Feel or Technique, importance?

VedranS

Senior Member
I don't think anyone should answer this, but how much feel do you(generic) really have for your instrument?\

Funny that, I know it was a rhetorical question but I'll give my two cents, just because what I thought of was kind of amusing. Funny enough, but I don't think I have nearly the feel on my instrument that I'd like to - and so, in order to improve my feel I practice technical excercises such as playing with low stick heights, studying accenting techniques and working with a metronome. It's like the ideas of how I want to sound are already there, and have probably been built out of a lot of listening to music and deciding what I like, but in order to make my drumming "feel" to others like I want it to, I have gain a lot more control over my hands and feet.

As far as the being able to play someone elses "feel", it's really difficult and I've been learning that with my current band. They play "punk-rock-reagge" music and have very specific ideas about what I should do in certain parts, but sometimes have a hard time articulating them, as they're not terribly technically versed themselves. So, usually it goes down something like "man, I don't know, but the way you're doing that part is just off, like there's something like 'uuuuhhhh' that's not there" So then I play quarters on the hi-hat. They say that's not it. Then I swing the eights. Not it. Double time snare. Nope. Follow the bassline more with my foot. No man, you know, like uuuuhhh! Open the hi-hat a bit....That sounded pretty good.. Yeah, so as of now it's kind of a crapshoot, but that probably depends on the people you're with and the situation.
 

con struct

Platinum Member
It's like the ideas of how I want to sound are already there, and have probably been built out of a lot of listening to music and deciding what I like, but in order to make my drumming "feel" to others like I want it to, I have gain a lot more control over my hands and feet.
Well, but the point is make it "feel" to others, meaning the band leader, the producer, the song writer, whoever, want it to feel, not you. It's how the song wants to feel, not you. Play for the song first, immerse yourself in it, and there's your feel right there.
But your example with your band brings up something that should be obvious. Most of us are never going to be in a situation where a conductor says "Your staccato is suppose to be marching boots on a cobblestone street." I know I never have (boots on a cobblestone street?) but then I don't play classical music. And really, I just don't think that's what we're talking about here.
Seriously, are there any symphonic percussionists here? If so they must feel a little...weird.
 

VedranS

Senior Member
Well, but the point is make it "feel" to others, meaning the band leader, the producer, the song writer, whoever, want it to feel, not you. It's how the song wants to feel, not you. Play for the song first, immerse yourself in it, and there's your feel right there.
But your example with your band brings up something that should be obvious. Most of us are never going to be in a situation where a conductor says "Your staccato is suppose to be marching boots on a cobblestone street." I know I never have (boots on a cobblestone street?) but then I don't play classical music. And really, I just don't think that's what we're talking about here.
Seriously, are there any symphonic percussionists here? If so they must feel a little...weird.
Couple of things. First, I'd agree that most conductors would not be talking in such metaphorical language when trying to give concrete instructions. However, the idea, that abstract "feel" is more than likely going to be in there somewhere, even if it was just a feeling the composer had.

Secondly, about the fact that you're not supposed to feel a certain way, "the song" is. Well, songs don't really feel much of anything as they're abstract constructs (<-- ha ) made by people, and not living things. So, the feel must reside somewhere. You're saying it's the audience. I can agree with that, but wouldn't you agree that in order to create that "feel" using technique, there has to be some kind of empathy, that the performer somehow has to be involved in it. You can't evoke something specific without knowing what you're trying to evoke. So, the performer has to "feel" it at some point. Now I can fully understand that during the actual performance it might be best to try to distance yourself from that in order to do accurate work uninhibited by your emotions. However, I'd contend that you as the "interpreter" of that music do have to make an emotional connection at some point in order to "get into" that piece so you know what you're trying to say. Now, this could happen during practice, while listening back (for me this is a good point to "get into" it), while reflecting on the music, while talking about it to your bandmates, et cetera. I'm still saying that music is about feeling, and as a performer you'd better have some connection to those "feelings" you're trying to bring across...
 

Steamer

Platinum Member
Time for a long overdue thank you note folks......

