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  #1  
Old 10-19-2009, 05:31 AM
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Default On being relaxed behinf the kit

I have always struggled with tension in my limbs when drumming. I've long known that I needed to relax but I'd still keep on finding things tensing up. I might loosen up my hands and wrists but then find my shoulders were tense.

Recently, RandomDrummer123 posted a clip of African drummer, Tony Allen who I have since been raving about on a loop (sorry guys, but you know I'm over the top). I'd never seen a clip of a drummer before that was so close up and clear, where the player was so wonderfully relaxed. He needed no tension to groove. It was as though he had faith that his limbs would drop at the right time. I sent the vid link around to the band and told them to expect a slightly different approach from me next rehearsal because this guy is my new role model.

I have struggled at times in my new band to adjust to different genres due to my long background playing rock; I was always trying to deal with the condundrum of keeping the energy and groove happening while playing at low volume.

After seeing Tony Allen I immediately saw that his approach was the missing link. So last rehearsal I was kind of channeling him, trying to approach the songs the way he would if he was on the stool. I refused to play lines that were difficult for me and instead made choices that were easy and under control, keeping my hands very low. Since my technique is limited, it meant playing much more simply than Tony does. I didn't care, as long is it sounded good.

In the past I would play things that were difficult for me because I felt the other musicians would expect a certain level of flair from me or I'd try to replicate a cool pattern I'd heard instead of accepting where I'm at and just trundling it out. I also think I'm not a natural rocker; it was always heavy work for wimpy me to hit so hard - but then it became my modus operandi through constant reinforcement. I think that's where the tension was coming from.

I never mentioned the video to the others at band practice. Everyone seemed to be playing better than usual. Our bassist mentioned that at one point he was watching me and the way I was moving reminded him of the Tony Allen clip. It was thumbs up, all round. Yay!

Yesterday Kindbeats made a remark about one of Stan's clips, "It's refreshing to hear someone just lay back and relax with the instrument". Stan is another who is a very chilled and in-control player and it's good to watch and hear.

That's my little epiphany and hopefully it will be useful to someone, bearing in mind that many great tracks have been laid down by drummers with tension in their limbs. It's just not for me any more. Seeing that clip really drove home the difference to me between knowing something (to keep relaxed) and really understanding it.

Shame it took 34 years for the penny to drop, but better late than never :)

Cheers!
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Old 10-19-2009, 05:56 AM
wy yung
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

Relaxation is something that also must be practiced. It is not easy. My 1st teacher told me to be aware of being relaxed. It took me a number of years but now I am able to play relaxed.

I think being relaxed is something that is overlooked. Everyone seems to want to play fast. No one ever talks about relaxation.

It's good you brought it up Pol.
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  #3  
Old 10-19-2009, 06:04 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Originally Posted by wy yung View Post
Relaxation is something that also must be practiced. It is not easy. My 1st teacher told me to be aware of being relaxed. It took me a number of years but now I am able to play relaxed.

I think being relaxed is something that is overlooked. Everyone seems to want to play fast. No one ever talks about relaxation.

It's good you brought it up Pol.
Yeah, you're always relaxed on the kit and, of course, you have a lot more scope than I do while remaining mellow. The other thing is that being relaxed while playing feel good. Just the plain old physical feeling of it. Maybe it's a function of age, at least in part? At this stage of my life I don't want to be impressive to others or even myself, just to feel good and have fun.
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Old 10-19-2009, 06:06 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

And the best thing about that feeling is that now you can actually enjoy the music - let yourself get carried away on it a bit.

There's been many a time that for whatever reason the whole gig is tenseness and unpleasant, and it ends up being work (as I think of it). But then you get those magic nights where you can just relax and let the music do its thing. I really notice a difference when I come to a gig with that feeling already there, and it makes a huge difference, not just in the sound and feel, but also the experience. The nights I can point to as my most relaxed, the band has usually agreed were our best nights.
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Old 10-19-2009, 06:07 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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I don't want to be impressive to others or even myself, just to feel good and have fun.
That's what it is all about. When it is no longer fun, I will give up.
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  #6  
Old 10-19-2009, 06:08 AM
aydee aydee is offline
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

..

Billy Ward has this great theory about the ergonomics of the drum set up. Everything should be positioned for the least amount of movement, with a nod to gravity and due respect for rotator cuffs.

Dennis Chambers has talked about how he's tried to imitate Tony Williams relaxed posture on the drums and how comfortable he looked, and how he almost never saw his hands because they were mostly very low and close to the body.

