As with many skills we learn throughout our lives, there is a starting point.
For drummmers, many would argue that you need to learn the basics – holding sticks, correct posture, learning rudiments.
Rudiments exist for a number of reasons, but fundamentally, they are viewed by some as the bedrock in the same way that scales are important to the piano. You can find out more here.
Now, when I began learning drums back in 1843, I didn’t learn rudiments. I was self-taught and learned through listening to and observing ‘Top of the Pops’ and Animal.
Then came the drum teacher.
He didn’t teach me rudiments either. Well, kinda not. What I learned were drum set patterns, the ‘boom-tish boom-boom-tish’ years. That got me through and I went from there – practising, auditions, rehearsals, stagefright.
I’ve slowly returned to the gig scene after a significant absence and alot has changed. And why wouldn’t it. Pubs and clubs are paying less. Most cover bands have ‘Get Lucky’ in their setlist (it’s the new Must[h]ang Sally), and amateur drummers have also become insanely technical and creative.
By technical I mean two things:
- The emergence of the hybrid setup (acoustic and electronic kits)
- The polyrhythmic application and mashup of beats and rudiments.
These changes have really made me re-look at what I can offer as a drummer.
So here’s a couple of things I’ve done recently:
- I’ve added a bit of tech to my setup, a bit like these drum triggers. They enable me to enhance the musical experience. Sure I could get away with just playing with a degree of finesse on an acoustic kit, but why fight the tech?
- I’ve REALLY started to learn some, not all, of the rudiments. I knew them already, I just thought I could play them properly – turns out that was in my head. These rudiments will enable me to enhance the musi….oh we’ve done that.
Now let me be clear. Nobody has forced this on me.
I could have carried on as I am, but as with Web 3.0 (yes, it’s kinda here), I’m embracing it because I’ve opened my mind and recognise it has a place and value. However, the problem with having all the ‘chops’ and tech at your disposal is that, sometimes, the following sort of thing happens.
‘Bille Jean’ – drum cover
This is what us drummers call not being ‘in the pocket’. In other words, you have no groove, you are not list-e-ning to the mu-sic.
Some drummers are naturally gifted with ‘pocket’ e.g. Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro and Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler who played on the original ‘Bille Jean’. I met Leon at a drum festival once. He told me that Jackson told him to keep it four-on-the-floor, no deviation. There are some subtleties to what Leon plays, but make no mistake, ‘Bille Jean’ is a very difficult song to drum along to because you can easily fall into temptation.
‘Pocket’ is about listening. It’s about agility. It allows other musicians to work with you and, more importantly, it helps your audience to take a little more notice of the music. For me, ‘pocket’ is THE basic in a drummer’s toolkit. If you haven’t got it, you work towards it. I continously work at finding and applying it in the right and responsive context. And I still don’t get it right.
There’s an underlying L&D narrative here, but hey, you’re cleverer than me and I’ve bored you this far.
(PS Paradiddle rudiment. Lifesaver. Learn it here.)