Break their rules and yours. Both are equally compelling…and restrictive
That’s what the video’s about. Unfortunately, the intro is clipped off but here’s a summation: Sometimes you gotta abandon all the book-learning, teaching, tuning protocols, and trends and enjoy primal percussion.
My ragged video (you’d think a guy who’s done a slew of soundtracks would know more about the audio/video process) illustrates this. It shows me breaking my sacred rules and getting rewarded by a few surprising dynamic swells, unique patterns, and unlikely fills.
Don’t like rules? Break them
The dogmas of gear choice and curriculum choice can choke a drummer. One year you learn to play 5 and 6-stroke rolls between snare and closed-hats. Next year this is deemed clinical and cliché. So you follow a new regime. You buy a snare with a smaller-diameter head, and maybe place another one east of the hi-hat, the latter which has grown to a mighty 16” diameter.
Similarly, I remember being puzzled at one juncture by A New Way of Playing Drums. That is, everybody was talking about playing linear as if it were heaven-sent. I guess, like one of the tablets Moses is alleged to have hauled down the mount, it cracked—in this instance due to strains imposed by playing drums in the real world.
To tell you the truth, I did about six takes of this video. When cutting, I’d stumble over my spoken words (what else is new?), speak or play a little too casually when addressing a serious topic, or just break wind or get an itch. The seventh take (which you see here) was a toss-off before dinner—my spouse is the equivalent of a gourmet chef and had sounded the bell. Something outside of drumming distracted me and this freed me, somehow. You see me reaching behind me, grasping a piccolo snare drum, certainly not in the script, and placing it on a snare stand set for a taller drum. Accordingly, you see me stop and raise the drum so I crack my usual rimshot. Maybe that’s a habit I can break, too. Meanwhile, I’m laying into an atypically, for me, thin ride and crash, remembering that I’ve been extolling the merits of super-heavy rides in these pages. Forget about it Tbw!
When you forget the rules, newly fashioned ideas, phrases, and concepts issue forth like a fire hose. Excused from regular duty, ideas fly by with frightening rapidity. You gotta beat ‘em off with a stick. I mean, you can tell I’m no Thomas Lang—and he’s a pal and I love his absolute controlled-soul—but I’m not made that way. Still I can deliver a pulse and, hey, a community of ideas, some of them never uttered before. You be the judge on that one. And on your own playing. I’ve laid bare mine. Time for you to have a go.
I break rules, you break rules, we all come out ahead!
I mean it. You ought to break your own rules, speaking gear choice and execution. Believe it, one affects the other. Don’t be stuck in a rut. I hear so many young drummers half my age who have settled down and listen to no music post-Dave Matthews Band. Come on! Keep it moving or otherwise, come my age, you’ll be talking about the good old days and reminiscing about back when they made cymbals properly. You’re going to be missing out great players and cool gear. Speaking of which: Taylor Hawkins, I applaud you for your lurch to the left, or perhaps to the right, by re-introducing open-ended toms. That’s a stroke of welcome rule-breaking friskiness. It’s a statement. And it’s not for show: you’ve got something to say, sometimes at a crushing volume, and these toms are appropriate instruments.
There you go. Taylor’s new toms are a return to the single-headed era. And will spawn new drumming. I mean, it was just a matter of time.
All this to say, let loose, toss the rules, and see what emerges. Don’t count, don’t read, maybe screw up the rudiments. Instead of riding on the regimen or spying the printed page, sing some song in your head, whether it’s “Silent Night”, “Black Hole Sun”, “The Other Side”, or one of your own devising—and see where it takes you.