Tuesday, October 31, 2023

How not to hit a drum

Hey, it's been awhile since I've watched a drumming video, and rendered the tidal wave of complaints and irritations that come with it, so here are some comments I wrote when someone made me watch the following video. You'll fully get the point for everything that follows by about the four minute mark.  

We'll take this item by item, as long as my patience holds out: 

1. Hypnotic is not a desirable quality. There's no love in that. It's a very low form of manipulation. The only place I've ever experienced music trying to be hypnotic was in playing a contemporary church gig, where the music was as banal as it was despicable. Maybe it was just a poorly chosen word, but part of our job as communicators is to have better words. 

2. The premise of changing the groove by adding a single ghost note is ridiculous. It's like me leaving the room, doing up one additional button, coming back in and saying don't recognize me, do you? Does this form please you? 

Guys, I'm thinking about trying a different groove on this song. [adds one ghost note] 

No. The whole video is one groove, with some minor variations, and some barely-significant embellishments.  

Don't move your hands like that when you're playing the drums. Play the notes you're playing, don't play the air. He's coming within a couple of mm from doing some accidental rim shots at times. It looks amateurish, and practicing always moving your hands in unison 8th notes impedes gets in the way of doing other things.  

A large part of why YouTube is BS is the overemphasis on technique, and techniques. Exhibit A: the finger technique on those ghost notes here is ridiculous. Nobody but youtubers and people who watch too much youtube do that. Take the stick and hit the drum. 

Stop that.

There is a point in every enthusiasm-driven movement— Heavy Metal music, hoppy beer, the mullet hairstyle, wide leg jeans, YouTube drumming videos— where it becomes insular, losing the thread of what was originally cool, good, or useful to people, and becoming entirely about taking some superficial aspect of it “further”, whereupon it loses all connection with non-enthusiast reality. That's what we're experiencing with the technique displayed here.

The whole premise is false. If we're going to talk about musical intentionality and control, it's got to be much wider reaching than this, mainly about handling musical events within a piece. Making variations on a groove. Developing a groove musically. Something. Having the will power to play a repeating drum groove for a long time is not a feat of control. It could actually be a feat of not knowing anything else to play, or of being afraid to play anything else.

This does come up as a psychological problem for ambitious drummers, who are disposed to try to make a piece of music better by playing more stuff. It can't be addressed by just playing along with a milquetoast looping track, you have to be playing a real job with a real piece of music you really want to make good. See Andy Newmark's Modern Drummer interview for somebody talking about that in a serious way.   

As with a lot of these videos, I think somebody had an idea for some “content”, and the educational reasoning for it came after the fact, purely to sell the video, which is why it's so unconvincing. 

Conclusion: a negative post, but some are amused by my ranting and raving. And there's some serious stuff in there. For YouTubers, any engagement whatsoever = success, and controversy = $$$, so the video maker should be completely fulfilled by this. Everybody wins. 


Michael Griener said...

I remember the ANewmark interview very well.
I was at the height of my Tony Williams phase and couldn't fit enough notes into a bar, and Andy Newmark comes along and tells me that he felt the same way when he was younger and that he knows better now.
Of course I had to listen.
But it took me years to really understand what he meant.
What a great interview!
How many drummers talk in interviews about situations where they are unsure?
He is really sincere and I admire him a lot.

Todd Bishop said...

It was really good. All the stuff about watching Jim Gordon and Jim Keltner in the studio. Also just reading about his set up-- he used 12 and 16" toms-- a high sound and a low sound, not necessarily melodically connected. Paraphrasing there. A good part of my playing life since then I've had my high tom tuned high, and floor tom tuned for a deep sound.