I Can’t Dance – Unless I’m Behind A Kit

The other night I had another life affirming moment.

I was flipping through the TV channels and as usual there was nothing of interest on any station.  So as is customary I go all the way up to channel 369 which is Palladia and then work my way back down.

Now it was after 10:00 PM so I was really just killing time and winding down from the day.  I really wasn’t looking for anything in particular other than a quick and interesting snippet of a show.

Palladia was airing a Rush documentary.

I liked Rush in my younger days.  I still get a kick out of listening to them once in a while but my tastes have transitioned in my older days.

When I stopped on the show it was at the part where they were talking about Neil Peart.  This caught my attention so I stopped to listen.

Neil talked about reaching a point in his playing where after working so long with click tracks his playing had become almost robotic and this troubled him.

So he studied with Freddie Gruber.

Up to this point I had never heard of Freddie Gruber or if I did I didn’t remember.

I spent some time researching him but what grabbed my attention was here you have Neil Peart at the height of his career still taking lessons.  What was he looking for? What was he trying to learn?

He was looking for feel and flow.


How I dance in front of my kit.

At one point during the show Freddie Gruber talked about how playing was like a dance.  I was excited because that’s how I viewed my playing.

It’s not quarter notes, eighth notes or sixteenth notes that I’m playing.  I’m playing a rhythm that is generated from inside me and flows through my arms and legs.

Freddie Gruber talked about using the space.  I have often thought about that, about how I use various motions with my arms and legs for timing, rhythm and feel.

This affirmed how many times I have seen drummers and think technically they are good but there is no life or pop in their performance.

That’s because they are just playing a sequence of notes they have programmed into themselves.  It’s like they’re just transferring the sheet music through their limbs onto the drums.

They’re not breathing life into their performance.  They are using an instrument but they are not playing an instrument.

One of my favorite drummers to watch play is Abe Laboriel Jr.  And the reason I love watching him play is his fluid motion.  What he is playing is an extension of himself and you can see it with your eyes closed.


How I dance behind my kit.

A drummer occupies and utilizes the space in and around his kit like a dancer.  He or she is doing a dance and expressing themselves.

It was very affirming to hear this concept from a very prestigious drummer and his teacher.

I guess that’s why I can’t dance with my wife.  I can dance to music and express myself, I just need a drum kit to do it.

© 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.

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