Just taking a moment to personally thank John Riley for his contributions to this thread which I haven't seen much of any acknowledgement of {?}

For those who don't know who he is and what he has acomplished and has to offer and bring to the table on this subject do your homework is my advice and also take the time to ask him questions from his insightful point of view. Thanks John for putting in the time and sharing your wise words with this forum.

end of this public service announcement.....
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Well, but the point is make it "feel" to others, meaning the band leader, the producer, the song writer, whoever, want it to feel, not you. It's how the song wants to feel, not you. Play for the song first, immerse yourself in it, and there's your feel right there..
...

Good point. Most of the 'feel' talk so far has been in context of self.

It struck me that probably 90% of Steely Dan's music was played by session players who all 'felt' the song very differently. Walter Brecker & Donald Fagen forced most of them to change their parts to follow very strictly their own vision of the song.

Buddy's impatience with his band members is legendary.So were Mingus & Miles ( at least in the first half of his musical life ).

Good feel is very often 'beaten' into musicians by band leaders. Hopefully they are 'trained' enough to allow the beating to have some positive effect ; )


...
 
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aydee

Platinum Member
Time for a long overdue thank you note folks......

Just taking a moment to personally thank John Riley for his contributions to this thread which I haven't seen much of any acknowledgement of {?}
Well done, Stan, I second the sentiment. Thanks again, John, highly appreciated.
 

Steamer

Platinum Member
Good point. Most of the 'feel' talk so far has been in context of self.

It struck me that probably 90% of Steely Dan's music was played by session players who all 'felt' the song very differently. Walter Brecker & Donald Fagen forced most of them to change their parts to follow very strictly their own vision of the song.

Buddy's impatience with his band members is legendary.So were Mingus & Miles ( at least in the first half of his musical life ).

Good feel is very often 'beaten' into musicians by band leaders. Hopefully they are 'trained' enough to allow the beating to have some positive effect ; )
Just part and parcel of the process of taking your feel and technique and becoming "flexable" with it when playing music with others Abe... :}
 

donv

Silver Member
Couple of things. First, I'd agree that most conductors would not be talking in such metaphorical language when trying to give concrete instructions. However, the idea, that abstract "feel" is more than likely going to be in there somewhere, even if it was just a feeling the composer had.

Secondly, about the fact that you're not supposed to feel a certain way, "the song" is. Well, songs don't really feel much of anything as they're abstract constructs (<-- ha ) made by people, and not living things. So, the feel must reside somewhere. You're saying it's the audience. I can agree with that, but wouldn't you agree that in order to create that "feel" using technique, there has to be some kind of empathy, that the performer somehow has to be involved in it. You can't evoke something specific without knowing what you're trying to evoke. So, the performer has to "feel" it at some point. Now I can fully understand that during the actual performance it might be best to try to distance yourself from that in order to do accurate work uninhibited by your emotions. However, I'd contend that you as the "interpreter" of that music do have to make an emotional connection at some point in order to "get into" that piece so you know what you're trying to say. Now, this could happen during practice, while listening back (for me this is a good point to "get into" it), while reflecting on the music, while talking about it to your bandmates, et cetera. I'm still saying that music is about feeling, and as a performer you'd better have some connection to those "feelings" you're trying to bring across...
For what it's worth, it sounds to me like you're on the right track. My example was an attempt to point out that at one level, music is music from the preformers side. Look into what Carlos Santana has to say about writing music and how he does it. Find others to read. It's not often that off the wall jamming is turned into something meaningful. It's usually developed and well thought out. Gadd doesn't get hired to "jam" what he feels at the moment. Someone else brought up Steely Dan.

It once was feel was between you and the instrument, the musician had sole, and the emotion was in the music. If someone wants to be quixote on the existential music highway though, I can't see any reason why anyone would want to stand in their way.

