Is drumming becoming to linear and mathematic?

Anikulapo

Junior Member
As humans we have the tendency to try and package everything into neat little boxes. We are always trying to "straighten" things out or "square" things up.. The saying "there are no straight lines in nature" is often repeated, but rarely fully understood or felt.

So now that the philosophy is out of the way, my question is: Is drumming becoming to linear and mathematic?

We seem to tend to create boundaries and limitations with drumming in genera (along with most other things in life)l. In the discussion on simple drumming (which I have absolutely no problem with) comments were made regarding drummers being the lowest level on the food-chain. Since when did music have some sort of political hierarchy? Do drummers really feel like they are isolated time keepers? I do not disagree with practicing to a metronome, but I can't quite grasp the fact that people actually count numbers when they create music. This isn't supposed to be a math class, it's supposed to be an art. If I had to count "1 and 2 and 3 and 4..." when I played with other musicians, I wouldn't want to play anymore. Have people lost the ability to tap into a deeper state and to feel the music with all of their heart and soul? Is there anyone else who isn't concerned with just "getting gigs" and is pursuing music as an art form?

While some people write poetry or creating paintings, I use drumming as my creative outlet and always try to play without any preconceptions or limitations for myself. This is one reason that I never felt the need to learn any sort of music theory. I never felt compelled to learn one man's attempt to categorize and make music into some linear thing. Music is not a bunch of straight lines, it's a dance (literally and figuratively) and I think it's better to dance along with it rather then attempt to "straighten things out" like we try and do with everything else in our neat little lives.

Are there still drummers out there who take a sort of zen/meditative approach to drumming without abiding any sets of rules and regulations and preconceptions? Do you really think a tribal drummer in New Guinea sits down with a special drum book and a metronome while counting "1 e and a, 2 e and a..." praciticing his paradiddles and rudiments? Or does he tap into a deeper state of energy that we seem to have forgotten about and play with every single atom of his body?

These are just a few thoughts that I have been having lately and I do not mean to bash anyone. To each their own!
 
W

wy yung

Guest
First of all, the metronome idea.

Some of us may live in the jungle and play frame drums for naked dancers. But most of us live here in the modern world dealing with electronic samples, click tracks and an abundant other responsibilities expected of us as dummers.

The competition, i.e. other drummers contesting gigs have developed a good sense of time and can play with a click easily. This saves time and money right across the board. And it helps bands stay tight and earn more as a result.

As a man who has played with drummers both with and without good time, let me assure you that those with good time will get called again. The lazy drummers with poor timing can stay off my stage and out of my rehearsal space.

There is no escape in this modern age if your timing is poor. Too many drummers have grown up with computers and click tracks and can eat them for breakfast.

If one wants to play with poor musicians or simply be out of work drummers, forget the click track.

As for where drumming is going? See the above. We live in a highly mechanized world and the influence of this will surely affect drumming over the coming centuries. Imagine the drumset in the year 2210.

We've only just begun.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Ani, check out Phil Maturano's posts in the Beyond the Metronome thread.

I know what you're saying re: counting and, apart from the non-lyrical aspect of it, I simply find it distracting so it doesn't work for me. I want to be as artistic as I can be within the narrow confines of my technical shortfalls.

However, there are more scientifically-inclined than lyrically-inclined drummers out there who use their mathematical approach to accompany and support their more lyrical band mates to great effect. If counting ensures that the music has a solid, steady base on which the lead players can stretch out, then it's a job well done. In some styles the drummer doesn't have to feel the song as much as the lead voices.

It's a bummer if the drummer is lyrical and creative but imprecise enough to get in the way of the other musicians. There is no hard line between the art and science of music.

For you and me, focus on the science side would feel like you're sacrificing your emotional aspect but some guys simply are less emotional and are happy to just be part of it.

For me, the ideal is to be very dry and analytical when on the pad, trying to get those messy bits in order and working the muscle memory but when I'm with the band I'm chasing the vibe (with varying degrees of success).
 

Anikulapo

Junior Member
The competition, i.e. other drummers contesting gigs have developed a good sense of time and can play with a click easily. This saves time and money right across the board. And it helps bands stay tight and earn more as a result.

As a man who has played with drummers both with and without good time, let me assure you that those with good time will get called again. The lazy drummers with poor timing can stay off my stage and out of my rehearsal space.

There is no escape in this modern age if your timing is poor. Too many drummers have grown up with computers and click tracks and can eat them for breakfast.
I understand what you are saying, but I am not talking about sacrificing timing. Rather, tapping into a state where you can "feel" the music, where timing becomes a natural and organic thing rather than a rigid and mathematical thing. I have seen shows where tribal drummers (yes I know we don't all live in jungles) are keeping perfect time and rhythm without needing click tracks and metronomes.
 

