Becoming a better drummer

malec

Junior Member
Hi, this is my first post. I just need some advice with something that nobody has given me any answers to.

Now I have this problem with my playing that nobody can really tell me what to do since it's the total opposite of what is usually the case.
I grew up playing classical percussion. I started piano and music theory when I was 5 years old, did a few years of violin as well and then took up percussion when I was 12 (I'm 21 now). I can play things like timpani, classical snare drum, xylophone, etc very well and have a good sense of the music in that I can listen to what's going on around me, feel the music with everybody else, etc.

However on drumkit I'm a bit of a klutz. Now I have the technique so don't tell me to practice some paradiddles, I can keep a solid beat without a fluctuating tempo, I can listen to the other band members and base my playing on what I hear as opposed to block my ears and just bash away, and do most of those things that people usually say are characteristics of a good drummer.
However despite all of this I sound a little, well, awkward. I simply can't play "cool" on the drums if you know what I mean. I'm able to technically play all the stuff I want, play it in time, and listen to the other band members but I simply can't make people tap their foot.
Also another problem is fills, they sound terrible and I don't know what to do. It's not like I'm playing a death metal fill in a jazz piece or anything but despite me keeping to the style they still sound a bit crap.

I'm sorry if this is really vague but if somebody has any advice on how to approach this sort of stuff please help. The only thing I ever got was "listen to music" which I do anyway.

I can think of an opposite example in the classical world. There's this guy who was playing timpani in an orchestra I was in and when I looked at his part there was stuff penciled in above pretty much every note, however if I was playing the part most of that stuff would be obvious to me simply by doing things like noticing who you're playing with, if someone doubles your part you should go with them, if you're playing with the brass and they take a breath you should as well to stay totally in time (and by time it's not strictly solid but if they do a little slowdown you should still stay with them simply by "feeling" the music). I think on drumkit I'm like that guy on timpani, I have no intuition about good groove, etc, even though I really notice when somebody else has it.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
No offense but it seems that you are use to playing strict music and time and you may not have any feel. You are somewhat robotic. Swing a little, improvise a little. Comp a little, feel and hear the music...try a little SOUL. Its like reading a book out loud to a group and having no inflection in your voice, just monotone. Best analogies I can think of for what you described. If I'm off base I'm sorry, but that's what it sounds like to me.
 

malec

Junior Member
No offense but it seems that you are use to playing strict music and time and you may not have any feel. You are somewhat robotic. Swing a little, improvise a little. Comp a little, feel and hear the music...try a little SOUL. Its like reading a book out loud to a group and having no inflection in your voice, just monotone. Best analogies I can think of for what you described. If I'm off base I'm sorry, but that's what it sounds like to me.
It's not actually that I think. Pretty much everything I do is improvised on drumset. It's not that I play like a robot, it's that the feeling is wrong. Maybe like speaking english with a foreign accent is a better analogy.
I actually love improv and I can do it best when I make up something up from scratch. I actually played a percussion concerto before with an orchestra and there was a big solo in the middle that you make it up. I love doing that but when I have a constraint such as when doing fills I find it much more difficult.

By the way the stuff I play most is rock and jazz since I play in a big band and also another band which is all original stuff actually. I don't actually get to much stuff with good groove since the guys in my rock band are all mostly into effects and all that sort of stuff.

Thanks for helping by the way :)
 

malec

Junior Member
I think this is the issue.

Take jazz, funk and rock and replace then with french, italian and spanish. Once you know one of those languages learning another of those three is quite easy since the alphabet is the same, the grammar is similar, and they have their roots in latin so a lot of words sound similar, etc. Classical feel is then something like chinese. If you speak chinese then learning french or english is really really difficult and you'll have a really bad accent. It's just completely different.

I know drummers who are excellent players with really good musical sense for jazz, etc but to gain the proper feel for classical stuff it still takes 4 or 5 years no matter what you've played before. It's the opposite case for me but I'm just way too impatient. I wish there was an easy way out.
 
J

jay norem

Guest
I think you may be over-thinking this. When you walk you don't think about how you're walking, do you? You just walk. Play the drums like you're walking. Swinging your arms and legs, keeping a nice easy pace, breathing in and out, like you're going for a nice brisk walk in the park. Everything's working together, you're strolling along, blood's pumping through your veins, you're feeling good, bouncing along, keeping it all moving, nice and loose.
 

zzdrummer

Senior Member
I think this is the issue.

Take jazz, funk and rock and replace then with french, italian and spanish. Once you know one of those languages learning another of those three is quite easy since the alphabet is the same, the grammar is similar, and they have their roots in latin so a lot of words sound similar, etc. Classical feel is then something like chinese. If you speak chinese then learning french or english is really really difficult and you'll have a really bad accent. It's just completely different.