Good luck, I'm out of here also.
 

con struct

Platinum Member
Wouldn't you agree that in order to create that "feel" using technique, there has to be some kind of empathy, that the performer somehow has to be involved in it. You can't evoke something specific without knowing what you're trying to evoke. So, the performer has to "feel" it at some point.
Yes, I absolutely agree with that. It's what I meant when I said "immerse yourself in the song." But to do that requires a certain "letting go," in my opinion anyway, and letting go requires, well, technique. That may, in fact, be the ultimate in technique, to just let the song tell you what to play. Simplistic, I know, but to serve the song requires a kind of musical "radar," if you will. As you say it's a sort of empathy, and empathy is not about about thinking of yourself. It's the extra sense that all good musicians have, it's more about participation than about standing out.
I believe, I am convinced, that musicians are here to serve the music, and I just don't get any "feel" at all from musicians who force the music to serve them. But that's just me.
 

Steamer

Platinum Member
. Gadd doesn't get hired to "jam" what he feels at the moment. Someone else brought up Steely Dan.

.
Actually he does and has on countless recording sessions some quite legendary in stature especially with Steely Dan.

Its when the "jam" becomes interpretive improvisational skills {the act of creating drums parts in ensemble playing situation based on a rough framework guide} with one's gained musical voice based on experience, feel and technique combined becomes center stage for the task at hand.

His famous drum performance on the tune Aja was a one take improvised performance I was told and created off the rough guide the composer{s} gave him in the studio which became an instant classic. Giving him carte blanche to create off a guide to combine his technique, feel, gained musical experience, interpretive skills and having a creative vision for the music at hand tells the complete story.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Punk drummers look back to The Pistols. (They should look back to Moe and The Velvets.)
Ken, yes and no. I love Moe's ideas but they don't satisfy the energy and anger of some young guys, so the demand was more for Paul Cook's punky playing.

Victor DeLorenzo of the Violent Femmes is about the only modern drummer I know of in the public eye who seems to have followed the path Moe laid - eschewing the conventional kit for an abbreviated standing setup (it's no coincidence that he's touring with her now).

Its interesting how the feelings of anger and rebellion in teenage boys and young men create so many new genres.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
Ken, yes and no. I love Moe's ideas but they don't satisfy the energy and anger of some young guys, so the demand was more for Paul Cook's punky playing.

Victor DeLorenzo of the Violent Femmes is about the only modern drummer I know of in the public eye who seems to have followed the path Moe laid - eschewing the conventional kit for an abbreviated standing setup (it's no coincidence that he's touring with her now).

Its interesting how the feelings of anger and rebellion in teenage boys and young men create so many new genres.
The Velvets, for all the ir anti-art rhetoric, produced some great tunes, and very artsy at that. I think Waiting on My Man is a classic. There is nothing else like it in rock, the way the drums and bass do thate constant eights shimmy like a guy who is 'jonesing.' Moe is actually a big Baba Olatunji fan. Talk about influence in the strangest places. But that song was such an artsy statement.

I think it's interesting that bands put themselves in a situation where they are working with a producer who is telling them what to do. From what I've read Brian Eno is the type of guy who really likes to let the musicians natural talent come out. Bob Rock put Metallica through hell and back creating The Black Album. He would ask them to do things that were so specific and so counter what they were doing as a band. But that was their biggest selling album , I think. Or at least one of them.

Fagen and Brecker were tyrants and I think to some extent had a bad name among studio players because they often didn't know what they were looking for until the guys did it, or wanted something so specific and the player would feel that it needed something else and try to sneak it in. I remember Chuck Rainey talking about slapping on the bass during the chorus of Peg even though they didn't want that. But it's in there. I think Steve Gadd must have blown them away with that playing on the title track of Aja. Gadd's known for his playing with Dan, but he really wasn't a big Dan drummer as were Jeff Porcaro and Purdy..