BassDriver

Silver Member
About timing:

You just said that there are no straight lines in nature, there is no perfectly solid drummer, it helps to very solid, because that means you can express yourself well once you are solid enough, have good technique and have moved on from the mathematical stage.

...some of stay in the mathematical stage and end up drumming like Donati, phrasing 13/16 over 3/4 sure is impressive but it becomes BORING...

...and super simple drumming ends up being like that too...

...they are two extremes, I believe that we shouldn't hang around th extremes.

...and there are some of us that just getting a gig is really important for us.
 

Strangelove

Gold Member
...some of stay in the mathematical stage and end up drumming like Donati, phrasing 13/16 over 3/4 sure is impressive but it becomes BORING...
I guess this whole thread could be summed up - which is better - the right side or the left side of the brain? Or both? When music becomes too mathematical, it gets scientific and sterile, losing it's artistic side or "right side". Imagine paintings from Picasso that had to be linear correct before they could be marketed. Boring, right? I think modern music, with all the sampling that even goes on in live music, requires drummers play to a click. But I think that's as far as we need to go with "mathematically correct". Now, whether that opens up to drum machines replacing humans because they are more "perfect" is an entirely different subject. Or how about totally programmed music without human involvement at all?
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Interesting interview with Ringo in a recent "Drum" magazine.

"And I believe that in the human part of playing, there is a bit of up and down. Not mad slow or mad speed, but when it gets to the chorus, pick it up a few clicks, because we're all excited at the chorus, you know? And then you're back to the verse."

I really believe that a certain elasticity to the time is part of good music. Sometimes it's a degree of elasticity within the bar or pattern, and sometimes it serves the song, as Ringo suggests, to pick it up a bit at peaks. Make the music breathe.

Of course, to do this effectively one has to have a very good internal sense of time. And the ability to drive the bus without getting caught up in other folks rushing away with things, or dragging it down into the mud.

But like playing with dynamics, a certain amount of flexibility with time enhances the arc of the song, helps the singer or soloist tell a story.
 

zakhopper316

Silver Member
i dont believe that counting 1 2 3 4 is going to limit drumming as an art or make you play
less artistically then a person who does not count, is there really a difference?
the fact is if you drum you know there are 4 beats in common time no matter how many rests you have in a bar.
and if you want to play the drums but avoid the mathematical reality of time and keeping it, then you are going to have a very hard time progressing from randomly beating things.

its actually the opposite, the better you count, the more mathematical variations you know,
the freer you are, the more control you have over the art.

i understand your point and what you want to achieve, but your going in the wrong direction,
if you want to have no limitations in genres, then you have to know and really understand time and the hole rhythmic scale really, which is all math.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
BTW awesome thread Poly. Thanks for the link. Phil's post made a lot of sense to me.
I thought that was where you were coming from, hence the link :)

And nice post, Aeolian.

I do think Wy has hit on an important point. We live in a highly mechanised age and people's tastes are reflecting this. Where this is headed is another matter.

I think plenty of us would suspect that this grand experiment of human interaction with technology may have pushed beyond some natural human/animal boundary and is due to pull back to more humanness ... maybe a cyclical thing where inhumanism (to coin a term) is all the rage at the moment but more organic, human styles will make a comeback.

At times I feel the lack of emotionalism and human frailty in more automated music appeals to our heads but not to the animal side of us - the part that loves and laughs and skips through the fields going tra-la-la (sorry, couldn't resist :) etc.

At other times I feel we human animals are changing intrinsically and we really are shifting away from our organic side. Maybe that's only a bad thing when you grow up loving organic sounds? Certainly the music I liked in the 60s and 70s was way less organic than, say, swing era jazz.

So I personally strive for an organic feel and have found I crave this more with age. I suspect it's because we become a bit less robust and more sensitive with age so seek a change in the comfort / excitement mix. Probably nostalgia too.

Will we become more techno and perfect until humans become cyborgs - implanted chip with Google, mobile phone, etc ... with smoothness of mobile communication that makes us almost telepathic - hooked into the genius of hive mind? I have a feeling that the environment will screw us up before that could happen, sadly.

For me, I'm content to play old fart music to other old farts.
 

