How important is versatility for you?

squidart

DFO Veteran
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2018
Messages
1,987
Reaction score
2,309
Location
Pacific Northwest
Most versatility that I have was born out of necessity.

"I got an opening 6 nights a week at my crappy truck stop/dive bar gig. Can you play western swing?" the man says to the financially struggling young Bruford devotee/father-to-be. Damn straight I said "yes sir!" even though I hadn't a clue. I grabbed a Bob Wills LP box set and nose met grindstone quick.

Kids don't feed themselves! Lol.
 

Wolfman

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2018
Messages
49
Reaction score
54
I think there are lots of different ways to go about it. I've made a living playing drums in NYC for 25 years and I really only play "traditional jazz/Dixieland." That's all I ever wanted to play, although I do enjoy listening to lots of different kinds of music and I learn from drummers in all styles. I do try to be versatile within my chosen genre, as I'll play everything from ragtime to mainstream swing, and I enjoy playing all of it. But I haven't played a rock, funk or modern jazz gig in over two decades (and I probably wouldn't be able to!) and have been able to make a living just playing older jazz. I have the highest respect for players who can do everything well, but I knew that was never going to be my strength so I just focused on getting as good as I could at the thing I loved the most. I felt that in my particular case, that was my best chance of making a living at music and I feel extremely fortunate that I've been able to do it. Different things work for different people and as Dirty Harry said, "A man's got to know his limitations."
 

Drumbeav

Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
6
Reaction score
6
Location
York, PA
At 54, I am semi-retired from active gigging but there was a time when I deliberately sought the most wildly divergent situations I could find to challenge myself to stretch and learn. It is so much fun and rewarding to immerse yourself in a totally different circle of players and styles.

In my area, I became known as a short notice sub player who could be called for gig, show up with little or no rehearsal and deliver a competent performance.

My record for shortest notice was getting a call at 4 pm for a gig that began at 8 pm.

To me, versatility is the spice of music.
 

Drumbeav

Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2021
Messages
6
Reaction score
6
Location
York, PA
Most versatility that I have was born out of necessity.

"I got an opening 6 nights a week at my crappy truck stop/dive bar gig. Can you play western swing?" the man says to the financially struggling young Bruford devotee/father-to-be. Damn straight I said "yes sir!" even though I hadn't a clue. I grabbed a Bob Wills LP box set and nose met grindstone quick.

Kids don't feed themselves! Lol.
Exactly! Just like the classic Hollywood actors who when auditioning for roles got asked "Can you ride a horse/shoot a gun/dance...etc., simply replied "Yes" to anything, then promptly went out and took lessons on whatever was relevant.
 

mebeatee

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
1,363
Reaction score
1,127
Location
Sechelt(ish), B.C. Canada
What do ya mean....versatility....I'm playing as loud and fast as I can..........!!!!!

Interesting dilemma in that, as well as music appreciation, versatility is paramount but can be used in different ways.
One is the ability to appreciate, and be able to at least give some sense of credo to whatever musical situation you are in or are asked to play. If you are in a situation where the music is in a certain "genre" and the folks who hire you say that's pretty cool but let's try it a totally different way, you should be able to at least "cop" the new style and do it justice. Of course it helps if the folks you are playing with are versatile as well.....
On the other hand if you are forging your own "style" this demands a certain closed minded approach....but
not really as you have to draw from a lot of influences....some which may have no direct association with what you are trying to achieve.
In teaching this/these appreciations are necessary....I'll show the blast beat metal kid how to play a proper waltz, and the folk rock person how to approach a reggae groove for example. If the person is aware enough then they can incorporate the proper waltz approach in a brutal blast and vice versy. Akin to the old adage professionals steal and amateurs borrow.....;)
bt
 

RogersLudwig

DFO Veteran
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 31, 2008
Messages
2,799
Reaction score
1,574
Location
Fort Stinkindesert, NM
Great subject. I always took lessons from jazz drummers, believing if i learned how to play jazz, meaning the methods and techniques, i could learn to play anything. Did it work? All the rockers I play with tell me I sound like a jazz drummer and all the jazzers I play with tell me I sound like a rocker.
 

BennyK

DFO Star
Platinum Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2008
Messages
16,390
Reaction score
3,893
Most versatility that I have was born out of necessity.

