A little while back, I recounted the slightly silly story of some jams that happened a while back. It wasn’t very “drum specific,” just something that we all may face at one point or another.
I wanted to come back to it from a drummer’s angle, though, and talk about the other (more personal) side of the “challenge” at hand.
When I play with Short Hair Domestics, I go for a very intentionally minimal setup: kick, snare, hats, and a crash – that’s it. It’s a perfect setup for that particular band, and helps me keep the parts simple to fit the straightforward theme of the songs.
For a jam session though, that means no B section on the ride, no tom fills, not even two different crash cymbal sounds to play with… but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In fact, playing such a stripped down setup is an opportunity to be creative, and really, a test of grooving abilities. Lately, I’ve been trying to pay a lot of attention to ghost notes and adding texture to my grooves (currently working out of The Breakbeat Bible), so this was a good chance to let some of that stuff come out in my playing.
And come out it did! I found myself jamming in the realm of slightly swung hiphop grooves around 90-95 bpm, and naturally pulling out Rll triplets for fills, playing some solid control strokes, concentrating a lot on snare drum dynamics, and choosing my fills (limited to snare and kick mostly) wisely.
Maybe this is a good idea for all of us to explore from time to time – take the china out of the kit, get rid of the rack tom, go back to single kick – whatever it is to take away some of the various objects to hit, and focus on making more sounds out of less equipment.
I don’t consider myself an expert – this is a long road of small steps – but by putting myself in a situation to improvise with minimal options, the things I’ve been learning specifically for snare drum started to emerge out of necessity.
And this tells me that the same might be the case for any particular angle of growing a particular area of drumming. Working on tom fills? Take some cymbals out of the setup to focus on the task at hand. Working on ride patterns? Screw it: kick, snare, ride…
Sometimes removing “distractions” is a great way to keep ourselves on task – and shows how many options we still have with very little equipment.
When’s the last time you went for a super basic setup?