Visualisation and creative imagination

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
when ideally you want to be extremely aurally aware, and physically oblivious. Me, anyway.
,


That describes my approach as well. I don't visualize it beforehand, instead I attempt to be totally in the moment when its happening, and not in my own world.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Oh, I'll bet you do. I mean, even when I need to trim the ugly shrub in front of my house I visualize how I'm going to go about it. It's imagination, you know. Musicians are imaginative people.

You don't visualize your drum kit, sitting down and playing it? You don't visualize a piece of gear you need and how it will improve your setup? You never visualize your next gig? Heck yeah you do, all of us do.

All creative people visualize, anyway that's what I think.
Trying to quit smoking (again) and now I have insomnia ...

I think you're right about all creative people visualising but it depends on what point in the creative process you're doing it. For instance, when cartooning sometimes I have an almost fully-fledged idea and at other times I start messing around and something turns up. I guess the latter approach is a jazz, as per Todd's post. Jazzers amaze me the way they put together cohesive musical statements on the fly.

My drumming process also seems to also be a mix of the two approaches. One thing I've done wrong at times is imagine the lines I'm going to in a sketchy way, and I end up playing like someone just reading notation rather than adding the touches that make phrases come to life. So I'm thinking that if I'm going to mentally prepare, it can't be half-baked, the beats/patterns have to sound rich and grooving in my head rather than just intellectual. Otherwise I'll probably play better if I just do the domestics or watch TV and come in fresh.

Does that make sense?
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Fascinating replies, guys. DED, I really must do that one! In comes the top session drummer famous for great simplicity lol


Groovemaster Flex said:
Do you have synesthesia?
Good one, Groove. That's the word I was looking for!

Jay, maybe you do have it without being aware of it? I don't think sounds = colour is common. I do remember one time in my naughty teens listening to Jimi Hendrix in a chemically enhanced state and imagining the music swirling out of the speakers.

Read an interview with Harvey Mason about a session he did for for either Jim Seals or Dash Crofts. I'll say Seals. Anyway, Seals asked him for more browns and Harvey was totally confused by this and found the session very difficult. If someone asked me for "more browns" I'd have played more toms, assuming that the snare/hats/cymbal combo is monochrome. Does that make sense to you?


Aeolian said:
If you cannot imagine it, how are you going to do it?
As I said, visualisation is something I've not done much. Not sure how my parts happens. It seems to be a combination of instinct, approaches I've heard before and compromises through my technical limitations.

Clearly people do play without visualisation, including me. Can't say I know how that works.


MikeM said:
I used a pair of wooden practice pads for my hats/snare/toms/cymbals, and a frisbee on the floor for my foot to tap on.
Haha ... I sat on the floor tapping a pair of bongos with plastic Meccano strips. A metal ashtray on a stand was my cymbal. I did that for a year before getting my first kit. I found it pretty easy to play my first basic beats on the kit. They're just weird practice pads, I guess.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I got my first drumset when I was 13 and already knew how to play it, mostly thru visualization. I used a pair of wooden practice pads for my hats/snare/toms/cymbals, and a frisbee on the floor for my foot to tap on. I learned to play a lot of beats this way so by the time I got that 1st kit, I was off and running.

I practiced like a fiend daily to the point where I dropped out of school so I could play when my parents were at work (they always made me stop when they got home - and yes, I got lectured to about what a dead-end life I was headed into!).

By the time I was 17 I was pretty good, but it was clear that I needed to get out of the house so I joined the Navy (for 6 years! And yes, my parents were happy to sign for shipping off their underage son). I didn't know what I was going to do about drumming and worried about it a lot, but I didn't have much choice.

Fast forward 6 years when I regained my freedom and was playing daily like a fiend again and I know I was a much better drummer because, while I wasn't playing a kit the vast majority of that time, I was thinking about it constantly - air drumming, tapping on things, listening to great drummers, tuning other people out (like a Peanuts character listening to adults). There weren't many cobwebs to dust off. It was like I never left, really.

There's developing muscle memory, speed, independence, touch and all that, but conceptualizing works independently of all that (together often, but not necessarily) and, I believe, can go along way toward burning in the neural pathways toward some of those other more physical elements.
 