"I got an opening 6 nights a week at my crappy truck stop/dive bar gig. Can you play western swing?" the man says to the financially struggling young Bruford devotee/father-to-be. Damn straight I said "yes sir!" even though I hadn't a clue. I grabbed a Bob Wills LP box set and nose met grindstone quick.

Kids don't feed themselves! Lol.
He who dares, wins .
 

Sequimite

DFO Veteran
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2010
Messages
2,418
Reaction score
642
Location
Sequim (skwim), Washington
I've never thought about playing music as my main source of income. I was a CPA and that worked fine. In 1979 my cousin called me from college and asked if he could make a living as a drummer. I said yes, it he was willing to play any style of music, anytime, anywhere and teach. He moved in with my wife and I, bought my drumset and started playing but did not follow my advice. In the 80's his glam rock band moved to California and tried hard but failed. he gave up drumming completely and became a pediatric nurse. He worked hard but was obsessed with making it big rather than perfecting his craft.

I mention Mike because as a child he lived two houses down from me and next door to him lived Dave Weckl. Mike and Dave used to bang on pots and pans together to Monkees records. I'm an amateur, a hobbiest, even though I've done paying jobs since the early 70's. But I'm interested in everything and will try anything even though I don't work very hard at it. Mike was a hard worker but his interests were quite limited and when he reached a dead end didn't see alternatives. Dave of course is a legendary hard worker. If you are that good you can be very picky and very successful, but that's not 99% of us.
 

Steech

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2021
Messages
134
Reaction score
85
Location
East coast
I've never thought about playing music as my main source of income. I was a CPA and that worked fine. In 1979 my cousin called me from college and asked if he could make a living as a drummer. I said yes, it he was willing to play any style of music, anytime, anywhere and teach. He moved in with my wife and I, bought my drumset and started playing but did not follow my advice. In the 80's his glam rock band moved to California and tried hard but failed. he gave up drumming completely and became a pediatric nurse. He worked hard but was obsessed with making it big rather than perfecting his craft.

I mention Mike because as a child he lived two houses down from me and next door to him lived Dave Weckl. Mike and Dave used to bang on pots and pans together to Monkees records. I'm an amateur, a hobbiest, even though I've done paying jobs since the early 70's. But I'm interested in everything and will try anything even though I don't work very hard at it. Mike was a hard worker but his interests were quite limited and when he reached a dead end didn't see alternatives. Dave of course is a legendary hard worker. If you are that good you can be very picky and very successful, but that's not 99% of us.
Holy Smokes. Weckl. Wow.
 

Houndog

DFO Master
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
5,692
Reaction score
6,138
Location
Oklahoma City
I'm splitting hairs, but I would emphasize being adaptable over being versatile - taking note of what the songwriter wants is important, I think.
I like this reply . I have my current gig because I wouldn’t give up on a drum part for a song .
I’m not skilled enough to be truly versatile.
But I have been in Metal, Country ,Rock and Blues RB bands …
 

dcrigger

DFO Star
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
6,317
Reaction score
4,423
Location
California
I'm splitting hairs, but I would emphasize being adaptable over being versatile - taking note of what the songwriter wants is important, I think.
Splitting hairs - yes, I kinda of think so. But even more so if we ponder what makes for adaptability....

Doesn't being adaptable require having a broad and deep enough tool bag to be able to musically recognize what the artist is going for, be able to reference in our head the influences that may have inspired or at least support their vision and then the skills to put that together and perform it....

All of these styles and genres and traditions, all have some degree of effect on all of the other ones... there's so much cross-pollination between styles. How 80's LA pop influenced country music to become now an essential part of modern country. How swing drummers of the early 50's provided the launching point for all pop and rock drumming that followed.

So when a songwriter is leaning towards some early influence feel-wise - all of the sudden - a pop country rehearsal is calling for some swing knowledge and facility.

Versatility is IMO the underlying skillset that allows adaptability to function. Of course, the listening part must be there - but then it could said that the listening part must always be there. :)
 

dcrigger

DFO Star
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
6,317
Reaction score
4,423
Location
California
To more directly answer the OP's question...

Versatility has proven to be very important to me.

The first obvious one was the more practical - as there is always an ebb and flow to how much work there is within a group of players in a certain area playing a certain style, the most obvious protection for surviving those slow times is to a part of more than one group.

