Less isn't always more?

Diet Kirk

Silver Member
Before I start this thought dump, let me just say that I am a lover of simple well played drum parts that do nothing but groove and serve the song. I am by no means about to say that simple drum parts played well are a bad thing.

ok? good.

But... Sometimes less isn't more. Sometimes I love it when a drummer expands my listening horizons and plays fills and clever stuff that I've never heard before, in fact I would go as far as saying I crave this kind of music.

I genuinly think right now we are going through a kind of drumming renaissance, akin to what happened to guitars in the 80s/90s. Its an exciting time for technical drumming.

It always slightly saddens me when musicians talk about their journey through music and they end up with the "realisation" that less is more. i.e. through the years they have gradually stripped away all but the most necessary notes.

Why is this considered the journey of a musician? Why can't you incorporate more of your technique the more you learn? Where is the excitement and danger of trying new stuff?

Instead really i don't think there needs to be any such journey. There is a time and a place and a song for playing a simple 2 and 4, no frills, beautiful song, lovely. And there is a time and a place for pushing boundaries with technical playing. I for one would love an artist to say "Over the last 10 years of our career we have been brushing up on our chops, wait until you hear the new album, its crazy!!!!"

Case in point for me is the band incubus. Granted over the last few years their music has become less and less technical, but each album always ended up being exactly what I needed to hear at the time. until the last album. When I heard the guitarist had studied for a couple of years at Berklee, I thought, ok so the next album will probably be stripped back from a drumming point of view, but I was excited to hear what kind of intrigueing musical passages, movements and progressions might appear from an already talented guitarist furthering his craft. Instead, he barely plays a note!

Personally I don't think I'm mellowing with age, I'm listening to more complex and more technical and heavier music the older I get. But I'm also more open than ever to a wider range of drumming and song writing. I currently love New Orlean's brass band music and technical metal in equal measure.

Do we have to get mellower and play less as we get older? Can't we play more?
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
I think the answer lies in the taste

I'm all for what some call "overplaying" ... until it becomes self indulgent song stomping nonsense

I love Keith Moon... but I also love Charlie Watts

I love Tony Williams and Elvin Jones.... but I also love Ben Riley and Jimmy Cobb

express your personality .... but don't ruin the music

it is important for every musician to understand his capabilities and boundaries and to know when he/she sounds good and know when he/she sounds like a fool
 
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bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Sometimes I love it when a drummer expands my listening horizons and plays fills and clever stuff that I've never heard before
There's a time and place for everything, and there's no shortage of musicians who stretch out for their listeners. It doesn't have to happen in every song, because that then becomes boring.

Some people want to be astonished by music, some want to be engaged by it, and there are players and styles that cater to both.

Bermuda
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Sometimes less is more.

Sometimes more is less.

Sometimes less is less.

Sometimes more is more.
 

sdedge

Senior Member
There's a time and place for everything, and there's no shortage of musicians who stretch out and astonish their listeners. It doesn't have to happen in every song, because that then becomes boring.

Some people want to listen and enjoy music, some want to pay attention to it, and there are players and styles that cater to both.

Bermuda
Like bermuda said,but the drums in a song has to be smartly played ,and that is most difficult thing for a drummer to do.
Sometimes its in a smart groove/feel,and sometimes its in the smart fast notes.or in the smart placements of both.
So to learn or practice ,difficult and fast/slow things will give you the ability ,to find those smart grooves and fills and play it in a song.
At the end it always scaled down in a song,because it don't fit the song or feel.
After all the song is were its all about, not your drums or guitar, your just a piece of the puzzel, and when its your turn ,you need to play it smart.
 

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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
When the song takes a backseat to "more" playing, then I'm out. It has to be done in a way that adds to or compliments, not subtract from, a song. There's the rub. Sometimes the 2 don't play well together, "more" playing and the song....you have to find a way to make it fit in.

I think if the song calls for it, there really shouldn't be too much thought behind it, because it's naturally where it wants to go anyway. Trying to play more just so you can play more is usually a bad approach. Every thing I play has to have a definite reason for playing it.

Drums to me are all about the feel. It's too easy to ruin the feel with unnecessary notes. Even one extra note can totally change the feel, so sensitivity is required.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
It's just a basic fact of art and human perception that simple structures = power, and complex ones = diffusion of power. That's what that phrase LIM means: simple things have more impact. I don't know why coming to that realization is the path of so many musicians, as you say, but it kind of suggests a universal truth, though, doesn't it? I guess being able to tell the essential from the non-essential is usually regarded as a form of wisdom.

My problem with the new complexity in much of current drumming is that it comes from this very empty consumeristic place-- it's just about going faster, adding more stuff, and being crassly amazing. To have any meaning to me, it has to come from someplace deeper than that-- either from someone like Elvin Jones, who is just a great damn artist, or from communities of people working it out over the course of generations-- like with African, Afro-Cuban, and Indian percussion.
 
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Diet Kirk

Silver Member
express your personality .... but don't ruin the music

it is important for every musician to understand his capabilities and boundaries and to know when he/she sounds good and know when he/she sounds like a fool
Thats a great description of what maturity means to me as a musician. Perhaps its unfortunate that as we mature we get more chilled out and therefore our personalities are more naturally inclined to play less!

There's a time and place for everything, and there's no shortage of musicians who stretch out for their listeners. It doesn't have to happen in every song, because that then becomes boring.

Some people want to be astonished by music, some want to be engaged by it, and there are players and styles that cater to both.

Bermuda
Totally agree, and I think we are currently in a rich vein of form as a drumming community with the boundaries drummers are pushing.

Sometimes less is more.

Sometimes more is less.

