How to become a more musical drummer

Spreggy

Silver Member
Playing rudiments to songs definitely helps, especially if it's music you need to learn. I notice places where said rudiment will fit into musical ideas, and definitely go off script sometimes to explore an idea. Like if you have a flamacue going, and add or subtract from it or move it around the measure or chorus to round out an idea.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I've posed this question many times-musicality-taste. You can be accomplished technically but have no musicality I believe. Like playing a song rote sight reading with no emotion or feeling just seems dead-musicians animate a song with their own personalities. I see that some get really caught up in chops or the technicalities of it-no criticism if can use it musically. But I think sometimes you can miss the forest for the trees getting so caught up on being technically proficient and dazzling playing that you miss the songs needs. Andy reminds me of that with my videos and I get carried away with my kick- I should just play the song but I want to embellish or I forget about it and it goes into an autopilot. It's distracting at times-so knowing how and when to use something musically just separates us I think. I experiment a lot trying to find my musicality but it just doesn't flow natural it seems.-but it is improving I think. Art is the same way-you have to be clever with symbolism and creative in how you convey a message in subtle ways if that is your intent. You can make a statement with the song or in the song. Buddy Rich made a statement in the song-Charlie Watts made a statement with the song.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Mainly listening-- closely, and a lot-- to records, and to the people you're playing with-- and then just following your ears. Hopefully you'll be hearing things to do on the drums that line up with the other players, or are opposite them, filling in what they aren't playing, or are an independent foundation.

It also helps to think of the drum set as a melodic instrument-- all of the normal stuff we play, even on just one part of the set, has a melodic component. Thinking of it that way gives a strictly order to what you do, that isn't just thinking "drumistically."

As a performance thing, it helps to not always be reactive-- you make your musical idea of the piece, section, or phrase happen by doing it.
 

s1212z

Well-known member
Beyond listening, concepts such empathy and awareness come to mind. And then there are the traits off the bandstand of how one conducts themselves and how they can create an environment to help others sound better and increase creativity and ideas, I think that is part of being musical. Sometimes it takes patience from others to find that common ground or even abandon the expectation the same listening is being reciprocated (and you must find the most musical solution) if you are surrounded by players less mature. Then there is the ego side to always keep in check because it's a human condition.

There are nuances to circumstances such as improv environment, a band setting with a song or dubbing in the studio; all have particular musicality challenges. The dubbing in the studio is particularly challenging because you have to be aware of a finished product; those choices to fill in the space may turn to overplaying or subsequent musicians after your part may dictate your musicality depending how they compliment...I found this to be frustrating. Generally in a live environment, I can adjust to someones's bad time or leave space if someone want to play busy but the dubbed environment is painted in a corner. For songs, it's great to have a selection of gear that can compliment where I'm not on top of the same frequencies so everyone has their space. For improv, I try to be melodic and compositional-minded and like minded improvisers can nurture this and reciprocate. My favorite players never waist any notes and have intent, not just spaghetti on the wall. And parroting everyone is not good listening toward an engaging conversation, I think players want to hear other's ideas and as well as want their ideas shared and responded....so sometimes filling space is what is called for. I enjoy finding balance in other things outside of music...nature has many. Activities like chess or tennis has a hot/cold where being overly aggressive or defensive tends to backfire so you can never be one dimensional.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I've posed this question many times-musicality-taste. You can be accomplished technically but have no musicality I believe. Like playing a song rote sight reading with no emotion or feeling just seems dead-musicians animate a song with their own personalities. I see that some get really caught up in chops or the technicalities of it-no criticism if can use it musically. But I think sometimes you can miss the forest for the trees getting so caught up on being technically proficient and dazzling playing that you miss the songs needs. Andy reminds me of that with my videos and I get carried away with my kick- I should just play the song but I want to embellish or I forget about it and it goes into an autopilot. It's distracting at times-so knowing how and when to use something musically just separates us I think. I experiment a lot trying to find my musicality but it just doesn't flow natural it seems.-but it is improving I think. Art is the same way-you have to be clever with symbolism and creative in how you convey a message in subtle ways if that is your intent. You can make a statement with the song or in the song. Buddy Rich made a statement in the song-Charlie Watts made a statement with the song.

