Wednesday, May 2, 2018

"You Can Observe a Lot Just by Watching"

Indeed, as Yogi Berra so wisely pointed out, all it takes to 'observe' is to watch, or in our case, listen and watch. If you're serious about your craft, you probably listen to music all the time. And you listen carefully to how your favourite drummers do their thing. You want to know how they get things done, how they create those sounds. Actually seeing how it's done it can help a lot, and the best way to do this is from a seat near the band stand.

I'd not spent time working on my hands with a coach, so I started working out with a local pipe & drum band. I'd always admired pipe drumming, so I eagerly attended the weekly sessions. This group brought in a world-class pipe drummer, Doug Stronach, for a lesson every other week. As well as following along with the exercises, I watched Doug's hands carefully. You see, this guy was a world champion player, and had studied and worked with champion players for decades, and his hands were about as good as they get. So I concentrated on his hands and tried to make my motions and positioning match him completely. Time well spent!

One thing Buddy Rich could count on was drummers watching him like a hawk. And not just drum students. Even the greats would watch Buddy to find out how he did things. Mel Tormé had this story to share:

"Johnny [Carson] related how, when Buddy was appearing in the south of France, Carson saw drummers Shelley Manne and Bobby Rosengarden standing way off to the side of the stage. "What’re you guys doing, standing over here?” he wanted to know. Shelly looked at him and said, quite seriously, 'We’re watching Buddy’s foot'." (as quoted in Mel Tormé’s Traps The Drum Wonder)

And if observing is good enough for Shelly Manne ...

Doug Stronach:

Traps the Drum Wonder, by Mel Tormé
Published by Hal Leonard
ISBN-10: 1888408030
ISBN-13: 978-1888408034

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