coordination series. The funk control series consists of nothing but things you can do with Reed, except it would be very difficult to practice that way out of Reed. And the sameness of the terrain can get to be limiting. Sometimes you need to see something written a different way to realize that you can make a Reed thing out of it.

I keep writing materials because a) I need them for my practicing or teaching, b) they're actually not available elsewhere, c) they're not available elsewhere in precisely the form I want, d)  rarely, they're available elsewhere, but I just want to have my own equivalent. I make transcriptions for my own ear training and to increase my knowledge of what people play, and how— for me those are truly not about the end result of a written-down page of stuff. In buying books, I consider the $10-25 to be (reasonably!) well-spent even if I only learn ok, that sucked— let's not do it that way.

Buying, owning, and using drum books is not just a simplistic linear transaction of I bought this; I must master the whole thing to Buddy Rich level or I suck. Instead consider a book to be well-used if a) you practiced a few pages out of it a lot, b) it helped you increase your drumming intelligence a little bit, c) you see there are some things in it you'll actually want to practice for years to come— which you can now tell because, through exposure, you have learned to be discriminating about what you practice.

After reading this, you'll probably want to re-read this old post on how much to practice something.

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