Drumming hasn't gotten better

haredrums

Silver 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.
I love that Todd brought up the example of rollerblading. Too funny.
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
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.
You are very right in that growth in technical ability isn't the same as overall improvement in drumming. I think technical ability is a subset of overall improvement, but there are other things to consider, most of them very subjective.

What people really love about music has little to do with technical ability. Some of the simplest, humblest drumming is on the most popular music ever. As well as some of the worst music ever.
 

Bad Tempered Clavier

Silver Member
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
Yeah, I see what's happened - I wasn't suggesting that you believe that to be the case: what I was saying was that when you used the example of birds vs. fish to illustrate people who don't fully grasp the concept of Evolution - I didn't feel that the analogy worked for the reasons I specified. Essentially I felt the part where you said

Would we say that birds are better than fish or vice versa? Don't either of those statements sound absolutely ridiculous?​

was superfluous as I don't think it's a sentiment that even needs denouncing. I've never heard anyone use that as an example of evolutionary one-upmanship as it obviously does not apply in either instance. I think this goes back to my earlier point which you highlighted:

The problem is that people tend to misunderstand/misuse the word evolution
I think this applies to this whole discussion because the word Evolution in most people's minds comes with a capital E. It's a word with pretty strong connotations that tend to obfuscate any use of the word that doesn't hark back to On the Origin of Species. Seeing as the crux of your argument is based around:

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
I would have thought a more appropriate analogy would be that of language. The grammar and speech sounds that Shakespeare had at his disposal were not all that different to what English speakers have today despite a gap of four centuries or so; and in that time there have been many cultural changes and changes in styles, fashions, politics, population etc. However the nuts and bolts of English are largely unchanged - especially with regard to speech. As someone has already alluded to there are a finite amount of physical articulations a human can make to produce speech sounds and until our bodies fundamentally change that will continue to be the case.

Bearing all this in mind - many things about English may have changed since Shakespeare's day, but has it improved? Or is it just new? Can we confidently say that after four centuries we have found a writer to kick Bill's arse?

You see what I mean? I would have thought something like that would support your argument in a context more befitting music. It also circumvents the whole problem with the E-word. Humans have not evolved in the last 400 years. Evolutionary steps in that sense are tens of thousands of years apart. We have changed, yes. Grown, learned, developed, built, nurtured, created, imagined, realised, pioneered, explored . . . all of these things. I just feel the E-word is too strong when talking about less than a century of popular music. Adaptation, perhaps; but then I'm just nit-picking again.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
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.
Well, speak for yourself there-- I'm not just inventing reasons why my guys rule and everyone else sucks. I don't care who could do what with what technology, and I'm not saying there aren't good and great drummers today-- I'm just telling you a thing I see happening generally, that drummers today are today getting a big technological assist that was not available in the past. There's no denying that, and you can infer whatever you want from it.

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.
I don't know who that is, so I sure didn't say that.
 

hvymtlmike

Senior Member
that drummers today are today getting a big technological assist that was not available in the past. There's no denying that, and you can infer whatever you want from it.

I agree, technology has progressed. At the same time, the creativity of some of these guys and what they have done with it stands out more to me. Their ability, after all of these years of drummer after drummer playing so many different things, to still be unique and creative is what makes them great.That creativity is what makes me a fan.

I don't know who that is, so I sure didn't say that.[/QUOTE]

The name is just one I brought up earlier and threw in there, pretty amazing drummer. Anyway, my point is the dedication that some of the guys today have practicing hours on end to be that good would still have served them well before the technological assist. I just hate to see credibility taken away from some of them. Whether that is the intention or not I am just making that statement.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
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.
Yes, my points exactly, progress goes alongside evolution.

In the music analogy, drummers have not gotten better, they have simply changed to adapt to new musical environments.
True, but drummers have adapted and/or changed to suits given musical environments since almost the begining, and I think by doing so, they became "better", or at least they offered something "new" in our drumming legacy, it's human nature to reach out for new horizons, new approach, new styles, new genres and the outcomes of these adaptations and changes have created many styles which by today's standard are recognized within the music, although it didn't take just "drummers" to achieve this.

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.
I disagree, every generations has a fare share of great drummers who influenced, inspired and motivated each and everyone of us, it can only be an improvement for any individual drummers, it's what one does, musically, with these "improvements" that's subjective.
 

Anduin

Pioneer Member
I’d say that drummers have definitely improved over the years in tangible ways. People are doing things these days that are hugely more rhythmically complex than in the past. Bozzio opened the door on foot ostinatos (ostinati?) (yes, I know The Drum Also Waltzes etc.), and look where e.g. Thomas Lang took that concept.