Anikulapo

Junior Member
and if you want to play the drums but avoid the mathematical reality of time and keeping it, then you are going to have a very hard time progressing from randomly beating things.



i understand your point and what you want to achieve, but your going in the wrong direction,
QUOTE]

The thing is I can keep time fine. While I certainly don't profess to being an expert drummer, that isn't exactly what I am trying to do. I have never formally practiced "rudiments" (because I didn't know exactly what a "rudiment" was until recently), yet I have been incorporating those very patterns into my drumming for years.

I really enjoy playing in different time signatures, yet I wouldn't have the slightest idea what the time signature is, nor would I be able to play it if I had to count it out loud while doing so. I can manage to play a beat that will fit to anything regardless of what "time signature" it's in because I don't have that limitation of trying to make a mathematical equation out of it. I can feel the music and add to it.

And Poly, the funny thing is that I absolutely love electronic music (I pretty much love most music), but I take it for what it is. It wouldn't sound the same if a human drummer was playing it (ok, maybe questlove) because that is in its own context.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
I really enjoy playing in different time signatures, yet I wouldn't have the slightest idea what the time signature is, nor would I be able to play it if I had to count it out loud while doing so. I can manage to play a beat that will fit to anything regardless of what "time signature" it's in because I don't have that limitation of trying to make a mathematical equation out of it. I can feel the music and add to it.
I'm afraid that this is where I have to part company. This reminds me of innumerable guitar players who say that they can "solo" over anything. Typically meaning that they can pull an SRV and find some minor pentatonic to force fit over the tonal center of what's going on (unless it's some clever jazz piece that moves around, and then they're lost).

The best way I've heard this worked out is that theory is something you practice at home to learn how the music works and develop the vocabulary. And then when you get on stage you stop thinking about it and play the music.

But, and a very big but, without the understanding of what is going on, a musician's vocabulary will be very limited. Why shut oneself off from all that is out there. It's like being illiterate. Yeah, you can make up a story, or repeat one you've heard, but you miss out on all the great literature from the ages. Which if you exposed yourself to it, would make your own stories that much more engaging.

I try not to think about rudiments when I'm playing. But when I hear the bass or guitar playing a certain phrasing and I want to mirror back a fill that complements it, if there is a rudiment that I'm comfortable with that has that feel to it, then it just comes out and my focus moves to how to make a melodic statement with the different pitches that fits with what is going on. The combinations of singles and doubles that come out are part of the vocabulary I have to work with because they relate to some rudiment that is burned in from practice. I've got a long way to go to develop as much vocabulary as I'd like to have. But I know I'll get that from breaking down rudiments and patterns and practicing them into muscle memory.
 

zakhopper316

Silver Member
and if you want to play the drums but avoid the mathematical reality of time and keeping it, then you are going to have a very hard time progressing from randomly beating things.



i understand your point and what you want to achieve, but your going in the wrong direction,
QUOTE]

The thing is I can keep time fine. While I certainly don't profess to being an expert drummer, that isn't exactly what I am trying to do. I have never formally practiced "rudiments" (because I didn't know exactly what a "rudiment" was until recently), yet I have been incorporating those very patterns into my drumming for years.

I really enjoy playing in different time signatures, yet I wouldn't have the slightest idea what the time signature is, nor would I be able to play it if I had to count it out loud while doing so. I can manage to play a beat that will fit to anything regardless of what "time signature" it's in because I don't have that limitation of trying to make a mathematical equation out of it. I can feel the music and add to it.

And Poly, the funny thing is that I absolutely love electronic music (I pretty much love most music), but I take it for what it is. It wouldn't sound the same if a human drummer was playing it (ok, maybe questlove) because that is in its own context.
thats called being self taught, it leads to no special powers of being free, its just limiting
to your overall playing. i mean you can do it and there is nothing wrong with it, but i can
play anything in a certain time and know what im playing in, and do things like 5lets and
7lets in that space of time because i know the mathematics, i promise your not going to
invent some crazy rhythm due to not knowing any times, because every note on the map
is already been found by people that read, its math if you play a space in between its just
another subdivision.

learning to read is really the only way to understand this tho, so i guess have fun with
what your doing there is absolutly nothing wrong with it, i bet learning without reading
does feel arty and mistical
 

Moldy

Silver Member
It's like driving a car. At first, you worry about each little movement, overcompensate, overanalyze. As time progresses, you simply do... you think about driving instead of each little action you need to do to do said driving. Eventually you get comfortable enough that you can do it in your sleep. And that's when you can do creative, fun and scary experimental things, when you're so well versed in the fundamentals that you don't even have to think of the word "drive" anymore, you just do, just as you would blink an eye or take a breath.

The key is to have that solid foundation so solid that there is no question of whether you can build on it or not.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Perhaps.