...
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Old 10-19-2009, 06:26 AM
wy yung
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Originally Posted by aydee View Post
..



Dennis Chambers has talked about how he's tried to imitate Tony Williams relaxed posture on the drums and how comfortable he looked, and how he almost never saw his hands because they were mostly very low and close to the body.

...
I well remember being very taken with Dennis discussing playing relaxed in his early video, and how he liked watching drummers who made a lot of sound but hardly moved.
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  #8  
Old 10-19-2009, 06:34 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

Quote:
Originally Posted by wy yung View Post
Relaxation is something that also must be practiced. It is not easy. My 1st teacher told me to be aware of being relaxed. It took me a number of years but now I am able to play relaxed.

I think being relaxed is something that is overlooked. Everyone seems to want to play fast. No one ever talks about relaxation.

It's good you brought it up Pol.
Agreed great topic.

I was taught early on when I studied Scottish Pipe band drumming to deliver the most sound covering a huge range of constant dynamic shifts with a certain degree of a relaxed approach to maximize on playing hard execution snare patterns without fatique taking it toll for long stretches of playing which were required. No wasted motion{s} was drilled into me. Learned more about these same concepts studying "Old School" Swiss Basel drumming around the same time as my formal Pipe Band snare studies. It all helped........

I spent countless hours over many years to take this same approach to 4 way coordinated drum concepts at the kit. Fluid motion and breathing and NOT tensing up too much when executing more intense phrases and such. Drum/cymbal positioning and seat height also play into being relaxed and feeling "centered" behind the kit. Again no wasted motion{s}........


You're always going to have some degree of tension in your muscles when playing more challenging stuff, especialy covering a wide dynamic range sometimes in a short span of playing the music. It's the approach to a sense of flow and breathing and relaxing mixed in that works for me. Louie Bellson talked at some length on the importance of posture and breathing at a clinic I attended back in 79. That helped stress the benefits of it too believe me.......
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  #9  
Old 10-19-2009, 06:39 AM
aydee aydee is offline
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Originally Posted by wy yung View Post
...he liked watching drummers who made a lot of sound but hardly moved.
Interesting observation about both Tony & Dennis-
Both are completely poker faced when they play. They look almost Buddha-like...

... whether they are playing a slow waltz or murdering the drum kit..
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  #10  
Old 10-19-2009, 06:45 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Originally Posted by aydee View Post
Interesting observation about both Tony & Dennis-
Both are completely poker faced when they play. They look almost Buddha-like...

... whether they are playing a slow waltz or murdering the drum kit..
As Louie said about being totally "centered" with the instument Abe.....
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  #11  
Old 10-19-2009, 06:48 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

Re: Billy Ward and gravity. The gravity aspect was what struck me watching Tony A play. His hands just dropped and it worked.

When I was young I'd be disappointed when I saw drummers play great things to easy - the opposite to Dennis C.

I remember what a let down it was to see Alphonse Mouzon (or was it Lenny?) playing a song from Al Di Meola's Land of the Midnight Sun on TV. On the album he sounded like some maniacal beast roaring down a rack of toms and I thought that would be a real buzz to see. But to see him play it, he was just tapping away (very fast) as easy as anything.

I wanted to see blood and thunder - not some relaxed guy being centred on his instrument - lol. Times change ...

Stan that's something that really stikes me when watching your clips. You're so relaxed. Thanks for the info. Yeah, there are always parts that require more effort but it's a matter of degree. I reckon you are still more relaxed when "tensing up" than I was (pre-epiphany, of course :) playing a backbeat. I should add that our singer said he loved Tony A's playing but didn't enjoy the ("Buddha-like") expression when he played and much preferred mine :)
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Old 10-19-2009, 06:54 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Originally Posted by Pollyanna View Post

I wanted to see blood and thunder - not some relaxed guy being centred on his instrument - lol. Times change ...
Ha ha, it's kind of like watching a drummer's kit get smaller as he or she gets older. Unless that drummer is foolish like me and becomes a percussionist! Man, congas are heavy!
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Old 10-19-2009, 06:58 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Ha ha, it's kind of like watching a drummer's kit get smaller as he or she gets older. Unless that drummer is foolish like me and becomes a percussionist! Man, congas are heavy!
True, but stand cases are the pits. Fortunately I'm in a band with four guys so when they are around they lug the heavy stuff for me :)
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  #14  
Old 10-19-2009, 06:59 AM
aydee aydee is offline
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Originally Posted by Pollyanna View Post

I remember what a let down it was to see Alphonse Mouzon (or was it Lenny?) playing a song from Al Di Meola's Land of the Midnight Sun on TV. On the album he sounded like some maniacal beast roaring down a rack of toms and I thought that would be a real buzz to see. But to see him play it, he was just tapping away (very fast) as easy as anything.

