By DiehardDIYer in DiehardDIYerCarl Palmer loves to play the drums. You can see it on his face, you can hear it in what he does. At 65 he maintains a youthful energy and vitality that continues to amaze fans. He's been at it, steadily, for just about his entire life, since his teens, as a professional. He is a consummate musician and a consummate entertainer, as well. That has been his philosophy all throughout his career.
I start this blog with Palmer because I have been watching some recent playing of his. Youtube, again, being the phenomenon it is. Palmer is one of the very fortunate few who have been able to make a career doing what they love. Most of us, the vast, vast majority of musicians on this planet, do not have that privilege or joy, for varying reasons. About as close as most get are weekend warriors. It must suffice.
At 61, I have no expectations. I'd love to be a touring musician. I think. The rigors of the road, day after day, night after night, locations blurring into dozens, hundreds, or thousands in attendance in venues both dank or swanky, can have its share of reality checks. A sound check and concert are a few hours. That leaves twenty-one hours for eating, sleeping, laundry, hanging out and maybe some sight-seeing. The guitarist I record with, Tom Cranor, same age as me, says, "Forget it. You can have it." He'd much rather be involved in his regular job, or down in his studio, and sleeping in the same bed every night. There is certainly something to be said for that angle. Our second CD is almost ready, and that's cool. I have enjoyed recording. It's been rewarding.
I made decisions just about 37 years ago that changed the direction of my life and I abide by that. No complaints. Still, I am one of those people who find it quite boring to play to the four walls every day. I have friends who say, "Just play for the sheer enjoyment. Learn, grow, advance." I am just not tuned into that frequency. I need a purpose and a plan and the satisfaction of contributing something, and moving someone else in some way. Just the way I'm wired.
You Tube has become an avenue where the 'nobodies' of life can express themselves and share and receive some feedback, which has been taken advantage of by millions of people around the world. It's really something. Matter of fact, for some, it has become a career, of sorts. That is a topic and phenomena all its own.
I want to keep playing. I'd like to keep making drums, and even open a drum shop, something I have wanted to do since my teens. Not sure any of it will develop to fruition, for various reasons but, I am a prisoner of hope.
To those who have fulfilled their dreams, congratulations. To those who chose other paths, may it have proved the wisest choice. To those who abide satisfied right where they are, more power to you.
By DiehardDIYer in DiehardDIYerIn the fifty years I have been playing there have been various moments of reading articles or interviews where something was stated that just struck me with great force and conviction.
Tony Williams. A statement from an old interview where he said he learned to make every stroke count. Made a big impression on me in the way I approach my own playing.
Interviews with Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine, Pierre Favre (who? Swiss jazz drumist, and sound explorer), and others over the years who have intelligently broken down the art into succinct phrases of the spoken word which just made such sense to me it left indelible marks upon my mind and ultimately my playing. It has not happened often but, when it has it has been enlightening and empowering.
Of course, one can see Carl Allen's comment as my signature, I ain't nobody's timekeeping baby sitter. Everyone needs to know where "1" is. That was a big one. Talk about an expression of freedom. It just caused instant solidarity from me.
Maybe the biggest impression of all was something from an early interview with Ginger Baker when playing in Cream. I've stated it before. He said, People may play faster than me. They may play with greater technique than me but, nobody plays like me.
Baker's conviction about having his own voice, above everything else, was so strong it has kept him among the top players in drumming history. To this day, regardless of his lack of speed, or lack of technique, "Toad" from Wheels of Fire, disk 2, remains one of the greatest recorded solos of all time. It holds up even today because of its style within Baker's voice.
The concept of having your own voice at the instrument sank so deeply within me at a young age it never let go. Whether or not there is anything of that nature in my playing after five decades, I don't know. I've had it said to me a few times over the years and it was certainly gratifying to hear.
