Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz here!

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Womble

Guest
So, could any of us play like Terry? Or Vinnie? Or Danny Carey? Or (insert name here)?

Well, in theory, yes! Why not? In its most basic conceptual form, drumming is simply hitting things with sticks, and stepping on pedals. That's really all they're doing.
I appreciate that this may be a useful belief in terms of motivation, but with all due respect it is in reality complete nonsense. There is a reason Vinnie plays like Vinnie and that no one else can or does, and it's not about how much they've practised.

In its basic conceptual form, composing music is simply writing down one note after another with different spaces of time between them. So I suppose anyone could compose like Mozart, or Chopin, or Schubert. Indeed, if you can't memorise entire musical works by age 5 on one listen, then go home and reproduce them perfectly on the piano, you just haven't been practising enough.

I'm sorry if I sound harsh but I think the attitude you espouse below is (whollly unintentially I know) quite disrespectful to these legendary drummers. You're essentially saying that they're only so good because they practised a lot, which attempts to deny them the quite obvious truth that they are natural born geniuses who operate on a level most of us will never, ever attain.

You can quite easily tell those famous drummers who are natural geniuses from those who have simply been born with a ready capacity for conquering coordination and the patience to practice . Vinnie and Tony fall into the former camp; Weckl and Donati into the latter.
 
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bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Quote:
and simply practice it starting slowly and gradually speed-up until it sounded natural


how would you do this? how do you keep track of your progress and what kind of schedules do you use?
I have a very objective ear. If I'm playing something, I can usually tell how it sounds, as opposed to how well I think I'm executing the part. So, assuming I have a sample of what I'm supposed to play, I can tell when I've got it.

If it's something requiring a specific speed - particularly if it's very slow or very fast - I will use a metronome to gauge my execution. I practice as slow or fast as I comfortably can, and continue to work until the tempo and feel are met. The metronome lets me know how I'm progressing. If I hit a wall before I get to the proper tempo, I keep working until I make progress. If that doesn't work, I keep working until it does.

There have been a lot of (what I thought were) very difficult parts that I was able to work out over time. But practicing is not strictly about starting slow and speeding up. It's about starting slow, and staying slow until you can speed up. Otherwise, practicing becomes a series of exercises that start slow, then fall apart as the speed is prematurely increased. The learning process is severely hampered if not handled with a 'slow & steady' approach.

Bermuda
 
G

Guinness

Guest
Hey Jon, I just noticed that "White and Nerdy" is at #5 according to the Yahoo rankings. I guess you're probably used to this, but to me that is probably the coolest thing in the world to know that so many people are enjoying something that you helped create. I'm sure it won't be the last time.

Scott
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I appreciate that this may be a useful belief in terms of motivation, but with all due respect it is in reality complete nonsense. There is a reason Vinnie plays like Vinnie and that no one else can or does, and it's not about how much they've practised.

In its basic conceptual form, composing music is simply writing down one note after another with different spaces of time between them. So I suppose anyone could compose like Mozart, or Chopin, or Schubert. Indeed, if you can't memorise entire musical works by age 5 on one listen, then go home and reproduce them perfectly on the piano, you just haven't been practising enough.
Vinnie's not 5. Terry's not 5. I'm not 5. Suggesting that from infancy to age 5, enough practice time could be employed, or a level of comprehension could be achieved in order to compose, is ridiculous.

However, although you were just making an example, you're right - "composing music is simply writing down one note after another with different spaces of time between them. So I suppose anyone could compose like Mozart, or Chopin, or Schubert". In theory - and PLEASE re-read my post where I initially said that word - that's true. Granted, levels of creativity vary for different reasons, but it certainly can be done.

And that's what I was saying about drumming. Can any of us move our sticks and feet in the same way that Vinnie and Terry etc do? With enough practice, yes. Could we create like them? Possibly not. As I said above, levels of creativity vary for different reasons.

there's also an issue of dedication. Do I carry sticks with me EVERYWHERE, like Vinnie does? Nope. That's the first sign that I'm not as dedicated as him, and therefore not ready to play like him. But, if I started carrying sticks and using them at every waking moment - dinner table, etc - that would be a step in the right direction.

