Thread: Virgil Donati
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Old 10-02-2008, 01:47 PM
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Default Re: Virgil Donati is the Buddy Rich of our time ("IMO"...I suppose)

Originally Posted by finnhiggins View Post
Question: How old are you? I ask because back when I was maybe eighteen, nineteen or so I used to think like this too. Drumming was still new, and I was exploring the world of virtuoso playing for the first time, etc etc. So each new amazing drummer I saw was pulling out these blazing chops, and I couldn't even imagine how you'd get to be able to play like that etc etc. Blew me away.

Flash forward a few years. Now when I see a solo like that it's a bit more like "double kick rudiments... check.... fast singles... check... oh look... a polyrhythm....". You see? After you see enough of that stuff it turns into a checklist and really stops being in any way exciting.

The way I see it, music is like a language. You try to express something through what you play, and if you're any good then the audience feels it. Now, imagine you're learning a new language - say you're not a native English speaker. Initially, if you see a book or article written by somebody and it uses lots of long words and complex sentences... you're impressed. You think... "Wow, this guy really knows all the grammar rules and he's got a huge vocabulary". Because all of that stuff looks so daunting and far away it makes you grant an automatic degree of respect and authority to what's being said. But once you get a better grasp of the language and reading becomes easier to you, you start to realise that simplicity is maybe a better way to get the message across. Look at George Orwell - the language is not that complicated, but it's amazingly good writing. Equally, there's many lousy writers like me - lots of long words, huge sentences, but actually not saying a whole lot for the amount they write. I can type real fast, but that's because it takes me ages to say something. I suspect George Orwell could have done this post in about three short sentences and said as much.

Imagine somebody making a speech. Are you more impressed by the guy who can talk so fast that you get a headache trying to keep up, or is the guy who speaks slowly, precisely and clearly for the same amount of time and gets the same amount said doing the better job as an orator? Sure, having precise ability to execute the physical movements to get the words out is important. But who cares if the content is just gibberish, being delivered with virtuosic speed and power?

So for me, I'm not automatically impressed by chops anymore. I work on them, but the more I work on them the more I realise that getting better on that front is just a matter of putting in more work. Once your hand technique is good enough you can make a whole lot of improvements while you're half asleep and not really paying attention - you just keep running the drills. I don't feel as proud of my technical achievements as I do of my musical ones, on the rare occasion that something cool turns up. For every fill I've done with big tom rolls, I'm usually more impressed on playback with the time I just did the same fill with one hi-hat accent and a syncopation in the bass drum. So my perception of soloing and virtuosic playing has changed accordingly as I've matured on the instrument. I'm hardly a good musician yet, but if I want to get there then the path from where I am now is probably not more technique, it's more understanding of structure, time and tone and how to build something communicative with that. In comparison to that, chops is really pretty easy to work on.
That's why there's no Olympic gold medal in music. WFD is a sport; not "music".

The Grammies, you say????? Ah, that's a popular choice award (or so they'd have us believe), but drummers don't run in it.
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