I know drummers who are excellent players with really good musical sense for jazz, etc but to gain the proper feel for classical stuff it still takes 4 or 5 years no matter what you've played before. It's the opposite case for me but I'm just way too impatient. I wish there was an easy way out.
Ahhhh great example! I understand what you mean now, I think you've found that you need time to solve your solution, like if I were put into a classical situation I would have no idea what the hell is going on. Anyways, you said you don't think your feeling is right, try recording youself if you don;t already and listening to see how you sound, if you sound allright the feel will come eventually. Maybe post yourself here so we can hear what your playing. If you already record youself, well uhhhh, I dunno? Haha, sorry, good luck.
 

805Drummer

Gold Member
Ahhhh great example! I understand what you mean now, I think you've found that you need time to solve your solution, like if I were put into a classical situation I would have no idea what the hell is going on. Anyways, you said you don't think your feeling is right, try recording youself if you don;t already and listening to see how you sound, if you sound allright the feel will come eventually. Maybe post yourself here so we can hear what your playing. If you already record youself, well uhhhh, I dunno? Haha, sorry, good luck.
Yes, recording yourself is probably the best advice here. That way, you can track your progress if you record your playing once every other week or so. It might be that because you're new at the drumset, you just need to get used to it.
 

malec

Junior Member
Recording seems like a good idea, I'll try that.
Thanks for the advice guys, I guess stuff like this will just come with time, maybe a very loooong time but if it does then so be it.
 

Baddstuff

Senior Member
hmmm...very interesting. I come from the exact other end of the spectrum from you. I'm self taught, cannot read music and can't really count. Doesn't sound like much on paper but that has never hindered me with any band I was in. I think I was blessed with good ears. I like to think I have a good feel on the kit and other musicians have told me as much.

What I think it boils down to is that some drummers have more of a natural swig and sway to their playing than other drummers and that sounds cool. For all his great chops and technique I had heard people say that Neil Peart is stiff. But there is definitely a 'wow' factor to his playing. Without hearing your playing it's kind of tough to get a good grasp on what you mean. You say you don't play cool and your fills sound terrible. If you have the chops and technique end of it down what you probably need is just an infusion of fresh ideas or a more pleasing way to express yourself on the kit, if that makes sense. I don't know what you consider as cool on the kit. Hopefully some of what I said makes some kind of sense. :)

this is what I sounded like back in the 80's, if you want to listen-
http://electriceyes.us.seanic17.net/mp3/when_gods_collide.mp3
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
If I may chime in, malec stated that he played timpani, classical snare drum, xylophone...All these things have one thing in common, no footpedal (OK the timpani does but that doesn't count) Perhaps the added 3 way coordination factor needs attention. Also, do your rhythms or beats or whatever have a pulse? That quarter note accent? Groove to me equals pulse which boils down to a quarter note (or whatever note is appropriate for the pulse) accent (very generally speaking) Could these things be a possibility?
 

Matt

Senior Member
I would repeat the suggestion to record yourself. For me, I think it's easier for me to hear what I sound like on a video tape than it is when I'm behind the kit. I often record when I play anywhere with my group, and then I watch the tape over and over. I look at it as my "game tape," the same way football players watch tapes. I'll play a fill or beat during the show that I thought was horrible while playing it, and on the tape it will be totally fine. Or, I'll play a fill or beat that I felt really good about, and it will sound terrible or rushed on the tape. Next time I play, I'll remember what works out front, and what doesn't, and this has made me a better, more consistent drummer. Try it!
 

Davo-London

Gold Member
Malec, you haven't said how long you have been playing the drum kit? You describe me after about 3 years of playing and lessons. I had enough technique but my tom work was awful and even the simplest of grooves never sounded right. For me it's timing and dynamics. That's what makes the difference and you know what ... Practice.

Davo
 

king fail

Senior Member
This is exactly why i never want to go through the grades with a teacher on the set; in that sort of situation, there seems to be a strict single correct way of doing everything (same applies to most instruments), and everyone i have ever encountered who has taken several years to go through all the strict grading system seems to have a complete loss of feel, their playing very robotic and devoid of character, their mind seems to lock them into what they have learned, they don't seem to be able to improvise anything even remotely musical.


that's just my $0.02, my apologies if you have gone through the grading system and come out the other end a great player
 

Davo-London

Gold Member
I don't take offence and I know exactly what you mean. After 4 years of lessons not only did I need a break but I also felt I needed to find my own style and develop my improv skills, which were not really doing with all the formal exercises.

Good point.

Davo
 

zzdrummer

Senior Member
This is exactly why i never want to go through the grades with a teacher on the set; in that sort of situation, there seems to be a strict single correct way of doing everything (same applies to most instruments), and everyone i have ever encountered who has taken several years to go through all the strict grading system seems to have a complete loss of feel, their playing very robotic and devoid of character, their mind seems to lock them into what they have learned, they don't seem to be able to improvise anything even remotely musical.


that's just my $0.02, my apologies if you have gone through the grading system and come out the other end a great player
Thats why I don't "get" the grading system, I'm not from the UK, but I still see the same things as you. I have a teacher, and we learn what I want to learn or what he thinks would help me and I agree, picking excercises from books and improvsing with that type of style, or playing transcriptions, whatever we both think is the best option. And I can make it specific to my style, making my own style, sorry for the ramblings but I feel the exact same way as you.
 
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