Maybe not more, but less is sometimes better

shuffle

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I've been blessed with playing with some phenomenal guitar players. People come to see them and their tasty licks. Not me trying to one up the song with unnecessary fills, crashes and double paradiddles.

Keep the tempo, lay down the foundation, and the rest is butter.
Im in with the 'pocket lint'!
 

bellbrass

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I can relate to this thread. Again, we have lots of drummers here, who play lots of different styles. Start a thread about which heads to use, and the jazz guys chime in with recommendations for the low-volume stuff, and the metal guys chime in with "heavy heads are the only ones that will work."
But I digress.....
I think some of this DOES relate to aging. If I was asked to join a Rush tribute band, I would have to really work on my chops, but really what would be a challenge is hitting hard like Neil did, song after song. Many young drummers who are in reasonably good physical shape naturally want to hit hard and play fast. I think it's no different than the 16 year-old football player who only knows to hit as hard as he can, versus the 29 year-old player who knows where to hit which player, and when.
As I get older, I've become a student of what I call "musical maturity" - maybe some call it "Less is more," but I think of it as "Groove rules." Tempo, groove, and dynamics...it's what I'm about now. It took years of studying Jim Gordon to even accept that laying back is not a weakness; it's a strength. Most good musicians want a drummer who keeps good tempo and knows when to fill and when to play simply to support the song. I finally found out that those drummers are in high demand, not the chops monsters.
Listen to the "drums only" version of Gary Mallaber's drumming on Steve Miller's "Fly Like An Eagle". Perfection. My gosh.
There's a great video on YouTube - an instructor (Brandon Khoo) is giving a clinic, and an audience member asks him what makes a good drummer. He puts on a recording by The Beatles, and points out Ringo's very simple riff that really makes the song sound good. He then proceeds to demonstrate what most amateur drummers would have played instead. He nails it. It's the single best drum lesson I've ever had. I go back and watch that video many times per year -it never fails to inspire me.
 
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RIDDIM

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Prog-rock was a huge influence on me. I grew up on it, and still love it. According to Wikipedia, “Most of the genre’s major bands released their most critically acclaimed albums during the years 1971-1976.” That corresponds to my teen years. I turned 14 in 1971, and had been playing drums (or at least trying) since 1967. Musically, it was a great time to be a teenager. We all know the impact contemporary music has on our teen years. Many people will cite music from that time in their lives as “the best.” Many people will also disregard any music that comes along later.

As a musician, I’ve been open to music post-1977 (the year I turned 20), but the truth is, prog-rock moves me like no other.

In 1975, I graduated high-school and started drumming in crappy bands in shitty bars. While ELP were filling stadiums (stadia?) with fans (I was there!), and hundreds of notes per second, bar bands were more likely to play CCR. I was there, too.

Why? It’s a whole lot easier to dance to Proud Mary than Karn-evil 9. Bar patrons, and particularly bar owners, want music that is danceable. More dancing equals more beer drinking. To this day, if you walk into one of the few bars left with live music, you’re far more likely to hear Bad Moon on the Rise than Tarkus.

I’m glad there are no recordings of those bar-bands I was in. I shudder to think how I must have wrecked the beautiful simple grooves of danceable rock tunes with visions of Carl Palmer, Bill Bruford and Phil Collins dancing in my head.

I tried playing in prog-rock bands back then -- we played to empty rooms. I would go see my musician pal’s prog-rock bands, would marvel at their technical mastery, and bemoan the empty rooms they were playing. One of the hallmarks of progressive rock is that it’s music for listening. Odd and changing meters, fun and interesting as there are, do not lend themselves to dancing. Let’s not even talk about the lyrics; they seemed deep when we were all stoned but in looking back, WTF?

Around 1980, I got hired by a country band. I HATED country music, but needed the work. (In looking back, we were more rock, but were considered country --probably because of the pedal-steel.) All the musicians were older than me, all of four years or so but at that age it seemed like a lot. They were much more experienced and merciless about instilling in me the importance of groove. Lay off the fills. Lay of the crashes. Make it feel good. They turned me on to artists such as Dan Hicks, Commander Cody, and Asleep at the Wheel. I learned more about making music in the year I played with them (the leader broke it up and moved out west), than I did in four years of being a music major in college.

Now, that I’ve been playing in bars for 40-plus years, I’ve discovered that the more notes I can pull out of a groove, and still make it work, the better the feel. It’s been a slow journey, but like I said in the OP, I’m starting to get the hang of it.
- And feel trumps all.
 

Old Drummer

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In my opinion, minimalism is overrated. This said, rhythm is just as logically a series of rests interspersed with hits as it is hits interspersed with rests. More practically, it's easier to play less than more.

Just last week "Walking the Dog" was called. I muttered that while I've heard the song, I don't believe I've ever played it and don't rightly remember it. Nobody paid any attention to me (What's new?) and they launched into the song anyway. Something in my head told me that the song was supposed to be played with 8th notes on the ride, but as I heard the first few measures, quarter notes struck me as better. I played the entire ride with quarter notes and thought it worked fine. Out of curiosity, the next day I popped up the song on youtube. Sure enough, the drummers I saw were playing 8th notes on the ride. I scoffed, thinking my quarter notes suited the song better.

