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Postby electrizer » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:53 am

How to play music instead of just drumming? When I watch a drum video there are those "huh!" moments sometimes, but not after a super fast lick but after those few notes you don't expect but which really "tie the music together". I was thinking drum vocabulary but it cannot be just the amount of time you spend practicing rudiments and licks. What goes on through Vinnie's or Dave's or Benny's (Greb - I really think/hope this dude will go far) when they play that makes their drumming music instead of just drumming?
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Re: Musicality

Postby Morgenthaler » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:15 am

A few things make whatever you're listening to musical (in this instance: an example of great musicality)

- What the drummer plays
- What the drummer doesn't play
- The sound of his or her drumkit when you're listening to them
- The milli- and microsecond differences in their sticking, making *their* time-keeping unique (Gadd is a great example)
- The context (e.g. band) in which they place themselves and how much focus they draw to themselves in said context
- Your personal taste
- Popular opinion

Drumming is music. Even rudiments are music. Just as piano etudes are music, even though they were meant as practice pieces.
You can never place any one drummer in a category that is universally MORE musical than others. It's all down to personal taste and popular opinion.
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Re: Musicality

Postby Odd-Arne Oseberg » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:02 pm

It's another not what but how thing.

Being present and mindfull while you practice.

Looking at those names you mention, sure they practiced things in an isolated way at an early stage, but they really do practice musicality, creativity and spent as much or more playing with others as in shed alone. Regardless if alone or with others it's practice in context.

Don't just learn a lick and play it rubatum, but learn from it. Until it's something you can control, weave in and out of, change around, fit in anywhere in a way that works. They say Charly Parker only knew 76 licks or something like that. He knew them pretty damn well, though.

"Amateurs Practice Until They Get It Right. Professionals Practice Until They Can't Get It Wrong."

And that's just the start.

Check out Benny's last DVD and imagine him practicing everything he knows from such a deep place, with so much commitment. Every note he hits had a purpose, heart mind and soul behind it.

It's always about sound and groove. Spending enough time with something until you can really use it spontaneously. Practicing a rudimental etude is one thing. Where is you head at when you're doing it the main question.

We're taling to a large extent about improvising musicians here. Separating isn't really the way to go about it. That's the beginning. Just sit down and play. Use the stuff. The spot where it doesn't flow, where the kinks are, when it's not totally grooving, whatever it is, that's what you repeat until it does, that's in context, practicing in context just like you will use it.

That's Vinnie, too. Technique, skills, practice, talent.... Really it's dedication, focus, intent.

I remember this time when I was in 6th grade I think. The neighbour kid that was 10 years older than me came home and was our substitute teacher for a few gym classes. I was never that good at sport or that interested for that matter, certainly not in football which was what we did. That day though, wanting to impress I rules the field, was those few milliseconds faster because I gave it my all, I was that guy coming out of nowhere beating the really good ones as I wanted it more. Same thing.

If we don't have that we can all be fully inside the music even. It just costs a lot more.

That was a bit long, but the abuse I've been through has prevented me from feeling music in such a deep way for a long time. I've been sitting down at a little 4-piece I put together for myself at work, 10/14/20 Yamaha Power Special, the past few days really swinging. So... I have a few things to say about such things.

All those rudiments and stickings and whatever. I challenge myself in the way I play them. Super soft, heavy shuffle, mid tempo swing, on the top New Orleans-style.......
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Re: Musicality

Postby bensdrums » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:30 pm

The way a drummer feels time is a big one I think. Also what they hear in music and how attuned they are; what they key in on. It's different for everybody I guess.

I asked a similar question of a guy I studied jazz with recently. How do you 'learn' to interpret music well? His answer was that it's a combination of on-the-job (i.e. gigging) experience, critical and contextual listening (i.e. listening very closely to/emulating the masters), finding ways to practice musically, and hearing the things you practice as melodies or music rather than rhythms. He also recommended I devote consistent practice time to soloing over a theme--taking a rhythmic concept, like Soca for example, and becoming comfortable with the rhythmic accents and then focusing on them as a motif to solo over.

I also remember a bass player I played some swing gigs with told me that I should listen to a bunch of horn players and try to play horn solos on the drum kit, to try to get into the habit of playing melodies and music rather than "fancy drum shit" (as he put it). If it came to a point where I couldn't play what I heard, then I would know there was a technical issue that needed working out, and the process of figuring out how to address it was likely as valuable as the end result. He was right about that second part. Playing along with horn players was also helpful, just not as much as the realization that the process itself had as much value as the result.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from another musician was to go out and get into as many musical situations as possible and find out what I didn't know or do well (important piece: the humility to be honest with yourself). Then I'd know what I should be practicing, and more than likely be more motivated to learn it.