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Hey Jon, I just noticed that "White and Nerdy" is at #5 according to the Yahoo rankings. I guess you're probably used to this, but to me that is probably the coolest thing in the world to know that so many people are enjoying something that you helped create. I'm sure it won't be the last time.

Scott
#5 eh? Guess we slipped from #1. Oh well... :)

Thanks,

Bermuda
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
There have been a lot of (what I thought were) very difficult parts that I was able to work out over time. But practicing is not strictly about starting slow and speeding up. It's about starting slow, and staying slow until you can speed up. Otherwise, practicing becomes a series of exercises that start slow, then fall apart as the speed is prematurely increased. The learning process is severely hampered if not handled with a 'slow & steady' approach.
quite possibly the best advice i've ever read here and exactly timed and worded to my needs at the moment. thanks man.

j
 
W

Womble

Guest
Suggesting that from infancy to age 5, enough practice time could be employed, or a level of comprehension could be achieved in order to compose, is ridiculous.
The whole reason I mentioned the young Mozart's ability to play pieces perfectly after one listen is precisely because it had nothing to do with practice: the man was a natural born freak. That's what I'm trying to impress on you. Your incredulity at the ability of some of these geniuses to compose at such an early age is understandable, but the fact remains that they could and did.

Can any of us move our sticks and feet in the same way that Vinnie and Terry etc do? With enough practice, yes.
Even if you're referring only to the exact mechanics and trajectory, I still disagree. Everyone's different. All these top guys - Vinnie, Tony, Buddy, Jojo - they've all got or had ridiculous hands, and their sticks all move differently. You could watch a video of their hands only and know instantly who was playing.

Could we create like them? Possibly not.
This little statement is all important. In your first post you claimed anyone could, given time, 'play like Vinnie'. Now you seem to have stepped back and are saying that anyone could move their sticks like Vinnie (whatever that means) but that they probably couldn't create like him, i.e. they couldn't emulate his feel, groove, phrasing, ideas, touch, etc. These being the things, of course, which really make a drummer. I'm more comfortable with what you're now saying, though I still disagree.
 

Auger

Senior Member
Hey Bermuda,

I'm not sure if I agree with you or not -because I think I may be misunderstanding what you are trying to say:

If you mean to say that anyone can learn the techniques being used by tony, vinne, ...etc with enough practice, then, I totally agree with that. And that, with enough practice, any of us could replicate note-for-note anything they've done, I'll agree with that ...sort of.

To me, the thing that makes most of the greats truly great is that, when they play, I don't hear just drums or just doubles and singles and various combinations of notes, I hear them and their conviction and attitude and fire and personality. …And I don’t feel this really has much to do with technique.

Take, say, elvin. I think that, even if I practiced and listened non-stop and got to the point where I could play all of his parts note-for-note (which I think any of us could do with enough effort and dedication -as you say) it still wouldn't sound like him. I mean, I could probably fool some people, but I don't think any amount of practice would let me sound just like him (even if I played all the notes in exactly the right places) because I'm not him and I don't know where he was coming from when he played the way he did.

Now, I imagine it's not always the case that your job is to sit behind the drums and be yourself if you're trying to make a living (I say 'I imagine' because I don't make my living playing and wouldn't presume to know much about being a session player), but, regardless, to me, that's what makes the greats the greats. And, while I'm not putting her on a pedestal comparable to Elvin Jones, that's why I think meg white is great no matter what people say.

Another way to say it is that I think if I were Genie from 'I dream of Genie' (which would be weird because I'm a 246lb man, which I'm sure would have hurt ratings terribly) and I could go back in time and wiggle my nose at Elvin and magically make him loose all of his technique down the most simple skills ...or, even better, take away his technique and replace it with Tony Williams' technique, I think elvin would still sound like elvin when he played ...even if he was playing totally different parts.

