It's Not About Winning (or Whining)

Today in our society the idea of winning has become paramount. This may be fine for sports, or similar activities, but is it the right sort of attitude to have in the arts? It's now become prevalent for artists to want to become bigger, faster, more popular, sell more, have a bigger show, be more outrageous, etc. But at what cost?

Let's look at drumming. So many drummers today seem to be focused on being faster and playing more notes. While there's nothing wrong to aspire to technical mastery, technique for its own sake is a rather empty vessel. I'm all for playing faster, but when it obscures the music, what is the point? 

I'm reminded of something the great studio drummer/producer, Ndugu, said at PASIC this year, "The less notes I played, the more money I made!" While he has amazing technique, most people hire him to keep a fantastic groove. Just listen to Michael Jackson's Billie Jean to hear why he gets so much work. Ndugu plays the most basic of drum beats, but with so much soul & groove. Who needs a million fast notes?

"Until you can hear the music in which your drumming is applicable, why get started? Why would you acquire the fastest snare drum roll in the West for the hell of it? I'd rather read a good book." - Bill Bruford

Another aspect is people working so hard to be famous. Being famous is great, but what if you abandon your real goals & ideals just to jump onto the fame wagon? It's one thing to play all types of gigs to make some cash, feed your family, and pay the bills. It's another to sell out your dreams just to chase fame. If you really like what you're doing, then keep doing it. But if you don't, you need to have a look at what you really want to do, and how you can do that instead.

"I'm the best at what I do…I create my own rhythms…who could do that better than me?" - Ronald Shannon Jackson

The other part of this is all the whining artists do because they didn't get the gig, the money, the fame—hey, there are no promises in life. So you don't have the limo, or the gold records, I'm sure you have something that means a lot to you. Or what about excuses? If I hear another person complain that they would be better if they had this cymbal or that drum—nonsense! Stop your whining!!! Make your music with what's in front of you and make no excuses.

~ MB


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