I'm not sure about Benny Greb, but both Vinnie and Weckl have played a shitload of music with a shitload of master musicians. No doubt that has been a major influence on their development and how they hear and interpret music... and by proxy, what they've chosen to focus on when they practice. It's true they had a lot of ability early on in order to get those kinds of opportunities, but it's worth noting that (at least Weckl and Vinnie) were highly obsessed early, and practiced A LOT at early ages. I think we hear this so much in drum interviews that we often ignore it, but a common trait amongst guys like that is an uncommon level of interest in a specific thing (like playing drums) at an early age. There were likely other musical experiences such as summer jazz camps and workshops at a young age that focused their development early on, along with parental support. I'm sure there's a lot of other factors, but I personally believe aptitude and intense interest, and parental/caregiver/mentor/etc encouragement at a younger age is huge.
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Re: Musicality

Postby Dave Goodman » Mon Jan 08, 2018 2:58 pm

Hey electrizer - great topic!

Some great words from Jeppe, Arne, and bensdrums here!

In my opinion, an undivided combination of playing with virtuosic instrumental skill in accord with one's aural and theoretical skills describes musicality here.

By virtuosic, I don't mean a flagrant, all-out display of agility all the time as some do - I mean being capable of playing as many or as few notes as are required at any volume anywhere on the drumset at any time according to the precise compositional needs of the piece being played by you in that band at that time. This requires a high level of relaxed and conscious attention paid to the sound of things from start to finish, as well as understanding that song in the context of the entire live set, or recorded album you're performing on. By listening, I mean having and using highly developed aural skills so that you can hear the devices of tension and release in the musical elements (such as harmony) and to play the drums in a way that enhances this movement. I think there can be no conceptual divide between 'drumming' and 'playing music' as you put it. If we aren't playing music, what are we doing anywhere near a set of drums? We're more like furniture collectors than musicians in this case. Without the musical component, to me, it's not drumming, it's simply noise, and, because music is not easy at all, each of us are guilty of being a bit noisy from time to time.

Pianist Mark Isaacs hired Vinnie Colaiuta to record on his brilliant album 'Resurgence'. Mark told me that Vinnie told him during conversation in the rehearsal and recording that he topped his aural skills / ear training class at Berklee. This says a lot about him. When we talk about practice, we also necessarily talk about developing our aural and theoretical faculties in balance with our ability to play strokes on drums. These skills come neither easily nor quickly, and only through as much hard work as you'd care to put into striking the drums.

Speaking of Vinnie, my favourite two seconds of any recording he's on are at 5:43 on the title track to Aydin Esen's 'Living'. It somehow magically resolves all the tension that the trio built for the preceding five minutes. There's no gratuitous display of skill here, and it's simply beautiful music to me, and the drumming doesn't exist in a vacuum, which brings up the subject of aesthetics in art music.

The music I love is 'art music'. Art music exists for its own sake, speaking and using its own language for reasons that are proper to itself. I'm stealing a lot from James Joyce here when I talk about achieving wholeness, harmony, and radiance. Aesthetics, or, the rhythm of beauty is an understanding of the relationship of part to part, of part to the whole, and the whole to each of the parts. You want people to want to listen again. How do you do that? By compositionally pacing everything you play. You have to truly play the piece that you're playing, and that means you have to go over, and over it, knowing it intimately in every aspect. If you're sight-reading, you have to be absolutely skilled as an interpreter of written music charts in the context of the sounds going on around you so that you play the first time as though you've played it a thousand times. You have to have a good musical and interpersonal rapport with the musicians you're playing with, and, hopefully, there's complete trust and respect between you and them. Without this, there is no music.

This is why, to me, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Hart, Paul Motian, Bill Stewart, and Peter Erskine (to name only a handful) are some of the truly great genius players of the drums - they're coming at the drums as seriously accomplished composers, which is still a few notches above what we've been talking about here. I keep coming back to listen to each of these guys over and over again for all the reasons stated here.

May I ask if you have any background in formally studying music theory, sight-reading, and developing aural skills? These are the subtopics that will be good to continue talking about in this thread!
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Re: Musicality

Postby langmick » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:03 am

This topic is a favorite of mine to think on.

Can a drumset fir in with a Bach concerto? Mozart? If not, how could one place it in the music where it would sound natural and part of the larger composition.

I'm not suggesting that is something that should be done, but it's an interesting thought experiment.