I guess this is along the same lines as what you’re saying when you said we may not be able to create like these other players, even if we learn to play like them, maybe? Practicing their parts to learn how they play is what my teacher would call 'learning from result rather than inspiration' -not to imply there's anything wrong with that, but, once we listen and understand a part, we already know what a drummer did when they got there, right? It doesn't tell me how he got there, or where he came from. I hope that makes sense…

Just my opinion anyhow. what an interesting discussion in this thread!
 
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bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
The whole reason I mentioned the young Mozart's ability to play pieces perfectly after one listen is precisely because it had nothing to do with practice: the man was a natural born freak. That's what I'm trying to impress on you. Your incredulity at the ability of some of these geniuses to compose at such an early age is understandable, but the fact remains that they could and did.
Sorry, you said listening and practicing before, not composing.

Even if you're referring only to the exact mechanics and trajectory, I still disagree. Everyone's different. All these top guys - Vinnie, Tony, Buddy, Jojo - they've all got or had ridiculous hands, and their sticks all move differently. You could watch a video of their hands only and know instantly who was playing.
No reason we can't do the same.

This little statement is all important. In your first post you claimed anyone could, given time, 'play like Vinnie'. Now you seem to have stepped back and are saying that anyone could move their sticks like Vinnie (whatever that means) but that they probably couldn't create like him, i.e. they couldn't emulate his feel, groove, phrasing, ideas, touch, etc. These being the things, of course, which really make a drummer. I'm more comfortable with what you're now saying, though I still disagree.
Not stepping back, just clarifying.

I'm most notorious for copying other drummers, and a good portion of my income is derived from that specific function. But I don't fool myself into thinking that I create like those drummers. I have the luxury of replicating parts and styles without having to invent them. Believe me, I'm very sensitive to the difference between the two. So when I said 'play like Vinnie', I didn't mean 'do what Vinnie does'... I meant play. There's a difference.

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Hey Bermuda,

I'm not sure if I agree with you or not -because I think I may be misunderstanding what you are trying to say:

If you mean to say that anyone can learn the techniques being used by tony, vinne, ...etc with enough practice, then, I totally agree with that. And that, with enough practice, any of us could replicate note-for-note anything they've done, I'll agree with that ...sort of.

To me, the thing that makes most of the greats truly great is that, when they play, I don't hear just drums or just doubles and singles and various combinations of notes, I hear them and their conviction and attitude and fire and personality. …And I don’t feel this really has much to do with technique.
That's pretty much my point (see post above where I clarified.)

The reason I brought up the practice/achievement thing is that so many young players want to play like Vinnie, or Gadd, or Portnoy etc etc. I don't believe I've ever heard anyone say they wish they were as creative as those guys - they always say they want to play like them. Big difference.

Am I as creative as Vinnie? Or Gadd? Or Ringo? Not by a longshot. No amount of practice will instill that in me. I'm just not terribly creative that way. But could I practice and replicate their parts? Yes. Could I replicate their sound? Yes. Could I get the exact flavor of the way they play? Well, that's a lot harder, and I would say that I can get close.

For example, listen to almost any Beatles track (and this is completely separate from whether you think Ringo was great, or okay, or just lucky.) Is there a better part for those songs than what he played? Probably not. Ringo was extremely creative (and yes, I know Paul threw a lot of parts at him as well.) Is it possible to actually play the parts he played? Sure, nothing terribly difficult there and Ringo never claimed otherwise. Could you get the same drum sounds? To a large extent, yes. Part of the sound had to do with miking, compression, and the way he hit the drums (he was a fairly hard hitter for a pop/rock drummer.) But, would it sound like Ringo playing? No, probably not. There were pushes and pulls and inflections that he had that are extremely difficult to copy. It's a feel, and that is certainly something that defines some players.

Same with so many other drummers. And yes, that does stem from their "conviction and attitude and fire and personality" But, I was really talking just about playing the parts.

Which is how this particular question arose - it was about how to approach a part (a theoretical rudiment.)