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toddbishop

Platinum Member
I think the way it's been helpful for me in performance is as a strategy for breaking up familiar patterns of playing or emotional states. If I find myself getting locked into one of my usual things, I will sometimes pull up an image of another player, or of a particular move. It's a non-musical tool to help me get from a non-musical state to a musical state. Mostly I think visualizations are actually preconceptions, which you usually don't want. Music requires you to be very open to what is happening in the moment; if your subconscious is telling you to play like you were in your offstage fantasy concert, while the actual music you're in the process of playing is telling you something different, there may be trouble. Maybe it also tends to direct your consciousness to the physical aspect of playing, when ideally you want to be extremely aurally aware, and physically oblivious. Me, anyway.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Having two kids now, I often have to visualize practicing, because I don't have as much time as I used to to actually practice.

At different times, when I've been in the studio, I've sometimes visualized that I'm a rich producer, who's hired the best studio drummer that would be appropriate this song, and then visualized what that drummer would play on the given track. It sometimes helps create a vibe to fit the mood of the song.
 

groovemaster_flex

Silver Member
As a composer this is pretty much the essence of how I go about it. Over the years I've developed a sort of array of shapes and colors that in some abstract way represent the music I like and want to write.

When I sit at the piano I have no specific idea in mind, I just sort of "look" at all the shapes and colors that move around in my head and it's almost like I'm fishing, like I'm casting my line in the hopes of catching a big one.

Music is very visual to me, always has been. Certain songs create different colors in my head. "This is an orange song, this one is yellow, this one is deep crimson."

Drumming, to me, is the same thing. I have a pallet of colors available to me, that's how I think of it. "Okay, let's mix some Prussian Blue with a little Venetian Red."

Yes, I also visualize myself playing, I even dream about it. "Mental drumming." I guess all musicians do that, no?
Do you have synesthesia? That's really cool, one of my buddies imagines colours when he's improvising on the piano. He paints a picture with the notes he plays, it seems like a cool concept.

For me, I find that thinking about a concept helps, but it doesn't make me "good" at the particular concept. I still have to tap out the parts to get the coordination down. I had an incredibly difficult time playing any sort of latin grooves when I first started. What I did was think about them, and I developed a bit of a system to help me play.

I think of everything in terms of "ups" and "downs". I break everything down into eighth notes, if something has sixteenths in it, then I expand the groove so the 16ths become eighths, eighths become quarters, etc. Anything on a number is a down, anything on an + is an up. Then when I went to play these parts, I would imagine everything as an up and down. If you think about it, accents are generally the downbeats, while the ups are a little quieter. So I just thought "up, down, up down" etc.

I particularly had a problem when learning the 3/2 rhumba clave, because I always played the last note of the 3 group as a downbeat instead of an up, making it a song clave. So when I started imagining that last bit as an up... Voila! Rhumba clave!

Ex. Song clave would be. Down Up Down | Down Down.
Rhumba clave is Down Up Up | Down Down

Things just started clicking for me. I think everyone has their own little tricks that work for them when they visualize performance in their minds. Mine just happens to be ups and downs.
 

con struct

Platinum Member
After thinking about it, I definitely don't "visualize" anything about drumming.
Oh, I'll bet you do. I mean, even when I need to trim the ugly shrub in front of my house I visualize how I'm going to go about it. It's imagination, you know. Musicians are imaginative people.

You don't visualize your drum kit, sitting down and playing it? You don't visualize a piece of gear you need and how it will improve your setup? You never visualize your next gig? Heck yeah you do, all of us do.

All creative people visualize, anyway that's what I think.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
After thinking about it, I definitely don't "visualize" anything about drumming. I probably should try. What I do say to myself is on the drive to the gig I think of desired outcomes, something like, I am not going to get carried away tonight, I am going to keep my eyes open, maintain an element of restraint, but mainly FEEL THOSE TEMPOS CORRECTLY.

If I practiced in front of a mirror, perhaps it would be easier to visualize myself looking relaxed. I just saw a video of myself playing for the first time recently and it was like the first time I heard a recording of my playing, deeply disturbing.
 

con struct

Platinum Member
As a composer this is pretty much the essence of how I go about it. Over the years I've developed a sort of array of shapes and colors that in some abstract way represent the music I like and want to write.

When I sit at the piano I have no specific idea in mind, I just sort of "look" at all the shapes and colors that move around in my head and it's almost like I'm fishing, like I'm casting my line in the hopes of catching a big one.

Music is very visual to me, always has been. Certain songs create different colors in my head. "This is an orange song, this one is yellow, this one is deep crimson."

