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Life Goes On

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It's been a difficult 3 months for me since April. Besides a very intense schedule of both gigging and teaching, my 89 year old father's health took a rapid decline and he died. Between gigs, we were visiting him as much as we could. Since he died, it's been a lot of work to just deal with his passing and trying to settle his estate. Of course my blogs all fell by the wayside. 

Next week (July 1-5) I will be in Chester, CT as part of the 1st Gong Summit. I will be presenting a master class and be a part of 3 panel discussions. I will also be hanging out all week and hope to have time to talk with everyone attending. I plan to blog daily about the whole event starting June 30 and going to July 6. Hopefully I will have the time and energy to at least post a wrap up of each day. If I can't post in detail, I'll do something later in July when I have the time. Watch for this on The Way of The Gong™.

After the Summit my wife and I will be taking a much needed bit of vacati…

Percussion As A Way Of Life

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Percussion. It affects all aspects of my life, because I see/hear everything as sound and rhythm. I'm always listening to the world for inspiration: birds, traffic, children playing, the wind in the trees, rain, trains, water, machinery, driving, walking, sitting—these are all things that I find rhythms and life in.

Silence. I drive an amazing amount of miles to and from gigs. While I do listen to music or podcasts, more often than not, I listen to the silence. I listen to the sounds around me and feel the motion of the journey. I find this a sort of driving meditation. I get some of my best ideas driving. The activity of driving occupies one part of my brain and frees the rest for thinking. I play things over in my head, work on various scenarios, debate ideas, and listen to the music of my mind. 

Performing. I improvise a lot and think of it as a living laboratory, where I try things out, following different sounds and rhythms to see where they lead me. I record every performance,…

Don't Lose Sight of the Music

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I look at a lot of the younger drummers and percussionists out there and marvel at their technical ability. They are doing things that we never even thought of when I was their age. In the past 50 years the level of sheer technique and ability among percussionists has grown at an astounding rate.
I watch a lot of different drummers and drum videos. While I am amazed by many of them, and what they can do, I'm also bored by a lot of them. Technical ability is a great thing to have, but it needs to be balanced with musicianship. Raw, unbridled technique is interesting for a short time, but after the wow factor wears off, I find myself longing for some actual music.
Many people, including drummers, knock both Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts for their lack of technical mastery. But there's a reason those 2 drummers have had such long and successful careers, and even now in their 70s, they keep going: they make music. Both drummers are masters of the groove. The Beatles or the Rolling…

Love What You Do And Always Play Your Best

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Love What You Do

If you play music, it may seem redundant to say love what you do, but it's the most important part of being a musician. It's also as important to love it enough to stop doing it when that love wanes. I've known enough other musicians in my career that kept playing long after they got tired of it because they felt trapped in some way. Trapped because they didn't know what else to do, or because they didn't want to look like a quitter, or because their ego wouldn't let them stop, even when their musical abilities were far past their prime.

Always Play Your Best

Being a musician is never easy. There are better and easier ways to achieve money and fame, so their has to be something more to keep you doing it night after night. I've been playing gigs since I was 15, which is nearly 50 years ago (yeah, I'm that old). For me, it's the love of playing music and communicating with people that keeps me going. 

I recently did a string of 4 dates in…

Practice vs Performance

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A lot of people don't seem to realize that there is a great difference between practice and performance. They also don't realize that while it's important to practice, it's also important to practice your performance.

Practice

For me, practice is where I work out things, like technical details, logistics, body mechanics, and everything else associated with making the music work. 

It's important to get the notes down and to get down how to make those notes. As a percussionist, touch is of utmost importance. Even slight variations of how we touch the instruments with our mallets/sticks can bring about a great variation in the resulting sound/tone/timbre. Within a phrase or passage, it's important to have a consistency of sound. 

I also find it important to work out the logistics of moving around a large multiple percussion set up. I need to be able to easily go from one instrument to another. I also need to be able to change mallets without interrupting the flow of t…

Use Your Limitations To Your Advantage

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We live in a world of excess. Everyone wants more, needs more, only feels complete when they get more. But is more always best?

Think of 2 restaurants, 1 with 15 menu items and 1 with 100 menu items. 

Which one is better? 
Which one is easier?

The answer is probably up to each of us. Some people like more choices. Some like less. Some take what is in front of them at any given moment.

Percussion can be like that. We can have 10 instruments or 100. Are you a better musician if you have more? Not necessarily. If you are not satisfied with your musicianship, will buying another snare drum or cymbal make you better? Not really.


Yes please, I'll take one of everything. (Photo by Yamaha)
I own boxes and cases full of percussion. I love choices. But I often put limits on my choices, because there's only so much gear I can haul around to each gig by myself. And often there's a limited amount of space to set up in.

But I use my limited choices to my advantage. I always pick out my instrume…

The Importance of Ear Protection

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WHAT??? WHAT DID YOU SAY???

I grew up in an era of huge amplifier stacks sitting on either side of the drum kit. When sitting at the kit, these amps were at my ear level. And they were loud! This was also the era when decent sound systems and miking individual instruments was just starting to happen. Otherwise, as a drummer, you had to play LOUDLY to be heard above the stacks of speakers and amps. And no one ever thought about all this volume and how it would affect their hearing over time.

Fast forward to today. I had a hearing test recently and found that surprisingly my hearing is normal for a person my age. Both ears are considerably flat in all frequency ranges until you hit the highs, where there is a steep roll off. 

I'm lucky. A lot of big name rock musicians (and not so big name) who are in their 60's and above have severe hearing loss. My hearing is good, but I do have tinnitus, which is a high pitch ringing/squeal in my ears. And it's always there—24/7/365. 

I can n…