Today I want to share with you a journey. Some of you may have shared the same experience I did and I venture to guess it’s not that uncommon for those of you who grew up in the same time period that I did. I started playing drums in the early 1980’s when hair metal was just coming on the scene. Drummers at that time went way overboard and were often surrounded by huge double bass drum kits that they couldn’t possibly play. “More” was considered better and it was as if drummers were competing to see who could outdo the other. This excess greatly influenced my opinion of drummers. To me, these were the drummers worth listening to, not those traditional cats who played little four piece sets. That wasn’t cool. Because of that ignorance I automatically passed on the non-metal drummers of the world. At least for some time.
Then one day I was introduced to big band and jazz. What a revelation! Suddenly I didn’t care about hair metal anymore. I found myself listening to some of the most exciting and technically sound drummers I’d ever heard. Unlike hair metal, I couldn’t play it very well, but it sure inspired me to be a better drummer. Instead of wanting to be on stage I wanted to be on a bandstand. I discarded one of my rack toms and even picked up a pair of brushes. I studied these cats, how they accentuated what the band was doing. Their technique and form complimented each song and they crafted their parts around the other instruments. This was what drumming was supposed to be. Not just timekeeping. It had musicality. Vinnie Colaiuta explained it like this: “Anytime you strike the drums, you have to be aware that you’re creating a musical event.”
This music motivated me. I practiced and practiced and got as close as I could to what Vinnie spoke of, a musical approach to drumming. Soon after I found myself playing in the high school jazz band and selected to play at the Mellon Jazz Festival. What an experience! I still don’t consider myself a jazz drummer but I do feel that I broadened my horizons. Today I listen to all kinds of music and I can appreciate all kinds of drumming, but it was that first leap forward that opened up my mind to what is possible with a little inspiration and a pair of drumsticks. Have you experienced anything that changed your approach to drumming? Share your story in the comments below.