I’ve been quite busy recently, due largely to school, so I haven’t had much time to update anything here or even practice on my own drums everyday! Ironically though, I got the chance in my Speech class to give a talk on anything I wanted to, so you know my first thought was “DRUMS!”. And that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately, the speech could only be 7 minutes long, which is hardly sufficient to inform a group of non-drummers on anything drum-related, but I think it turned out alright.
I ended up talking about the basics of how drums are played, the importance of drummers in music, and where the future of drums is headed in recorded music. All of these topics haven’t really been touched on within this blog, especially the last one. So I thought I’d just briefly sum up the main points of my talk for you guys, so you guys wouldn’t feel left out ;). Keep in mind this is very basic, as it was intended for a specific audience…
Well, today’s modern drums are played often times with sticks in either the matched or traditional grip. And with these sticks, we drummers use 3 basic motions to hit the drums: arm, wrist, and finger motions. Arm motion is used primarily for loud, slower hits like accents, whereas wrist and finger motions are conserved for faster notes, which are, by their nature, quieter. And since us drummers are typically sitting at a drum kit, this frees up our feet to participate in the musical process. For most drummers, the left foot occupies the hi hat pedal, which controls the hi hat, and the right foot occupies the bass drum pedal, which obviously hits the bass drum. Everything up until here has been a description of the physical aspects of drumming, so I will now discuss the mental side of things. Drumming requires a certain amount of coordination between limbs which, if you aren’t accustomed to doing, takes an enormous amount of mental effort to accomplish. But us drummers who have experience under our belts don’t have to think too hard about coordinations that may drive the beginner insane. This is not to say that we don’t struggle mental with anything; if anything, coordination challenges only get more difficult as you improve! So in essence, it depends upon what we’re doing at the time to tell you what exactly we’re thinking about, whether it be a complex time signature or what I want for dinner haha.
Fortunately, drummers are hardly under-appreciated inside and out of the musical circle, so we don’t struggle as bad as the bass player does in explaining the importance of our position. Although, I would guess that there are still many non-musicians who would question the importance of drums, to which I respond with (mainly) tempo and rhythm. Tempo, or speed, is largely associated with the mood of a song. If you’ve ever heard a recording, then listened to it at a different speed, it produces different feelings when you hear it, sometimes ruining the song. But how do drummers influence speed? Well the prime example I can provide is this: if you’ve ever seen a live band performance with a drummer, you’ll likely witness the drummer playing the first notes of the song (esp. those where multiple instruments begin at the same time). These notes they play are the ones that count off the song, usually in a “1, 2, 3, 4, GO” fashion. Now, however fast the drummer choses to play these notes in the moment are essentially how fast everyone else must now play them. And if you’ve ever played with a band live before you can probably testify to the fact that we don’t always play at the speed we practice at. Usually it’s faster, due to the nerves. NOW, moving onto rhythm, if you’ve ever listened to pop/rap/rock music, you already know that the drums usually hit on every single beat in a song. Because they do this, the other band members often rely on the drummer to keep the time (or if you’re a string player, it’s the bassist). Thus, if the drummer messes up the beat, it can throw everyone off, which demonstrates their importance in music.
Lastly, the future of drum sounds in music are on a trend right now, and yes, it has to do with technology. Drums are now being electronically sampled in almost every genre of music (at least it seems), including rap/rock/pop/r&b/electronic/metal/etc. This means that real drum sounds (from a recording) are being replaced by either fake/pre-recorded drum sounds. And there are a variety of reasons why sound engineers are conforming to this, but I won’t go into it now. The basic pros and cons of sampling drums, as I see it, are the following; PROS: it’s faster and easier, there’s a large soundbank to choose from, the sound is a lot clearer, and it allows for a perfect drum track. CONS: it gets rid of the need for a drummer, the sounds can often sound fake (despite being on purpose sometimes), and the drum track is too perfect. It’s basically like replacing the drummer with a robot that only knows perfection. And if you’re a drummer, you can probably tell, as I can, the difference between when a human is playing vs this robot. Ultimately, I think it creates an artificial sound, which as I said, can work for the music but it just depends.
WOW, ok that was a lot. I’m done now haha. Leave a comment if you liked/disliked my speech; it is most appreciated either way! Thanks