Playing musically in a musical context does require that type of thinking though. The drums should be there to support the vocals or melody, by any means necessary. That sometimes means taking a backseat and another more subtle approach.

I find Phil Rudd's playing interesting because of how he hits, what he hits, and his confidence while hitting. He support the guitar, and the vocals whileputting his stamp on the music in a musical way. He may not be conscious of what he's doing, it's possible it's just the way he does it. But if you pay atention to the pitch of his cymbals and where they sit in the groove and riff, there is some magic going on in there.

Even this tune has some subtle things going on. Cymbals, whether or not he hits them, and the hats, he opens and closes them slightly, imperceptible to the average listener, but definitely make the tune move.

At the other end is Billy Cobham. He plays tons of notes, but you wouldn't necessarily say he's getting in the way of everyone else, at least I don't. To me it is again the choice of pitches and how he hits things. He is also not showboating, but trying to get the energy of the music where it needs to be, and that's appropriate.

I caught Jeff Sipe with Jimmy Herring recently. We know he has tons of facility, but I never thought he was in the music, he was playing over and through it, not "behind" it. It was annoying to me. Ranjit Barot came out with John McLaughlin and it was the polar opposite. A better selection of notes, more harmony and support and more ears.

It's akin to looking at a crystal or diamond, or one of those old "3D" virtual reality posters. You have to look at them just right to unlock the secret, that being, the musicality. Tony's playing is like that to me. Sometimes I only hear the power and volume, other times, I hear what he was thinking in terms of interacting with the other players, and why he did what he did.

Confidence in your ideas also has a lot to do with it. Can you play with intentionality like John Bonham?

I also think listening to different types of music and musicians helps a lot in finding new angles. Guitarists don't think like drummers, trumpet players don't think like drummers. Bassists need to straddle rhythm and melody, note selection is as important and feel and groove.
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Re: Musicality

Postby Pocketplayer » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:41 pm

This type of thread brings me back to the glory days of HOD...we can discuss Aydin Esen and AC/DC in the same conversation.

This is seriously a deep topic. It is one where education can actually be a hindrance to development UNLESS you get to the other side of owning...owning what you play which takes courage! This parallels methods of grip I have been studying. Some become SO religious to a method, it becomes the guideline to artistic expression--to stay within a set of parameters consciously over being so free to interpret and compose.

One of the BEST moments I ever had with a band was when we went OFF SCRIPT...instead of staying within the rules of the song, we just played freely and took that groove and bled it out. It was MAGIC! Then the guitarist stopped..."We are losing focus guys!" Losing focus? He shut off the magic because he was LOCKED on the rules...we didn't get along too well.

I see this "incompleteness" in education. What you have been taught does not necessarily adopt to the classroom. Life is way too complicated. Most teachers shut off when faced with complexity and then try to pigeon hole a student into their limited understanding. This is where the courage comes in, to humbly say, "Something in NOT working here...I have to expand my vision." The road least taken! Most teachers are clones of their particular "method" and rarely expand beyond this. There is a "religious" thing going on here...a particular set of doctrines are the truth, therefore...

I have seen this over and over with the method gurus...they are LOCKED into their method. Bruce Becker is very interesting because he is very open to synthesizing methods and never gets locked...he seems to have gotten to the owning phase of development and his playing reflects this. He is not 30 anymore either...wisdom over time thing. YET...some of the most attractive drumming can come from a player who is locked into their style because it has definition...Phil Collins reminds me of this.

I do not think Phil Rudd spent a ton of time thinking and AC/DC music allowed for this gut level of expression. There is a Phil Rudd equivalent for every style of music. There are also guy's like Gavin who really think things through...the more you have to choose from intellectually, the harder it is to make choices and sound authentic over copying or mimicking. Stewart Copeland is another who was signature in style...confident playing comes to mind with him always. In the 80's, I can't recall how many times Modern Drummer articles spoke of drummers sounding like Gadd in the studio...this is the cloning thing that occurs in every is safe to clone and sometimes a producer requests this process making it more challenging for a musician to find his own voice.

I have thought a lot about this;
"You want people to want to listen again. How do you do that? By compositionally pacing everything you play. You have to truly play the piece that you're playing, and that means you have to go over, and over it, knowing it intimately in every aspect. If you're sight-reading, you have to be absolutely skilled as an interpreter of written music charts in the context of the sounds going on around you so that you play the first time as though you've played it a thousand times."

