Thursday, February 4, 2016

Let a Few Go By

I love seeing drummers with a ‘unique’ sense of musical taste. They can also be a great source of both good and bad examples. This time I'm thinking about a very energetic fellow who nailed all the shots, all the patterns, every time, in every tune. It was very impressive. It was also rather busy and a bit tiresome. As a result, none of the musical figures were allowed to stand on their own or to rise above the drums because there were no holes, no spaces, and thus, no intrigue. 

An important part of our job is to help define, support, punctuate, and otherwise draw attention to musical figures. This can be done in a variety of ways, only one of which is to play the entire figure. Most drummers will instead opt to play a sub-set of the figure, possibly highlighting the accented parts. It’s also OK to ignore them completely.

Space is a very important musical concept. Space is what keeps everything from happening at once, and without space, music can become a monotonous blur. There are some styles where hitting all the shots works, but even in the most extreme cases, there should still be space for contrast.

Admittedly, it's tempting to fill all the holes, and no musician is immune to the urge. Sometime this is the ideal thing to do, but overdo it and the music will sound more like a drum feature (or vocal or guitar feature).

Of course, being able to play all the figures is quite an accomplishment. It takes a lot of work to memorize and co-ordinate all that stuff. So it's no wonder that we'd want to show it off a bit. OK, point taken. But I still would prefer a more sparse approach.

So trim back the figures and let a few go by. You may even like the result.

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