Falling In Love: Reconnecting With Your Instrument

I love music, I love learning about it, I love digging into the craft, studying, challenging myself, practicing and performing as much as I can… I’m pretty certifiably obsessed.

Smitten.

I’m proud of it, honestly. I kind of relish the weird comments or disbelief that I try to do as much drumming as possible. It’s part of my identity, both internally and externally.

Plenty of people don’t have that, though… A relationship with music/an instrument that helps define them. Or maybe they did, and lost it somewhere along the road.

For those of us even a little serious about musicmaking, finding and honing our creative voices, I think we have to love what we do. We should be thinking about it waiting in line or sitting on the bus…

Infatuation with your instrument and the music it makes is (or at least should be) part of the process.

Balance is important of course, but I’m looking right at those folks who play… Who want to play… But always seem to find other things to occupy their attention.

If you don’t find yourself in my camp of “I want to do this ALL THE TIME” – how can you get there?

Or, a bit more practically, how can you stoke the fires of musical passion to make time to practice (which we all know is important), to put forth more effort than you currently are – because you want to.

How do you fall back in love with your instrument?

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Giving The Gift – A Concept Worth Remembering At Each and Every Gig

Sometimes all it takes is hearing the right message. The right collection of words at the right time can coalesce with existing experiences and unarticulated thoughts…

This is the stuff real inspiration is made of.

Totally new ideas take time to sink in, have to contend with existing worldview, hurdle psychological barriers.

But the right statement in the right context can bring nebulous ideas close to a pinpoint – and I recently had one of those moments.

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Lunch Break Groove Philosophy

If we’re Facebook friends, you may have seen my series of #Lunchbreak grooves. I’m up to like 42 of them now, and it has been a fun and interesting project…

In the spirit of connecting my various paths of creativity, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about why I’m doing them, what I’ve learned so far, and the value that we can all get out of “projects” like this.

First, these videos are rough and short form, done through Instagram and shared to Facebook. Even that has its purpose – while I have some IG followers, I currently have a much larger network on Facebook, and drum stuff seems to be less diluted there… Or rather, it’s where I’m connected to more people I know and care about, and that’s part of the impact I’m trying to make.

You can find the whole dang list right here.

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GET OFF YOUR ASS!!!

Someone has to say it.

I see it way too much – up close and at a distance – the incompatible combination of wanting to do something… AND NOT ACTUALLY PURSUING IT.

Forgive me for ranting. This isn’t usually my style, and before I wander into too much lecturing, I’ll gladly concede that everyone is different. We don’t all have the same goals, energy levels, patience, and so on…

But with that said, if you really want to improve as a musician, if you want to play gigs, if you just want to have faster single strokes – you have to work for it.

Now, there’s no benchmark for “success” that applies to everyone. Maybe you can’t (or don’t want to) dedicate massive amounts of time to the practice room or hustle for gigs every day – but if you want even a fraction of whatever success means to you, it absolutely requires effort.

There is no getting around it.

If you don’t care, or are perfectly content with your playing, your musical career (whatever that may be), etc., this isn’t for you.

If, however, you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes (like I do), you have to break out your metaphorical shovel and get to digging.

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Listening to Music You Don’t Like

Art is subjective, right?

We’re not all going to like every band, every song, even every style of music we hear… And that’s a good thing!

Our preferences are what determine our sound. Like it or not, we’re all the product of our combined influences – and in order to have favorites, it’s only logical that we have to have the opposite… Songs and styles we just don’t enjoy.

…But how we deal with the stuff we don’t like can be just as important – and educational – as the music that inspires us most.

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The Confidence/Knowledge Paradox

Confidence is a strange beast. Some seem to possess it inherently, others seem to fight to find it their entire lives. Musicians are notorious for this dichotomy, many acting as their “own worst critics” or constantly chasing some sense of artistic achievement that’s always out of reach.

The mighty Beethoven, a true master by all accounts, once wrote in a letter to a young admirer:

“The true artist is not proud, he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal; and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun.”

Even a man of his tremendous achievement is plagued by doubt, disheartened by some goal that always seems just over the horizon. Maybe it’s just part of being an artist…

But it’s also just part of being a human.

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Midwest Rhythm Summit: Grassroots and Beautiful

I recently had the pleasure of attending the first ever Midwest Rhythm Summit, hosted by Terra State Community College in Fremont, Ohio.

After a late night playing with Flexadecibel, I got up at the crack of dawn, scooped my buddy Kameron in Lansing, and high-tailed it to Ohio to catch the 2nd day of events. We made it just in time to get settled and start going to clinics.

Before I get into the specifics, I want to reiterate the importance of these types of events. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that the drumming community is vast, that we never stop learning, and that human beings all over the world can be brought together simply through the love of music.

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My Rough Approach to Gear Review (so far…)

I’m not an expert, but I’m working on it.

The business and blogging gurus of the world might tell me not to mention that, to present what I know with confidence, and avoid acknowledging gaps by way of intentional omission… But I’m not going to do that.

The entire point of this blog is exploration. I aim to chronicle the things I learn while I’m learning them, to share experiences and ideas and insights in whatever forms they come, however imperfect they might be – and by doing so, encourage you to do the same. Not for the sake of reputation, clout, or anything of the sort – but rather for the noble pursuit of knowledge, and owning the roughshod, meandering path that such pursuit includes.

As I wander my way into doing more “gear review” type posts, I’m met with a fair amount of imposter syndrome. I don’t run a studio. I don’t work for a drum company. I’ve had a relatively cool collection over my life, but there’s a TON I don’t know… But this is my place to explore and share, right?

With that in mind, I wanted to address the how and why of these “reviews,” partly to explain myself, but mostly to answer my own question: “why write reviews when I feel underqualified?”

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Gear Review: DW Collector’s Nickel Over Brass Snare – 14×6.5

Lovingly nicknamed “MVP,” this is something like DW’s take on a Black Beauty (kind of?) – at least in that it’s nickel-plated, thinly rolled brass.

This beast of a drum has some serious output. It projects like crazy, and is mostly manageable in the overtone department (I tend to like a deader, snappier snare sound). For a long time, this was my go-to drum for most applications – it’s sensitive enough for quiet ghost notes, and has a gnarly crack on the rim shots. It also seems to go WAY high in the tuning range without sounding choked out.

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The Power of Simplicity

I just had the distinct pleasure of seeing the Charlie Hunter Trio at Tip Top Deluxe in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Despite the title here, the music was by no means “simple” – and if you’re at all familiar with Charlie’s playing, you know just how technical and impressive it can be, aside from it’s mega tastiness.

The trio consisted of Charlie on his magical seven-string guitar, a singer (Dara Tucker), and a percussionist (Damon Grant)… And for the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus on the “drums.”

With a cajon, a few cymbals, some shakers, and a pedals for a tambourine and low boy, Damon’s parts were eloquently sparse and waaaay deep in the pocket…

We hear about it often: the licks that will get you fired, the importance of the groove, fills don’t pay the bills, keep it simple, and on and on – but this was a masterclass in the raw power and straight funkiness of minimal, beautifully played time and TONS of space.

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