Monday, September 10, 2018

On hearing other drummers sound bad

A few thoughts that occurred to me while playing a jam session last night. I was the house drummer, and a couple of different people sat in who were playing some problematic stuff. The first thing that came to mind by way of advice was go hear bad drummers play and then don't do what they do, but then people panic and think but what if I'm the bad drummer and I just don't know it, what do I do then? 

So here are some specific things anyone can do to play better right away, that don't even necessarily require a whole lot of practice time:

• Stop playing your stuff and listen.

• The cymbal rhythm is not a leaping off point for you to do all your other awesome stuff you practiced. It is the thing. The entire point. Your entire justification for being there. Be serious about it and play time on it.

• We all practice a lot of stuff, but the only thing in music you truly own is what comes through your ear. You can't just practice some junk and then go into a playing situation and shove it in, you have to hear it. Usually you do that by listening to a lot of records, and by doing a lot of playing— and trying to make music while doing it.

• Any time you learn a groove pattern, you have to have five levels of things you can do with it. Five is a number I made up just now, but it sounds good. You can't just learn the one pattern one way at a kinda-medium volume level. You have to be able to have different volume levels and different timbres and orchestrations so you can accompany solos by different instruments, and play different parts of the tune differently so it actually goes somewhere.

• Everything you do is in service of the groove, and of the arrangement, which you're creating on the spot by the way you play the tune and interact with the other players.

 Mainly it's all about a change in attitude. Your personal statement on the drums is not everything you can play, it's everything you can play that makes it through the above filters.


Anonymous said...

I was one of those drummers a few days ago (in a different city...). I went with my teacher who is (obviously) better than me, and it was clear that they wanted to play with him much more than me, and playing with me was a sort of obligation. I realize that this is not unreasonable at all, but still, it feels kind of shitty to try to improve by playing with people who think you suck. Do you have any advice? Power through anyway? Go to a different jam?

Todd Bishop said...

We all were one of those drummers-- probably still are, in the eyes of certain people, under certain conditions... who knows. There are a lot of decent or good players who, for whatever reason, some others think are jive and don't want to play with them. It never really ends altogether.

But try to do both if you can-- keep going to the professional not-fun session, and also try to find one where people like you and want to play with you-- you may have to set it up yourself. Find some people you like and set up some weekly rehearsals. Probably play more conservatively at the pro session, and try more stuff with the cool people.