The thing is, like our own speaking voice, which people recognize as our voice, we all tend to use the same words day in and day out. Most people have around 3,000 words in their vocabulary, give or take, which they use throughout life to communicate their general thoughts and feelings and concepts about daily living. Women tend to use more words than men. Women are now playing the drums more than ever. If you know of some who have mastered the art within the framework of having their own voice at the instrument; do they seem to use more "words?" Not that I have noticed.
Today, finding a unique voice is difficult, indeed. The world-wide nature of the drumming community has made saying something unique or different at the set more and more, seemingly impossible. It has become a race to extend skills and technique, not necessarily the artistry contained in having your own voice, despite or in spite of technique.
Recently I have been watching a lot of videos featuring Keith Carlock. This man is the Steve Gadd of this generation, as some have said, and I believe, rightly so. That guy has a voice so outstanding it is right up there with the elite of players in the history of the instrument. Nonetheless, the more I watch, even going back to videos from the 90s, the more convinced I am that just like your speaking voice, your drumming voice will remain the same throughout your life. Something in each of us which has the potential for creating a unique voice at the kit, also locks us into a framework of expression when we perform. It doesn't matter how large a vocabulary you have, you will use the same basic sets of words to communicate your thoughts and feelings behind the drums. Whether Keith is playing jazz, or rock, or pop, there are few surprises. It is him. That is a great thing, really. At the same time, it is also a study of repetition which is curious, indeed.
It does not matter if you are Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Ginger Baker, John Bonham, Bill Bruford, Carl Palmer, Neil Peart, Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaituta, Omar Hakim, Dennis Chambers, Virgil Donati, Chad Wackerman, Gene Hoglan, George Kolias, Derek Roddy, or Keith Carlock: when you hear them, you have heard them. They tend to play the same licks throughout their careers. Something ingrains itself into the psyche and character and personality of the person, just like their speaking voice and vocabulary, and they play the same licks over and over. I find it fascinating. And, it is the same for the highly educated player as for the self-taught. That is something I find quite encouraging. The education might land you more jobs but, it will not grant you a unique voice or even give you an expanded, unique voice. The human make-up will contain you within a sphere of your own background and inner-self.
In some cases, as in the phenomenon of "Gospel Chops" and the players who inspired the style, which was once very unique, and the whole army of those who have taken it up, tend to all sound the same, marching to the same drummer. There is a large volume of notes but, not necessarily a lot of music in those notes or unique voices in the style, so much so some big names have begun to state their opinions and convictions on the matter: too many using the music as a platform to show off their skills, beating the music to death in the process. There is nothing new under the sun. The same attitude has been seen in younger players in all generations. It's just that, today, the speeds have increased, the notes pile up, especially with the style of increasing kick notes in fills and all, and things sound more cluttered as a result, if overplaying is a problem.
Another quote from a friend and teacher, which struck me deeply, and I have stated before: Music has to have space between the notes. That's what makes it music.
By chance, I recently came upon an article on speed metal drummers and metal music which shocked me with the premise and fact that many albums are now nothing more than digital when it comes to drumming. In fact in some cases all the parts are digitally built. Nothing is human. Some bands like it that way. Speed for the sake of speed has replaced music: the combination of melody, harmony, and rhythm played by human musicians. It seems the antique player piano rolls have finally reached their baleful influence people warned of back then, a 120 years ago. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304591604579288531126033944
Find your voice. Learn to enjoy it. You can increase your knowledge. We can always learn new things. You can always enlarge your vocabulary. A new lick now and then is cool. Drummers are all thieves, all copy and paste artists. The quest is to make things our own.
The bottom line seems to be the best you can be is you, no matter what influences shape you. That is actually a good thing.
Why be a drumming clone when you can be you?
By DiehardDIYer in DiehardDIYerI recently came upon a Brandon Khoo video on youtube. I posted it here : https://www.officialdrummer.com/forum/topic/16866-brandon-khoo-the-good-drummer/
It is a segment of a clinic he gave where someone asked the question - What is a good drummer and what is a bad drummer? His answer was well said, and he not only stated it, he showed it. Check out the video to see how he handled the question.