I wanted to see blood and thunder - not some relaxed guy being centred on his instrument - lol. Times change ...
Alphonse is a friend, so I know what you mean. The exact same thing happened to me when I first heard Lenny White on RFT. Then I saw him later, and I said " dang, what a wimp!" ; )

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steamer View Post
As Louie said about being totally "centered" with the instument Abe.....
Right, Stan... You've got that Ari Hoenig thing happening, like floating on top of the kit like an oil slick on the ocean surface ; )

I'm pretty laid back too, but then sometimes I get conscious of my stick heights and tighten up a touch..

...
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Old 10-19-2009, 07:05 AM
wy yung
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True, but stand cases are the pits. Fortunately I'm in a band with four guys so when they are around they lug the heavy stuff for me :)
Ha ha, you're lucky.

Me, not so. I lug it all myself.

Believe me, this rig is heavy.

I'm off to teach now guys. My first student just arrived. I'll see you later. Have a good evening. I look forward to seeing this thread when others from around the globe wake up and comment.

Bye.

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Old 10-19-2009, 07:07 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Alphonse is a friend, so I know what you mean. The exact same thing happened to me when I first heard Lenny White on RFT. Then I saw him later, and I said " dang, what a wimp!" ; )

...
Yes Lenny who is well known for being able to pop a head with the stick only a few inches from the head well looking totally relaxed like he's watching TV on the couch at the same time as doing it Abe....:}
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Old 10-19-2009, 07:21 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Ha ha, you're lucky.

Me, not so. I lug it all myself.

Believe me, this rig is heavy.
OMG Wy, that's brutal! At least you get to relax while playing :)

Actually Aydee, I find Ari Hoenig looks kind of tense - great player and entertaining to watch, though :)

Can anyone think of any super-relaxed rock drummers, apart from Charlie (another Buddha on a stool!) and Bill Bruford? (and both of those guys play jazz, anyway).
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Old 10-19-2009, 07:52 AM
aydee aydee is offline
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Originally Posted by Pollyanna View Post

Actually Aydee, I find Ari Hoenig looks kind of tense - great player and entertaining to watch, though :)

Can anyone think of any super-relaxed rock drummers, apart from Charlie (another Buddha on a stool!) and Bill Bruford? (and both of those guys play jazz, anyway).
Well ya, Ari looks like he wishes his sticks were a knife and fork so that he could eat his drum set.

Charlie Watts! the ultimate Buddha!! I always wondered if he had a magazine in his lap while he played. Would have looked great if a smoked a pipe too.

Steve Jordan is another. Nothing is moving ( I dont think he even blinks ) ..except the groove...

Rock drummers? Hmmmm cant think of any not wearing a shirt or sweating profusely with flailing hair...The Tull guys Bunker & Barlow ( sounds like a law firm ) were pretty organized and smooth?

...
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Old 10-19-2009, 10:01 AM
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Default Re: On being relaxed behinf the kit

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Well ya, Ari looks like he wishes his sticks were a knife and fork so that he could eat his drum set.

Charlie Watts! the ultimate Buddha!! I always wondered if he had a magazine in his lap while he played. Would have looked great if a smoked a pipe too.

Steve Jordan is another. Nothing is moving ( I dont think he even blinks ) ..except the groove...

Rock drummers? Hmmmm cant think of any not wearing a shirt or sweating profusely with flailing hair...The Tull guys Bunker & Barlow ( sounds like a law firm ) were pretty organized and smooth?

...
True, the law firm (ha!) are great drummers but the firm's founder, Clive, doesn't look too relaxed, though http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dh0woT7NkKI

Guess that's part of RnR showmanship - making it look harder than it is - you know, lead players pushing out high notes with a look on their faces as though they were pushing out babies, drummers with arms flailing ... all that cool stuff :)

The much loved Gadd of drumming is super-relaxed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py0FdS-e960

And yeah, love Steve Jordan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR2uXO8a8QI. I first heard him on Michal Urbaniak's Body English.
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