I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

So… I know a few things, but only kind of.

Broadly, though, I don’t have a god damn clue what I’m doing – on stage, at work, booking shows, teaching lessons, simply existing as a human being… It’s a work in progress at every single point, and likely always will be.

The good news is, depsite what anyone may tell you, it’s that way for everyone.

Total confidence is a spectre, and vague notion on the wind – and we should all embrace that.

Almost every day, I experience unfamiliarity, but with the right approach, it’s an adventure – a chance to refine what little information I have into something a little more actionable – or in some cases, the barely-informed actions present bits of wisdom I can add to my growing (but forever incomplete) body of knowledge.

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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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A Clinic With Derico Watson

I hail from a small(ish) town called Muskegon, Michigan. We’ve got a few “claims to fame,” but for the drumming community, one of the proudest is being the hometown of Derico Watson.

Derico is a powerhouse of a player with plenty of chops and super deep pocket, but even more importantly, he just exudes joy and passion when he plays. He’s passionate about many things actually, he is a natural medicine advocate, and talks to everyone who will listen about the benefits of alternative medicine over conventional. Not many people consider alternatives when they get sick, but many that have been around him do now because of the wealth of knowledge he has on the subject. If you want to look into this further you can go here to check out alternative medicine.

Perhaps best known for his work with Victor Wooten, Derico has had a huge impact on the drummers hailing from this part of the world, myself included. Even though I missed the opportunity to study with him when I was younger, products of his education exist across our local scene – and his influence (in my humble opinion) has raised the bar for the drummers of West Michigan.

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Authenticity: Social and Musical Currency

I’ve been a little lost on what to write about lately. I’m not a pro drummer, I’m just working on it – so who the hell am I? Why does it matter what I have to say?

…But oh so gradually, I’ve been starting to figure it out. From the conversations I have with my musical peers to the responses I got on Sarahah, the marketing material I edit for my dayjob to a talking point at the Derico Watson clinic I recently attended… The message shows itself time and time again – most of us are just too stuck to soak it in:

THERE’S ONLY ONE YOU

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Transform Your Anger to Art

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.

…Or at least creativity.

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A Guide to Being A Drummer on The Internet

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.

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So, You’re an Old Dog Drummer… Want Some New Tricks?

Habits are hard as hell to break… Especially when you’ve been reinforcing them year after year, gig after gig, to the point they’re no longer just habits – they are parts of your personality.

As drummers, this isn’t an entirely bad thing. Our go-to grooves, the way we tune our toms, even the way we setup our kits is part of our signature, our individual musical identity. Even beyond “what you’re used to,” personality plays a big role in the gear we choose, the sound we hear in our head, the styles we choose to play, and on and on…

But what if you want to learn something new? Or… What if your setup, your gear, your grooves aren’t the product of conscious choices or a personal aesthetic… But just habit – the way you’ve settled into doing things?

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The Twofold Path – Part 4: Application

Over the last three entries on this here blog, I’ve been trying to cover my current (loose) approach to learning and developing my skillset on the drums. I’m calling it “The Twofold Path” because there are, well, two primary elements – exactly what I looked in Parts 2 and 3 – “chops” and “groove.”

Surely there are plenty of other things to consider in this vast world of percussive music making, but for me… Right now… This is where my head’s at.

In Part 2, the focus was chops and technical facility on the kit, and that should be a pretty major part of everyone’s practice. Really, this side of the coin can be expanded into anything technically oriented – speed, independence, pattern memorization, technique…

The other side (covered in Part 3) can be expanded into everything musical and practical – including things that require the ability and facility mentioned above.

Where one side is physical, the other is mostly mental.

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The Twofold Path – Part 3: The Groove

OKAY – we’ve made it this far into a murky topic… A daunting subject to tackle, but I’ll do my best to keep things on track. This is where we really have to start slogging through the weeds though, because there’s some terminology we might not all agree on, some variation in styles of music… Even some differences in WHY people want to play drums in the first place.

Let’s get a primary definition out of the way.

Here in Part 3, we’re mostly talking about the single MOST important aspect of being a drummer – keeping time. That is first and foremost what I mean by “groove.”

For our purposes, it’s the drummer’s playing within the context of an ensemble or a piece of music that provides pulse and feel. That means both the overall pulse of the music at hand and the spacing of the notes orbiting around it. It’s not just metronomic timekeeping, but that’s a decent place to start.

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The Twofold Path – Part 2: Building Chops

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…

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