But I don't think it's drumming per se that is moving in this direction.

As Wy brought up, music is becoming linear and mathematical, and drummers have little choice but to keep up.

Music has been around for thousands upon thousands of years. Tribal drums may be the first instrument known. However, the drum set is only about 110 to 120 years old. What we, as drummers and artists, expect out of a drum set in a musical sense is still a relatively new concept in the grand history of people.

This is why I think the average non-musician doesn't draw much of a distinction between drum machine and drum set, as people are looking for rhythm, and how ever it can be fulfilled. The drum set isn't necessary to be able to fulfill the need for rhythm for humans, because it wasn't there before.

But it's not just drummers. Or even musicians. Many professions that were important years ago are less so now. CNN recently ran a story about how professional movie critics have been laid off left and right because world of mouth via social networks has replaced the demand for professional movie reviews.The demand for movie reviews (and drumming) has not gone away, but what supplies has change for most people, and most people are fine with that.

As drummers, we can adapt, or chose to sit on the sidelines. But it is what it is.
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
No, drumming is not becoming too linear and mathematic. Metronomes and rudiments are nothing new. They are not part of this "new mechanized world we live in". They are tools used by musicians to develop some of the fundamental skills of their art.

Music and math have always been related, there is no other way. When the Greeks discovered that a string twice as long as another one produced a note one octave lower they brought math into the picture. So the math/music connection is nothing new nor is it indicative of anything other than reality.

I guess we should throw out all music theory because naked guys in the jingle never heard of the circle of fifths ?

It just sounds like you don't want to do those things (which is fine) so you slam them as not being artistic (which is lame).

We have both left and right hemispheres, and there is beauty in both reason and emotion. To express only one of our "halves" at the expense of the other is limiting the expression of the true human condition.
 

Strangelove

Gold Member
Here's a thought. Rhythm comes from our artistic side, not out scientific side, right? The ticking of a quartz clock has close to perfect timing, but does it have a groove? One thing that aboriginal drummers have known for thousands of years is the connection between the drum and a recognized sacred spirit that exists among us all. Christianity calls it the Holy Spirit. Science has never been able to address the spiritual side of life, because it is intangible and cannot be studied.

The waves of the ocean move in a rhythm. Do you suppose they can keep up with a perfectly timed click? Do they need to? I think the only reason producers insist today on drummers keeping up with a click has not to do with the fact that people today insist on perfect timing. Think about all the lip syncing and sampling going on in live music. We all know it goes on in the modern studio. To make it today, you HAVE to play to a click, there is just no debating it. But what goes on between the clicks does not have to be in perfect 8ths, 16ths, etc. Nobody can tell the difference besides some engineer in a sound lab.
 

Steamer

Platinum Member
Here's a thought. Rhythm comes from our artistic side, not out scientific side, right? The ticking of a quartz clock has close to perfect timing, but does it have a groove? One thing that aboriginal drummers have known for thousands of years is the connection between the drum and a recognized sacred spirit that exists among us all. Christianity calls it the Holy Spirit. Science has never been able to address the spiritual side of life, because it is intangible and cannot be studied.

The waves of the ocean move in a rhythm. Do you suppose they can keep up with a perfectly timed click? Do they need to? I think the only reason producers insist today on drummers keeping up with a click has not to do with the fact that people today insist on perfect timing. Think about all the lip syncing and sampling going on in live music. We all know it goes on in the modern studio. To make it today, you HAVE to play to a click, there is just no debating it. But what goes on between the clicks does not have to be in perfect 8ths, 16ths, etc. Nobody can tell the difference besides some engineer in a sound lab.
All the great music/musicians I love share the same sense of a perfect balance between the intellectual and the organic intuitive process {both covering alot of ground within} producing music that touches my intellectual and emotional centers at the same time.

Have to have a equal balance of both from my experience for satisfying end results on this listener and players end.
 
Here's a thought. Rhythm comes from our artistic side, not out scientific side, right?
not necessarilly - there might not even be separation between those.
We hear a lot about "left side" and "right side" brain function - perhaps not oddly, musicians tend to have a larger corpus collosum.

In many ways, mathematics isn't even science (it is not, itself concerned with empirical observation for instance, but is axiomatic)

but science isn't without art - the hypothesis, for instance, is a very creative part and can lead to some opening of though (before "science", these sorts of investigations fell under "natural philosophy")

In mathematics there can be crazy wild creativity, it's just done within a self-consistent structure.
It's a misconception, though, that mathematics is limited to linearity or even determinism.
 
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