Drumming hasn't gotten better

Chunky

Silver Member
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.
I disagree. Thomas Lang boasts a far more diverse CV than Buddy.
Maybe not as swingin' as Buddy.
Dennis Chambers is pretty dangerous when he's swingin'

Whether they're as great or not at a particular style I do believe that the new breeds are better at a much more diverse range of stuff. And they're bridging the gap between drum machines and drummers. Doing things people used to think was impossible.

Again, this is just my humble opinion on the matter.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Whether they're as great or not at a particular style I do believe that the new breeds are better at a much more diverse range of stuff. And they're bridging the gap between drum machines and drummers. Doing things people used to think was impossible.
Yeah, I agree with the above.

I think this is maybe a separate discussion from Andrew's point, though. At least, that's how I'm interpreting what he's saying. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't think anyone is swinging a big band any better than Buddy did. On the contrary, I don't think there are many drummers still around who can pull it off at a very high level. Big band music is not as popular as it used to be, so this is understandable. But I think it illustrates Andrew's point.

I guess whether a drummer being well-versed in lots of styles is important is up to the individual. It used to be really important for me when I was younger. But I'm at the point now where I find myself placing the highest value on the musical performance, not the other abilities of the drummer. If the drummer is playing a great rock groove then I'm appreciative of his ability to do that and serve the song. Whether or not he can also pull off afro-cuban grooves or play blazing-fast singles isn't important to me at that precise moment.

Perhaps I'm getting too philosophical here.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
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.
I think you misunderstood my point (or I didn't express it clearly!) with the fish/bird thing. I was not at all inferring that flight made fish seem unevolved. I was saying the exact opposite, that birds and fish are equally adapted but to different environments.

I do think that evolution is actually a really good word to describe the history of drumming so far. The problem is that people tend to misunderstand/misuse the word evolution. Again, evolution does not imply progress, it means more simply generational change motivated by adaptation. In the music analogy, drummers have not gotten better, they have simply changed to adapt to new musical environments.

I hear what you are saying about the difficulty of separating the idea of evolution from the idea of progress, that is a good point. I think this connects to the point MAD was making about the incredible wealth of drumming and drummers that has built up over time. If I could extend the evolution analogy a little bit I think I could respond to both points.

Over time through the simple process of evolution, an incredible array of genetic diversity has come about. Similarly in the world of drumming, their is an incredible historical legacy that has been built up generation by generation. Although this may seem to imply improvement over time, it doesn't.

Individually, humans are no better at surviving in our particular niche than earth's original one-celled organisms, it is just that the environment has changed so much, and so much genetic diversity now exists. Humans aren't better or worse from this perspective, we are just different.

As many of you have noted, in the world of drumming particular skills have become more important. Many people have noted drummers increased technical capacity, or the seemingly increased range of genres and styles that drummers are expected to cover, or even our increased access to information.

My point is that anything that you work on in your drumming essentially comes at the expense of something else. There is a simple limit to what individual people are capable of accomplishing based on the restraint of time. So rather than seeing this increase in technical capacity, stylistic range, or education as an improvement, I am suggesting that it is simply a change in priorities based on what music calls for now.

To put it another way, this change in priorities is fundamentally subjective, motivated by the musical needs of our moment in history. If you look at any of these "gains", there are potential musical drawbacks lurking in each. For some, increased technical capacity tempts people to play with less "taste" or "feel". An increase in stylistic range can lead to a lack of strong musical identity. Greater access to information can lead to less time spent actually playing the instrument.

I am not suggesting that any of these musical drawbacks are inevitable, I am just trying to show how things that may seem like obvious improvements to us can have downsides.

I will try my best to respond to everyone, but there are so many really excellent ideas in this thread I don't think I will be able to keep up! Thank you everyone!
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I think you misunderstood my point (or I didn't express it clearly!) with the fish/bird thing. I was not at all inferring that flight made fish seem unevolved. I was saying the exact opposite, that birds and fish are equally adapted but to different environments.

I do think that evolution is actually a really good word to describe the history of drumming so far. The problem is that people tend to misunderstand/misuse the word evolution. Again, evolution does not imply progress, it means more simply generational change motivated by adaptation. In the music analogy, drummers have not gotten better, they have simply changed to adapt to new musical environments.
Andrew if I was to put my nerdy scientific Richard Dawkins hat I would say that evolution - the phenomenon seen in all areas of life - always leads to greater complexity. Of course complexity doesn't necessarily equal quality.

I see it like the "evolution" of a house. A couple buys a simple two bedroom bungalow. Then they make money and offspring and add an extra story with extra rooms. Better? More expensive, yes. Better for a family or someone with lots of stuff. Worse for an introverted single, though.

Then after a few generations all sorts of renovations are added until the home becomes a bric a brac mess with old wiring and plumbing etc.

Then they knock down the whole edifice and start again.

Rock'n'roll-->Rock-->Prog-->Punk

Swing-->Bop-->Free-->Wynton :)
 

Chunky

Silver Member
Yeah, I agree with the above.