Bermuda
 

DogBreath

Administrator Emeritus
Nutha asks a great question, Bermuda takes the time to give a thoughtful and inspirational (and dare I say knowledgeable?) response, Nutha thanks him... and someone feels the need to tell Bermuda how wrong he is. I love this place. Some of you really don't want to be inspired, do you?

Let's accept the fact that there are a few pro drummers here who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, and have been doing so for decades. If you want to disagree with one of them, super. But the nit-picking and negativity astounds me. There are people here to help, and there are people here to seek help, and there are people here to argue. For an example of how to respectfully ask for clarification, read Auger's post. For an example of how to look foolish, read Womble's.

with all due respect it is in reality complete nonsense.
Yeah, the respect just rolls off of that whole post in waves.

And now back on track. Jon, I see over and over how good advice applies to almost any discipline. As you know I train disabled people with mobility needs (usually with solutions involving service dogs), and I have said almost word for word what you said here about learning a new skill. Many years ago I studied two completely different martial art styles (one ancient, traditional, and Asian; the other modern, scientific, and European), and I heard the same things from each of my teachers. And I got the exact same advice from my small-arms instructor when I wanted to polish that set of skills after years of practicing on my own. The truth is the truth, and human nature is human nature, regardless of the situation or circumstances.

Of course one can dissect the nature-versus-nurture issue ad nauseum, but that wasn't the issue that was raised here. You were asked a very specific question about a hypothetical situation that is applicable in some way to every single member of this community, and you gave what I thought was a perfect answer based on your personal experience and observation. Thank you.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Thanks DB, and I'm glad that some of things I said came through for some of the members. Other things may not have been very clear... I know what I mean, but it doesn't always translate in the first post and I do my best to clarify when needed. I don't mind if someone has a different perspective than mine, and wonders aloud why I think the way I do. What works for me may not work for someone else, and vice versa. Sometimes I can enlighten someone, and sometimes it's me who is enlightened. I surely don't have all the answers to all the questions, and I'm still learning. I'm also happy to pass along what I've learned prior to today.

I think that's important: the give & take and being willing to learn. That's what I like about this and other select forums.

Bermuda
 
W

Womble

Guest
The reason I brought up the practice/achievement thing is that so many young players want to play like Vinnie, or Gadd, or Portnoy etc etc. I don't believe I've ever heard anyone say they wish they were as creative as those guys - they always say they want to play like them. Big difference.
Now you see, when I hear someone say they want to 'play like' someone, I don't think they mean they want to have learned a stock set of their licks that they can pull out of the hat when it suits them. I believe the statement "I wish I could play like Vinnie" usually means that person wants to have the entire range of skills from Vinnie's bag, which includes the ability to improvise to a terrifying degree. In fact it necessarily must, because someone like Vinnie improvises all the time. Sure he's got a few licks he uses over and over again, but what is so jaw-droppingly astounding about his playing is the stuff he improvises. You could never 'play like Vinnie' by learning the parts he's played in the past. You might be able to 'play like Vinnie played on that record', but that is all. By the time you'd learned that, Vinnie would have laid down another dozen studio tracks!

I'm also not sure that one should encourage people to learn great drummers' licks and grooves in a drive to become that drummer's clone. The master drummers learned the licks of the previous masters so that they could then go on to do their own thing with them, and forge their own sound. Indeed, although you may try to sound like Ringo or Gadd or whoever, I'm sure "Weird" Al has you as his drummer because you sound like you. I can't readily imagine Vinnie laying down a track for Al!
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
i can. i imagine vinnie can do on the drums pretty much whatever is needed from covering a tony williams masterpiece to thrashing out a slipnot gig. i think what Bermuda is saying is that given enough determination there is no reason why he couldn't and why we cannot if we apply ourselves. the probability of becoming the next vinnie is low...granted ...but john is reiterating that it is not impossible... i would add that it probably is NOT possible if you believe it is impossible. why start the journey if you believe the destination is unreachable. but as frodo learned, you leave the door, put your one foot in front of the other and don't stop or give up and that way even mordor is not too far away (mordor being vinnie ...lol)

j
 

gcarlet

Senior Member
but as frodo learned, you leave the door, put your one foot in front of the other and don't stop or give up and that way even mordor is not too far away (mordor being vinnie ...lol)

j
LOL! Nice Rings analogy. "One ring to rule them all." See Clerks 2 for a funny scene.
 
