The bashing impulse

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I was reading Andrew's interesting and relevant blog this morning - he was talking about dynamic transitions. One passage grabbed my attention (my emphasis):

As a drummer, your job is to set the dynamic range of the music. If you play loud, everyone else kind of has to. With that in mind, if you can exercise the restraint necessary to hold back the bashing impulse, you will find that when you do finally release that impulse, the effect will be dramatically heightened.

People love bashing drums. Thinking about it always makes me laugh - innate human goofiness. Or maybe innate modern (or post rock) human goofiness?

It's interesting to watch those old clips where the drummers almost never got to forte and comparing with so many clips of today where the drummers rarely go below fff.

When novices get on the drums, most times they try to ape the big stadium drummers, just slamming away. That's how you drum, isn't it? It feels natural ... lift your arm and drop it ... WHAM! ... hey, that's cool! ... and so on. I suspect some people have never seen a refined drummer.

What do you think happened? Did rock simply spin the music world into another orbit? Is it just a response to a world increasingly full of noisy machines - that we feel we have to shout? How much of the bashing impulse is pent up violence?

Personally, I played rock for a long time and, years after starting with a laid back band, every time I play there is still a bit of a struggle to keep it down. Undoing decades of "training" ain't easy.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
I have the oposite problem.
I have to force myself to hit the suckers hard.
I have no problem hitting hard but I have to think about it.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I've been very consciously working on dropping my overall volume for a couple of years now. Part of it is technical, but part of it is artistic - most of the stuff I want to play happens down close to the surface. The players that blow me away do so much within 8" of their drums.

Jojo Mayer said something really great a few years back in Modern Drummer. He said (paraphrase) that the next frontier in drumming isn't speed or independence, it's texture.

And as he spoke about more recently in the same magazine, that really gave me a paradigm shift. It articulated something I'd been ruminating on for a long time.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
There used to be a time when the loudest gig you could get would be in a big band.

Combo's with upright bass and pianos required the drummer to play at an appropriate volume.

Nowadays, so many of us are playing with (or against) Marshall half stacks and 400W bass rigs. Playing loud is the only way to match the loud vibe in a rock setting and the only way to be heard. At least that's the way it is with the bands I play with.

One problem with my own playing is that my rudiments suck. I don't take the time to work out on my own with a pad, but the fact is that with the music I play, anything not a single stroke won't be heard anyway. There's a volume penalty with more complex stickings. Necessity being the Mutha she is ....

On my practice days, I like to show up at least an hour early (sometimes 3) just so I can work out my own little playing ideas that don't need to happen at fff.

So to answer your question, I blame the proliferation of guitar and bass amps.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I've been very consciously working on dropping my overall volume for a couple of years now. Part of it is technical, but part of it is artistic - most of the stuff I want to play happens down close to the surface. The players that blow me away do so much within 8" of their drums. I also work with my students to drop their volume. In large part because I find it helps them relax and find their way into good technical habits.

Jojo Mayer said something really great a few years back in Modern Drummer. He said (paraphrase) that the next frontier in drumming isn't speed or independence, it's texture.

And as he spoke about more recently in the same magazine, that really gave me a paradigm shift. It articulated something I'd been ruminating on for a long time.
 

Ruok

Silver Member
As someone already stated, I have the opposite problem too. I was basically forced to play quietly while learning to play the drums. So over the years I learned how to play real quiet, with sticks. Now, playing lightly is how I'm most comfortable. I struggle playing loud or using a lot of arm motion, etc.

I think that Rock music made the "louder is better" mentality a norm. I personally don't go along with that. But, it is true, that some Hard Rock/Metal and similar genres just sound better when bashing the drums. But even there, many unnecessarily over-bash, IMO.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
There used to be a time when the loudest gig you could get would be in a big band.

Combo's with upright bass and pianos required the drummer to play at an appropriate volume.