When Lang talks about “the universe of the unplayed,” that’s not hyperbole: there really is a huge amount of potentially-playable things that drummers have never played before but are now slowly chipping away at. However, much like actual evolution, advancement in the world of drumming is slow, with one guy adding a new idea here, another guy adding a new idea there, etc., so the best way to see change is to compare to what people were doing a couple of decades ago.

To paraphrase Wynton Marsalis: players are way better now than in the past, it’s just that they seem to have less to say.

Oh, and humans are indeed evolving. All the time. As is every other form of life.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
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 think this point is worth lingering on for a bit.

Expanding the discussion to other instrumentalists, if I may, let's consider Thelonious Monk. Now, nobody would confuse Monk with a technical piano virtuoso, either of this era or even amongst his contemporaries like Bud Powell or Art Tatum.

But Monk's music resonates more with me than almost anyone else's. And a great deal of its appeal for me lies in its idiosyncratic character. In other words, if Monk had played those notes cleaner or faster, or somehow woven more complexity into them, they would lose something else along the way.

There is a lot of talk about "romanticizing" the classics and the old-time greats, and sometimes this is done blindly. And it's really annoying when people just want to make it about "the good old days," which by all accounts didn't seem nearly as great at the time as they do now in hindsight.

But the limitations of those times were reflected in the music itself, and I would argue that in some cases the limitations themselves played a crucial role in making that music sound so cool when we listen to it today. Drummers in 1945 didn't have access to all the music we do now, where you can listen, watch and learn from anyone ever.

Think about how different it was when you lived on the east coast and some cat on the west coast had something happening in a little club somewhere. You heard the talk, but short of driving across the country, you might never get to hear what he was doing and check it out for yourself.

Things have become more homogenized now because we all have the opportunity to learn proper technique and see transcriptions of drummers so we can figure out what they're doing. You can go online and find licks broken down and demonstrated in slow motion. Drummers didn't have YouTube 50 years ago, and I suspect it allowed more idiosyncracies to develop in their styles. They had less opportunity to learn technique, but in exchange, they had less to imitate. They didn't get to hear as much music as we're exposed to now, so they were forced to "invent" more.

I equate this with "different," not necessarily better or worse.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I’d say that drummers have definitely improved over the years in tangible ways. People are doing things these days that are hugely more rhythmically complex than in the past.
Again, I think these are two different things. There's definitely some overlap. But I don't think they're one-and-the-same.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Yeah, I see what's happened - I wasn't suggesting that you believe that to be the case: what I was saying was that when you used the example of birds vs. fish to illustrate people who don't fully grasp the concept of Evolution - I didn't feel that the analogy worked for the reasons I specified. Essentially I felt the part where you said

Would we say that birds are better than fish or vice versa? Don't either of those statements sound absolutely ridiculous?​

was superfluous as I don't think it's a sentiment that even needs denouncing. I've never heard anyone use that as an example of evolutionary one-upmanship as it obviously does not apply in either instance. I think this goes back to my earlier point which you highlighted:



I think this applies to this whole discussion because the word Evolution in most people's minds comes with a capital E. It's a word with pretty strong connotations that tend to obfuscate any use of the word that doesn't hark back to On the Origin of Species. Seeing as the crux of your argument is based around:



I would have thought a more appropriate analogy would be that of language. The grammar and speech sounds that Shakespeare had at his disposal were not all that different to what English speakers have today despite a gap of four centuries or so; and in that time there have been many cultural changes and changes in styles, fashions, politics, population etc. However the nuts and bolts of English are largely unchanged - especially with regard to speech. As someone has already alluded to there are a finite amount of physical articulations a human can make to produce speech sounds and until our bodies fundamentally change that will continue to be the case.

Bearing all this in mind - many things about English may have changed since Shakespeare's day, but has it improved? Or is it just new? Can we confidently say that after four centuries we have found a writer to kick Bill's arse?

You see what I mean? I would have thought something like that would support your argument in a context more befitting music. It also circumvents the whole problem with the E-word. Humans have not evolved in the last 400 years. Evolutionary steps in that sense are tens of thousands of years apart. We have changed, yes. Grown, learned, developed, built, nurtured, created, imagined, realised, pioneered, explored . . . all of these things. I just feel the E-word is too strong when talking about less than a century of popular music. Adaptation, perhaps; but then I'm just nit-picking again.
Hey Bad Tempered,

I still don't think that the bird vs fish point was superfluous because just as it is a ridiculous to compare them, in my opinion comparing drummers from different musical eras in terms of who is "better" is ridiculous. I don't think that people compare birds and fish this way, that is not my point. My point is that we should think of drummers in a similar way and not make those kinds of (obviously ridiculous) comparisons.

It is possible that in order to understand each other clearly on the first point about the evolution analogy we would have to speak in person. I think you are making a good point, but I can't tell.

