"Phases" in Our Drumming Lives: The Impressionable Years (Long-ish Read)

drums1225

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2017
Messages
278
Reaction score
473
Location
New York, USA
The "What Drummers Do You Hear in Your Playing?" thread made me think of how impressionable I've always been, even to this day. When I hear something inspiring, my first thought is to learn it, play it, and store it in my internal "hard drive". I guess it's just a natural curiosity I've always had; "That was cool! How did he/she do that?" It has always fueled my desire to improve, and early on, it formed the basis of my drumming vocabulary. Learning songs note for note and playing along with records was always my favorite hobby, so it never felt like work or a "study", but that work and study prepared me for a career as a professional drummer and educator.

I believe "you are what you eat", musically, so I've always consciously listened to music and musicians whose influence I wanted to "digest" into my own thing. During my most impressionable years, during my teens and early 20's, I sometimes ventured into an almost single-minded obsession, first and most notably with Neil Peart and, later, with Dave Weckl. I mostly don't regret this, because I learned SO much from both of them, and each forced me to step up my game considerably. But in retrospect, such deep dives into these players were similar to an addiction, and like an addict, I had to eventually completely walk away and never look back. I still love Rush and Neil's drumming, but I no longer have any desire to play like him. Same with Weckl. I love Chick Corea's music, and I wish I had Weckl's facility, but have absolutely zero desire to sound anything like him.

When I played original music during my most impressionable years, I wore my influences on my sleeve. Being called a Neil Peart clone would have been the highest compliment to me in high school. I guess I was trying to assert myself among my drumming peers, flex some drumming "muscle", and frankly, impress people. As the 80's wore on, Rush's new music was failing to fuel my fire, and I had simply overdosed on Neil. I was looking for a new hill to climb. At this point, fusion and funk really started to catch my ear (eventually leading me to straight ahead jazz). And the Dave Weckl phase began...

In the late 80's, early 90's, I bought everything Weckl played on, went to every performance or clinic I could, bought every instructional video, book, playalong, etc. I even went back to playing traditional grip, which I hadn't used since middle school band, and never on drum set. Though I learned a LOT from him, I eventually started sounding like a (very) poor copy of him, and frankly, I was mainly playing top 40 and rock gigs, so the stuff I was learning wasn't particularly applicable to my gigs. Eventually, I had to quit Weckl, cold turkey, and with all due respect, I haven't actively listened to Weckl in over 25 years.

My desire to cop everything note for note really started to wane when I began getting into jazz and more improvised music. I figured, if this guy doesn't play it the same way twice, why should I obsess over ONE performance that happened to be caught on tape? I started taking a more general approach, maybe copping a few grooves and licks, but mainly absorbing the concept and vibe of my favorite players, and focusing on trying to find myself behind the kit. Now I don't really try to copy anyone, except when I'm covering their songs (esp. in tribute bands). To be honest, I don't have the patience to try and break things down that far, for myself, anymore. I'll do it for my students, or if it's something I need to play on a gig, but for my own pursuits, I'm completely over it. I'm more interested in pursuing my own creativity.

What was your drumming journey like? Did you/do you obsess over any particular drummers, mimicking their setup, style, sound, etc? What were the benefits and pitfalls of doing so?
 

jkuhl

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2010
Messages
436
Reaction score
118
Location
md
The "What Drummers Do You Hear in Your Playing?" thread made me think of how impressionable I've always been, even to this day. When I hear something inspiring, my first thought is to learn it, play it, and store it in my internal "hard drive". I guess it's just a natural curiosity I've always had; "That was cool! How did he/she do that?" It has always fueled my desire to improve, and early on, it formed the basis of my drumming vocabulary. Learning songs note for note and playing along with records was always my favorite hobby, so it never felt like work or a "study", but that work and study prepared me for a career as a professional drummer and educator.

I believe "you are what you eat", musically, so I've always consciously listened to music and musicians whose influence I wanted to "digest" into my own thing. During my most impressionable years, during my teens and early 20's, I sometimes ventured into an almost single-minded obsession, first and most notably with Neil Peart and, later, with Dave Weckl. I mostly don't regret this, because I learned SO much from both of them, and each forced me to step up my game considerably. But in retrospect, such deep dives into these players were similar to an addiction, and like an addict, I had to eventually completely walk away and never look back. I still love Rush and Neil's drumming, but I no longer have any desire to play like him. Same with Weckl. I love Chick Corea's music, and I wish I had Weckl's facility, but have absolutely zero desire to sound anything like him.

When I played original music during my most impressionable years, I wore my influences on my sleeve. Being called a Neil Peart clone would have been the highest compliment to me in high school. I guess I was trying to assert myself among my drumming peers, flex some drumming "muscle", and frankly, impress people. As the 80's wore on, Rush's new music was failing to fuel my fire, and I had simply overdosed on Neil. I was looking for a new hill to climb. At this point, fusion and funk really started to catch my ear (eventually leading me to straight ahead jazz). And the Dave Weckl phase began...

