Drumming hasn't gotten better

haredrums

Silver Member
Hi Everyone,

I just put up a post that I wanted to discuss with you guys as it addresses a pretty common misconception I encounter in the drum community. This is what it boils down to, the historical evolution of the art of drumming doesn't mean that drumming and drummers have gotten better, only that they have changed over time to adapt to new musical environments. Here is the post:

http://haredrums.blogspot.com/2012/05/evolution-of-drumming.html

In the post I discuss this idea in more detail and use some analogies, but the gist of it is all right there. I am wondering how you guys feel about this idea? Do you agree/disagree? Looking forward to hearing from you!
 

Bad Tempered Clavier

Silver Member
You make some good points and although the gist of your argument - i.e. New don't necessarily mean Improved - is sound, I think some of your analogies are a bit iffy.

I'm not a paleontologist or anything, but the birds vs. fish anology doesn't really work here: partly because (as I understand it) some "birds" are particularly poor at flying but mostly because chronologically all today's known vertebrates would have evolved from what used to be essentially fish. So birds kind of came 2nd by default and I don't think the ones that stayed in the ocean didn't evolve at all: they would have evolved for a number of reasons other than adapting to a new environment.

The other point is the Bach vs. Beethoven thing: again, I see what you're getting at - after all the music of Beethoven's time was often less complex than of Bach's, yet other than the enlarging of the orchestra (which you mentioned) there was not the kind of radical evolutionary step between Bach and Beethoven as there was from, say, Gregorian chant to Bach. I'd argue that in such an instance the next generation (of music) was a significant improvement on the last.

I think the point I'm making is that it's too soon for anyone to be talking about the evolution of the drum-kit in musical terms. In the grand scheme of things it's still in its infancy and although a generation of players has been and gone we are still very much in the first generation of the drum kit (so to speak). I don't know anyone over 12 who thinks that all drummers are more sophisticated today then their forebears - I mean, no one's saying that Thomas Lang has invented a new rudiment, are they? Are they?

Nice talking point, though - it's an interesting question.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
You make some good points and although the gist of your argument - i.e. New don't necessarily mean Improved - is sound, I think some of your analogies are a bit iffy.

I'm not a paleontologist or anything, but the birds vs. fish anology doesn't really work here: partly because (as I understand it) some "birds" are particularly poor at flying but mostly because chronologically all today's known vertebrates would have evolved from what used to be essentially fish. So birds kind of came 2nd by default and I don't think the ones that stayed in the ocean didn't evolve at all: they would have evolved for a number of reasons other than adapting to a new environment.

The other point is the Bach vs. Beethoven thing: again, I see what you're getting at - after all the music of Beethoven's time was often less complex than of Bach's, yet other than the enlarging of the orchestra (which you mentioned) there was not the kind of radical evolutionary step between Bach and Beethoven as there was from, say, Gregorian chant to Bach. I'd argue that in such an instance the next generation (of music) was a significant improvement on the last.

I think the point I'm making is that it's too soon for anyone to be talking about the evolution of the drum-kit in musical terms. In the grand scheme of things it's still in its infancy and although a generation of players has been and gone we are still very much in the first generation of the drum kit (so to speak). I don't know anyone over 12 who thinks that all drummers are more sophisticated today then their forebears - I mean, no one's saying that Thomas Lang has invented a new rudiment, are they? Are they?

Nice talking point, though - it's an interesting question.
Thanks for the thoughtful response,

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, the reason I thought this was an important topic was that this idea of the progression of the art of drumming was definitely something that I personally believed when I started drumming. It is also a view that I run into quite frequently in my teaching studio as well as online.

I think that you are right to bring up the historical scope, that is that we are still in the infancy of the instrument and it is impossible to really tell what is going to happen at this point.

I don't think I entirely understand your objection to the bird/fish analogy?
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I agree with you main point.

I agree, compared to greats like Papa Jo, Buddy Rich, and such, the drummers of today are not "sophisticated and better than the great drummers of the past" but rather just different.

Although I think from the students perspective, the art of drumming has gone through a historical progression is still true, because that is how we have changing to adapt to changing circumstances.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
I agree with you main point.

I agree, compared to greats like Papa Jo, Buddy Rich, and such, the drummers of today are not "sophisticated and better than the great drummers of the past" but rather just different.

Although I think from the students perspective, the art of drumming has gone through a historical progression is still true, because that is how we have changing to adapt to changing circumstances.
Cool, thanks for checking it out.

I am not sure I understand that last paragraph? I don't all think that drumming hasn't evolved/changed, I just think that the word "progression" sometimes implies improvement, which I think in this case is false. If by "progression" you just mean change than I agree, does that make sense?
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Andrew,

I agree with your premise.

I was checking out the Miles Davis Live in Europe with the great 2nd 5tet and this thought occurred to me: 45 years have passed since those dates, but nobody has played that particular type of music better than that.