I think that someone who is truly accomplished technically HAS to have also ingrained the musical reasons behind learning a specific technique.

I also feel there is musical/artistic direction to ANY kind of playing, regardless of whether it is "tolerable"....

The big issue I have always seen - and not only in drums - is that it is split into 2 factions (hmm....sounds like other aspects of our lives...)
faction one: technique is bad, and not important; feel is good
faction two: feel is "uneducated", technique is paramount

and BOTH factions are completely incorrect...

the BEST players have equal amounts of both, and one needs the other to exist

To become an artist, you have to understand how the art piece is built...even the most outlandish, avante-garde artistic endeavor started in knwoledge of the fundamentals, and then how to tear them up, or break them

so to necome a more musical drummer, you need to study AS MANY ELEMENTS AS YOU CAN about your art, and not shun any of them

case in point: I can not stand to use Musser grip on mallet instruments; hate it; so uncomfortable....BUT...I had to learn it and use it to understand that..AND.. to understand how Musser used it to come up with some great marimba literature that was written around using that grip; AND it helped me understand why Stevens came up with his grip and I now know why I like Stevens better than Musser...AND, all of that knowledge helpd me get in touch with, and learned how to manipulate my smaller finger muscles which DIRECTLY related to my playing on drum set

^^^^ that all invovled knowledge of technique, to make my artistic/musical playing better
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
Play drums with the mind of a piano player

listen to Chick Corea play drums

don't be a beat machine

but to be devils advocate:

isn't "playing the money beat" just being a beat machine?

isn't "playing what the song calls for" also just being a beat machine?

in some situations, both of the above responsibilities are absolutely unmusical and un artistic

just thinking out loud...
 

MG1127

Well-known member
but to be devils advocate:

isn't "playing the money beat" just being a beat machine?

isn't "playing what the song calls for" also just being a beat machine?

in some situations, both of the above responsibilities are absolutely unmusical and un artistic

just thinking out loud...
No

it can be if you don’t play with nuance and follow the emotional waves of the tune

enormous difference

there’s not one way to play a “money beat”

there’s a musical way and an unmusical way

both are fine when called for
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
No

it can be if you don’t play with nuance and follow the emotional waves of the tune

enormous difference

nuance is a KEY word...and I think too often overlooked on all instruments and interpretations

so then, a beat machine is a drummer that plays without nuance...

but I would still argue: does art/musicality have to have nuance for it to still be musical, or art? I think of Ministry, or some house/dance music; or Brutalism in Architecture...is that not art...or musical?
 

jansara

Junior Member
Learn to play a melodic instrument. Listen to different genres of music. Practice to music. I improvise to classical music with Stone - short rolls, rolls, triplet/singles/doubles and closed roll combinations... it puts them into context, develops and exercises my inner ear.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
Learn to play a melodic instrument. Listen to different genres of music. Practice to music. I improvise to classical music with Stone - short rolls, rolls, triplet/singles/doubles and closed roll combinations... it puts them into context, develops and exercises my inner ear.

this is probably the best advice to bring all of the drumming knowledge that you have together...and I don't even think you need to get super proficient at it, but enough to understand the technique, and in's and out's of "living in that world"...thinking in melodic phrasing will definitely help the expression of rhythmic phrasing...and vice versa.

I wish ALL of the non drummers I play with would learn to play drums for the same reasons
 

MG1127

Well-known member
nuance is a KEY word...and I think too often overlooked on all instruments and interpretations

so then, a beat machine is a drummer that plays without nuance...

but I would still argue: does art/musicality have to have nuance for it to still be musical, or art? I think of Ministry, or some house/dance music; or Brutalism in Architecture...is that not art...or musical?
When did art come into this ?


