One of the subjects I’ve wanted to write about is my approach to music and drumming at this point in my life.
When I was younger my playing was more about what I am doing, how do I sound and what do others think of my playing. I would wonder do I impress my fellow musicians and audience. I would wonder what more can I do.
I have learned to think about my playing in the context of the song. The song is the final product. Now, I think about what I am playing in the context of does it work within the song? Does it contribute to making the song the emotional experience it is supposed to be? Is it in the groove and never falls out? What can I remove to improve the song?
Think of Proverbs 25:7 – for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble
I’d rather be asked to add something than take it out.
I don’t want to stand out I just want to blend in perfectly with the song filling my spaces and leaving my holes.
My daydream is to be standing in a control room listening to the playback of a song that moves me and moves others and just be able to say I was a part of that.
I don’t want to be the best drummer in the world. How can you?
I just want to be the drummer who played the right part for the song.
I recently was on a kick where I was listening to three albums all from different artists.
At one point of listening I had a moment when I intrinsically learned about the common thread between all these artists. I would venture to guess that they all are acquaintances of each other and their professional lives have crossed paths at some point (obviously Robbie Robertson and Bob Dylan).
But the thread that I discovered and understood on a gut level was the understanding that these artists have of the recording process.
They use the recording studio as an instrument. They play the studio and make all the instruments, tracks and effects come out as one sound.
They have the ability and understanding about their craft to be able to work with the musicians and sounds and craft a unique piece of art. Much like a painting where the whole picture is enjoyed then slowly you delve into the colors, stokes, shades and subjects that together produce something pleasing to the eye.
Their work is pleasing to the ear and after first experiencing the song itself you then go back again and again to enjoy and discover the tracks and sounds that make up this finished piece of work.
A lot of what runs through my head I question and wonder, am I correct? Am I thinking too much about this subject? Am I missing something because of emotion or ignorance?
And so I was thinking the same thoughts about this assessment of recorded music.
Then the other night I was scrolling through the vast wastelands of narcissism know as Facebook and Twitter. I came upon a link posted by Chad Smith.
I like Steward Copeland and admire his accomplishments, from The Police to film scoring and orchestration. So I tend to listen and take to heart when someone of his stature has something to say.
He was talking about his orchestral composing. In the conversation he mentioned the ability to take a 70 piece orchestra and use it as one instrument.
At that moment my earlier thoughts about the Robertson, Dylan and Dave Stewart (and any good recording artist and producer) were confirmed.
That is exactly what they do; they can take a multitude of instruments, tracks, and sounds and make it one instrument.
They have this talent, this gift they have honed over the years to use all the musicians, instruments, effects, electronics, and sounds available in their studio environment and give the end product its own distinct sound. They use the studio as an instrument.
It’s not just microphones and tape.
It sure does boost your confidence when you have your thoughts confirmed by an artist of the caliber of Stewart Copeland.
He also talked about humility.
I then realized he was the one sharing all his accomplishments on a nationally syndicated show and I was the guy sitting there wasting my time on Facebook and Twitter.
To put this all in context with my drumming, this is how I want my drumming to be. I want to create, but be able to create something that fits into the recording puzzle and helps make the beautiful picture. I don’t want it to stand out, just blend right in. Then I’ll know its perfect.
© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.