And nobody ever will. Music evolves and creative fusions take it to new places where new artists will shine. But the greats will always be the greats.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
Hi Andrew

Yes it's an interesting topic ...evolution, what has changed in the drumming world since the begining, I believe that "evolution" has a lot to do when drummers started to mix different styles of music within their own playing, taking and applying influences from other great drummers at any given time or period, it's a huge snow ball effect in whole world of drumming and drummers, it's an endless and perpetual evolution, so with this in mind, drumming has gotten better, no doubt, the end results of these zillions of influences have open new boundaries, new horizons, new approach, new styles, the bar has been raised and raised again and again.

For the individual drummer, it has a lot to do with maturity too, musical maturity, as we're getting older, some of us are discovering new styles of music, musics that might not have been of any or little interest before, but when we're hooked, influenced by such novelty, we travel back in time in an attempt to understand what's been said and how it's been said, it becomes then part of our own evolution, an individal evolution within a global evolution.

A few months ago, I did a thread about old vs new drummers http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=82887, I finded interesting to see how members were influenced by different generations of drummers, some members even listed to have been influenced by some drummers from the 60's or 70's now in the years 2000+, even that they listed other drummers who influenced them in the 60's & 70's, they travelled back in time to enhance their own evolution as a drummer.
 

bigbang

Pioneer Member
To me , I feel the burden of evolution falls on the young. Just as it did for my father and his fathers before.
Drumming evolution is no different.You take ideas laid down before you ,and expand on them.
They say " there's nothing new under the sun ".
I say " as long as there are people ; imagination ; ability . There will always be creative , new ideas.
 

AndyMC

Senior Member
Musically what a man can do with a drumstick hasn't changed that much in the last 150 years (post civil war) as far as I know excluding some techniques like freehand. The bass/hi hat pedal is the only totally "new" part of a drumset and we have basically copied the same motions onto them. However only by adding multiple voices on the feet (ie something other than just bass, like a wood block) are rudiments beyond singles and doubles made noticeable. Now with the extremes of this you get Terry Bozzio using 10,000 voices and turning drums into a full melodic instrument, but he isn't adapting his playing but making effectively a new instrument. So drums can't really change unless we start implanting more limbs or motors or something dumb and change what it is to be human. Though we can utilize new technology like sampling pads. But it all comes back to the rhythm and the fact that the drums are a supporting instrument, we have to do whatever sounds best to accompany the music at the moment. So I totally agree that drumming hasn't gotten better, our options have expanded a bit, but the inherent technique is the same. All that changes is tastes.

What has changed is availability of knowledge, music, and how much more the average drummer knows about his craft. We can all experience any genre imaginable due to the internet and places like drummerworld help codify this to make it more manageable.
 
An interesting article to digest.

In my humble opinion - the words agree and/or disagree, are out of the context. The key point is to aim The Step Changes of Drumming through time and space and its achievement during the years as go by.

The questions are: What would the greats do? What would we do in nowadays?

> I like the picture of the osprey catching the trout...It's beautiful and totally free!

As you like Tony Williams's drumming approach, same as I do, read some of his comments regarding another great - Keith Moon.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I suppose what you say is agreeable. Not so sure about the analogies, though (as already stated by another here). Its hard to do this to drumming because really, the drumming is determined by the music to be played, and the music being played is determined by the composer's environment and mental state. Since I look at drumming as a team position, it's hard for me to look at it as some kind of evolution, per se. Drumming is not an artform in and of itself (to me, anyway), it's always dependent on other factors.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are many people who push drumming to its extreme limits and they deserve the attention for being able to do that, and perhaps there really are 'Modern Drummers' out there. But in general, the job of being the drummer hasn't really changed, therefore I can't call it a complete evolution. Maybe instead of thinking in terms of evolution, we should look at it in terms of sideways re-organization ;)
 
P

plangentmusic

Guest
Styles change and those who live in an era tend to be best at it. No one today plays swing quite like it was played in the 40's, and guys from that time could never play contemporary music the way a person who grew up with it could play it.

20 years ago I'd say that no one under 40 could play authentic rock and roll. Today, I'd say no one UNDER 40 can play authentic rock and roll.
 

Bad Tempered Clavier

Silver Member
I don't think I entirely understand your objection to the bird/fish analogy?
Yeah, I'm just nit-picking really - but my point about the bird/fish thing was that one could infer from your piece that you are citing the ability of flight as an evolutionary jump that birds (except perhaps the ostrich) got and fish didn't and that the fish remained unevolved. Whereas the fish kept evolving into a bunch of other things - i.e. other fish, birds, amphibians, mammals etc.

This is really secondary to the main point which is that I think your use of the word "evolution" is perhaps misplaced: as I said, I agree that New don't always mean Better - but I really believe that progress is impossible without evolution. After all, if a given generation doesn't improve through evolution then it will be swept away by disease, predators, infertility, whatever - the non-survival of the non-fittest. It's hard not to describe evolved human beings as an improvement on the ocean life we sprang from.

