Don't Lose Sight of the Music
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 Stones might never have been the successful bands they were if not for their drummers. Each was perfect for their band. Each plays for the song and not to show off.
But lest you think I'm totally down on technique, I love and admire the amazing drumming of both Vinnie Calaiuta and Danny Carey. Both possess astounding technical ability and mastery of time. But even in their most technical moments, they always make music. It's never technique just for technique's sake. They're both fortunate to play in musical situations that let them explore the outer limits of their drumming abilities. Even when they play in shifting time signatures, they groove.
But it's not just drum set players that have exceptional chops and musicality. There's a whole world of amazing players in all styles of music out there. I really think drum set players need to venture out of their world and check out other drummers who are pushing the boundaries of creativity, yet not in a rock, pop, funk, gospel capacity.
A Look Into Another World
All you drum set players who think you have wicked chops need to check out Casey Cangelosi. Casey is the Director of Percussion Studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Besides having some wicked chops himself, he's extremely musical. Check out him performing one of his own compositions below:
Check out the masterful duo of Robyn Schulkowsky and Joey Baron as they weave their way through a rhythmic landscape:
Also check out Swiss Master Drummer, Pierre Favre, playing a variety of percussive textures and shades:
What is the common denominator between them? They make music! Technique is great and necessary, but when you are performing, you need to get beyond the technique, even forgetting it, and just make music. I've known a number of drummers, and other musicians, who had astounding technique, but their music left me cold. It was robotic, lacking any emotion or heart. Yes, it was precise and technically correct, but it never moved me at all.
Practice hard, build up your technique, but don't forget to make music!
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