I consider any creative outlet by a human art

my definition of playing in a “musical” way ... and this is only me ... is contributing to ebbs and flows within an ensemble ... leaning in or out with the music in a way only a human can when reacting to other musicians

as opposed to a beat providing rhythm to stack music on top of... made by man or machine

both completely relevant and beautiful

but there is a difference to me in Questlove purposely emulating a static machine ... beautifully by the way.
... and Al Jackson playing the exact same figures but playing with the nuance of the situation
 

CommanderRoss

Silver Member
Go to Rob Brown's YouTube channel & look up "4800 double stroke rolls".
In that video, he has a loop he plays with the exercise that helps you "feel" how the strokes fit with the loop.
I didn't catch it at first, but as I did it more it became clear what his intention was.

So to answer your question: Yes, finding the music in basic exercises is crucial for not only keeping it interesting, but fun too.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
When did art come into this ?


I consider any creative outlet by a human art

my definition of playing in a “musical” way ... and this is only me ... is contributing to ebbs and flows within an ensemble ... leaning in or out with the music in a way only a human can when reacting to other musicians

as opposed to a beat providing rhythm to stack music on top of... made by man or machine

both completely relevant and beautiful

but there is a difference to me in Questlove purposely emulating a static machine ... beautifully by the way.
... and Al Jackson playing the exact same figures but playing with the nuance of the situation

I totally agree!!!

i also think I am surreptitiously bringing "art" in because that is what I think of when I think "musicality"...
 

doggyd69b

Well-known member
I've always believed that if a drummer wishes to achieve optimal musicality, he has to surmount the principle that two opposing conditions can't exist in unison (e.g., you can't stand and sit at the same time). In a drummer's case, he must preside over the flow and feel of the music while simultaneously serving as a seamless feature of the flow and feel. His leadership is unobtrusive, manifesting itself by example rather than by order. He can't truly guide his fellow musicians unless he's willing to join them. He has to be on the outside looking in yet right in the middle of the fray, sacrificing body and soul for the sake of the cause. It may seem that I'm typing a series of sappy metaphors, but seasoned drummers know exactly what I mean.
I have been lucky to play with good musicians so I never felt like I had to guide them, I rather felt that if you could mute one of us at random the rest would keep playing accurately until you unmuted it back. There was only one time where one of the bass players was very new so I had to give him some pointers but even then once he understood the timing we were fine. I don't feel that a drummer should guide, he should compliment, otherwise he is in the wrong band...
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I have been lucky to play with good musicians so I never felt like I had to guide them, I rather felt that if you could mute one of us at random the rest would keep playing accurately until you unmuted it back. There was only one time where one of the bass players was very new so I had to give him some pointers but even then once he understood the timing we were fine. I don't feel that a drummer should guide, he should compliment, otherwise he is in the wrong band...

I don't define "guide" as an authoritarian measure or even as a necessarily conscious function in this context, nor am I implying that a drummer's role is to carry or instruct other musicians. What I mean is this: All music revolves around rhythm, and drums are a purely rhythmic instrument. Yes, bass players, guitarists, and even vocalists all serve their own rhythmic purposes as well, but the drummer is the rhythmic nucleus of the ensemble and thus its foundation and organizing principle, regardless of whether he or she is formally recognized as such.

Buddy Rich asserted in an interview that drummers are the tacit leaders of every band they accompany. I happen to agree with him.
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
Play drums with the mind of a piano player

listen to Chick Corea play drums

don't be a beat machiing c
Interesting comment! I recently started piano so I could be a better drummer.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Musicality is very subjective. For me, it's playing from the heart not the head. In a way that resonates with me.

For someone else, technical prowess may be the major benchmark.

Who's "right?"

There is no "right" Steve Gadd, musical. Phil Rudd, musical in a different way.

Who's more musical?

Mapex Saturn of course :)

It's all opinion and I'm not sure it can be quantified. Like 32nd note double bass runs...I feel like I'm being pummeled. I want to be soothed from music. But that's me and a lot of people may find soothing boring.

For me the question would be can I feel more musical. But then that creates a mindset where I must not feel I'm musical enough. Instead of being satisfied with what I do have. So this is a thinking vs feeling thing that I try to completely sidestep and just try to play the ONE thing I'm feeling as if my life depended on it. Without even thinking about....anything else. I get 99% of my ideas for the song from what I hear going on around me. So listening is probably the best answer. Listen, feel, execute, and don't do conscious thought as much as I can...is what works for me
 
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