I still think that the evolution analogy works well here, but I also think that the language analogy works brilliantly! In either case as far as I can tell we are on the same page in terms of the content of what I was trying to say, if not the form. I appreciate all your excellent input.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
I think this point is worth lingering on for a bit.

Expanding the discussion to other instrumentalists, if I may, let's consider Thelonious Monk. Now, nobody would confuse Monk with a technical piano virtuoso, either of this era or even amongst his contemporaries like Bud Powell or Art Tatum.

But Monk's music resonates more with me than almost anyone else's. And a great deal of its appeal for me lies in its idiosyncratic character. In other words, if Monk had played those notes cleaner or faster, or somehow woven more complexity into them, they would lose something else along the way.

There is a lot of talk about "romanticizing" the classics and the old-time greats, and sometimes this is done blindly. And it's really annoying when people just want to make it about "the good old days," which by all accounts didn't seem nearly as great at the time as they do now in hindsight.

But the limitations of those times were reflected in the music itself, and I would argue that in some cases the limitations themselves played a crucial role in making that music sound so cool when we listen to it today. Drummers in 1945 didn't have access to all the music we do now, where you can listen, watch and learn from anyone ever.

Think about how different it was when you lived on the east coast and some cat on the west coast had something happening in a little club somewhere. You heard the talk, but short of driving across the country, you might never get to hear what he was doing and check it out for yourself.

Things have become more homogenized now because we all have the opportunity to learn proper technique and see transcriptions of drummers so we can figure out what they're doing. You can go online and find licks broken down and demonstrated in slow motion. Drummers didn't have YouTube 50 years ago, and I suspect it allowed more idiosyncracies to develop in their styles. They had less opportunity to learn technique, but in exchange, they had less to imitate. They didn't get to hear as much music as we're exposed to now, so they were forced to "invent" more.

I equate this with "different," not necessarily better or worse.
Beautiful point, that is exactly what I am driving at. Even things that seem like obvious progress can mask hidden problems.
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
I think this point is worth lingering on for a bit.

Expanding the discussion to other instrumentalists, if I may, let's consider Thelonious Monk. Now, nobody would confuse Monk with a technical piano virtuoso, either of this era or even amongst his contemporaries like Bud Powell or Art Tatum.

But Monk's music resonates more with me than almost anyone else's. And a great deal of its appeal for me lies in its idiosyncratic character. In other words, if Monk had played those notes cleaner or faster, or somehow woven more complexity into them, they would lose something else along the way.

There is a lot of talk about "romanticizing" the classics and the old-time greats, and sometimes this is done blindly. And it's really annoying when people just want to make it about "the good old days," which by all accounts didn't seem nearly as great at the time as they do now in hindsight.

But the limitations of those times were reflected in the music itself, and I would argue that in some cases the limitations themselves played a crucial role in making that music sound so cool when we listen to it today. Drummers in 1945 didn't have access to all the music we do now, where you can listen, watch and learn from anyone ever.

Think about how different it was when you lived on the east coast and some cat on the west coast had something happening in a little club somewhere. You heard the talk, but short of driving across the country, you might never get to hear what he was doing and check it out for yourself.

Things have become more homogenized now because we all have the opportunity to learn proper technique and see transcriptions of drummers so we can figure out what they're doing. You can go online and find licks broken down and demonstrated in slow motion. Drummers didn't have YouTube 50 years ago, and I suspect it allowed more idiosyncracies to develop in their styles. They had less opportunity to learn technique, but in exchange, they had less to imitate. They didn't get to hear as much music as we're exposed to now, so they were forced to "invent" more.

I equate this with "different," not necessarily better or worse.
wow

every once and a while on these forums I come across a seriously fantastic post

....this would be one of those times
 

Chunky

Silver Member
Wow this thread has really taken off!

I've enjoyed reading everyones different outlooks on it but, instead of going into who's better than who, who'a got more technique, who's too athletic, who can't swing etc I'm going to keep it simple and say:

Drumming has gotten better. Why? Simpley because there are more styles of drumming around now, new techniques to be the yin to the olds yang, not replace or supersede it. There's more sounds too.

Variety is the spice of life isn't it?
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
wow

every once and a while on these forums I come across a seriously fantastic post

....this would be one of those times
Heh, he does that at times - and he nailed me with nerdy Dawkins comment too haha

It rings so true to me. I'm a Monk fan too. I love the quirkiness of it and the way he played passages that would sound like it's all wrong in another player's hand but somehow it made sense with Monk. What a character.

Having said that, I enjoy plenty of cookie-cutter tracks that may have a particular charm, or they groove or they have fabulous sound or a great arrangement. However, I find a lot of it quite homogeneous and not very interesting, including when it's technically advanced and super-precise. I prefer expressiveness - and that comes from an individual approach.

