Originally Posted by Magenta
Fear not, I only go into middle-aged schoolmarm mode when I'll spontaneously combust if I don't.
I'm just about starting to acquire "feel". It bothered me enormously when I absolutely could NOT play anything unless it was written down, and my comfort zone was limited to rudiments. My teacher offered me plenty of opportunities to be less mechanical about things, but uptight is my middle name so I carried on trying to get my technique as good as I could, in the hope - like you - that one day I'd be able to play with more genuine facility.
And something did start to happen: I began to listen to the music, and I began to PLAY MUSIC rather than play drums, and even when I play rudiments they are much more nuanced. When I played grade pieces, I began to play what WASN'T written down: the interpretation, rather than the translation, of the dots on the page. One of the triggers, I think, was realising how rigid my right wrist was on the hi-hat: all the hits were even, there were no accents at all. I spent time slowly teaching my wrist to accent the downbeat, and now it does it by itself most of the time.
I play best when I let my limbs and kit get on with it and don't interfere. I'm much more confident now, and I play better, which makes me more confident, which makes me play better ... I also only play music I like, that I want to be part of, that is technically, musically and intellectually rewarding to me.
Gosh, that got a bit long! In summary, doing the groundwork was essential for me because I couldn't approach playing in any other way, but it did have its drawbacks and a less anal person may well be able to do the groundwork AND be freer at the same time.
I still think this is the right approach, though. Learning the fundamentals in this manner might come across as sterile and unoriginal but for the first few months at least, you're not necessarily in the position to express yourself and you're still learning the mechanics of basic playing.
I used to teach in Primary Schools and there is a difference between mechanically learning to write and being able to express through writing. You have to be able to mechanically write before you can start composing a story, right? That's not to say you shouldn't teach expression or encourage it at the earliest possible time - far from it - but if you're being hindered by your mechanical inability, then you need to solve those problems before you express ideas.