As I was driving to Home Depot this morning (to pick up a sheet of plywood for the next Pancake set proto-type) I began thinking about this concept of "serving the music." It wasn't sitting quite right with me.
As a Christian I understand concepts of being a servant and various modes of service within a spiritual context and religious life. This idea of serving the music, though seemingly logical and necessary, leaves me a bit hollow.
Music does not create itself. Music does not just happen. At the very least, music, in a rhythmic or melodic sense, needs nature. It needs forces of nature, it needs birds. No nature, no rhythms. No birds, or other creatures, no melodic 'songs.'
In the aspect of music in the written or performed format it needs writers and then performers. Music does not make itself. Serving the music seems odd, unless the music has already been composed and one is developing or copying what has already been performed in it, regardless of the instrument. Watching the auditions for Dream Theater is a prime example of this. Some drummers did their own thing, others stayed closer to the original drum performances. Listening to the remarks by the band members after each audition was very insightful in that regard. Mike Mangini was asked to join the band for several reasons, one of them being that while he put his own signature to the music, he also respected the foundational drum parts chiseled into it by years of repetition by Mike Portnoy. Mangini served the music and the musicians who created it. But he also did something else.
From the aspect of original music, we are long past the days when drummers were just there to keep a beat after everything was composed. Today's drummers can be as adept at playing other instruments and composing music from a formally trained regimen as any other musician. They come to the creation of music with ideas well beyond the drum set. Even if they are not educated or trained they can have a sense of melody and harmony and can contribute "musically" in ways beyond keeping time.
Is the drummer there to "serve the music?" I do not believe that is the fullest or most correct principle to function upon in original music. Tribute bands, bar bands, cover bands can decide themselves how closely each musician needs to stay with the original tracks. Creating original music is just that - creating, making, building, and developing. The drummer does not serve the music. There is no music. The drummer creates rhythmic structures which are to and should enhance the music being created. The issue is not service. The issue is being allowed to create, to paint a scene however you want to.
Drummers can overplay and underplay in any situation. While Ringo is famous for drum parts in the music of the Beatles, he wouldn't be asked to man the chair of a Mahavishnu Orchestra or Corea's Return to Forever. Nor would Billy Cobham be expected to play funky and ferocious fusion stylings in the music of a band creating melodic songs in the style of the Beatles. Drummers in the wrong chair to begin with make issues of over or underplaying moot. A "jobbing" drummer, the guns for hire, have to play within the framework of various genres, most of the time in music already created. Someone like Vinnie Colaituta has played within many different genres, with many different artists from Zappa, to Sting, to Jeff Beck. He serves the music already made and played before him. In an interview Vinnie gave years ago he mentioned a situation where the producer asked him to play like a certain drummer. Vinnie's response? "Get him." There comes a point where musicians are individuals, not clones, not drum machines. Some might say, "Vinnie was not willing to serve the music." I would say they wanted the wrong drummer for the chair and asking Vinnie to deny his own personal style and abilities is certainly not serving Vinnie and his talent, regardless of the issue of hiring him to play. If I were starving to death and someone asked me to play in a country band I might do it. Beyond that, no, my style of playing would have to be tortured and twisted to sit and play 2 and 4 in a country band, or a rock band for that matter. I'd be pretty bored, if not miserable. Get someone else for the chair who can happily serve the music without denying their own musicality and passions.
Serving the music is not the total answer for me. Put me in the right chair and the music will be created and enhanced with the talents given me by the Creator.
By DiehardDIYer in DiehardDIYerSpeed. How often have you heard or read, "I will never play that fast [meaning, good] if I live to be a thousand," or something to that effect?
I mentioned in a thread the other day that speed has always been an attraction for me when watching drummers. Four of my five most influential players in my young years were very fast - Buddy, Palmer, Cobham, and later in life, Tony Williams. They could mesmerize you with the speeds at which they moved around the set with upper limbs.