Nowadays, so many of us are playing with (or against) Marshall half stacks and 400W bass rigs. Playing loud is the only way to match the loud vibe in a rock setting and the only way to be heard. At least that's the way it is with the bands I play with.

One problem with my own playing is that my rudiments suck. I don't take the time to work out on my own with a pad, but the fact is that with the music I play, anything not a single stroke won't be heard anyway. There's a volume penalty with more complex stickings. Necessity being the Mutha she is ....

On my practice days, I like to show up at least an hour early (sometimes 3) just so I can work out my own little playing ideas that don't need to happen at fff.

So to answer your question, I blame the proliferation of guitar and bass amps.
Yup, pretty much my position.

Practice = zero
Pad = well, let's not get into alternative definitions. I do know someone who owns one:)
Rudiments = suck accordingly
Volume competition = constant, although not as bad as many bands I see

I'm a natural thumper. I don't have to try hard to play loud, or expend much effort on playing quietly, although I'm not skilled in playing quietly with intensity.

I'm very much into dynamics, but rarely get the chance to work at extreme ends of the spectrum. Perhaps this 2 minute DW solo challenge will give me the opportunity to see what I can do, or can't, as is probably the case :)
 

haroldo_psf

Senior Member
Did anyone see the part in Neil Peart's lastest DVD (taking center stage) where he touches on this very subject?

The interviewer was asking him how come he plays so loud, specially live.

Neils reply was that one time, in the 70s, somebody approached him after a concert and told him that some of his faster fills sound like a fuzzy BRRRRRRRRR!

Neil said he was extremelly upset at himself (being the perfectionist that he is), and from them on, he would do his best so the audience would hear every single note clearly out of his drums. That drove him to develop his playing so every note was clearly heard, specially during his fills. And of course, to acomplish that in a live setting, he has to play loud.
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
I view playing quiet as a skill, if you don't have it, all you have to do is actually practice playing quieter, I do all my regular technique/reading/coordination exercises first at a normal volume then at the lowest volume possible, it's all about dropping the sticks as low as you can. It's been a struggle for sure since like most of us, I started playing hard rock/metal and was actually shunned if I played too quiet, but I've been noticing progress lately. Guys like Brian Blade and Roy Haynes have such an amazing dynamic control, whey they do get loud, it really hits you, like it means something, not just mindless bashing.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
....That drove him to develop his playing so every note was clearly heard, specially during his fills. And of course, to acomplish that in a live setting, he has to play loud.
I didn't see the video, but I remember reading something similar from him back in the early '80s. I think it applies to anyone playing with a loud rimshot back beat - in order to keep an even dynamic during a fill, that loud cracking snare rimshot becomes level you need to get your toms to, which becomes very difficult given the nature of toms. Neil said he could see several inches of stick marks on his tom heads indicating that that's how much he was driving the stick into the head.

If you want that dynamic consistency across your kit and the snare is setting the volume of things, than you do what you gotta do.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
It's getting worse and worse in rock and pop drumming. Drummers are expected to just pound the drums on every bar of every tune. Backbeats have to be monster rimshots on 2 and 4, the bass drum needs to be earth-shaking. And fills have to go up even higher in intensity!

This point was really driven home when I studied with Jim Riley. He said there basically aren't any pop/rock drummers in Nashville who don't hit really hard. It's not like there's a subset of drummers who take a different, more subtle approach; it's pretty much the one-and-only way at this point.

Again, this is why jazz fills an essential need for me. I don't really want to be hitting that hard all the time. Dynamics is a huge, huge part of music. It's a critical component of the ebb and flow/tension and release. I can't just be hammering nails all the time.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I used to be a very hard hitter. I've toned it down a lot, but I suppose some would say I still do. And I love watching hard hitters.

At the heart of it, it's not much different than people who watch football, boxing, wrestling, rugby or other sports that involve people hitting something. Watching people hit hard is just something that appeals to people in and out of music.

