The great thing about playing in a band (or even just playing a musical instrument) is the sense of fulfilment you get from learning something new or playing something well. Anyone who plays in a band will know that some of the most important parts from a drummer’s perspective are what we call breaks or set-ups ... that’s the time when the drummer varies the beat, or builds up so that the music flows from one section to the next, such as verse to chorus.
Another discipline which many of us drummers forget is basic timekeeping. We’re so focussed on our breaks (or set-ups) that we lose the sense of time and either speed up or slow down; both can be disastrous if you’re playing to a backing track or loop. We’re there as glue to hold everyone else together; to make the others (and the whole band) sound good.
On a slightly different (but related) tack, we have just completed some intensive karate training with our Japanese senei, Sensei Akita. Whilst we huffed and puffed and drew on energy that we didn’t know was still there, we were constantly reminded to focus on our technique. Each move, punch, kick and block has a start, a direction and an end. Any energy expended beyond the end of the movement is wasted and serves no purpose (except to drain us of energy we need).
You see, although drumming and karate are very different disciplines, they have common elements, elements and principles which actually overflow into our daily life.
- The element of focus … What am I doing? Where am I aiming? How am I going to do it? How can I do it to the best of my ability? When do I start? When do I finish? I need to know what I’m doing and why
- The element of energy … How much energy do I need to inject into what I do? When do I need to inject it? When do I need to stop? Too much and I risk damage; too little and I cannot do what I need to
- The element of timing … When is the right time? When do I need to speed up/work harder? When can I slow down/relax? When do I need to keep going at it constantly until I finish the job?
- The element of after effects … When I’ve finished, what impression do I leave? Do people want more, or less? Is there a cost to what I’ve done, whether personal or to others? Will I/they remember what I’ve done/said?
Perhaps we need to evaluate some of our actions and intentions before we ever execute them, asking ourselves some basic questions and only then make a decision as to whether we do them/say them, or not. What we do may carry a cost (a bit like aching after a karate training session) but in a similar way, some of that cost, pain or discomfort may just contribute to our growth and development.
Until next time …