As a big fan of Jeff and his career, how long did he actually have to "master" a piece of music when he did a session at 10am and hopped to another by 2pm and then another by 7pm? To be fair, his playing style is not much different from one session to another which tells me the artist wanted that Porcaro feel. I have gone over an entire year of his playing and it is solid 2 & 4, hitting the punches and it does sound a lot like--let's crank this tune out and move on. Not a lot of time to diddle around. With his TOTO work, there had to be much more time to compose and think. Jeff relied a lot on feel, HIS feel, and if it wasn't there, he suggested another drummer for that song.

Vinnie is a different animal. How much time did he have to come up with his stuff on Nik Kershaw's record? There is some crazy stuff on that of his most creative. This LP in particular is one that if most drummers had a year to record and compose would still not touch what he performed. I do expect more from a drummer in a band that has a lot of time to take a song from the get-go like Peart with RUSH or Smith on Journey's Frontiers where he composed some epic drum parts.

In the end, I think some of the best musical expressions comes when one is no longer thinking about technique or song structure...they are 100% in the moment of playing and their unique stamp flows out of them. This usually happens when players enjoy who they are playing with and love the music. The "leader" whoever that is allows for creative expression and ego is held to the absolute minimum.
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Re: Musicality

Postby langmick » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:16 pm

I am going to be jamming some FZ tunes next week as a sort of audition for an FZ tribute. Should be interesting.

The Overnight Sensation record has some really interesting drumming on it...and even has some mistakes! I noticed a glaring one today listening.

Frank let them go, and there are some magical classic fills and grooves, timeless even.
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Re: Musicality

Postby Pocketplayer » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:30 am

Ive already blabberd on here, but one more thing...
I think it is important (I alluded to this earlier) that
it is a privilege to be able to create drum parts...
to compose as an independent artist. Few get this chance
on the big stage.

The first record I did was at 21 in LA. The artist sounded
A LOT like Jackson Browne. Like exactly like JB! The first
thing he told me was, "Play like Russ Kunkel."

At that time I knew of Russ, but it was a few tunes from
Carly Simon and James Taylor. I had to go pull albums...
no Internet to Youtube an artist...and then finally said I
am going about this all backwards...I need to ask this guy
what album he was thinking about and when I did he said
The Pretender...that album changed his life. This wasn't
about a song this was a life changing moment for him...
Russ' drumming made songs come alive for me,
they were just songs.

Right from the get-go, I was told to NOT be myself, to not
feel what I felt, but to play like Russ Kunkel and he heard
drumming totally different than I did...he focused on things
I would never consider. A song writer hears drumming very
different than a drummer does...THAT was a learning curve!
When he said that, Journey's Frontiers was getting tons of
radio play. He stopped and said, "That is good drumming...
listen to how that drummer plays time..." I thought,
"What's he talking about...Smith isn't doing anything noteworthy..."
It was like we were on different planets.

Now I am wondering how to play like Russ Kunkel and Steve
Smith! I HATED was a pressure that made this experience
terrible for me. " the build up like Russ did on
(such and such song I didn't know)" If I was honest, I would
have said, "Dude...I can't even play with this click track
pounding in my ear much less think about F'ing Russ Kunkel!"

All to say...much of my playing was without the freedom to
compose what I was to create parts based on an
artist's favorite drummer until I got in my own band that went
no place slowly for six years.

When the album came out, I was driving and turned on KLOS
and heard the title cut. Magic moment UNTIL the DJ said...
"Wow...that guy sounds just like Jackson Browne!"

Death sentence comment...I have never been so high and low
within three minutes.
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Re: Musicality

Postby electrizer » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:56 am

Playing while observing other instruments, like the abovementioned horns (or guitar, in my case as a drummer in a rock band) would be one way of serving the music, but what I had in mind was the kind of drumming that adds value in its own right, by playing the drums to enrich the music in a way no other instrument could at a given moment.

There was a Vinnie clip playing with Sting, which I'm not even beginning to try to find but I think it was Seven Days. There was a section gaining intensity as it progressed, right before a verse, and at the very end of it he culminates it with an eight note played on an open hihat which closed on the 'one'. To me that was THE perfect note, played at THE perfect time for THE maximum effect. And that couldn't have been achieved by any other player. IMO, that's a proof and result of experience, having played songs, listened to them, learning them, and knowing what works and what doesn't.

I'm on an "I'd Hit That" binge these days, and in his episode, Mark Giuliana used a phrase "lick-based playing". I was like, "What do you mean, you play your way and somebody else plays another". But when I gave it more thought I saw that what he meant was being there and then, listening and owning what you play, resorting to your "pre-programmed" and "pre-practiced" rudiments in all their variants only when the music calls for it. Dennis Chambers said in "Serious Moves" that some drummers sound like the're still practicing when they play. That's not music.

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