I play with people often who like my playing even when I don't. I have often had the problem where someone will love my playing, I feel a little intimidated because I always think I suck.I lacked confidence as a player. Not so much anymore. I think as a musician you have to realize that you are dealing with personalities, and artists who can really bring the best artistry out of their fellow players are the guys worth their weight in gold.
 

dale w miller

Silver Member
I think it's interesting that bands put themselves in a situation where they are working with a producer who is telling them what to do. From what I've read Brian Eno is the type of guy who really likes to let the musicians natural talent come out. Bob Rock put Metallica through hell and back creating The Black Album. He would ask them to do things that were so specific and so counter what they were doing as a band. But that was their biggest selling album , I think. Or at least one of them.
It starts with song-writers. I've been in more than my fair share of situations, more than I even want to admit, that the main "song-writer" feels he/she is Beethoven and needs to tell everyone specifically what they should be playing. It's not a pretty sight. In my case I lack the professionalism sometimes unless it is an exceptionally over paid gig where I enjoy the end result artistically to deal with that sort of behavior.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
It starts with song-writers. I've been in more than my fair share of situations, more than I even want to admit, that the main "song-writer" feels he/she is Beethoven and needs to tell everyone specifically what they should be playing. It's not a pretty sight. In my case I lack the professionalism sometimes unless it is an exceptionally over paid gig where I enjoy the end result artistically to deal with that sort of behavior.
In defense of the songwriter, I think they are well within their bondaries by insisting on certain parts, after all they do have the concept of the song already thought out. It's a good thing to have definite ideas of what you are trying to achieve.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
I' ve been on both sides of the fence. I had a band that did my material, and subbed for the guitar player when ever we had problems with maintaining one, which we always did because they didn't want to do songs. That was unless they thought you were the next Tom Petty. I would just say, hey don't come around here no more. I remember once I told a guitar player that I liked his solo. He did a motif that came out of the chorus that I really liked. I asked him to keep that in. We ran the song again and he took it out and never played it again.

Some songs need to be sold. Mine did. I doubt Fleetwood Mac's classic albums of the mid 70's would be under that designation. They work just simply as songs because they are so good. It is interesting that band members say they had more input into the songs than originally credited for. I don't know the merits of the Liberty De Vito case; but if he could claim that about Billy Joel, one of the most traditional song writers around, then the sky has fallen. I always wanted player input into my songs. The first thing I learned about songwriting was you have a lyric, you have the melodies, everything else is up for grabs: style, key, mode, and in the end even the lyric and melody are up for grabs. Look at Jeff Buckley's version of Alleluia, or Aretha Franklin. I think it's rough when you're in a band situation and people are telling you what to do unless that someone is Miles Davis, Phil Ramone or John Cale.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I can see both sides too, I guess I prefer to get the song out as close to the original conception as possible, and then make any mods from there. I don't mind being told to play a certain thing, but if it aint working, then either I'm not doing it right or it's the wrong part. No doubt all the great songs you know had important input from the guys who originally worked it up.
 

dale w miller

Silver Member
In defense of the songwriter, I think they are well within their bondaries by insisting on certain parts, after all they do have the concept of the song already thought out. It's a good thing to have definite ideas of what you are trying to achieve.
I am not talking about general constructive criticism. I am talking about the desire for complete control. Where does that come from? If a song-writer feels need to tell someone exactly what to play, perhaps they are playing with the wrong person?
 

con struct

Platinum Member
I am not talking about general constructive criticism. I am talking about the desire for complete control. Where does that come from? If a song-writer feels need to tell someone exactly what to play, perhaps they are playing with the wrong person?
I don't know about that. Maybe it's a matter of context, of what kind of music we're talking about. Duke Ellington, James Brown, Frank Zappa, these are examples of song writers having complete control over their music, telling the musicians exactly what to play, and they didn't have any problem finding the right people to play for them.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Moe is actually a big Baba Olatunji fan. Talk about influence in the strangest places.
A lot of us love that African jive. I've long been a fan of Sol Amarfio from Osibisa. I saw them play at the Hilton and they have the most contagious joy of playing. African and Latin drummers are an inspiration to those looking for alternatives to the ubiquitous backbeat.

