Feel or Technique, importance?

Class A Drummer

Pioneer Member
I agree, feel is somewhat more important of the two. I have heard technically demanding music superbly executed that lacked any excitement or interest. And I have heard simple, crudely rendered music that is very moving.

The stuff that really blows me away, however, combines great feel and great technique.

Development of technique and feel both require practice. To really develop good feel, I believe it is important to play with others, so that you know what it is like to create a song amongst yourselves, shape it and give it life with the vocabularies of technique and feel.
The good old chops vs groove thread.

If you think about it, dont you need chops to be able to groove? If a beginner drummer comes in, and can keep perfect time and stay in the pocket, thats awesome, but i bet you his hands and arms get real tired because he hasnt perfected his technique yet and hasnt gotten a feel for what good chops feel like.

Just my 2 cents.
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
The good old chops vs groove thread.

If you think about it, dont you need chops to be able to groove? If a beginner drummer comes in, and can keep perfect time and stay in the pocket, thats awesome, but i bet you his hands and arms get real tired because he hasnt perfected his technique yet and hasnt gotten a feel for what good chops feel like.

Just my 2 cents.
I didn't mean to imply it as an either-or thing. So many of these discussions wind up in the either-or territory. It's a question of degree, and playing with other people adds a whole new dynamic to it all.

You're right, though. A new one of these threads is appears at least once a week. We should have a separate thread called the "CHOPS VS. GROOVE DEBATE."
 
I didn't mean to imply it as an either-or thing. So many of these discussions wind up in the either-or territory. It's a question of degree, and playing with other people adds a whole new dynamic to it all.

You're right, though. A new one of these threads is appears at least once a week. We should have a separate thread called the "CHOPS VS. GROOVE DEBATE."
An outstanding intiative, DMC. Please create and lead the thread: "CHOPS VS. GROOVE DEBATE."
 
Fellow drummers,

Great exchange of thoughts, ideas, comments. Drumming is a continuous improvement cycle and music as well.

In brief, Feel and Technique are important - they must go hand by hand with a balance.

Thanks to All,
 
Definitely both. When I first learn a song I concentrate on just getting the feel of it, getting a pleasant back-beat. Once I have a good feel, then I focus on the specifics and the technique. I like to learn songs with every note perfectly in sync, but I'd rather play simple and with soul then perfect like a robot.
 

con struct

Platinum Member
Well, important to who? If you're a freelance drummer looking to get hired by contractors you have to remember that they've heard it all, pretty much, so what are they looking for? One drummer may have great feel but he lacks the technique to play everything required of him. Another may have chops to burn but his playing is mechanical.
To me the question is like meat or bread, what's more important? You need both to make a tasty sandwich.
 

Joe P

Senior Member
In the end, feel infinitely > technique. As long as what you play sounds good, it doesn't matter how good your technique is. Of course, technique allows you to play faster and busier, which can add to (or subtract from) the feel. So technique is important because it gives you the ability to have a wider range of dynamics and feels, but in the end, the way a song sounds and feels is the only thing that matters.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
What are we calling technique - solidity with timing, coordinated independence, speed or a combo of those things?

It also depends on the genre. Since the 1980s the poppier brands of rock require perfect or near-perfect timing. If you're going to play math metal or complex fusion you'd better have serious techique. If you play jazz, your limbs need to be more independent than in, say, soul or blues.

Then, what about Ian Paice's comments in his DW interview:

What's different now from when you started playing and how do you feel about the changes?

Looking back, the freedom we had then to do so much. You're so limited in the studio now because nearly everything is dominated by click tracks.. There's this terrible criteria of having to try and match up to a machine. And for a drummer it's really difficult. You can put on any modern record you want and you can tell every fill is a square. There's no swing in it at all. No matter how good a player you are, what makes things swing is that it isn't totally strict time - it does move, it does push, it does pull. And we're having to deal with that because now we have musicians who rely on it being strict time - who actually can't play to something that moves around. If you go back to the fifties recordings and listen to things like the Little Richard band, the tempo's all over the place, but they all do it together so it doesn't matter - it just feels great. Those bands relied on the feeling of it being good - not being perfect. You can get something perfect and it just sits there like a piece of lead.

You really feel then that we're too wrapped up in this perfection thing then?

