WHY LESS IS MORE
Welcome to my first blog and thanks for taking the time to read it.
2013 has been very productive so far. Lot’s of big plans are in place with Little Comets and my own personal projects of teaching /workshops/clinics are busier than ever.
These recording sessions turned out to be a major success and created more opportunities for me to work with other musical people and projects in and around Ibiza.
It’s always a blast working with Andy, along with the unfathomable stories he tells, you learn a hell of a lot about playing, production, the industry and good food!
To work with someone who has had an immense level of success not only from being in one of the biggest bands in the world with Duran Duran but also the insane production/song writing CV he has, and for him not have an ego along with being a very down to earth guy is refreshing and I feel very grateful to work for him while also expanding my musical knowledge.
Which brings me onto my subject matter for this blog: Advice for new musicians and my students.
Getting far as a musician, being chosen for “That gig” and getting the respect of your peers isn’t always about technicality, or “I have done this”, “I have played here with this person”, it’s sometimes more about your personality.
There is a lot of downtime and a lot of hurry up and wait to being in or working with a band so getting along with other musicians, being a pleasent person to be around, professional and punctual is a very important part of the job, it can get you the job and allow you to keep the job!
As the saying goes, “It’s not the 2 hours onstage, it’s the 22 hours offstage”.
As well as being a good person to get on with, personality and awareness in your playing is also vital to further a career in music.
Seeing a lot of technically amazing musicians in recent times.. I mean SERIOUS players, and some at ridiculously young ages is mind blowing but I feel there is a lack of “Less is more” in certain situations.. Where the drummer is completely obliterating a track with over playing and not listening to the song at all!
“Less is more” is a vital part of any musicians job.
In my case take Little Comets for example, a very melodic rhythmic band.. Almost afrobeat.
The flow of the lyrics is often percussive, so when I am playing live or recording with them it can sometimes be tempting to add a big drum fill or crash out loud on lots of cymbals instead of just sticking to a solid groove. I have learned that what makes their music sound really cool from a drumming perspective (behind everyone else’s great writing and musicianship) is laying back and concentrating on the beat. Although the drum parts can sound (and often are) quite complex, they always intend to compliment the song and never get in the way of it – whether that be as a counter rhythm, a call and response type part or accenting certain vocal parts to emphasise a certain emotion the guys are trying to get across. Also playing to never clash with the other musical parts and vocals plus leaving space are very important. Very occasionally there may be a little space where I can try to add something cool or a little more technical.. But most of the time it won’t need it and I resort to keeping it simple.
Laying a solid groove is priceless and timeless.
A good example of this is John “JR” Robinson. I have had lots of pleasure listening to and studying his drumming over the years.
John “JR” Robinson is the most recorded drummer in history (click here for more info on that achievement), and some of the albums he recorded drums on are Michael Jacksons, ‘Off The Wall’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’.
What makes songs like, ‘Billie Jean’ from the ‘Thriller’ album and ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ from the ‘Bad’ album have so much groove and feel??? Sticking.. To.. The.. Beat.. Hardly any drum fills, just groove on it and feel it.. Go ahead, listen to them (The YouTube links are at the bottom of this blog).
I always try to stress this point when teaching my students, “Play less”, “Take that out”, “Be aware of what else is going on in the song”. etc.
For a lot of musicians, the most fun you can have playing an instrument is feeling it.
So don’t overplay if the song doesn’t need it, get into the hypnotic pocket and stay in it solidly, if you play simple but from your gut and really put that UMMPH! in your groove, you will make much more of a bold statement than the attitude of.. “Let’s see how many drums and cymbals I can hit in this section, that will impress them!!!”.
And by applying these with other basic rules of drumming, a unique musical personality will begin to develop.
That’s not to say there are times when you can be technical, take bands like Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, Slipknot, Tool or Rush where the drum part (or any other instrument) is sometimes extremely technical and can have constant time changes. It works great, but it’s within the context of that style of music, and that style of music demands those kinds of parts.
In layman’s terms.. Play for the song, not for yourself!! 🙂