Alas, most times, the humble kick/snare/hats backbeat is what people usually want from rock players. It leaves space and makes it easy for everyone to know where they are. Then you think to yourself, "Hmm, this song is a bit plain and could do with a bit of a lift". Next minute you notice that the bassist is losing her or his groove even though your rhythm on the toms has the same accents as the old kick/snare pattern. Or someone (the songwriter?) will say, "Could you just play it a bit less busy?". Back to the backbeat you go and the song sounds the same as a thousand others - everyone feels better LOL

Trouble is, toms have less definition than snare/hats and can impinge on the bassist's territory. I've been thinking about ways of de-cluttering songs at both the top and bottom ends, which is what lead me to Moe. Busy kick patterns rarely thrill me because I prefer a cleaner bottom end (this sounds Freudian!).

Our ears have become conditioned to the sound of the kick and snare pivoting against each other and I'm trying to go the other way, but I get nervous about leaving the kick out of beats in circumstances when you'd expect it. It puts more onus on the bassist's and your timing, but it can add air to non-dance numbers. Victor DeLorenzo from the Violent Femmes doesn't use a kick at all and sometimes they sound a bit thin, so it's a balancing act.

Crash cymbals are often used in ways that probably lessen their, and the songs' value. Originally cymbal crashes were reserved for musical climaxes. If you climax all the time then it's not a climax any more, so where do you go from there? (Freud again?). I can do without quite that much drama. When I was younger I often used them at the end of fills to "protect" me in case I didn't come back to the beat cleanly. Classy (not).

A few people have looked into the cymbal thing. Moe disliked them because she reckoned it masked the lyrics (sometimes a good thing? :). Peter Gabriel asked Jerry Marotta and Phil Collins not to use cymbals on his "Melt" album. Robert Fripp did the same with Bill Bruford on Discipline because he felt the hats would interfere with his guitar tone in his new style. They were both stunning albums, so there's something to be said for working with a songwriter's vision; it forces you to stop thinking like a drummer. Bill B and Tony Levin's playing on the Discipline album is my favourite rhythm section performance although it's not an influence because Bill's a marvel and I suck :)

So I relate to you there, Ken. Our singer loves my playing because I'm the only drummer he's played with who focuses on supporting the vocals (and I make him laugh). Some bands encourage you to go for it but most just want drummers to stay well out of the way and only pop their head up at strategic moments.

It's not easy to follow another person's vision because you can be forced to play in ways that feel weird to you. Sometimes everyone has to compromise because, if the drummer's groove is weaker than it would otherwise be, it can harm a song more than not living up to The Vision. At that point, a songwriter needs to improve enough to attract more dextrous musicians.

Please pardon yet another long, rambling post. Insomnia :(
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
Bruford took to riding the roto toms, which I really liked. They weren't as heavy as the tom, That was a great idea. They are a big part of Discipline; and then of course that led to his using the Simmons melodically with Earthworks. There's a whole world out there that has barely been touched.

I always enjoyed the eager movement away from doing these well-established grooves. And you are right. it is the Afro-Latin thing that really starts to bring you away from that. It's not only the groove, it's the fills as well. I get very frustrated with doing the same thing over and over. That's why I suck. Afro-Latin drumming really gets the melodic context happening. You start thinking more as a percussionist. That was a very big part of what Elvin was doing, elongated the groove and making it more lyrical. That's my next project.

I am lucky to be in a situation now where the guys like when I work these busy ideas in, so I can experiment. But in the end, it is always about coming back to the basic idea that makes the concept work without the busyness. In most situations, if you take out the bass drum, you're going to have the band leader up your butt in about ten seconds. But I always take it out, esp when working with a singer, and have had that happen to me. But like yourself, I have found myself attracted to those situations where players are allowed to get beyond that. Your quote about Moe saying she didn't like the cymbals is an interesting one. Here is a bold artistic move by a drummer who many would see a a very minor player; yet, she is making a major decision.

I am the same way with singers because I am one. And now I am looking for a nice gig with a good singer who can appreciate what I do. And I can even do back up. Actually, my band wants me to start singing more. Drumming and singing is not an easy task. Doing a fill and climaxing a lyric line in the chorus is a problem, for example. What happens when the bass and drums push ahead while the vocals hang back? I'll do a couple of songs though.
 
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