Early on being able to try and build up work with the wedding band people, and the rock session people, and the jazz/fusion crowd along with the straight up show-biz - musicals, variety shows, whatever crowd by constantly juggling between them was the difference for me between having to lose half my waking hours to a day job... or not.

I wanted to play... play anything... way way more than I wanted to work at Radio Shack. So versatility proved essential.

Over the years - the same thing applied to being able to teach - to learning how to program drum machines (and later everything that turned into). I learned how to record myself as part of seeing owning a studio and engineer as a related, side job to being a musician. Now for most working players, it is just a good idea.

So the versatile approach for me was the plan all along.

What I didn't realize (as I eluded to in the post above) was just how important it would be to working within each style. Especially when it came to recording and working with people that just weren't playing "x" music but were creating it.

And it was just asking how well listened they were - pretty close to all of them. Of course, they would have deep deep awareness of the history and depth of their specific genre - but then there would be their awareness of so much music far far afield of what they were creating.

So the broad listening required to become versatile was revealed to be a "versatility" I was needing within each specific group. And so often, I was still being stumped - artists, writers referring to references that I simply didn't know... or wasn't really familiar with. Which meant more and more and more listening - as literally a practical requirement of the work.

So yes, versatility has been very important for me.
 

DamnSingerAlsoDrums

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2020
Messages
1,263
Reaction score
1,959
Location
Montréal
I wish I was versatile... The stylistic sandbox in wich my band plays is pretty narrow (cajun/country) and "professionaly" it is the only throne time I get. So I'm developing as a rather unidimensionnal player. But being aware of this, I try to compensate by playing a lot of different stuff when I play alone at home. But even then, I don't stray too far from americana/rock/ funk/ indie and other mostly backbeat based music.

I doubt I'll ever be the "Latin/African polyrythms" guy or the "uber complex fusion stuff" guy either. And I'm ok, I'm not trying to be either. But I'd still like to be fluent in a variety of styles I appreciate.
 

mebeatee

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
1,363
Reaction score
1,127
Location
Sechelt(ish), B.C. Canada
I wish I was versatile... The stylistic sandbox in wich my band plays is pretty narrow (cajun/country) and "professionaly" it is the only throne time I get. So I'm developing as a rather unidimensionnal player. But being aware of this, I try to compensate by playing a lot of different stuff when I play alone at home. But even then, I don't stray too far from americana/rock/ funk/ indie and other mostly backbeat based music.

I doubt I'll ever be the "Latin/African polyrythms" guy or the "uber complex fusion stuff" guy either. And I'm ok, I'm not trying to be either. But I'd still like to be fluent in a variety of styles I appreciate.
As long as you’re playing “cajun/country” then all is well....!!
Now cajon/country wouldn’t sit too well....pun intended....
bt
 

DamnSingerAlsoDrums

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2020
Messages
1,263
Reaction score
1,959
Location
Montréal
As long as you’re playing “cajun/country” then all is well....!!
Now cajon/country wouldn’t sit too well....pun intended....
bt
Absolutely NO chances of that happenning. If we ever get to a point where we need to downsize the kit, I'll just play guitar and call it a day.

Funny coincidence: a few gigs ago, a well intentionned but ill informed local woodworker gifted us with a Cajon he made, engraved with our band logo. It was a nice gesture and we thanked him a lot. But having neither a) interest in the cajon and b) space for it in the van, we gave it to the bass player's father to bring to his hunting cabin where it wil proudly serve for late night jams and as a trophy/memento/conversation piece of sorts. ;-)
 

paul

DFO Master
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
3,031
Reaction score
1,118
Location
Lewisville, TX
When I restarted my playing I just wanted to play as often as possible, and have always enjoyed playing different styles. After all, variety is the spice, right?

What I've found is that doing so is beneficial in multiple ways, not least of which is the way that the things I learn playing one style can help my playing in another situation. And everything I learn on a gig of any kind is simply another tool in the box, to be used whenever it feels right.
 

TonyVazquez

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 29, 2019
Messages
283
Reaction score
289
Location
Cohoes, NY
Versatility means a lot to me.
It has gotten me more gigs in different bands rather than being stuck in a box
"dedicated" to just one genre or style.
I didn't spend 40 years of my life learning and practicing just to be stuck in place.
I cannot expand if I don't take chances
and opportunities to apply myself where
I think I might fit in.
And at my current age I don't wanna
walk in line when I can explore
through a labyrinth.
 


Top