Don’t let your ego in the way of making you a great drummer. A great freind and teacher used to tell us before class. “Leave your ego at the door”. When we come together to drum, to learn or to play together it is important we come with respect for each other no matter what level of playing we are at.
Everyone can drum and everyone has their own unique beat or inner rhythm. If we did not, we would not be alive. The heart is our pulse. All throughout my life I have always tapped, and still after so many years always notice people tapping. It is a universal thing everyone does. We all can relate to drumming. This is for sure!
Sometimes in the study of traditional drumming we try so hard to emulate our teachers and the styles we are studying that we forget the validity of our own natural rhythms and ideas. Other times we feel so much, we have so much enthusiasm and we sound so good to ourselves we believe we are already there. In some ways we are, but..with out technique, how to hit the drum how to make sounds how to annunciate properly, we are missing out on a much greater experience. Not only for ourselves but for anyone lse that happens to be listening as well.
When I listen to my tapes from my jazz band at RISD in 1975 I made painfully aware of my thunder drumming past. People told me I should take classes but I was sure I already “had it”. I was so in tune with the records I was playing and I was so happy to jam all day. Basicaly my ego was huge. It felt so great to play, I thought I was great! My ego just could not believe that I was not already a master in one year! That is how excited I was about playing. The creative force is powerful in us. I did not want to study a form, have yet another teacher tell me what to do, tell I was wrong. Or have some one cramp my style.
Drumming for me in the beginning was about freedom of expression. Playing from the heart and letting it all rip. But I had an experience that changed my life forever. It happened one night when the RISD jazz band was playing at a local club. The saxophonist invited M’Butu, local conga player to sit in with us. He came with four drums and set them up in the front. Annoyingly he played through each brake even when the band stopped. He was trying to make a point.
When I got up the courage to confront him after the gig I asked him, “why did you do that”? He told me something I will never forget. And I will pass it on to you. “If you do not listen to people who are better then you, you will never learn or improve”. I had an epiphany, and this is when I decided to change from being an artist to being a musician. I moved to Boston in 1976 to find a teacher and begin my studies as a professional player. Since then despite becoming a teacher, a recording artist and many other things, I have never given up being a student. I always take classes even from group members or people that may not know as much as me, but know something I do not know.
Listening to others even beginners is valid and important. You can learn from anyone at any time regardless of level or experience and really for me drumming is all about learning. Study from a valid teacher and balance it out with your own feelings and beats as well.
Now that I have been playing over 30 years I see that you need to learn a form before you can drop the form. Many of us in the west want to drop the form before we ever learn it though. However, a strong foundation in basic concepts of drumming, in time and technique is incredibly important. Technique, or how you hit the drum and make sound is an ever expanding and never ending search. If we can put our egos aside and support each other we can have much more harmony in our drumming and in our communities as well.