Sometimes less is less.

Sometimes more is more.
I just wish the scale wasn't tipped more towards more is less as artists evolve! Too many bands/artists seem to gravitate that way as their number of albums goes up. I just wish more would flip it on its head and go for more is more as they develop their playing!

Like bermuda said,but the drums in a song has to be smartly played ,and that is most difficult thing for a drummer to do.
Sometimes its in a smart groove/feel,and sometimes its in the smart fast notes.or in the smart placements of both.
When the song takes a backseat to "more" playing, then I'm out. It has to be done in a way that adds to or compliments, not subtract from, a song. There's the rub. Sometimes the 2 don't play well together, "more" playing and the song....you have to find a way to make it fit in.

I think if the song calls for it, there really shouldn't be too much thought behind it, because it's naturally where it wants to go anyway. Trying to play more just so you can play more is usually a bad approach. Every thing I play has to have a definite reason for playing it.

Drums to me are all about the feel. It's too easy to ruin the feel with unnecessary notes. Even one extra note can totally change the feel, so sensitivity is required.
Yep completely agree, it has to be smart, and it has to be the right thing to play.

It's just a basic fact of art and human perception that simple structures = power, and complex ones = diffusion of power. That's what that phrase LIM means: simple things have more impact. I don't know why coming to that realization is the path of so many musicians-- it kind of suggests a universal truth, though, doesn't it? I guess being able to tell the essential from the non-essential is usually regarded as a form of wisdom.

My problem with the new complexity in much of current drumming is that it comes from this very empty consumeristic place-- it's just about going faster, adding more stuff, and being crassly amazing. Effective complexity is made by people who are more serious about music-- like Elvin Jones-- or is worked out over time by communities of such people-- like with African, Afro-Cuban, and Indian percussion.
Thats a really interesting thought. But I don't think that essential and non-essential does always boil down to simplicity. Like a few of the comments, it has to fit the song, but it still seems somewhat odd to me that as musicians develop more chops, they often show less of those new skills overtly on later albums.

I think it just irks me that the established maturity of a musician should equal a less is more approach. I don't think we should have to apologise for showing some chops as we mature as musicians.

Perhaps the mantra should be "Less or more serve the song!" Maybe as a music listening public we should suggest all bands release two albums each year, the less is more one and the go on go for it show me what you got album!
 

radman

Senior Member
Spot on. Although...
Here's what a real genius has to say on this topic :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHZ48AE3TOI
I missed the ":)" on your post ... which somehow made the clip even funnier (was expecting some deep thoughts on the matter). The "Spinal Tap" related references in youtube comments were on the money. Good stuff. lol

(and sorry to divert attention from the thoughtful posts on this subject. It is a matter that I think we all continuously reflect upon.)

best
radman
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
This idea has never sat well with me. Yes I understand it, but it seems like a cop out. If less really is more, Sabbath, The Who, and Zeppelin would have been crucified. So would Zappa. Yet these bands wrote fairly busy songs and were praised for their brilliance. There are plenty of current bands that follow the forms of our overplaying brethren and are enjoyed by the masses, and there are plenty of two chord boom bap boom bands out there that completely suck. Less is not more, and more is not less. It is about the song, not the amount of notes in said song.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
This idea has never sat well with me. Yes I understand it, but it seems like a cop out. If less really is more, Sabbath, The Who, and Zeppelin would have been crucified. So would Zappa. Yet these bands wrote fairly busy songs and were praised for their brilliance. There are plenty of current bands that follow the forms of our overplaying brethren and are enjoyed by the masses, and there are plenty of two chord boom bap boom bands out there that completely suck. Less is not more, and more is not less. It is about the song, not the amount of notes in said song.
I am of the opinion that all these bands and their drummers did play for the song and did not overplay; even moonie, who a lot of people thought went a bit over the top, I never heard it that way... It wasn't too much for me, just very compy, followed the song very directly. "Less" shouldn't imply total simplicity. It's more of a mantra for a musician so that they are always mindful that perhaps more isn't usually the answer to every musical situation.

To me, the only time I start thinking that maybe there should be "more" is when I notice all the other instruments get a bit quieter and the guitarist gives me a nod. That's a little bit of space where I can stretch out with some "more" ideas and not ruin everything with chops over the top of music.

I hate to say it, but I would say that guys like Tom Pridgen go over the line way too much, and are better examples of people who don't understand "less is more". Bonham? No way.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I hate to say it, but I would say that guys like Tom Pridgen go over the line way too much, and are better examples of people who don't understand "less is more". Bonham? No way.
Totally agree. I enjoy watching his solos, but cannot stand hearing him play with a band. The chops impress me, the flow does not.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I would agree with this in some cases ..... but if you listen to the Memorials he stays pretty tame and song appropriate

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V26IO-ya4p0
Yea, I knew I was probably going to get a few comments on my suggestion that Pridg could calm down once in a while.

If I'm being honest, in the song you linked, I really felt he could have at least given the down the toms thing a rest. I liked the breakdown a bit later in the tune, and you are right that at least it sounds like he's playing for the song and not counting so that he can put in some 128th note licks... I just wanted to hear at least a few repetitions that didn't include the tom thing. In fact, I clicked another song by the band and thought it was much better in terms of Tom's contribution. Far cry from some of the (I feel) nonsense drumming on say the Volta stuff.

Of course, tons and tons of folks would likely disagree with my thoughts on that. Tom is a monster and I mean no disrespect beyond a very personal opinion.
 

dazzlez

Senior Member
I think you missing something, when a lot of bands become bigger and bigger they also become more commercial get a producer that produce hit-records etc which results in more commercial music.
 
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