Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Getting To Know You

The missus sent me a link to her niece’s boyfriend’s website. “An incredible guitarist”, she said. So of course I had to go online and check out both his and his band’s websites. In mere minutes I was able to get an idea of what they were all about. Pretty cool!
This level of convenience is truly astounding. There was a time when the only way to see someone play was to get your butt out to a club or concert. And if that artist had a habit of avoiding your neighbourhood, then you had to make do with the occasional TV appearance or a road trip.
Now we just have to 'Google it' and voilà -- gobs of good stuff that might have taken years to discover in olden times!
I like to stay informed, or I should say I really hate being out of touch or behind the times. So if I hear about an interesting drummer, I often will look them up online. I like to look for a live performance. It’s the best way to get the full story and it's almost always entertaining. And seeing a performance -- even on grainy video -- is educational and inspirational.
While I’m investigating contemporary music, I'm also checking up on the competition. It's good to know what others in your field are up to so you can stay both up-to-date and relevant. So naturally I always investigate what other drum teachers are doing online. It can be a good source of ideas for what to do and what not to do as a teacher.
But there’s dark side to this abundance. We can too easily take things for granted. If I can see it any time, then why hurry? It'll be there tomorrow. True, it likely will be there, but it won't be where it counts: as part of your experience.
Conversely, it's easy to overload ourselves with information. For example, after a day of watching drums solos on YouTube, you'll likely be more confused about soloing than before. Also, don't mistake idly watching videos for actual research.
So don't put it off. Go online and find out what other people are up to ... and then get out and see some live music.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Memo To Phil: Be careful what you wish for

Well, Phil Collins is back in the news lately.  Remember when he was the guy every rock drummer wanted to be? Then he became a front-man, then a break-out star, then a pop icon, then the stalwart of the housewives’ hit parade. Even though Phil and I are nearly the same age, he was my idol. We all followed his progress from promising young prog-rock drummer with the shy manner and even shyer voice, to the most respected and most wanted rock/pop drummer ever. I've just finished Phil's autobiography and I heartily recommend it. 

Phil’s bio seems to be primarily a form of catharsis. Actually, this is one of Phil’s specialties. When it comes to writing, Phil seems to have two modes: cutesy pop tunes and maudlin, introspective, heart-on-the-sleeve chargers. You may hate everything about “Susudio,” but I bet you join in on the chorus. And then there are tunes like “Against All Odds.”

Phil’s was a career path that anyone would envy, at least until you read his autobiography, Not Dead Yet. Yes, Phil paid his dues, and in the process he fell into a few of the traps that abound in this business. The music business can heap obscene rewards on talented workaholics. It’s usually only toward the end of the journey that anyone weighs the actual costs.

OK, enough about Phil’s fall from grace. I want to talk about Phil’s fill. You know the one:  du-Da du-Da du-Da du-Da DA DA. It’s now regarded as the most famous drum fill ever, and when I first heard it, I thought, “That's brilliant!!!” 

Here’s the deal. That fill was already one of the most overworked and tired of drum clichés. It’s a drum lick that I purposely avoid … it’s just too corny. And yet when Phil does it, it works. Why?

Burning up on Entry
First of all, the fill is totally in your face. The tune thus far had been so low key that the listener has settled into a quiet reverie. And then BLA-A-A-A-A ... a major wake-up call, by which Phil means “I’m changing the game”. That works on a number of levels.

Familiar Face
One bit of advice writers offer other writers is to avoid clichés. Good advice, but I happen to like clichés or, rather, familiar expressions. I call them comfort phrases. They work because the reader recognizes them, is comfortable with them, and can relate to them. (There’s a limit, of course; a horrible cliché is a horrible cliché.) So when Phil chose to use a familiar drum break, he was actually trying to make us more comfortable and to help us relate, and then he added his own spin.

This is the genius part. If you’re going to play a cliché, play it with face-melting conviction.

Not Dead Yet - The Memoir, Phil Collins
Hardcover: 384 pages
ISBN-10: 1101907479
ISBN-13: 978-1-101-90747-4 ISBN