Virtuosity?

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
While we all know what it mean: a musician which display a brilliant and showy technical skill, complemented with such names and adjectives such as mastery, skill, brilliance, craft, expertise, flair, panache or outstanding, superb, magnificent, glorious, exceptional, splendid, the list could go on, but how does virtuosity apply to the drumset for you? from a drumming point of view, here's some samples...

is it this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWc2tu6Np_8

or this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOu3tC7LPNE

or even this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mC34VJIdM7g

all of them?

none of them?

While it seems easier to establish virtuosity within other "single" instrument, such as piano, saxophone, guitar and so on, I think it's perhaps a different view for a drumset?

Thoughts?
 

moontheloon

Silver Member
vir·tu·o·so   [vur-choo-oh-soh] Show IPA noun, plural -sos, -si  [-see] Show IPA, adjective
noun
1.
a person who has special knowledge or skill in a field.
2.
a person who excels in musical technique or execution.

Id say all of the above .....and many more
 

AndyMC

Senior Member
For me only Jojo's playing would be a virtuoso performance, however I feel this is largely based on style of playing that allows him more space to work within. I think what Thomas Lang did there was absolutely perfect, but it didn't have that emotional connection, same with Brian Blade, though he had more room to work in hes no Joe Morello.

It takes that something extra that crosses over whether you like a genre already or not. Where when you hear it you pause and do a retake, that to me is what makes a virtuoso. The only two drummers who can consistently make me do that are Buddy Rich and John Bonham though many others have some songs I would rate virtuoso performances.
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
Brian Blade with no emotional connection? What? He's one of the most emotional drummers I've ever heard, you can almost feel his soul through his playing.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Brian Blade with no emotional connection? What? He's one of the most emotional drummers I've ever heard, you can almost feel his soul through his playing.
Numberless, I agree with you that BB is outstanding in the way he pours his soul into the music. I guess different things touch different people.

I agree with Moonie's earlier comment - all of those guys are virtuosos. Many players talked about here are virtuosos.

Virtuosos rarely influence me. They belong in a different musical universe to me. Nothing beats a highly expressive and eloquent virtuoso, where you feel like the music is coming directly from the soul to you with no "static" getting in the way.

However, I'm not a natural and I'm not motivated to get over that hump to the point that I become an impressive player. I don't see myself in that role and I'm not desperate to express myself through drums (I'm more eloquent with words). I just want to enjoy the physical sensations of the movements and to contribute to an enjoyable band sound on a basic visceral level (and without pretension), with the drumming being barely noticed in itself.

If someone says they enjoyed the music, that it made them feel good / happy / etc ... that's what I want to hear after a gig more than anything.
 
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Otto

Platinum Member
"If someone says they enjoyed the music, that it made them feel good / happy / etc ... that's what I want to hear after a gig more than anything. "

Polly, you should take on student(s).

That idea is sorely missing in most new student thought formation.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
vir·tu·o·so   [vur-choo-oh-soh] Show IPA noun, plural -sos, -si  [-see] Show IPA, adjective
noun
1.
a person who has special knowledge or skill in a field.
2.
a person who excels in musical technique or execution.

Id say all of the above .....and many more
Yes Moon, I explained the meaning of virtuosity in the OP, and I agree that all 3 samples are displaying a certain degree of virtuosity, that's the very reason I choose these examples, but it was also implied that the adjectives we tend to use to describe a virtuoso during a performance is also a criteria to establish our peception of the skill of a drummer, for me it's more than just an incredible level of technical proficiency, which both Thomas Lang, Jojo Mayer and Brian Blade have by buckets full of it :)

depends how high the bar is set, depends who is judging it
True Toddy, it's depending very much to the perception of the listener and our ability to acknowledge the amplitude of the mastering a drummer is displaying within a musical context. :)

For me only Jojo's playing would be a virtuoso performance, however I feel this is largely based on style of playing that allows him more space to work within. I think what Thomas Lang did there was absolutely perfect, but it didn't have that emotional connection, same with Brian Blade, though he had more room to work in hes no Joe Morello.
The examples in the OP show a different type of feel and technical approach for different music indeed, your comments are interesting though, as I felt that Brian Blade was the most "connected" there and displaying a really soulful vibe in the song, virtuosity at work for me, more than a "cold" display of technical prowness, but hey! I'm a fan of all 3 drummers. :)