And the other aspect is, why did the Beatles stop playing live? They couldn't hear themselves over the crowd. How to solve that? Play louder. Bill Brufords famous story of he couldn't hear his snare live, so he developed hitting everything rim shot. Much of rock history is predicated around being LOUD. The easiest way to be LOUD is hit hard.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
Personally, I played rock for a long time and, years after starting with a laid back band, every time I play there is still a bit of a struggle to keep it down. Undoing decades of "training" ain't easy.
I'm in the very same position as you are Polly, and although that I only played in heavy rock bands for about only a third of my drumming years, the very essence of my origin as a drummer cannot disappear, it's one of my biggest challenge to make a spirited performance with a restrained approach, it's not just a question of dynamics, it's the whole approach of making it happen, it seems that I can't shake off my earlier influences, and because I'm aware of it, it makes it more of a struggle, I guess that some drummers, no matter what they do, will have real difficulty to reach such mastering of our cherished instument(s) :)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The hitting hard thing is unique among drummers it seems.

Ever hear a guitar player say, man I played that note so hard!
Or an organist...Man I really pound those keys!
Or a sax player....I blow really hard!
Or a violinist, man I press that bow so hard on those strings...

Doesn't that sound re-diculous?

What about the context? I hope you aren't thinking about hitting hard in the beginning of a sensitive passage! Of course you wouldn't do that, right?

Drumming is like communicating. Are you gonna shout everything you say? I'll never understand why people think they are so badass when they say that they hit hard. Big deal, you can hit a drum hard. So what lol?
 

kauaiplayer

Member
Bill Brufords famous story of he couldn't hear his snare live, so he developed hitting everything rim shot.
During my teens Bruford was a huge influence on my playing. So much that I ended up unintentionally copping that 'rim shot on every backbeat' sound. I was a loud player. Over the years band mates either loved it or hated it. I eventually grew out of it, but hey, big, loud and nasty was what pulled me to the drums in the first place.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
...

I think its the heroic images of the legends, bathed in sweat, flying hair, hands way up in the air like jackhammers, that does it for most people. The image entices...

Thats what a drummer does, we think.

( Its the same shredding thing with guitarists too.. hair, foot on the monitor, fingertapping like crazy, and they all look like Van Halen. )

Though Im far removed from playing that kind of music now, and am very aware of my dynamics, and volume, I still find myself playing a little harder than I'd like to.

...
 
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Toolate

Platinum Member
Try working as a carpenter for about 20 years, then learning the drums at age 37-

its a long way down from hammering 12penny nails to some sort of jazzy ride cymbally thing but almost the same motion for the body. looong way.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Interesting responses guys - enjoyed reading all of that.

8-Mile said:
I don't really want to be hitting that hard all the time. Dynamics is a huge, huge part of music. It's a critical component of the ebb and flow/tension and release. I can't just be hammering nails all the time.
Likewise. That's why I got out of rock. I found the physicality and the volume wearing; it was taking out the fun. Love playing loungey stuff, as long as I'm allowed to step up occasionally.

A few people have mentioned that drumming is getting louder. Looks that way to me, too. Even in laid back bands the drummers hit harder than before. I guess that in stadiums it's better for the drummer hits hard because then you don't have to crank the mics as much. Then that sets the example for aspiring and copycat bands.

But, as Larry said, shouting all the time is, well, a bit full on. One doesn't do that kind of thing in polite society :)


Henri said:
although that I only played in heavy rock bands for about only a third of my drumming years, the very essence of my origin as a drummer cannot disappear, it's one of my biggest challenge to make a spirited performance with a restrained approach ... it seems that I can't shake off my earlier influences
Totally relate, Henri.

I'm not fighting my early influences, but using them. I have no choice - I'm not a pro so I just play the way I play. I like a bit of rawness anyway.

The top rock guys of the 70s and 80s were often inspired by the great jazzers so it's all connected anyway.

I love the kind of texture that comes from subtle touch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngxaUjIYX1Y
 
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