In the late 80's, early 90's, I bought everything Weckl played on, went to every performance or clinic I could, bought every instructional video, book, playalong, etc. I even went back to playing traditional grip, which I hadn't used since middle school band, and never on drum set. Though I learned a LOT from him, I eventually started sounding like a (very) poor copy of him, and frankly, I was mainly playing top 40 and rock gigs, so the stuff I was learning wasn't particularly applicable to my gigs. Eventually, I had to quit Weckl, cold turkey, and with all due respect, I haven't actively listened to Weckl in over 25 years.

My desire to cop everything note for note really started to wane when I began getting into jazz and more improvised music. I figured, if this guy doesn't play it the same way twice, why should I obsess over ONE performance that happened to be caught on tape? I started taking a more general approach, maybe copping a few grooves and licks, but mainly absorbing the concept and vibe of my favorite players, and focusing on trying to find myself behind the kit. Now I don't really try to copy anyone, except when I'm covering their songs (esp. in tribute bands). To be honest, I don't have the patience to try and break things down that far, for myself, anymore. I'll do it for my students, or if it's something I need to play on a gig, but for my own pursuits, I'm completely over it. I'm more interested in pursuing my own creativity.

What was your drumming journey like? Did you/do you obsess over any particular drummers, mimicking their setup, style, sound, etc? What were the benefits and pitfalls of doing so?

I over indulged in Rush and Neil in my late teens. I simply couldn't fathom that a more talented or skilled drummer existed. That anyone else could, or suggest it, was blasphemy.

Ironically, my moment of clarity was also brought on by hearing Weckl on the Acoustic Band, Live album with Chick and Patitucci and my next unhealthy obsession was born. I became fixated on Jazz and fusion and was overwhelmed with the number of amazing talents I had ignorantly been too blinded by my deifying of Peart, to notice. Cobham, Chambers, Vinnie, Bozzio, Thompson (Zappa was a huge revelation), Jack, Elvin, Tony, Gadd, Morello, Watts etc. I starting becoming just as jaded by Jazz and was falling into the same trap, of trying to qualify what the pinnacle of drumming was/is. I loved soul music, reggae, funk and r&b too but my interest in those faded, as I couldn't be bothered with what I stupidly confused to be "super simple" forms of music. It took a while to "get" Steve Jordan or why JR Robinson was the man. When I hear someone like Brian Blade absolutely killing it in a straight ahead ensemble and then laying it down with Daniel Lanois, I'm reminded that the greats can do it all and probably NEVER looked down their noses at other players, or styles of music.

Granted, I still love Jazz and have an enormous respect for those that do it well and I appreciate and understand what it takes to get to that level but I'm done trying to convince anyone else of it's merit and value to music and how skilled and disciplined you have to be to get it right. My Peart obsession kept me insulated from a world of music and drumming much like my jazz obsession kept me from electronic music and drum and bass and ignorantly influenced me to write those styles off as "computer music".

My long-winded point is, that tastes change and there's always something else more challenging, to either learn, or consume and I'll never make the mistake, of using the word, "best"ever again when describing a musican, or music. There's ALWAYS someone working to destroy that notion, the notion of best. Overall, I feel like I've benefitted from challenging myself to do my best to understand what these great players were doing but wish I could have done it with more humility and less snobbery
 
Last edited:

CC Cirillo

DFO Veteran
Silver Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2019
Messages
1,989
Reaction score
3,514
Location
Northern California
Predominately self taught here, playing along to rock and soul stations in the late 70s. I was omnivorous in my listening--jazz, prog, funk, everything, but I never took any sort of dive into trying to emulate those drumming gods. I'd listen to Yes or Frank Zappa or Weather Report, all ears, but it'd never occur to me to even think about playing that music. No need to memorize those complex Zappa breaks because not only did I know I'd never be good enough to play that style of miusic I also knew I never WANTED to play it.

Even my 13-year-old brain knew it wasn't sexy. As far as playing, I was focused on the song and how the drums sat within the song structure rather than what the drummer was actually playing. So...my technical skills didn't really advance. Instead I gravitated to trying to emulate players who exemplified what I perceived as more feeling than intellect or technique in their playing. For example: Roger Hawkins on I'll Take You There.

Of course, I know now that those deep grooves I admired so much also take/took intellect and technique to put forward...
 
Last edited:

Deafmoon

DFO Veteran
Joined
Nov 26, 2014
Messages
1,586
Reaction score
1,576
Very similar journey for me but I no longer separate the drummer from the music. I went from Buddy to Max to Blakey to Tony to DeJohnette to Cobham to Bruford to Barlow to Pugwash to Peart to Gadd to Erskine to Weckl to Chambers to …on it goes. But I don’t cop every lick or fill I hear as something to acquire in a bag of tricks anymore. I listen to the music and the drummer within it, no longer as a separate entity.
 


Top