Definitely. We're paying now for the eighties when `Techno' started taking over and people didn't use drummers - when they started using machines with simple programming and the thing didn't budge. People got used to it, but it's not the way humans play. A 'middle eight' comes - you push into it, the verse comes - you pull back, someone takes a solo - you take a breather and pull back, things get exciting - you push forward. Those things are human nature.

And if you're not allowed to do that, it takes a lot of hard work to try and give the impression that you're doing it when you're not. You've got a very small, very limited, space inside the metronomic clicks, part of which is in front of the click and part of which is behind, but it's such a narrow band and you've got to try and give the impression that you're pushing into it but you're not really doing anything. It's very difficult.

Is there anybody you listen to now?

Well there's still a lot of innovation around but unfortunately it's not going on in rock and roll. Most of the guys playing now are going for the big sound. Its so technically generated. You don't hear any grace notes for example, all you hear is the bass drum and snare drum. They might sound great, but there's really nothing going on. It ends up making them sound like they have no technique. And also you can't tell who's playing, because when you take out those little bits, you also take away their individuality. You could always tell if it was Ginger (Baker) or John (Bonham) or Ringo (Starr) or Buddy (Rich). All those guys had their good bits and their bad bits, but they were their bits.

Its a real shame for drummers. You can usually still tell guitarists from one another - you can say, `Oh that's Blackmore' or `I think that's Stevie Vai' etc. and obviously with a singer you can still do that, but with drums now it's very difficult. They're taking all the soul out of it.
Does he have a point or is he an old fogey railing against modern progress? If he wasn't such a monster player you'd be tempted to say the latter, but we know for sure he isn't trying to make excuses for crappy playing.

Is the imperfection - that moment of slight weakness when slowing down to resume a verse after speeding up and adding excitement to a climactic section - too high a price to pay?
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
If anyone would like to try to follow me, I'll try to convey here the image that entered my mind as I read Ian's post. This is not meant to be serious, so I hope I don't offend anyone.

We're in Drummerworld, a large town square and gathering place in the city called Music. Drummers are milling about and conversing on a beautiful day, when Ian asks his question: "What's more important, technique or feel?"

Upon hearing the question, several old-timers suddenly stop dead in their tracks. A hush falls upon the crowd as their anticipation is noticed by the general public. The nervous silence is broken by the shrieking of a large bird of prey coming from the sky. As the crowd scatters to find shelter, a huge creature eclipses the sun, and descends upon the town square with unbelievable, superhuman speed. As it gets closer, the raptor can be seen to be Matt Smith in the form of a gigantic eagle.

Swooping in on the unsuspecting Ian Williams, the Smith-Eagle picks him up with his lightning-fast talons and caries him into the sky. As the cowering crowd looks up at the sky in confusion, bloody Ian-chunks start falling to the ground.


Matt, if you read this, I agree with most points you make and like your writing, I meant this as a joke.
Should we get a couple of extra beers now so we don't need to get up during the show?
 

Xalky

Member
What are we calling technique - solidity with timing, coordinated independence, speed or a combo of those things?

It also depends on the genre. Since the 1980s the poppier brands of rock require perfect or near-perfect timing. If you're going to play math metal or complex fusion you'd better have serious techique. If you play jazz, your limbs need to be more independent than in, say, soul or blues.

Then, what about Ian Paice's comments in his DW interview:



Does he have a point or is he an old fogey railing against modern progress? If he wasn't such a monster player you'd be tempted to say the latter, but we know for sure he isn't trying to make excuses for crappy playing.

Is the imperfection - that moment of slight weakness when slowing down to resume a verse after speeding up and adding excitement to a climactic section - too high a price to pay?
I think he's dead on. There are a lot of drummers today that play with feel.

While I admire the technical drummers tricks and techniques and rock solid time, there's something about Bonham or Ginger Baker that makes me feel the music on a totally deeper level. The push/pull and swing that these guys interpreted into thier craft makes them true artists. Maybe we're talking about the difference between art and engineering.!
 

dale w miller

Silver Member
This is the perfect example to use. I remember once on Howard Stern, Robin claimed to be "moved" by Jackson Pollock's work. She went on for like 10 minutes about what a genius you would have to be to paint like that. Howard then said that any idiot with some paint and a brush could make a Jackson Pollock painting. Needless to say a challenge ensued. Howard went out with a brush and some paint and painted a bunch of stupid slashes and splotches on a canvas. The paintings were lined up, a few actual Pollock paintings and Howard's painting. Guess which painting Robin picked as being the real Jackson Pollock painting? She said "this one moves me the most so it must be the real Pollock." It was Howards painting. Robin's response "you're a master painter."

