Thursday, July 01, 2021

What are we doing

Been having a minor existential crisis in the last week or so— I played my first session in over a year last week, was feeling really unpracticed and generally out of touch with music... and went in and played well, and creatively, and a fine time was had by all. Any time I play in a situation where I play well, I feel like it's a unique situation— something very special has occurred. I'll feel like I learned something, and often will feel like it is the best I've ever played. I wasn't playing at the cutting edge of my technical abilities, but I was very happy with what I accomplished musically in the session. It was a jazz session, by the way; five players in someone's living room, with unamplified piano and bass.

So, good news— musical abilities are persistent, they don't vanish simply because you're feeling out of touch with them at the moment. 

But it triggered a minor crisis of wait a minute, what am I doing with all of this other stuff, then? I accepted in the last few years that a lot of very advanced snare drum practice was largely a waste of time— subject to diminishing returns, at least. I've worked through it, but I use very little of that in my actual playing. I don't have any statement to make sitting down playing complicated snare drum stuff. 

This was a level beyond that— I needed very little of my normal drum set stuff— all of which I designed to teach us to be a great improvising and reading drummers, in the most economical way possible. Most of that stuff was not a factor. What I was playing was more like on the level of the absolute simplest things found on this site— my EZ methods, maybe some items from the Cliché Control page. As economical as I thought my materials were, the real reality is even simpler than that. 

If you listen to real music, and check out many of the transcriptions on the site— even though they are selected for their drumming interest— most of it is not bleeding-edge-of-difficult drumming. Usually someone is playing in a way that is exciting for its musicality, where we feel some creative energy happening, and I'll write out their playing to try to get an idea of where that energy comes from.  

So I don't know how constantly working on greater volumes of stuff is helping that. It may be that playing through that hard stuff, or even my normal-easy stuff, we're actually learning something else, that goes towards reinforcing all of the actually-mostly simple things we do in real playing.   

I don't think you can get there by just working on the easy stuff, however. I don't feel like a highly-practiced player, but I probably do take for granted how much stuff I've actually practiced in my life, and how it affects what I do now, even apparently simple things. 

Obviously playing a lot has something to do with learning to play, and listening a lot, being sensitive and personally engaged in your listening. I think I'm at a place of being very engaged with time structures: execution of rhythm, groove generation, and meter, phrasing, and form. There's a lot of actual stuff that goes into being fluent in those subjects, and being able to handle them intuitively without getting lost, while also listening closely to what the other players are doing. 

There's also something happening with my touch and dynamics that I had to develop on purpose— so when you play something simple it still sounds like music.  

We're meddling in the realm that lies between practicing the drums and being a playing artist, here. Usually this gets figured out, or not, in the field, by individuals, and is rarely actually spoken about explicitly. We're all just supposed to figure out how to make it happen. We'll talk more about it. 

1 comment:

bananajou said...

Love this, very interesting look on practice. Keep it coming!