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X22

Guest
There will never be another Vinnie. You're completely ignoring the other half of Vinnie. Vinnie the human being. No amount or practice or determination is going to develop that.

i think what Bermuda is saying is that given enough determination there is no reason why he couldn't and why we cannot if we apply ourselves. the probability of becoming the next vinnie is low...granted ...but john is reiterating that it is not impossible...
 
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X22

Guest
Unfortunately there's a lot of give and very little take in these forums. Often we ignore the message because of the messenger.

I think that's important: the give & take and being willing to learn. That's what I like about this and other select forums.

Bermuda
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
and the 'message' i was referring to was vinnie as a measure of drum skill. :)

but you're right about the human vinnie tho. i think one of the most important aspects of drumming is taste. for instance i can appreciate the skill and amazing ability of virgil donatti but i just don't like his music. he has different taste to me. another way would be to look at john bonham. he had lots of skill but nothing like the drummers of today in terms of chops but john had taste. his choices were superb and that's what makes him a legend.
taste is something that can only be refined or learned to a certain extent by listening to a broad range of music a lot, but a lot of taste comes down to individual human character. some people like putting furry covers on their toilet seats and plaster ducks on the walls.
but i think the debate here is about a skill. what makes vinnie so cool is that he has loads of skills (which can be learned by the diligent drummer) and he has a great taste in choosing when to use which one or most importantly when not to use them (which cannot be exactly emulated by anyone but vinnie).
j
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I believe the statement "I wish I could play like Vinnie" usually means that person wants to have the entire range of skills from Vinnie's bag, which includes the ability to improvise to a terrifying degree.
I would say that most drummers who make such a statement are thinking specifically about the performance aspect, and little beyond. If someone says "I wish I could come up with the stuff Vinnie does..." then I know that means something different.

I'm really very literal. For example, if someone said "I wish I could play like Vinnie" or "I wish I had Vinnie's gigs" or "I wish I was Vinnie", I believe that those are three separate concepts.

I'm also not sure that one should encourage people to learn great drummers' licks and grooves in a drive to become that drummer's clone... I'm sure "Weird" Al has you as his drummer because you sound like you.
True, most drummers are where they are because they have a certain style that they've developed (or at least are known for.) As a fundamental approach to playing, I also think it's usually detrimental to invent just for the sake of being original. Depends on the gig of course, but I'll guess that in 99% of the gigs out there, that's true.

Al has allowed me to be his drummer because I sound like everyone else... not because I have a particular style or flavor. On this gig, being a chameleon is key to the success of the tracks, and to my longevity as his drummer for over 26 years. He has yet to throw something at me that I couldn't do, and of course it's been a tremendous growth process for me. It's also fun being a dozen drummers on each album, and even more in concert. I don't think there's a more versatile gig around.

I can't readily imagine Vinnie laying down a track for Al!
For a few reasons, you're absolutely right. First, Al wouldn't pay Vinnie's rate. Second, if the song was sequenced... well, let's just say that Vinnie and sampling/sequencing don't go together. Third, Vinnie wouldn't take the time to work out the parts note-for-note, and sound-for-sound, not without being paid a lot extra (see first reason.) Fourth, although it would be a feather in Al's and my cap - imagine me saying that it took Vinnie to replace me?! - I don't think there's an appeal to Al's fans one way or another, in the same way that many drummers will seek out the albums that Vinnie plays on, just because it's Vinnie.

Not to be immodest, but I know of no other drummer who does what I do with Al. It will be very interesting to see who can step in if I ever leave. It's truly a one-of-a-kind gig.

Bermuda
 
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