There have always been players fleet of hands and feet. Dennis Chambers stunned people when he hit the scene. Many drummers are still not aware of Damien Schmitt, who can drop your jaw as easily as anyone out there. Today you see Chris Coleman, Gergo Borlai, Ronald Bruner Jr., Derek Roddy, George Kollias, and many, many others, both very well known, and not so well known, from different genres, who reach what seem super-human speeds.
I feel bad when I see people equating speed with talent, though, and used as a measuring stick for how to play the instrument. Young players have seen bars raised over the decades and many have reached the bar. As I said in another blog, I believe speed has been maxed out now. I do not believe speed can be increased unless the whole transhuman discussion becomes reality.
Why do people see speed as talent behind the set? Speed is not a musical idea or concept. It's an athletic concept, or mechanical concept. Music is about the writing and performance of notes. Notes must have space between them or it isn't music anymore. So, in drumming, being able to play what seems an almost unbroken sequence of notes, is not music. It's athletics, showmanship, a display of just two things - genetics and practice.
Some people will practice every day for hours and never become as fast as people who put in half that time or less. Why? Because some people have fast twitch muscles, and some don't. Some have category A, and some have both A & B. Those with fast twitch muscles can increase their capacity for quick movement, through exercise and practice but, there are thresholds.
Which brings up practice. You know the whole 10,000 hour gig. Supposedly it takes 10,000 hours to reach an expert status at something. So, that's four hours a day for seven years and you will reach what it takes to master something like a musical instrument. Whether you buy that or not it stands to reason "practice makes perfect." The more you play the faster you will get as you push hands and feet to do more in the same amount of time. But, again, that is not talent of expression on the instrument, is it? That is not having a unique or individual, recognizable voice at the instrument. That is just muscle development and athletics at the instrument. You can have jaw muscles which could crack open a shell. That doesn't make your voice soothing or exciting to listen to.
Speed is not a barometer of talent, per se. It is just a gauge of genetics and time spent playing. Real talent at an instrument is the ability to create music with it.
Many of the old jazz giants were fast drummers. They were also very musical, many being able to play actual tunes on their kits, to coincide their solos with the songs they were playing them in. You can hear the melodies as the solo moved along. That is talent. That is ingenuity. That is craftsmanship at the instrument.
Papa Jo Jones, Joe Jones, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Alan Dawson, Charli Persip, name, after name, after name of these giants were real musicians, not just athletes. Tony Williams shocked the world with his speed at time keeping and soloing at just 17,18 years of age. Okay, but, what draws people into Tony's playing and soloing is not just speed around the kit but, the actual composition of it all; a mesmerizing display of tonal variations joined to his favorite rudiments.
While obviously not a popular opinion, a lot of the playing I hear today is percussively interesting, with throwing various bass notes into combinations of rudiments and stuff but, honestly, at fast speeds, to me it all sounds the same, everyone sounds the same, and may as well be a drum set falling down a flight of stairs or off the back of a moving truck for any musicality. Especially is that the case with heavily muted drums where note differences are hardly discernible.
Young players, all players, should be encouraged to make music and have a voice at the instrument and not worry about comparisons to others speed behind the set. Drumming is not an Olympic event. Just because you get a trophy for playing more notes than anyone else in 60 seconds does not make you a musician. For whatever the fastest drummer in the world gig has done for exposing drums to a larger audience, it has, in my mind, totally negated the aspect of music, and millions of young drummers only see speed as the final result of practice. If they do not have Type A and B fast twitch muscles they can find themselves frustrated and discouraged to no end, and even give up playing thinking they will never be good enough.
Buddy said Mel Lewis was one of his favorite drummers. Mel Lewis was not only not fast, you might find his playing slow by comparison, in some aspects. But, like Buddy said, he knew Mel's voice at the instrument. He knew it was Mel playing, and that said a lot to Buddy. It should say a lot to everyone who picks up sticks.