I've also of late found myself leaving the bass drum out sometimes. I don't know why I'm doing this, and I'm not leaving it out entirely, but during the verse of a slow song it's sometimes kind of cool to just kick the bass on 1 and let the rest of the measure proceed without another kick. It gives the song a different feel, quieter but with more anticipation. It's fun.

Though I like busy drumming too. It just depends on context. Actually, the same song can have busy and sparse drumming parts.
 

tommykat1

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This works for me:

(1) It's all about the groove.
(2) You can't hold no groove if you ain't got no pocket.
(3) The notes you don't play are more important than those you do.
(4) Drums are the easel. Bass is the canvas. Melodists are the paint.
(5) An unsteady easel and canvas make for a lousy painting.
 

anthony marquart

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In my opinion, minimalism is overrated. This said, rhythm is just as logically a series of rests interspersed with hits as it is hits interspersed with rests. More practically, it's easier to play less than more.

Just last week "Walking the Dog" was called. I muttered that while I've heard the song, I don't believe I've ever played it and don't rightly remember it. Nobody paid any attention to me (What's new?) and they launched into the song anyway. Something in my head told me that the song was supposed to be played with 8th notes on the ride, but as I heard the first few measures, quarter notes struck me as better. I played the entire ride with quarter notes and thought it worked fine. Out of curiosity, the next day I popped up the song on youtube. Sure enough, the drummers I saw were playing 8th notes on the ride. I scoffed, thinking my quarter notes suited the song better.

I've also of late found myself leaving the bass drum out sometimes. I don't know why I'm doing this, and I'm not leaving it out entirely, but during the verse of a slow song it's sometimes kind of cool to just kick the bass on 1 and let the rest of the measure proceed without another kick. It gives the song a different feel, quieter but with more anticipation. It's fun.

Though I like busy drumming too. It just depends on context. Actually, the same song can have busy and sparse drumming parts.
For me,. it's definitely NOT easier to play less. I can fill every measure with 16th 32nds and be dead on timing.. but I have never had an occasion where that fits any music I have played..
 

frankmott

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For me,. it's definitely NOT easier to play less. I can fill every measure with 16th 32nds and be dead on timing.. but I have never had an occasion where that fits any music I have played..
Interesting point. I think it's definitely easier to play more notes. Playing steady quarter notes at slow tempo and making it groove takes some skill. Leaving a bar completely empty at the end of a phrase requires very good internal time. I'll sometimes not even do a "pick-up" on four coming out of a break. THEN you separate the men from the boys with the rest of the band! Will we all come in together on one? When it works cleanly, it's very effective.
 

BennyK

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Jack and Jill went up the hill

Jack, son of Jack senior who was known for his long winded explanations, decided to climb the elevation seen by the whole village on a summers day and persuaded his neighbour's daughter , Jill ,to embark on this adventure with him .
 

tommykat1

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Jack and Jill went up the hill

Jack, son of Jack senior who was known for his long winded explanations, decided to climb the elevation seen by the whole village on a summers day and persuaded his neighbour's daughter , Jill ,to embark on this adventure with him .
Upon reaching the pinnacle, Jack tripped and fell, end over end, down the steep embankment, suffering serious head injuries as a result. Jill also fell down the shear cliff shortly thereafter, though her injuries are unknown.

Most important, they had carried an empty hydration cannister with them in hopes of replenishing their water supply at the top of the mountain.
 
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5 Style

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This conversation is great... and reminds me of an experience I had checking out some music in the French Quarter of New Orleans when I was there several months ago. I noticed a particular thing with the bands that were either playing in the street (busking) or playing in the outdoor covered areas of the largest, most touristy coffee joints, bars and restaurants. Though like pretty much anyone who's playing in that city, they seemed to be very good musicians, they were playing a very limited repertoire (a few jazz standards, some Fats Domino tunes and basically any tune that's a kind of cliche NO thing) and they seemed bored playing it. I feel like I noticed this boredom far more with the rythm section players than with the singers or lead instrumentalists. Drummers sounded like they were maybe experimenting with different concepts that they might use for gigs that were more challenging and that they cared more about. it's not as if these folks weren't playing in time or playing really obnoxiously, but I felt like in a really subtle way they were more concerned about making it interesting for themselves than they were into really selling the music.

My friend that I was traveling with noticed none of this, even when I pointed it out so it seems that folks can get away with a bit of playing some licks/ideas/etc that don't really serve the vibe of the tune that they're playing. Folks might not really notice these details, but I'd bet the bands that play these tunes that people get the most excited about are more about honoring the vibe of the tunes than these folks that I saw were. A lot of pop or roots type music is essentially very simple and to complicate with extra licks somehow takes away whatever essence that makes it work. I don;t think that playing simply necessarily IS simple though, I think that there's definitely an art to it and if you're keyed into the music enough than putting the notes in just the right places at the right volume with the right accents can be a worthy challenge, just as playing something complex with lots of changes.
 

Drm1979

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Any tips for a beginner? Nobody I know of gives lessons in this.
If possible record yourself playing then go back and analyze. This has helped me tremendously over the years. Been playing for 29 years and I still critique my own playing to improve.
 


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