The Myth of Technique For Technique's Sake

We see it everywhere today: bigger, better, faster. These are the goals so many people are striving for. This especially carries over to music. I was reading an article last week about how many speed/extreme metal bands are now recording with a drum machine, all because real drummers can't play the parts fast enough! WTF?! In Speed Metal, Fastest Drummers Take a Beating

Even if you look back just 20 or 30 years ago, the technical capabilities of today's drummers is astounding. They are playing things thought impossible back then. Now before you think this is an anti-technique rant, I want to assure you that I believe in technique. In fact, technique is necessary in order to convey our ideas across to others through the music we make. I'm not some grumpy old drummer sitting here complaining about technique. But what I find fascinating is the pursuit of technique just for technique's sake.

I don't really care what or how someone plays their music. What I care about is their musicality. Now I realize that is subjective: something you think is musical, I might not. But I try to be very open minded about things I'm not really into, because I realize others may really have a passion for it. I must admit that I am astounded by some of the technical displays you can find on YouTube, but much like fast food, I find little substance, and little lasting satisfaction as the day wears on. 

On the other end of the spectrum, are people with little technique, but a huge passion and musicality. Many auto-didact musicians have developed both curious and strange techniques of their own, which often allows them to develop equally curious and strange music that I find endlessly fascinating. Sometimes formal training, for all the good it does, is a box we can become trapped in. I can't tell you how many times I've looked at someone else, with little or no training, play something fantastic, and said to myself, "I never would've thought of that!" 

So what is the point of all this? There needs to be a meeting, somewhere in the middle, that balances technique with musicality. This goes back to my previous blog post on Make A Good Sound. It's not just enough to make a good sound, even at 220BPM. You need to make music also. Otherwise, you might as well have robots make the music, because they won't be late for the gig, won't get drunk, and can outplay you:


But is it music? And do you want to listen to it as more than just a novelty?

Now for a different perspective, check out this video on the late, great Joe Morello. Joe possessed tremendous (even legendary) technique. He was impeccable. But Joe was also extremely musical: he was never the servant to the technique, rather, the technique was his servant. Check this short documentary on Joe out:



So get your technique together, because it's important to be able to play the ideas in your head/heart/soul, but don't forget to make music!

Oh, BYW, which one would you rather listen to all night long, Compressorhead, or Joe Morello?

~ MB

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