Thursday, September 07, 2023

On the massive overabundance of things to practice

A nagging question with every single thing I post: Am I putting up too much, am I part of the problem— the problem being: there's way too much stuff to practice on the drums now, and it's leading people away from fundamental principles*, stealing their focus, making them neurotic. Promoting the wrong idea that playing the drums requires a lot of preparation and prior knowledge.

* - Which are: you should be playing a lot and listening a lot... and, in third place, also practicing lot. Why did I put this in the fine print? 

Maybe— for people who are going about it the wrong way, through media. The right way is to be involved in music with people. If you're playing music, and hearing people play, all of the excess junk media ideas fall away— not my ideas, which are obviously splendid, I mean all that other junk. It's hard to force that stuff into a real musical life. 
So, here are some justifications for the continued existence of this site, some general notes on why I continue writing, and how I think you should relate to my content, and other people's, and to the seeming tsunami of practice materials and media-created demands on your time:

Use your judgment
Who's life is it, again? Everything advertised in drumming media as “crucial” is not actually crucial. Work on what seems relevant to your actual, immediate playing life— your next few years, anyway. You do have to have a playing life, though. Talk to some people, set up a weekly session to play some tunes. 

Practical vs. background
A lot of drummers seem to think that if they just work on some abstract exercises, played in a “neutral” way— Stick Control, say— for a long time, it will translate into freedom to play anything. A lot of materials are oriented that way, and it doesn't work that way. There may be good reasons to do that sometimes, it's not the main thing. Practice mostly what you're going to play, in the way you're going to play it.  

It's a library
Libraries are there for reference, for the future. Maybe you'll use something in ten years, or twenty, maybe never. Maybe you got everything it truly has to offer in glancing at it one time, seeing one other possible way of doing something. 

It's a very long game
Again, some of these things you may not get to for 10 or 20 years, or ever. A lot happens over the course of a playing life— a lot of phases of attitudes about playing, practicing, and everything else to do with music. We're dealing with long term concepts here. 

My niche

I have a pretty specific doctrine: everything is about what you can play with people. Everything should be as easy, natural, and non-technical as possible, so you can focus on the music. And as similar to the real act of playing music as possible. If we do something technical, there's got to be a good reason for it, respecting the time and attention it demands from the user. I tell you when we're doing something non-essential, or non-essential for most people. 

Virtually all Reed systems are worth doing

They're the major proven method for the above thing. You can learn a complete drumming vocabulary, in a form that is relatable to actually playing music, just by learning my Reed systems, and the traditional systems, and nothing else.  

My stuff is normal
What I do is not new. Mostly I fill gaps in proven existing methods— or expand upon them, or occasionally improve on them. Often I'm rewriting an existing thing to make it easier to do what I want with it. See my Chaffee linear phrases. Chaffee's stuff has so much potential it was impossible for him to put it all in a few volumes. Or I'll rewrite / edit / reinvent things just so I don't have to turn pages and edit while I practice.  

There's not that much to do

There's a lot, but most of us got passably up to speed with it in a few years, practicing ordinary stuff. The fundamentals have not changed in the last 50 years. I played my first professional gig five years after I started playing. Hardcore maniacs will spend some years practicing 4+ hours every day. I certainly did that. But getting started does not take much in terms of vocabulary or technique. 

Even for maniacs, there are basically two major areas of drumming: jazz and funk. Those cover every type of music you're going to do. Latin drumming can be another big area, but it's usually up to the individual how deep they want to get into it. 

Massive redundancy
There's a lot of duplication in the hundreds of pages of practice materials I've posted, which is good. Doing the same thing a different way helps you understand it and use it creatively, and develop it for different drumming uses and musical contexts. The same thing different ways = understanding it.  

There are a lot of obsolete materials

Yes, there are a ton of drum books, but a lot of them duplicate each other, or they're formatted badly, or they're badly dated, or they're just not very good. A lot of them are just orphans, out of print or barely in print, and not easy to get, and no one uses them.  

Visit the piano music aisle sometime
If you think there's too much drum stuff to practice, go to a sheet music store and check out the piano section. It's insane. Czerny alone will dominate your entire existence if you let him. 

Printed materials are not the problem 
Videos are the problem. Anyone dealing primarily with printed materials is going to be working more effectively than people watching videos. Partly because you play written music— you watch videos. I don't think anyone just sits there and stares at drum books for hours at a time. 

Narrow your focus

You can't be looking at a page of materials and worrying about all the different ways you're not “mastering” it, or exhausted its potential. Not every page of materials deserves to have its potential exhausted. Maybe it only has a small lesson to teach you. 

Work it out in an hour, day, or week, maybe work at it and meet a reasonable short term goal with it, then reassess. Do something else, or continue working on it, if you find another short term goal you want to meet with it.  

I hope that clarifies some things. As a student in the 80s, this was always a big issue— seemingly so much to do, and being unsure how to prioritize, far to take any of it. It's a 500 times worse now, as drum media has become what it is. Good luck!  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant Todd. I love these types of posts. I feel like I need to remind myself of this and readjust my focus every 6 or so months to make sure I haven’t gone down the rabbit hole too far.