Virtuosos rarely influence me. They belong in a different musical universe to me. Nothing beats a highly expressive and eloquent virtuoso, where you feel like the music is coming directly from the soul to you with no "static" getting in the way.
Exactly my thoughts on this topic, virtuosity is more than technical abillity, no matter how fast and how complicated a drummers' skills is rated. :)

If someone says they enjoyed the music, that it made them feel good / happy / etc ... that's what I want to hear after a gig more than anything.
True, it always chuff me out no end if someone is touched by my music or my playing, but I'm almost certainly no virtuoso though. ;-)
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
"If someone says they enjoyed the music, that it made them feel good / happy / etc ... that's what I want to hear after a gig more than anything. "

Polly, you should take on student(s).

That idea is sorely missing in most new student thought formation.
Ha! Thanks Otto, but if I taught there'd be a lot of cranky local drum teachers having to undo the bad grip and stroke of my students :)

I get what you're saying, though. I think it's natural when you're young to want to stretch the boundaries. I wanted to be such a badass in my teens ... it took a few years experience for me to realise that my "big chops" weren't tight enough to be functional.

There's also, maybe, an increasing emphasis on the spectacular (ie. virtuosity and apparent virtuosity) these days, eg. gospel chops, speed metal. That's pretty well the trend in the arts generally, eg. big and hyper-realistic sculptures and paintings, big production films. Subtlety doesn't easily cut through with all the dazzling alternatives around.

I found that with age I couldn't be bothered being frenetic any more. It didn't feel like honest expression for me anyway, since I'm a very laid back person in daily life. I had to find another niche, and people like Ringo, Charlie (both of whom I dissed as a teen), Pretty Purdie and Steve Jordan showed me the way ...

Having said that, I could listen to players like Brian Blade, Bill Bruford, Steve Gadd, Michael Walden, Billy Cobham, Steve Smith, Papa Jo, Pierre Moerlen, Art, Bonzo, Tony Williams, Elvin etc all day ...


Mad About Drums said:
Exactly my thoughts on this topic, virtuosity is more than technical abillity, no matter how fast and how complicated a drummers' skills is rated.
For sure. That's what I was talking about before ... "apparent virtuosity", where a player can bring the house down as long as everything's set up for them to shine. When it comes to supporting they don't have the subtlety of true virtuosos like the players I listed above.

... which is fine, of course. Superficial flash artists have their shtick and they do it incredibly well. Sometimes superhumanly so. I can greatly enjoy 5 minutes of Tony Royster Jr or Aaron Spears, and I can be inspired by Tomas Haake for a good 30 seconds or so ... any more than that and I'm starting to feel headache-y :)

There was a time when I dug drumming acrobats more than anything. Every style has its time and place and audience.
 

