"Space is the place!" - Sun Ra

10 Weeks To Better Drumming - Part 7

Last week we talked about notes, lots of them, all lined up one after another. This week we want to become more aware of the space between those notes. If you look at drums & percussion, most sounds are very short, so short that with say, a quarter note, we only really play the very beginning of the note. The rest of the note is silence/space. So even in a very busy pattern, we are probably playing more space than actual sound. Now if we play notes far apart, the amount of space between them is huge. 

What do we do with that space?
How do we accurately account for it?

When playing drums, percussion, and especially Gongs in a Meditation context, it's absolutely imperative to be aware of the space, as much as the notes.

Feel the space

Let's look at some exercises to help us become more aware of the space between the notes:

#1 - Start with 1 note and 3 equal notes of silence (you can think of these as quarter notes & quarter note rests)

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 etc.

On note 1, play a drum, block, Gong, etc. Count the next 3 notes to yourself, then repeat the sequence. You want to feel all 4 notes, especially the silence. What we want to learn is a sense of time passing, whether there is a sound or not. It's easy to play a lot of rapid notes in quick succession, because they create a certain momentum, and you don't have to deal with the space in between the notes. 

So if you have a metronome, start at 100BPM, with each count getting 1 metronome click. Play with the metronome for a while, feeling the time and the sense of space between each note played. Then turn the metronome off and repeat the same thing. Without the metronome you are free to feel the space between each note, but need to keep track of the passing time.

I'm amazed at how many musicians are daunted by silence, by long space between notes. This seems to be something people rarely think about or work on, they'd much rather work on playing super fast licks and runs of multiple notes. But every musician should fundamentally be aware of both the notes AND the space between those notes.

When you have this down and feel good about it, slow the tempo and increase the space. Bring it down maybe 4 BPM at a time until you get to say, 60 BPM. Now you really have to be aware of the space!

#2 - Increase the number of notes/rests: play in groups of 5, 6, 7, 8, etc., increasing the time between notes played. As above, slow the tempo down. 

Feel the time, be the time, immerse yourself in the time.

Yes, this exercise is very basic, but I'm amazed at all the musicians who do not have the basics down. Work on this, and last week's exercise, for 3 - 4 weeks and you will notice a great difference in how you perceive the music you play.

And remember, Space is the place…

~ MB


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