I think this is maybe a separate discussion from Andrew's point, though. At least, that's how I'm interpreting what he's saying. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't think anyone is swinging a big band any better than Buddy did. On the contrary, I don't think there are many drummers still around who can pull it off at a very high level. Big band music is not as popular as it used to be, so this is understandable. But I think it illustrates Andrew's point.

I guess whether a drummer being well-versed in lots of styles is important is up to the individual. It used to be really important for me when I was younger. But I'm at the point now where I find myself placing the highest value on the musical performance, not the other abilities of the drummer. If the drummer is playing a great rock groove then I'm appreciative of his ability to do that and serve the song. Whether or not he can also pull off afro-cuban grooves or play blazing-fast singles isn't important to me at that precise moment.

Perhaps I'm getting too philosophical here.
I see what you mean. Who knows? To me when great new players play big band stuff they're not really doing anything new, it's merely a homage with either remnants of the old brass sections or a team of great young guns doing the same thing the drummer is.
If they don't love the style and 'live' it, can they really compete?

Also I've heard a few modern drummers add a few modern fills and patterns into that stuff. sometimes it works, alot of the time it doesn't. I can imagine that sends shivers up the spines of fans but, to people who don't much care it might be cool?

I have absolutely no idea where I'm going with this by the way! Lol
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
To put it another way, this change in priorities is fundamentally subjective, motivated by the musical needs of our moment in history. If you look at any of these "gains", there are potential musical drawbacks lurking in each. For some, increased technical capacity tempts people to play with less "taste" or "feel". An increase in stylistic range can lead to a lack of strong musical identity. Greater access to information can lead to less time spent actually playing the instrument.!
This is excellent! I absolutely agree. The last sentence should also be a subtitle
on the drummerworld front page, LOL!
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Andrew if I was to put my nerdy scientific Richard Dawkins hat I would say that evolution - the phenomenon seen in all areas of life - always leads to greater complexity. Of course complexity doesn't necessarily equal quality.

I see it like the "evolution" of a house. A couple buys a simple two bedroom bungalow. Then they make money and offspring and add an extra story with extra rooms. Better? More expensive, yes. Better for a family or someone with lots of stuff. Worse for an introverted single, though.

Then after a few generations all sorts of renovations are added until the home becomes a bric a brac mess with old wiring and plumbing etc.

Then they knock down the whole edifice and start again.

Rock'n'roll-->Rock-->Prog-->Punk

Swing-->Bop-->Free-->Wynton :)
Hey Polly,

I think that is a perfect analogy and a good point. Evolution does lead to increased complexity. The key thing is that as you put it "complexity doesn't necessarily equal quality". I think you expressed that main point beautifully, thank you.
 

haredrums

Silver 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 ;)
Hey Bo,

I don't know if I understand what you mean by a "sideways re-orginization"? Could you clarify?

Thanks.
 
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plangentmusic

Guest
If the Jo Jones from 1945 were around today, the reaction might be; "Wow, that is really cool." Send someone like George Kollias back to 1945 and people's heads would explode.
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum 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.
Best to avoid using analogies, as they muddle the argument and lead people in wrong directions. The Nazis used analogies, after all.

The drum kit is a very new instrument. I do believe that technical ability has improved greatly since the first drummers and increases more all the time, execept that the farther we advance, the more incremental change becomes. We see this in other fields of human endeavor, even in the field of athletics and invention. The next big advances come from tying together a bunch of incremental progress into something new.
 

hvymtlmike

Senior Member
As in the days of Buddy Rich, today there are still drummers who have taken things to new levels, therefore improving drumming. That being said, there are also a lot of drummers who just simply play drums and are in no way unique, but that is the same as it was years ago. To say drumming hasn't gotten better is an ignorant statement to me. Some people, purists if you will, like to cling to the idea that they were a part of the 'golden age' of drumming. While the history of drumming has showed the greats and how they have changed drumming and they're overwhelming understanding of drumming, those days are still happening. If you are attached to a particular style, that's one thing, but to speak for the entire world of drumming, come on now.

Check out Matt Greiner. Another one of my favs, Chad Szeliga.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
As in the days of Buddy Rich, today there are still drummers who have taken things to new levels, therefore improving drumming. That being said, there are also a lot of drummers who just simply play drums and are in no way unique, but that is the same as it was years ago. To say drumming hasn't gotten better is an ignorant statement to me. Some people, purists if you will, like to cling to the idea that they were a part of the 'golden age' of drumming. While the history of drumming has showed the greats and how they have changed drumming and they're overwhelming understanding of drumming, those days are still happening. If you are attached to a particular style, that's one thing, but to speak for the entire world of drumming, come on now.

Check out Matt Greiner. Another one of my favs, Chad Szeliga.
Hey Hvymtlmike,

Thanks for weighing in on the discussion. I think you may have slightly misunderstood the premise of my article, I wasn't in any way implying that drumming has gotten worse. In other words, I am not just advocating for some nostalgic view of a drumming golden age. The only point I am making is that drumming has not gotten better, it has simply changed or grown more complex. I am trying to differentiate between these two things using the analogy of evolution. Drumming has and is evolving all the time to respond to the changing musical environment. Does that make sense?

