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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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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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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Press On: Why Making Music Matters… Even When It Seems Like It Doesn’t

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.

These are dangerous thoughts.

Fortunately, these bouts of negativity don’t last too terribly long these days. I’ve kind of developed a way of thinking myself back out of them – in very much the same way I think myself into them in the first place… And if you’ve wandered into this treacherous mental territory, I want to help you do the same.
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Drummers, Don’t Worry About The Prodigies

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…

But it doesn’t matter.

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Why Bother With Other Instruments?

Jack of all trades and master of none?

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.

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