I suppose it just struck me as a surprisingly weighty parallel to draw when talking about pop music: I basically thought it distracted from your main point which is Thomas Lang hasn't thought up anything that Papa Jo Jones didn't already know, which is of course absolutely true.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
It depends on genres since they're evolving too. Listening to the radio these days "evolution" comes less to mind than words like "entropy", "decay", "sickness" ... pardon my French but it feels like the survival of the shittest :)

Technically, rock drumming has progressed. Take modern players like Gavin Harrison, Simon Phillips, Benny Greb and Tomas Haake and compare them technically with the heroes of the 60s and 70s - Ginger, Mitch, Bonzo, Paice ... technically it's no contest. Recordings today are played with much cleaner timing than in yesteryear.

I don't know if it's my age and an inability to be objective, but in terms of expressiveness and lyricism, I'd be inclined to reverse the above assessment.

In some ways I see the same phenomenon in jazz. I can't think of a single player before or since who I'd describe as "better" than Papa Joe Jones, including technically. As you suggested, mastery is mastery, whatever the era. However, Buddy was clearly the next step after Gene. Having said that, I'd rather listen to Gene any day of the week and, again, I believe the technical gains came at the expense of expressiveness, lyricism and gut bucket feel.

All just an amateur's intuitive view and I'm open to correction by those more accomplished than me (or less accomplished, if you make a good point :)

Andrew, your point about adapting to new environments works for me. It makes sense that music should become more technically accomplished and less expressive in the world where the same could be said of buildings, furniture, food, etc ... any area where digitisation, economics and realpolitik significantly influence outcomes.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Yeah, add me to the list of those in general agreement with the fundamental point.

What has changed is availability of knowledge, music, and how much more the average drummer knows about his craft. We can all experience any genre imaginable due to the internet and places like drummerworld help codify this to make it more manageable.
However, I wholeheartedly agree with this too. If there have been any vast improvments over the years, it's in the field of knowledge as opposed to outright skillset I think.

What if you aren't a proponent of evolution? ;)
The devil made you do it? :)
 

Chunky

Silver Member
It depends on genres since they're evolving too. Listening to the radio these days "evolution" comes less to mind than words like "entropy", "decay", "sickness" ... pardon my French but it feels like the survival of the shittest :)

Technically, rock drumming has progressed. Take modern players like Gavin Harrison, Simon Phillips, Benny Greb and Tomas Haake and compare them technically with the heroes of the 60s and 70s - Ginger, Mitch, Bonzo, Paice ... technically it's no contest. Recordings today are played with much cleaner timing than in yesteryear.

I don't know if it's my age and an inability to be objective, but in terms of expressiveness and lyricism, I'd be inclined to reverse the above assessment.

In some ways I see the same phenomenon in jazz. I can't think of a single player before or since who I'd describe as "better" than Papa Joe Jones, including technically. As you suggested, mastery is mastery, whatever the era. However, Buddy was clearly the next step after Gene. Having said that, I'd rather listen to Gene any day of the week and, again, I believe the technical gains came at the expense of expressiveness, lyricism and gut bucket feel.

All just an amateur's intuitive view and I'm open to correction by those more accomplished than me (or less accomplished, if you make a good point :)

Andrew, your point about adapting to new environments works for me. It makes sense that music should become more technically accomplished and less expressive in the world where the same could be said of buildings, furniture, food, etc ... any area where digitisation, economics and realpolitik significantly influence outcomes.
Great post Polly, I agree.

I do sometimes think people look back with rose tinted glass though at times and just because something is old or the 'original' it lives a charmed life as always being hailed as the best.
I personally think some of the new breed drummers around today play the old stuff better.
I think drumming has progressed as there are new sounds, new uses of techniques, new techniques. not to mention the digital age, a drummer today, especially a working/session drummer has to be a whole lot more and know a whole lot more than before. and be able to play it perfectly. Not good, not great but perfect, always.

I don't want to put down men greater than me but, Buddy Rich - amazing, regarded as the best by many even today yet he played 1 style all of his life really.
Drummers like Marco Minneman, Thomas Lang or Virgil Donati play that stuff like they played it all their lives while also playing EVERY other genre like that too and pushing the boundaries.

Yet in 50 years time it'll still be Buddies name on the polls while alot of the new breeds won't get a mention anymore.

Seems strange to me.

Not hating on anyone though as someone else has already mentioned greats are greats no matter what era and Buddy still has us scratching our heads in disbelief just like the new breeds.

Just my opinion.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I don't want to put down men greater than me but, Buddy Rich - amazing, regarded as the best by many even today yet he played 1 style all of his life really.
Drummers like Marco Minneman, Thomas Lang or Virgil Donati play that stuff like they played it all their lives while also playing EVERY other genre like that too and pushing the boundaries.
I'm not exactly a huge Buddy Rich fan, but I don't think his range of specialization was any more narrow than that of the other three drummers you name. Those guys have very specific things they specialize in and they are amazing at them. But they'd be the first to tell you they're not world class big band drummers.
 
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