I made this mistake I’m about to regale you with, probably about twenty five years ago – which apart from making me feel old – I’m glad to say, I never forgot – and am able to warn you guys about it, in the hope you will avoid making the same faux pas!
Ok, so confession time!
A long time ago in a practice room, far, far away...
I’d spent a lot of time developing my paradiddles, double paradiddles, six stroke rolls etc. – concentrating on clarity of stroke, relaxation and accuracy, and how to apply them musically around the kit. I’d worked my butt off!
I was really beginning to understand how to play more melodically, getting very much into using varied sound textures within and around grooves and fills. And it was a big breakthrough for me! Many aspects of my study were really coming together, and it was an exciting time for me.
So, I was feeling confident and that I had a good approach.
I’d tuned my kit carefully, marked it off on my drum mat, had my spares sorted, all ship shape and ready to go as the first gig after my epiphany came along.
So, the first number began – the start of a simple set of good old pop-rock standards. And there I was, relaxed, playing for the music, keeping it in the pocket. All was going well and then came along the need for my first fill – off I went: a smooth set of paradiddles across the kit – very nice! Success!
And so it continued: flam taps here, double paradiddles there, a few six strokes rolls between bell of ride and cowbell, etc. You get the picture.
Eventually of course, the gig came to an end. Good audience response. I was happy, felt all my hard work had paid off and my chops had been clean and well executed.
The next day, I happened to see a video of a couple of numbers from the gig, shot by a friend of the bass player. And that was when it all fell apart! It was then that I realised what a huge mistake I had made!
Listening to my playing, I was happy with the grooves – simple, right for the music, good pocket – but then, my fills – oh Lordy!
The stroke clarity was lost under the bass, the intricate textural variations just sounded random and the drive of the songs was completely diminished until I returned to the groove, and things got motoring again.
Now, the fills were all in time, so I thought ‘what on earth was going on? Why weren’t my hard earned chops working?’
As usual, with a lot of these situations, the answer was very simple – but it took me listening to my playing to realise I was guilty of the mistake!
I’d been so keen to implement my new techniques, instead of playing fills that suited the musical situation, that I was shoehorning what were essentially jazz/fusion fills into everything I played. I was labouring under the misapprehension that just because my fills were in time, and had clarity and variety, they were working well. I was so wrong!
And the crazy thing is, I’d got it spot on with the grooves. But it was clear when I listened to my playing on the video, that the minute I played a fill, my dedication to ‘playing for the music’ went right out of the window! I was so keen to play these new fills, I lost my sense of musical proportion – and those fills simply DID NOT FIT! They did not sit in the genre, the balance of the band or the dynamics and volume of the gig. The fills were lost in a world of rock – totally inappropriate. Instead of playing the kit musically, I played fusion oriented fills! Ultimately, they made me sound amateur!
To a lot of you guys out there, this will be familiar and a lesson you learnt years ago – so this is really aimed at the newbie drummer.
My mistake was twofold – I tried to fit the wrong fills into the wrong music, and I treated the gig as a rehearsal for my new chops! A total no, no!
I was appalled at how I sounded, and have done my level best since that day to never let it happen again – keeping that golden mantra at the back of my mind – play for the music always!
Don’t do what I did, folks – play selfishly. How can I finish, other than saying…
Always play for the music, always play for the music, always play fo………!!!
This article was written by Ian Bee, a professional drummer, Liberty Drums Artist and tutor from Bletchey in Buckinghamshire. If you would like to learn more about Ian, please visit his website: www.ianbdrums.co.uk
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