WTF?

This discussion comes up OVER and OVER again for some reason. I think there are a lot of people out there who don't practice very much, or if they do, they don't practice smart and don't make any progress. So instead of taking a lesson or two, or putting in some real dedicated practice, they go out and invent a mushy concept called "feel". "Feel" can't be argued about because it means something different to everyone. So when the novice claims to be a good drummer because of his "feel", who can argue with him? This argument is about having status without doing the work. Period.

Steve Gadd has good "feel" because he is a technical master. All these guys who talk about playing ahead or behind or on the beat, I'd love to see them intentionally doing it without massive amounts of practice and live playing. Anyway this topic chases its tail around constantly.
Though your Howard Stern/Jackson Pollock story is a great one it only applies to that of free jazz & avant-garde drumming and not that that has any structure or groove such as Steve Gadd who you are mentioning. But I do agree with you he is a technical master. I mentioned that earlier myself using other drummers known primarily as pocket players.

The other thing that people like Howard miss when it comes to art like this is it is not so much what he is doing now as much as he was the first to do it then. Remember no one saw anything like his splatter paintings before him. He started an entire movement.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
This discussion comes up OVER and OVER again for some reason. I think there are a lot of people out there who don't practice very much, or if they do, they don't practice smart and don't make any progress. So instead of taking a lesson or two, or putting in some real dedicated practice, they go out and invent a mushy concept called "feel". "Feel" can't be argued about because it means something different to everyone. So when the novice claims to be a good drummer because of his "feel", who can argue with him? This argument is about having status without doing the work. Period.

Steve Gadd has good "feel" because he is a technical master. All these guys who talk about playing ahead or behind or on the beat, I'd love to see them intentionally doing it without massive amounts of practice and live playing. Anyway this topic chases its tail around constantly.
Average for the win...
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Maybe Howard was a bit fired up when he made his splatter painting? All that anger might have transferred into his splatters and, after all, emotions are what expressionist art is all about *grin*

Let's take an analogy with this feel v technique thing. What do women prefer - a man with feeling or a man with technique? A man might have feeling but if he has no technique it's not much good. However, we don't appreciate men who treat you like a canvas on which they produce their artistry either. We don't want to be reduced to a vehicle for his ego. So a baseline amount of technique is needed - depending on tastes - but so is a baseline amount of feeling.

Is Al Di Meola better than Ry Cooder? If it's a Return to Forever song, then you'd go with Al. If the song is Sister Morphine, then you'd go with Ry. Is Alphonse Mouzon better than Ringo or Bonzo? Would Alphonse have done a better job in A Day in the Life or When the Levee Breaks than Ringo and Bonzo? I don't think so, but he'd do a better job in a techy fusion piece.

I know myself that I'm working on my technique at the moment so the feel of my drumming is there more consistently. The two are related almost never mutually exclusive. I've programmed drum machines in the past and it's possible in some genres to make it "feel" good, but it takes work in applying the right amount of accents at the right time.

BTW, no one answered this question I asked earlier but I'm still curious to know what people think:

Is the imperfection - that moment of slight weakness when slowing down to resume a verse after speeding up and adding excitement to a climactic section - too high a price to pay?​
 

zambizzi

Platinum Member
Then you have drummers like Stewart Copeland...who know that chops mean nothing as long as you've got the feel of a musical jazz drummer (who wears gay gloves).
 

donv

Silver Member
Can you have a one sided coin? One is meaningless without the other.
 
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Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
What are we calling technique - solidity with timing, coordinated independence, speed or a combo of those things?
Being solid and having great time is a feel thing.

Independence would fall under technique.

Herein may lie the problem. If we cant understand what fits in where then debating it may be a moot point.

Back in the day, the pro musicians I hung out with might say something to the effect of:
Wow! That bass player has a great feel. It didn't mean how he felt, how the audience felt, or how his great aunt Millie felt.

It meant how he approached a groove and what he brought to it. Did it sit down? Did it bounce? Did it drive? Whatever. Everyone knew what we were talking about.

Now suddenly the word feel means something different to everyone? I don't think so.

Flame away.
 
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