HOW DEVELOPING CONTROL HELPS YOU TO BE A UNIQUE DRUMMER
I’m going to attribute this saying to Art Blakey because that’s how I remember it. In a TV interview, he was asked why he’s been a central figure among jazz drummers for so many decades. He basically said ‘you don’t have to be the best, (meaning chops), you have to be DIFFERENT’. Blakey was certainly a unique drummer and musician.
In my opinion, dedicating your playing to a show of technique that overshadows musicality is pointless and actually irritating to a listener. Technique for the sake of technique masks creativity. Yes, blazing chops can be exciting…that’s all. Blakey was a unique drummer with unique chops; musical chops, swing chops, inspirational chops, “reach the heart” chops.
All of the great drummers demonstrate those qualities and you remember their playing as DIFFERENT because it reflects their unique personality.
So…how do we work at becoming a UNIQUE DRUMMER? How do we DEVELOP CREATIVE CHOPS? How do you bring out YOUR PERSONALITY on the instrument?
Well…the goal for sincere musicians is to create a sound that wasn’t there before. Yes…a tall order. But you can’t shortcut the creative process. Work, hard work, results in what we ultimately hear as creativity.
The first element I want to talk about is:
Do you control the sounds you make or are you left with a bunch of sounds and licks you didn’t intend?
We must have control of our instrument. Knowing how to pull the sounds we want to hear out of the drumhead; the response of the stick off of the cymbal is essential. Being able to measure and control dynamics and vary those things in flash of time requires complete focus and control as it all happens within the framework of a beat.
An unquestionably unique drummer is Bernard Purdie. Listen to this example of him breaking down the PURDIE SHUFFLE
WHAT DID YOU NOTICE ABOUT BERNARD’S CONTROL?
What I heard was that he treats the drum set as one instrument.
What does that mean? Obviously, a drum set has several sounds, each an instrument in it’s own right but the BALANCE of those instruments should make ONE SOUND. Bass, snare, HH, ride should be heard as one balanced instrument.
It requires a lot of stick and foot control to make that balance happen.
So when practicing hand exercises, drum set patterns or anything, keep in mind the ultimate goal. CONTROL WHAT YOU’RE DOING by listening to each part of the kit, focus on each part your playing balancing those parts so that they work together.
YOUR EARS SHOULD TELL YOUR HANDS AND FEET WHAT TO DO. That can only happen when you’ve learned to physically control each part of the instrument.
Another big help to control is to remember that what you’re doing should always be based on the NEEDS OF THE MUSIC.
CHECK OUT JAMES BROWN – TURN IT LOOSE
The cool things about this tune is that every part is demonstrating control based on what the song dictates.
SUGGESTION: Pick a groove and play it for 10 minutes with NO fills or deviation from the pattern.
I’ve had weeks where I didn’t play one fill to make sure my focus was on the feel and musicality.
Practice with that goal in mind; to serve the needs of the music; blend with the other players and make sure their comfortable so they can do their thing even though the drummer is really controlling the band. This will make you DIFFERENT and your sound will stand out.
NEXT TIME AROUND WE’LL DISCUSS STEP 2: INTENTIONAL PLAYING