Friday, April 22, 2022

My objections to drumming videos

Posting this instead of the bilious, totally unproductive anti-YouTube drumming video rant I was working on, entitled Satan's Vomitorium. Don't worry, it wasn't any good, or even finished— you're not missing anything. See this post if you want to watch me flail around on this topic. 

I liked drumming videos better when there were virtually none of them— like, my first 20-25 years of playing the instrument. Now they're unavoidable, creating their own weird reality, largely dedicated to creating a dependent tribal audience of non-musician, non-student media consumers. 

Apart from that despicable aspect, there are just problems with the medium, reducing it to a general distraction and waste of time.

I want to control my time
Inherent to the video format— they all take a fixed amount of time to watch. Every single video I see, if it has any new information in it, I could have learned it in a few seconds of reading. I could have scanned the entire page visually and found the parts the interested me, and skimmed the rest. There's no way to skim videos, you just have to sit and wait for them to feed you the next bit of information, whenever they feel like it. 

Yes, you can run videos on 1.5 speed, but then you're filling your ears with twitchy, hyperactive chatter, and they still take a fixed amount of time out of your control. You're a musician, the sounds you listen to are important. 

It's not about information anyway
Most of being a musician is in doing it— that's how musical knowledge is acquired not by telling someone about it, not even in showing it to them. The real process of learning music is interactive, and 5% information, 95% doing. 

Time wasting
Big chunks of most videos I see, on any subject, are dedicated to the video makers d*cking around. They're all padded with a certain amount of nonsense, because most of their creators are not able to fill the time with actual substance. And they know that most viewers don't want substance. Maybe the guy is personable enough that you don't mind listening to him d*ck around, but in that case you might as well just watch some Gilligan's Island reruns. You're wasting time, on the pretext that you're learning something about music.

It's fine, wasting time is somewhat unavoidable, and may not even be a bad thing, sometimes. Just don't have any illusions about it, and don't mislabel it as productive time.  

All the wrong stuff, the wrong way
The vast majority of videos are about what everyone else is making videos about: technique, “techniques”, how to do X named lick/beat/rudiment, fussing with gear, explaining elementary points of musicianship badly. The “importance” of John Bonham. How to play whatever song— the classic topic of hack drum teachers. Whatever's easy that someone else has already done. “Open handed” technique.

These are described as “crucial” topics— this hive lore is the educational program YouTube offers you, and it has little to do with musical reality. 

Even when the topics are worthwhile, they're mostly going out to the wrong people, at the wrong time in their development. People who should be going out and getting playing experience bombard themselves with a lot of nuance that's really none of their business yet. They think they have to cover all that stuff before even daring to leave the house. 

Hello, you suck, pay me
Probably the most loathsome thing about this enterprise. A lot of youtubers really want you to feel insecure, under-prepared and over-scrutinized. Scroll through some videos and see how many are negatively focused— you probably suck at this, your bad habits, your bad technique, you're doing this wrong, etc etc. Basically 1000% more negative words than I ever use in a live drum lesson. It's a toxic mentality that seems to be very attractive and comfortable for a lot of people, even as it drives them insane.  

Some video lowlifes can't be bothered to be subtle about it— one even named his channel “you suck at drums.” People are so indoctrinated on this point, there are hundreds of videos titled “I suck at drums”, many of them by little kids. It's sick.  

Teachers do not do this, real teachers empower people, they don't try to manufacture self-loathing neurotic dependents.  

Media consumers, not students, not musicians
Videos are made to get you to watch the videos. Every commercial product is designed to be used and to make money for someone, but there's a difference between products people use because they serve an outside goal really well, versus products that just service the addictions they created.  

The real practice of music is something else altogether— it's not any of the things in these videos, the video format itself is foreign to it. It's a live act that you do by yourself, listening and practicing, and with other humans, playing music and working through the learning process interactively. 

Here are some videos I like, by the way, made by fellow blogger Ted Warren. They're short and without BS; they demonstrate the thing and then send you off to practice. 


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this Todd. These negative videos are like a cancer, and young players need to be made aware that they're nonsense….

keith haldane said...

Great comments Todd!

adamfr05t said...

Thanks for this post. It’s a disheartening situation, and the more this stuff is said, the better. As someone who has been teaching guitar and jazz ensembles for 15+ years, I can tell you it is not only drummers who are affected by this kind of malarkey - the only difference in the guitar sector of YouTube’s bizzaro world representation of musicianship is that it is theory (rather than technique) that is fetishised and twisted into forms baring little resemblance to anything musically useful. The cumulative effect is the same: potential musicians are left to feel that instead of actually playing jazz they first have to spend countless hours trying to reach a bunch of arbitrary benchmarks, and becoming conversant with fringe concepts that are, at best, overstated, and at worst entirely made up for the sake of content.

On a positive note: +1 re. Ted’s videos (which I discovered from following CSD).

Anonymous said...

All true. Theres a youtuber who tries to some kind of 'roasting' but it just comes off as him trying to show off his own playing, and not actually being funny. Have even noticed a few drumline guys doing fake audition videos, which, given the classed nature of the activity (youve got to have serious money to join those dci lines) just comes off as elitist behaviour.