time for a break from politics?
I've been thinking about what I have learned from drumming. About drumming, about music in general, about life in general. Maybe it's of interest on its own terms, maybe it will make you think of what you have learned from the things you do.
I started playing when I was 10, so it's over 50 years now. As an online friend once observed, "Playing drums is not hard, it just takes your whole life to be good at it". I don't know if I have arrived at "good at it" or not, but I have been at it my whole life. Not so many gigs right now, work is too all-consuming at the moment. But I always think about it.
A lot of things I've learned, I retain in the form of muscle memory. So, not so good for a blog. Many other things I've learned, I retain in the form of of a brief phrase capturing some essential idea. Most of them were spoken in passing by a teacher or co-player, almost as a throw-away, but for some reason they stuck in my head. I take them out now and then, to see if I sort of understand them yet.
Thought I would share them with you all as a break from modern life. Hope they are interesting, they are to me.
- Touch the instrument every day
- Make the space between the notes as wide as you can
- One and three feel like down, two and four feel like up. The 'and' of two and four feel like forward and away from you, the 'and' of one and three bounce back at you.
- Everything is really in three (an observation most relevant to music from the African diaspora)
- Record yourself whenever you can and listen back. What you hear in real time on the gig is not what's really happening.
- If you're thinking about what you're doing, you're not doing it
- Practice slowly.
- Start with the simplest thing that works
- Make the bass player happy.
- Take your tempo from the vocalist.
- A practice regime - to play something fast, practice by playing it slowly many many many many times.
- A practice regime - play the same thing, over and over again, *exactly* the same way, until you can hear that it's not exactly the same. Then, adjust to make it *exactly* the same and continue. Repeat, including the "repeat".
- There will always be somebody better than you. There is probably somebody in the room right now who is better than you.
- Be on time, be prepared, be nice to everyone, say thank you.
- We all have an ego. Try to leave yours in the car
- If you can't hear what to do, don't do anything.
- Breathe (courtesy of the great Elvin Jones)
As I make it out at this point in my life, most of the craft of music is learning to listen and get out of the way. Especially learning to listen. What's actually happening, right now? What do you actually hear?
The rest is commentary. And, you know, practice, so that when the time comes you can just listen and enter into what you hear.