My fifth most influential player was Ginger Baker. Ginger was considered the monster player of his day. Bonham was there. Paice. Certainly Moon. Others of note who could play circles around Baker for speed. What Baker had, though, was a recognizable voice at the instrument which you can still hear today. You know it's Baker, whether rock or jazz. As he said himself, others may play faster, or with more technique but, nobody plays like him. And he is absolutely correct about that. I found his use of toms so filled with instruction. He combined jazz and blues playing into a rock format that all of us back then found astounding and challenging to do. His quads were mountainous. His timing was different. It wasn't necessarily two and four with him. He was on 1 all the time, too. He is one of the greats, despite lack of great speed.
Speed is only relative to music. A lot of drummers today, at the chagrin of older players, with the same abilities, mind you, can ruin music with displays of speed in wrong places. I have seen it. In solos, sure, you do your thing and it's all about you for a few minutes, and we get to show what we can do. People see speed, they applaud. Well ... hm ... should that be it? As you age and your speed decreases, then what? You aren't as "good" anymore?
Think about it.
By DiehardDIYer in DiehardDIYerJust wondering what others would like to see for hardware now and in the future. Hardware Innovations are where I believe the lion's share of change has come in drumming, and will always be that way, as far as acoustic instruments.
I use hardware from everyone. Well, almost everyone. DW is just too pricey for me for what you get. Otherwise Pearl, Tama, Ludwig, Gibraltar, Remo, and Mapex make up the hardware team at the moment. When I played Ludwig I used Ludwig hardware but, now that I make my own drums I find using anybody's and everybody's who fit the bill for function and price is the way to go. That includes making or modifying my own stuff if I can.
Being at this for 50 years now I have seen some really cool changes in hardware. Back in my Ginger Baker-influenced days I had stacked cymbals on Ludwig's flat based cymbal stands. Aside from wing nuts stripping I loved those stands. Everybody making flat based stuff today charges an arm and leg for it.
Rogers had great innovations back in the 70s. Memory locks. Tom mounts. Tilters. All the Cadillac stuff of the drum world was coming from Rogers. All the major companies have come up with nice ideas over the decades, obviously, including things designed by "the little guys" too, like isolation rings. Personally, I don't care for them. Two main reasons, which are the general ones always mentioned. One, they take away from the cosmetic look of a set, as far as toms. Two, they increase distance between toms. In most sets that isn't a major factor but, for large set-ups like I have used, next thing you know toms are spread out all over the ballpark. You can adjust movements of limbs to compensate but, for me it begins to effect placement of cymbals and stuff. Plus, toms bounce in them, unless they are mounted to the shell at lug points or are somehow mounted to the lugs, themselves.
Twenty years ago I began using snare baskets for mounting toms, held by clamps, either Pearl or my favorite, the Mapex long clamps. I love those things. Baskets allow total, free resonance and there are no cosmetic interferences, no bouncing. Then, when I discovered (by total accident) the nature of half toms - shell height half the measure of head dimension, i.e. 5x10, 6x12, etc. - I began using snare stands to mount my "floor" toms: 7x14, 8x16, 9x18, 10x20. Right now I am using Axis baskets for most rack toms and Pearl snare stands for the floors. I came upon a fantastic old Premier snare stand at a drum show in CT and ended up using that for 20" toms to my left. I modify everything to fit the drums. Not hard to do when you have stand parts hanging around for years. All that said, I would like to see a company develop baskets for mounting that really have universal tilting capability. Axis does with their ball joint but, I do not like their clips for holding the drums. I had to totally redo those and I still have some ideas to make them better. I'd rather see a company come up with something for both toms AND floor toms: a very short snare stand you just drop the floors into. Steep angle adjustment would be catered to by the actual shape and bends in the basket arms, much like old Ludwig stands which have a nice curled over shape which grips the hoops just right. I've gotten old Ludwig stands off ebay to modify for toms; everything from 6" to 18." But, the old Ludwig tilter does not have very articulate angle adjustment. The old Slingerland stand had a micro-tooth tilter which is better, but the basket itself is not as sturdy.
