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.
Continue reading The Confidence/Knowledge Paradox
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.
Continue reading A Clinic With Derico Watson
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
Continue reading Authenticity: Social and Musical Currency
[This was originally written as an internal blog for my day job at LongerDays, but seemed fitting for here too… This goes for way more than drumming! Let me know what holds you back.]
Putting yourself out there can be scary… Even more so when you’re sharing a creative work. We pour ourselves into these projects to sharpen skills, to express ourselves, to get a message across… But when it comes time to share it with the world, the propensity to hesitate is OH SO REAL.
Continue reading Creative Confidence
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.
Continue reading Transform Your Anger to Art
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.
Continue reading A Guide to Being A Drummer on The Internet
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.
Continue reading The Twofold Path – Part 4: Application
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.
Continue reading The Twofold Path – Part 3: The Groove
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…
Continue reading The Twofold Path – Part 1: Introduction
Teaching drums seems like tricky business, having only really dabbled in it myself. It’s one thing to go over things with your peers, to compare licks, or even to learn from a teacher (or a video) something reasonably within your skill level…
But I’m talking about teaching beginners. Not necessarily kids – at least for me, because I don’t have any experience in it – but largely novice drummers.
There’s something valuable in getting back in touch with those roots, though, that makes you reevaluate the importance of your first rudiments, your first fills, of gaining those first few glimpses at independence.
Continue reading Teaching Drums – First Attempt