That which is overwhelmingly and obnoxiously ‘Miguel’

I wanted to follow up and expand on an idea I wrote about recently. I was talking about being persistent in networking with and meeting musicians. One of the outcomes of those efforts was being asked by three different bandleaders in the same week to cover gigs and/or join their bands.

One of the psychological benefits of this was helping soothe a concern of mine—a concern that I had a lot to offer to the right ensemble, but I was like the worlds best-kept-secret.

So, not surprisingly, gigging with approx. three bands has soothed that feeling quite a bit. There’s always work to do in that regard (i.e., right now I’d like to be working with an artist who does primarily original material, I’d also like to be working in the Rock/Pop genre, etc.), but getting this work has helped a lot.

It’s also helpful that people are appreciating how I play—my aesthetic approach. You might remember that I’m what I call a song drummer. That means I focus primarily on what the song needs, not what my drumming needs. It also means that I worry more about the things that a record producer worries about (is the song being served well, is it getting across to the audience, etc.) and much less on what drummers worry about (am I able to showcase my skills here, can I do some cool drumming here, etc.)

(Please note that I talk about the drummers POV with love and affection—this is exactly what I used to do! I just don’t do that anymore.)

It’s also helped validate my aesthetic approach, but to explain that I need to tell you a story:

Ringo recent pic drumming

Most drummers that I run into are not song drummers. Most tend to be focused on virtuosity and soloing skills—the tradition role of the jazz drummer. With the Beatles popularity and that also of Ringo Starr, their drummer, in the 60’s, and new paradigm was introduced—what I call the ‘song drummer’.

However, to this day, most drummers seem to be geared towards virtuosity and soloing, whether or not they’re focused on performing jazz. Why this is, I don’t know. It’s partly because most teachers focus on this instead of something like song drumming. It’s also way, WAY ‘sexier’. It’s much easier to impress both musicians and fans with a show of virtuosity and soloing skills. Trying to impress them with your song drumming skills is a much more difficult task, mostly because there’s less going on and the focus is not on the drummer, it’s on the song.

From the POV of those focused on virtuosity and soloing ability, the song drummers job can appear to be overly-simple and not inspiring. This partly explains the popularity of a Rock drummer like Neil Peart of Rush—it’s not only Rock music (Rock music is more popular than Jazz), but he’s a drummer that is focused on virtuosity and soloing skills (Rush is a Progressive Rock band, and many of those types of bands are focused on virtuosity and soloing and not things like song drumming.)

I tell you all of this in order to illuminate another thing I’m thankful for. Through these  new gigs, I’m running into people who like and appreciate my aesthetic approach—song-drumming. I am not a guy focused on virtuosity and soloing, so I don’t get the kudos and fans and glory that those folks get. But, to have folks appreciate what I do by way of song drumming, esp. the subtleties of that approach—well, that makes their appreciation all the more gratifying.

So I’m grateful for being liked for my drumming, but I’m much, MUCH more gratified to be appreciated for my aesthetic approach. I think it’s because that is really ‘me’ at the core. Me letting my freak flag fly. Me being overwhelmingly and obnoxiously Miguel.

This can happen for you too, but you have to stake your claim, you have to stand up for what makes you unique, and that can be hard. It can be amazingly rewarding, but that’s later in the process—starting out is difficult. It doesn’t help that the path that everyone else has in mind for us is the easier path, at least at first. The problem is, that path often doesn’t align with what drives us, with what we’re passionate about.

And I took that ‘easier’ path earlier in my professional career. 20+ years. For me, that was ultimately not-at-all fulfilling, and I steered myself over into teaching and performing music.

Please note that I’m not at all suggesting that what I do is for everyone, or that the arts are for everyone—I’m just talking about focusing your career on what you are most passionate about; the thing(s) that ‘lights you up’. For me, that is music. For someone else it would be developing iPhone apps, or accounting or customer service.

If you do that, AND at the same time pursue what is uniquely ‘you’ in the field of developing apps or accounting (or whatever lights you up), then this type of wonderful feeling is available to you as well. You will draw people to you who are interested in the thing that makes you unique…and as far as I can tell, there is no greater feeling. Equally amazing feelings, yes, but not greater.

Thanks for reading, cheers!

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