So I respectfully disagree with those saying that drumming is better now. More advanced in many ways, yes, but better at the main game - affecting people - no way.

Send George Kollias back to 1945 and he would have to play at low volume to get a gig, no matter how impressed they would be with his power and speed. Playing with with suitable intensity at low volume is an art in itself - it's my holy grail.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Yes, my points exactly, progress goes alongside evolution.

True, but drummers have adapted and/or changed to suits given musical environments since almost the begining, and I think by doing so, they became "better", or at least they offered something "new" in our drumming legacy, it's human nature to reach out for new horizons, new approach, new styles, new genres and the outcomes of these adaptations and changes have created many styles which by today's standard are recognized within the music, although it didn't take just "drummers" to achieve this.

I disagree, every generations has a fare share of great drummers who influenced, inspired and motivated each and everyone of us, it can only be an improvement for any individual drummers, it's what one does, musically, with these "improvements" that's subjective.
Hey MAD,

We may have reached the limit of useful written conversation here. I am sure we could have an excellent conversation in person about this idea, but writing back and forth like this only works to a certain point.

That being said, let me try to respond. I think Polly's house analogy is the easiest way to think about this.

"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."

Similarly, just because there has been incredible growth in the complexity and range of what drummers today can do doesn't mean that they are any better than drummers of the past. This complexity just means that contemporary drummers have adapted to a new musical environment built on the legacy of all the great drummers of the past. Again, complexity is not necessarily the same as improvement, it is just complexity.

Innovation is constant, but so is limitation. Everyone can potentially contribute their own unique voice to the legacy of drumming, but there are always limits to what one person can accomplish. That is why I don't think that drummers have gotten better, they are just different.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Wow this thread has really taken off!

I've enjoyed reading everyones different outlooks on it but, instead of going into who's better than who, who'a got more technique, who's too athletic, who can't swing etc I'm going to keep it simple and say:

Drumming has gotten better. Why? Simpley because there are more styles of drumming around now, new techniques to be the yin to the olds yang, not replace or supersede it. There's more sounds too.

Variety is the spice of life isn't it?
Hey Chunky,

I think my response to MAD applies to your point as well. Just because there is increased complexity or variety in drumming today doesn't mean that it is better overall.

Fundamentally, more is not always good. Sometimes more is just more, or sometimes it is even bad. More ice cream = good. More toenail fungus = bad. The same could be said of variety.
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Things have become more homogenized now because we all have the opportunity to learn proper technique and see transcriptions of drummers so we can figure out what they're doing. You can go online and find licks broken down and demonstrated in slow motion. Drummers didn't have YouTube 50 years ago, and I suspect it allowed more idiosyncracies to develop in their styles. They had less opportunity to learn technique, but in exchange, they had less to imitate. They didn't get to hear as much music as we're exposed to now, so they were forced to "invent" more.
This is something I'm struggling with in my own life. It has something to do with the
mentioned own identity, too. Nowadays it's probably harder for a musician to develop
his own thing, while maintaining all the "necessary" abilities that are expected from a
musician today.
And even if it wouldn't be all "necessary" - as great as all the information may be - as
hard it is to get beyond it, ignore it from a certain point, and actually work one's own
thing out.
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Hey Chunky,

I think my response to MAD applies to your point as well. Just because there is increased complexity or variety in drumming today doesn't mean that it is better overall.

Fundamentally, more is not always good. Sometimes more is just more, or sometimes it is even bad. More ice cream = good. More toenail fungus = bad. The same could be said of variety.
Well I guess we may be slowly moving to the point now where the discussion starts to
revolve around what's actually better - the infamous technique vs. musicality thing.

As musical expression may be hard to compare and difficult to judge objectively, this
very interesting thread may soon be over, as you mentioned.
 

Bad Tempered Clavier

Silver Member
I think you are making a good point, but I can't tell
Ha! Yeah, my wife says that a lot . . .

as far as I can tell we are on the same page in terms of the content of what I was trying to say, if not the form. I appreciate all your excellent input.
You're very kind - and, as you have seen, it was a good essay that has provoked an interesting debate: I feel I do pretty much see it the way you do - i.e. the bigger picture. It's true to say that drummers can and do learn from the trailblazers that came before, but until someone can conceive of a completely different way of hitting something with a stick then it's just more rudiments jumbled up in a way you may not have heard before.

That's not to rob anyone of their creativity, or skill, or imagination, or interpretation, or passion, or balls, or whatever - but to go back to the "house" thing: after centuries of advancements in building materials, architectural design, indoor plumbing, air conditioning etc . . . a house is still just a house. It keeps the rain off.
 
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