Monday, August 29, 2022

Comments on some younger drummers

Since COVID especially I haven't been playing as much as I should be, so I've been getting my lazy butt out to some jam sessions to try to stir up some work. Playing really is a different thing from preoccupation with drum crap, and not doing it enough I start feeling debased as a writer— literally having no basis for writing. Drum nerdery with no basis in music is meaningless.   

At the sessions— these are jazz jam sessions— I get to hear some younger drummers who are just working their stuff out, and I want to share some general comments on what I'm hearing. These are pretty serious drummers in their 20s, who can basically play, who know the tunes, and are able to play correct stuff stylistically.

They do tend to get stuck with other young players, or part time players, often playing dumb tunes, which doesn't make it easy to play your best. It's easy to play with expert players, it's a lot harder with people who are just figuring stuff out too. 


•  A lot of people could focus more on the ride cymbal— with having that be the lead voice, and on getting a good sound and groove with just that. 

•  Many could balance within the parts better generally— the snare drum and bass drum will be competing for attention with the cymbal. You can make accents with the drums, but the general texture should be led by the cymbal. 

•  The busier players are often a little raggedy— things are not completely lined up. Which is not the kind of advice I want to give, that you have to polish everything. That's the contemporary disease, in fact, being afraid to play anything that's not perfectly worked out. General fearfulness. But that will be a long term project for those drummers, getting things a little more polished. I think the effect would be minimized by playing less and listening more, which is good advice anyway. 

•  People sounding distanced from the tunes and from the other musicians. It sounds like people are thinking of what to play, thinking about the drums too much. There's sometimes a sense that people are playing things because they think they're supposed to play it. Back off and listen and wait for a musical impulse to play something based on what you're hearing. Or play the structure. Mainly listen. 

•  Heel up technique on the bass drum seems to be messing with some people a bit. It seems uncentered. There's a lot of extra physical activity going into each stroke, so accuracy is often not real good. There's a little bit of a dance to playing that way, and if the tempo doesn't support that, or the dynamics, or style, the technique falls apart.  

•  Feathering the bass drum in a way that doesn't add anything. It seems like more of an obligation than a purposeful thing— they're playing it because they were told it's supposed to be there. It sounds affected if there's not a real deep groove happening otherwise. Do it on purpose, to take the groove where you want it. The goal is to sound like someone who has done a ton of R&B gigs, even if you haven't.

•  In fact I sensed a little crisis of people not quite knowing why they're doing this— the whole thing, why are we here, playing. Maybe someone liked playing the drums, or they were looking for an identity, or looking to put forward a playing identity. In fact the thing is, we're playing in a night club band, maybe backing a singer, or another lead instrument; there's a club rhythm section craft that we're engaging in. Maybe we're playing for a listening and socializing audience tonight, but another night it could be for dancers. Even if there are barely any gigs, that's our arena. 

It may be thing of people being overschooled and underemployed that they seem to be unaware of the club/show aspect of it. At these sessions there's a great example of it in the host, drummer Ron Steen, who has been running these sessions for decades, and still probably plays 400 gigs a year just in town. 


Anonymous said...

Thanks. Good feedback for someone like me.

Anonymous said...

Could you do a post with more depth on your comment on making a feathered bass drum groove? Thanks.

Todd Bishop said...

Thanks, glad it was helpful-- I think re: the bass drum, the thing is to be more groove oriented overall. With any of the players I heard there was no particular feeling that anyone was real focused on groove.

We're adding bass drum with the idea that it's going to groove more, so why doesn't it groove more? It's not going to happen by itself.

Like I said, I think a lot of players could have a little more of a mind set of a 50s R&B drummer with this music. What would that be, what would it add to think that way?