Most companies make snare baskets with universal tilting but, they are large mechanical devices which would keep placement of toms over your bass drum limited. With regular tom arms you can place a tom right on top of a kick if you want to. Not so with modern baskets. The basket arm angles and tilter systems take up a lot of room. The Axis are very small and you can drop a tom pretty low on the bass drum, as you can with the old baskets. I'd still like to see something better. I'm not crazy about Axis' black anodized finish but, I am also using a black Pearl rack system now, so it works alright. I'd rather have chrome. Plus, the Axis basket, if they even sell it anymore, was expensive back in the 90s. I know if Pearl or Tama or someone came up with something the price point would be better. Well, if DW or Sonor do it it will cost through the roof.
Speaking of racks, I hated them when they first came out, a major innovation, though one can see pictures of custom racks going back into the 30s and 40s with big band drummers. I'm not sure why, really, I just found them silly for some reason. You still had legs, albeit no tripods. Then you had to purchase all the knuckles and stuff to mount things. Well, a few years ago, with tripods clashing like a herd of cattle, I bit the bullet and got a Pearl rack. It has worked out well. Much cleaner look. I did not spring for the nicer chrome model. I got the black and it has worked just fine. The knuckles are less expensive and they have been really solid. I have added three or four sections to it for a total wrap around.
Beyond all this:
I believe someday a snare head will be developed which allows for greater wire response yet also deny sympathetic vibrations from other drums. I believe drum head technology has a way to go in developing new films. Hoops have come a long way. I can remember pulling out Remo heads from their glue back in the 60s and 70s.
With all the advancement in bio-mimicry in all fields of design I believe a drum pedal will be designed which mimics the action of woodpeckers: rather than beaters swinging in an arc they will go in and out in a jack-hammer style, increasing speed, power and efficiency.
I use Drumnetics pedals, actuated by magnets. The absolute finest feel I have come across. Patents being what they are, no one else will be making magnet driven pedals anytime soon. At some point expansion and compression springs will give way to a new technology, though. One guy out there has tried compression pistons. Bob Gatzen had his diving board thing going with the BOA, sold under the PDP name. The pedal is no longer made. I have two of them, basically new, which I want to sell. I like them. They have a cool action. I used them at my practice pad set up but, going back and forth between them and the Drumnetics became a hassle. Magnet power is just too natural and organic, plus the overall mechanics of the Drumnetics. Once you get into it; I just don't like anything else.
For a century pedals have been spring driven. I don't know when but, some new technologies will change that, beyond what Drumnetics have come up with. Right now, I see nothing out there that compares with magnet actuation.
Drum lugs have changed since the 90s with innovations for fast and easy head replacement. Most are from custom makers and have high price tags. Springs for holding lug nuts in place have all but disappeared now, along with their rattling, which came down to placing felt plugs in them to stop that. Everything from inexpensive white metal casting to solid brass and aluminum are out there now. I remember a custom company from NY, as I recall, that had cast lion's heads lugs. Talk about expensive but, they looked pretty incredible. I actually thought Arbiter's lugless tuning system was a fantastic thing. It didn't help so much cosmetically with mild maple grain patterns but, if used with exotic veneers it would have been stunning. Too bad Arbiter drums just never could catch on, and internal problems within the company took its toll, apparently. I believe there is lots of room for lug innovations of one kind or another. I'm actually surprised there aren't more shapes out there, fulfilling both footprint necessities and cosmetic allurement.
Overall I'm pretty satisfied with today's hardware. Beginner's hardware is, in some cases, what pros were using decades ago. I believe the companies still have quality control issues. Most of my clamps, from everybody, are not necessarily a true 90 degrees. Some worse than others. Get the teeth right, guys. Memory clamps, once they get tightened, do not always spring back when loosened and next thing you know you are pushing and pulling as hard as you can to get them up and down pipes, scratching chrome in the process. Unacceptable. It has been just as easy to use hose clamps over the years. They are inexpensive, come in all sizes for pipes, and work just fine. Other than that I find ways to use hardware in almost any configuration I dream up.
That said, there is always room for innovation, and the industry is driven by innovation, and competition for innovations. Hype ... who needs it? Real innovations? Bring it on.