Saturday, January 13, 2018

Various internet drumming misconceptions complained about

What I want to do to the internet sometimes.
I wrote this as I was finishing the 2017 Book of the Blog. Getting a book ready for publication means having a lot of frustration to vent, which I've done here by complaining about things I see on the internet about practicing the drums.

Throughout this post I refer to “people” who think or do things I don't like. Usually that's a sign that the writer just likes believing everyone else in the world is an idiot, and is responding to some stereotyped other he made up himself. Not me, of course— I have seen actual instances of everything I mention here. But it's also fun to pretend there's some nameless rabble of idiots out there who we're smarter than, and for the sake of entertainment, I'm not afraid to indulge that a little bit. Don't get too serious about complaining about some nameless, clueless them.

I keep seeing this word. Usually repeated by novices for whom everything musical seems random, because they don't know anything— or by someone who made an app. Generating a random number is a built-in function of all programming languages, and it's easier to make an app do something random than it is to actually learn something about music, have a lesson plan, and write something realistic. Music is not random— it's made by humans making creative decisions, usually reflecting a musical tradition or set of conventions.

Bury the click
Cleaving desperately to the metronome is another internet thing. A common piece of lore says that when you play with a metronome, you should be so consistently accurate that you are not able to hear the click. Bury the click, is the droning advice. I see people dedicating a lot of energy to doing this, and worrying about their inability to do it. And I've seen the videos by mediocre players who have obviously worked on this way more than other, more important things, and they don't sound good.

Having excellent time and accuracy is important, but it's doesn't require that your execution be characterless, and it doesn't require infinite refinement. Which is basically what this belief demands. Also watch out for the word “micro-timing.”

Ever heard the expression work smarter, not harder? That's what this entire game is about. That could be the motto of this blog. I'm trying to limit my use of the word, but there's a persistent belief that harder = better. It's a problem when people try to make things harder in ways that make no sense in terms of where musical skill actually comes from.

Example: one drummer figured out that the way to play slow tempos accurately is to subdivide, so what if I make it harder and don't subdivide? Zero in on the exact thing that makes it realistically possible to do the hard thing, and don't do that. It's like trying to be a better carpenter by eyeballing all your measurements. Professionals know that being a good carpenter means knowing how to use a tape measure; this mentality wants you to try to be an innate human measuring machine that doesn't need a tape measure.

Dominant/weak hand
Sometimes I think people are just attracted to certain language— it will have nothing to do with actual reality, but the words sound good, and they like to pretend this is a permanent feature of the terrain. Right now, in American culture, the idea of dominance is very popular, and people like imposing it as widely and brainlessly as possible.

Most people have a preferred hand for doing various untrained activities, which is fine, but in drumming in the modern, North American mode there is no “dominant” hand, and no “weak” hand. Even in my way of playing, which is largely oriented around leading and riding with the right hand. You're supposed to practice enough for your natural hand preference not to matter. Follow that link to read more about this— both sides of this issue.

If someone complains about his “weak” hand or “weaker” side, he's admitting he doesn't practice. What do you do to remedy a weak hand? Practice your technical materials for snare drum twice as much starting with your left hand as your right, and practice in front of  a mirror to match stroke heights and technique between the hands. That's it. In a very short period of focused practiced you can develop solid, balanced technique. You don't have to play “open-handed” or learn to play all your stuff backwards.

Fear of a bad habit
Whatever you do, don't just play the drums because you may develop a bad habit which will displease the Father God and ruin you forever. It's a great excuse for never doing anything. In reality, the only bad habit you should worry about is not practicing daily, and listening enough, and playing enough. Everything else can be easily fixed with more of same.

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