Here is a simple way to ask this question, do you think that Matt Greiner or Chad Szeliga is better than Buddy Rich? I am not asking because I think it is important for us to decide who is actually better, I am asking to try to emphasize that at some point this type of conversation just isn't productive. "Better" or "worse" just don't really do justice to the differences between drummers like these.

Plangentmusic, on a related note someone made the point you are making in a different conversation, and another person chimed in with the following quote that applies beautifully here. Here is how the conversation went:

"It's hard not to think, that if you could go back in time 50-60 years, you could just show up and be a badass drummer."

"What you'd be doing is the equivalent of showing up to Edison's house with a laptop and saying you're a much better inventor than him."
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Best to avoid using analogies, as they muddle the argument and lead people in wrong directions. The Nazis used analogies, after all.

The drum kit is a very new instrument. I do believe that technical ability has improved greatly since the first drummers and increases more all the time, execept that the farther we advance, the more incremental change becomes. We see this in other fields of human endeavor, even in the field of athletics and invention. The next big advances come from tying together a bunch of incremental progress into something new.
Hey Deathmetalconga,

Great observation. I think it fits nicely into Polly's house/complexity analogy (sorry, it just makes things easier to talk about). I agree that in some ways technical ability has advanced and grown more complex. The point I was making earlier is that this growth in technical ability is not the same as overall improvement of drumming. In this case, growth in technical ability can sometimes come at the expense of something else.

I do think there are really interesting parallels to other "fields of human endeavor", I just didn't want to stray to far afield for fear of totally losing myself. I think you raise a really interesting point though.
 

hvymtlmike

Senior Member
Hey Hvymtlmike,

Thanks for weighing in on the discussion. I think you may have slightly misunderstood the premise of my article, I wasn't in any way implying that drumming has gotten worse. In other words, I am not just advocating for some nostalgic view of a drumming golden age. The only point I am making is that drumming has not gotten better, it has simply changed or grown more complex. I am trying to differentiate between these two things using the analogy of evolution. Drumming has and is evolving all the time to respond to the changing musical environment. Does that make sense?

Here is a simple way to ask this question, do you think that Matt Greiner or Chad Szeliga is better than Buddy Rich? I am not asking because I think it is important for us to decide who is actually better, I am asking to try to emphasize that at some point this type of conversation just isn't productive. "Better" or "worse" just don't really do justice to the differences between drummers like these.

Plangentmusic, on a related note someone made the point you are making in a different conversation, and another person chimed in with the following quote that applies beautifully here. Here is how the conversation went:

"It's hard not to think, that if you could go back in time 50-60 years, you could just show up and be a badass drummer."

"What you'd be doing is the equivalent of showing up to Edison's house with a laptop and saying you're a much better inventor than him."
I understand completely now. I kind of agree while at the same time disagree. What I mean by that is that it really depends on the drummer's perspective. For instance I can agree that drumming has changed and has grown more complex, but to me that means better. The foundation laid by those before did help mold the greats of today, but at the same time, these guys are molding the greats of tomorrow with their abilities. The cycle keeps rolling and therefore makes it difficult for me to say when does it stop getting better and just start getting more complex.
Great topic.
 
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plangentmusic

Guest
Best to avoid using analogies, as they muddle the argument and lead people in wrong directions.

.......................

[B]Analogies provide perspective if they're valid. [/B]


.....................

The Nazis used analogies, after all.


That's an analogy. Though it's pretty unanalogous. : )



......................................
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
"It's hard not to think, that if you could go back in time 50-60 years, you could just show up and be a badass drummer."

"What you'd be doing is the equivalent of showing up to Edison's house with a laptop and saying you're a much better inventor than him."
That pretty much sums it up. The technology of drumming has improved to the point that a lot of people who, if they only had the same resources available to them as did, say, Baby Dodds, would not have been any kind of drummer, can actually play passably well, and even sound impressive to a novice. I think there has also developed a culture of athleticism in drumming, which I suspect has attracted a lot of people inclined to develop a lot of chops, who would've otherwise just gotten into rollerblading or whatever.
 

hvymtlmike

Senior Member
That pretty much sums it up. The technology of drumming has improved to the point that a lot of people who, if they only had the same resources available to them as did, say, Baby Dodds, would not have been any kind of drummer, can actually play passably well, and even sound impressive to a novice. I think there has also developed a culture of athleticism in drumming, which I suspect has attracted a lot of people inclined to develop a lot of chops, who would've otherwise just gotten into rollerblading or whatever.
There is no way to tell who could do what with what technology. The drummers of today use what is available to them as people did years ago. That doesn't negate the fact that some of these drummers are great. It really comes down to a subjective view. Whoever your favorites (you being the generic anyone in the conversation) are, are going to determine your view. I'm not downgrading what the greats of the past have done. I'm simply saying that to say Matt Griener could not have been a great drummer 50 years ago is a statement that holds no ground and cannot be proven. It comes down to opinion.
 
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