AndyMC

Senior Member
I guess my problem with a drummer virtuoso or whatever is that for me the ultimate virtuoso I have seen (not IRL) is Yo Yo Ma. What he does with a cello I've never heard anyone else come close to, with any instrument. Now there are many great cello players out there, go to any major orchestra and pick the first chair cellist, I guarantee hes an incredible musician, but still no Yo Yo Ma. I feel most of the drummers we look to are at the first chair level, it is very rare for someone to connect with the music more than that, Beethovens aren't born every day and I'm glad they aren't, it's what makes them special and why we remember them through the ages. I also believe any time there is someone with that level of emotive power they are discovered and usually become something of a household name, which no major modern drummer has done. (I do realize there are probably major holes in this last argument and please give me some examples if I am wrong.)
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
I guess my problem with a drummer virtuoso or whatever is that for me the ultimate virtuoso I have seen (not IRL) is Yo Yo Ma. What he does with a cello I've never heard anyone else come close to, with any instrument. Now there are many great cello players out there, go to any major orchestra and pick the first chair cellist, I guarantee hes an incredible musician, but still no Yo Yo Ma. I feel most of the drummers we look to are at the first chair level, it is very rare for someone to connect with the music more than that, Beethovens aren't born every day and I'm glad they aren't, it's what makes them special and why we remember them through the ages. I also believe any time there is someone with that level of emotive power they are discovered and usually become something of a household name, which no major modern drummer has done. (I do realize there are probably major holes in this last argument and please give me some examples if I am wrong.)
I think if there's one drummer comparable to Beethoven or a genius in that level, it would have to be Tony Williams, I share John Riley's sentiment in that I can't begin to grasp how he revolutionized the way we play drums when he was basically still a teenager.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I guess my problem with a drummer virtuoso or whatever is that for me the ultimate virtuoso I have seen (not IRL) is Yo Yo Ma. What he does with a cello I've never heard anyone else come close to, with any instrument. Now there are many great cello players out there, go to any major orchestra and pick the first chair cellist, I guarantee hes an incredible musician, but still no Yo Yo Ma. I feel most of the drummers we look to are at the first chair level, it is very rare for someone to connect with the music more than that, Beethovens aren't born every day and I'm glad they aren't, it's what makes them special and why we remember them through the ages. I also believe any time there is someone with that level of emotive power they are discovered and usually become something of a household name, which no major modern drummer has done. (I do realize there are probably major holes in this last argument and please give me some examples if I am wrong.)
I agree that Yo Yo Ma is a virtuoso cello player and more, it's the feel, the texture, the soul and brilliance that's coming out of his cello that's touching audiences around the world, I found this solo piece astonishing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLB3N6Q1z48&feature=related

As I mentioned in the OP, it is somehow easier to appreciate the dextirity and virtuosity of a single melodic instrument, they're leading instruments, in whichever styles, as opposed to the drums which is an accompaniment instrument, it is not percieved the same way by the general audience, even here, on a drummer's forum, we're having different opinions on this very topic as to virtuosity in regard to drums and drummers.

I think we'll all agree that Hiromi Uehara is a virtuoso on the piano after hearing/watching this live performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXOAx4D2cO0&feature=related

So I can fully understand your point where you stating " I also believe any time there is someone with that level of emotive power they are discovered and usually become something of a household name, which no major modern drummer has done", yes it is difficult indeed, hence this thread. :)

But I agree with Polly, certain drummers (too many to mention here) have achieved that "status" of virtuosity at the drums, some at a very young age too. :)

I also agree that there's a lot of "apparent virtuosity" as Polly put it, that is happening out there in the music, and yes, these drummers fit the criteria of the thesaurus dictionary explanation of "virtuosity", but somehow, something's definitely missing in my view. :)

I'll end up this lenghty post with a jazz trio, all 3 musicians are virtuoso IMO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERrURj2MlxA&feature=related
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Yes, but the players are. If they aren't virtuosos then they're something that feels an awful lot like one :)

Jojo is quite amazing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWRU3Sxt9tY
Two of the three drummers in the OP are not even performing with a band. The Lang clip looks like part of an instructional video and Jojo appears to be doing a clinic playing along with a pre-recorded track.

I think drummers are especially susceptible to being impressed by technical facility in a context where it has nothing to do with music. It seems to go with the territory of the instrument. But watching a drummer perform on his own isn't enough for me. In order for me to bestow "virtuoso" on a musician, I need to experience him performing music. I get that what Jojo is doing is sort of redefining what a drummer can do in a techno-type setting. And he's brilliant at it. But my personal evaluation needs to include more.

And yeah, I've seen Jojo play with a band and he is a virtuoso. But I'm trying to make a point, I guess.

There are a lot of technicians who can do amazing things on the drums. But how many of them have impacted music in any way? How many of them have played music that really moved you and in such a way that a big part of what moved you was the contribution the drums made?

Jojo actually talks about this a great deal in an interview that I think can be found on this site. I agree with him.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
8Mile, seems like we're back to that idea of "apparent virtuosos" again. Your views make sense to me. Drums are such a physical instrument, and some players are much stronger with the physical side of things than the musical side.

Which is fine ... you get acrobatic performances that are fun in their own right. We both prefer players who are part of really expressive music to those who are basically just saying "Hey! Look at this! It's unbelievable!".
 
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