Drumming, to me, is the same thing. I have a pallet of colors available to me, that's how I think of it. "Okay, let's mix some Prussian Blue with a little Venetian Red."

Yes, I also visualize myself playing, I even dream about it. "Mental drumming." I guess all musicians do that, no?
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Back in the old Karate Kid movie, there was a bit where Pat Morita is showing Machio how to make a Bonsai. Ralph sits there dumbfounded in front of the small bush. Morita says "Close eyes, picture tree", and Machio closes his eyes and nods after a moment. Morita then says "Open eyes" and hands him the pruning shears.

A bit Hollywood, but the idea is valid.

If you cannot imagine it, how are you going to do it?

But then you still need the physical skills to pull it off.
 

shadowlorde

Senior Member
when i'm trying to get better at a technique I do that when i'm laying in bed about to fall asleep .. visualize a close up on my hands or feet doing the technique perfectly and at crazy speeds.. it does help a bit
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
This is a really interesting topic for me because I don't visualize the playing per se, but it's a combination of listening to the playback in my head (I call it auragraphic, as opposed to photographic, memory) and planning moves ahead, like chess. Probably at this point a lot of muscle memory too, as in how do I reproduce the sound I'm hearing in my head, and my muscles simply execute.

My role model for this is Louie Bellson, one of whose performances I saw when I had just started playing drums as a teenager. It struck me that if I were to keep at it for as long as he had (and he was in his late sixties at that point), there might be no limit to my accomplishments and abilities. And so far it seems accurate.... 25 years and continuing.
 

mrchattr

Gold Member
Often, the music I play is very simple (when I'm doing musicals, etc), so I sit and picture ways to make it more complex and interesting. Sometimes I do this while driving, sitting at home, etc, and other times, I do it while actually sitting behind the kit playing the simple parts. Then, when I get with my main band and can open up, I will try the parts I visualized. I have gotten so confident doing this over the years, I actually don't wait to practice the tunes with them, just do it live, with no fear that it will fail, 'cause I alreay know how to play the parts from visualisation.
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
Mostly definitely, I do it before I shoot a piece of paper into the trash or a ball into the side pocket. I do it with practicing away from the kit whether it be writing out beats and visualizing playing them or generally imagining being on the kit. It's good to know it's almost as good as being there. I've heard other drum teachers talk about this, and how they tell the students you don't need to be at a kit to practice.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
That is a great thing, the visualation...I can't say I do it drumming verbatim, but I like to think of things in terms of desired outcome. I agree that mental practice is almost as good as the real thing.
BTW Pol, I failed to thank you for validating me. You're the only one who did, please forgive my tardiness. Thanks girl!
Sometimes I try to imagine - really vividly - playing parts of songs exactly right. How would it look? How would it feel in my arms and hands? What would the sound be like? Find it hard to concentrate that deeply, though. Is that what you mean?

No probs, re: validation, Larry. I was saying similar things to everyone else - in short, do what's best for you - but with a different emphasis. Conversation is just arrhythmic jazz ... it's not what ya do but the way that ya do it :)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
That is a great thing, the visualation...I can't say I do it drumming verbatim, but I like to think of things in terms of desired outcome. I agree that mental practice is almost as good as the real thing.
BTW Pol, I failed to thank you for validating me. You're the only one who did, please forgive my tardiness. Thanks girl!
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
That sounds like a good idea, Abe, although I haven't been getting along with mirrors in the last couple of years ...

Another thing I've been thinking about is rhythmic mantras. I think most kids at some stage repeat common words until the word sounds a bit weird and alien - suddenly we words and language for what they really are rather than through a cultural filter. I'm thinking this would be a good exercise for really getting inside rhythms too. So I choose a word that sounds good to me and then try to repeat it with inflections that sound pleasing to me. Today's word was "restaurant" :)
 

aydee

Platinum Member
I do it Pol, but not quite in the way you mean.
When I play golf, I do exactly what you are saying. I visualize the ball arcing over a pond and landing softly 10 feet short of the pin and rolling up 3 feet. With this picture in mind, I swing my club and the mental image triggers my muscle memory to try and recreate it.

For drumming its a different kind of visualization for me. A mirror.

If I'm watching myself play, I can see my hands, my feet, its almost an out of body experience or like watching someone else play.
It helps me tremendously in adjusting micro timing issues, awkward stickings or pedalwork. Many concepts that seem too abstract suddenly start to make sense if i watch myself trying to play them. I really think more people should keep mirrors in their practice rooms.

....
 
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