People seem unhappy. There are things happening in the forefront of public discourse that spark a lot of disagreement. Anger and fear, even just mild disgust, seem all the more common.
As usual, it’s that much more visible too (thanks internet), but it’s hard to ignore a pervasive sentiment of negativity.
I may be wandering into controversial territory…
FIRST AND FOREMOST: a big ol’ caveat for this post… I am not inviting political and ideological debate of the usual sort. Not in the comments here, or anywhere on social media. If you want to have a productive discussion, we can (one on one) – but this has way less to do with politics and way more to do with art.
I’ve got something of a mantra: BOREDOM IS A MYTH.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that people can’t be bored… Rather that they shouldn’t be. This also doesn’t mean that there’s no value in downtime, just relaxing, idle chat with friends, or an aimless wander through nature.
No, I’m aimed at the “ugh, there’s nothing to do!” kind of boredom – sitting around uncomfortable, focused on your lack of options. Daydreaming is not boredom. Scrolling through Facebook, barely even reading anything, is. Straight up killing time with a vague awareness “I’m bored” and little else is, well, bullshit.
We live in some weird times. Smartphones, YouTube, the upheaval of the music industry, vitriol-spewing trolls, more information than we can possibly digest, bombarding us from every angle, every minute of the day…
This is life on the internet.
These relatively new (and harsh) realities are having an effect on the way we do business, the way we consume media, and even the way we feel about ourselves (or others). If you’ve spent any time digging around online, I’m sure you feel it too.
There’s no turning back at this point though. No one’s going to burn their routers or cast their smartphones into the sea. We simply have to find a way to make do… A way to not get lost in the great overwhelm that is being a person with internet access in the 21st century.
In Part 1, I laid out a little bit of my background thought process on this journey of “learn to shred, then don’t.”
The first part of that ideology, then, is the shreddery – that is, chops, technical facility, speed, complex sticking, and so on. For me, this is an area of weakness that I’m gradually chipping away at – but I’ve never really been a “shredder.” I do, however, want to be…
We’ll get to the why question in a moment – but first, let’s talk about how.
It really isn’t THAT tough to build speed, chops, licks, etc., as long as you’re willing to spend the time and exercise some patience. This isn’t a short journey, but you should probably know that by now…
Big, sweeping platitudes only carry so much weight… But in the moments when we can put complex ideas into a concise little nugget of wisdom, it’s at least worth hanging onto as an easy reminder.
My first introduction to what I want to unpack in this series comes from an excellent Charlie Parker quote:
“Master your instrument. Master the music, then forget all that shit and just play.”
I’ve been growing this idea in my head for a little while now, and it has continued to gain steam the more podcasts I listen to, the more interviews I read – the more I try to pay attention to the “greats” as it were, or at least the people I think are doing the right things on the kit.
I think Parker is absolutely right, but I’m looking at this as a drum nerd, not just a musician (and not just as an improviser). I also think there’s a ton of value to be had in the idea of striving for mastery, then paring down as much of it as possible for the sake of practicality and effect…
Making music is a joy in itself. Playing and creating is its own reward. Self expression is essential.
All that is certainly true… but only part of the equation. If ALL the “value” came just from playing, why we would we bother to perform?
Sure, you can make a little dough. You might get to look cool or gain some social status. Playing on stage is exhilarating, and people applauding is a wonderful ego stroke… but I still don’t think that’s the best part (or even terribly valuable at all).
Damn, I almost tumbled into a terrible valley a little while back. Somewhere over the course of the day, I lost sight of work ethic, though that’s putting it a little lightly…
I have this propensity, from time to time, to think too hard about the biggest questions (vast spans of time and space, inevitability, etc.) and without getting nihilistic here, it gets a bit dark up there in my brainpiece (I save that kind of writing for another place – occasionally). Applied to drumming though, it’s an ugly path to wander down.
You stop thinking about the long road of learning, the joy of growth, and get caught up in A) discouraged feelings of “not good enough,” and B) some sense that it doesn’t mean anything, that it’s an empty pursuit.
Let’s not beat around the bush: there’s a lot of “competition” out there…
No matter what instrument you play (or really, whatever creative pursuit you’re into), you’re not the only one – and some of those other people are going to be downright awesome…
…People you see at shows around town, guys in the local music shop, the band from the neighboring city who made it big, and of course, the mighty internet.
Everywhere you look, you can find people doing things you can’t, who wrote a song you didn’t…
And it kind of sucks.
It’s discouraging sometimes, right? When see a video of a seven year old lace YYZ, or some teenager you’ve never heard of has chops that make you feel like a beginner?
There’s the wide, wide world of professional drummers too – legends like Weckl and Buddy aside, there are hundreds, thousands of players out there that are just jaw-droppingly good at the instrument. The more you look, the more you study, the more names you learn…
And all the while, people all around you are practicing and shedding, getting better everyday…
Perspective is a funny thing – it has a way of (narrowly) defining how we see the world, and preventing us from seeing the wider picture. We can only ever really understand things through our own experience… even hearing lessons from others and trying to put ourselves in their shoes is only an approximation…
Yeah… uhhhh… what’s he talkin’ about? Isn’t this supposed to be about drums or something?
Stick with me, all of this perspective stuff is important.
As far as I can tell, it’s the biggest factor that influences how any of us might feel about our own playing.
One perspective might lead someone to feel totally inept. They’ll look at the vast world of drummers – famous ones, local shredders, all the stuff they can’t do… and get bogged down with self doubt.
Another perspective might do just the opposite and lend itself to confidence – even cockiness – because of the praise of others, standing in a local community, honors, etc. It might make people feel like they’re the best there is, and that there isn’t really anything more they can (or should) do to improve.
Both of those, no matter how beginner or advanced a drummer might be, are only a shred of the bigger picture…
If skills take time and energy to develop (and they certainly do), why waste precious hours on something other than your favorite? Or at least… on things you don’t really plan on putting all that much effort into?
My drumming to do list is a staggering, sometimes daunting reality that’s never too far from my mind. I know I have an all but endless amount of things to practice and learn, that things can always be cleaner, faster, funkier… It truly never ends. I hear people who can play circles around me say the same thing, so I know it’s not just me.
The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.