As with everything else, good song drumming is about serving something bigger than yourself

(Just an FYI…I’m re-focusing this blog on The Art Of Song Drumming. This doesn’t mean that the content will change necessarily–I’ll still be talking about teaching and performing music, and how the principles apply outside of music–but my posts will be focused primarily on song drumming.)

One of the main things that I think is important about song drumming is you need to serve the needs of the song, not your needs as a drummer. And whether its in music or in your regular life, we’re all happier and more fulfilled long-term when we serve something that’s bigger than ourselves. In song drumming, it’s serving the song. In parenting its serving your kids; at work, it’s serving the customer, etc., etc.

That is not to say that this is easy, only that it’s necessary if you want you and those around you to be happy. Fundamentally happy.

So, how did I get to the point where I knew I needed to serve the song? Well, I certainly didn’t start out that way. My early drum training was in a drum and bugle corps, where you play many, many more notes than you would ever do in song drumming context. Given that, it’s not surprising that I overplayed a lot when I first starting getting serious on drum set (when I was still involved in the drum corps scene).

I’ve written about this before, but my epiphany came while doing one of my favorite things on drums–playing along to recordings.

I was playing along to an Eagles tune–probably something from their recent album at the time, The Long Run. As I remember it, I was playing busy in the style of Billy Cobham, or some similar jazz-fusion drummer. And I got the end of the tune, and I thought something was wrong–the playing didn’t fit the music. I remember it literally felt bad in the pit of my stomach. At that point, I think I went back and tried to play the song exactly like Don Henley, the Eagles drummer, played it. And the music worked much, much better that way.

And this was my first realization that playing lots of notes in the style of jazz-fusion drummers doesn’t work in every situation. And, in fact, for some styles of music (say the song-oriented styles of Rock, Pop, R&B and Country), it was one of the worst things you could do. (I suppose playing Eagles tunes drum corps-style would have been even worse 🙂

How is this reflected as parent? For me, it’s about being humble when I see my daughter struggle with something. Instead of getting mad at her, I try and remember my struggles when I was her age (which almost always eclipse any struggles she might be having–yipes). This helps me have some compassion for what she’s dealing with. Even better if I share my past struggles with her.

How is it reflected in a work context? It’s so easy to get caught up in what you want to provide, or can provide for your customers, that you miss the really important question–what problem is this solving for my customer? Once you focus on what the customer needs, and NOT focus on what you want to make for them (however well-intentioned that might be), you’re much more likely to have success with what you offer.

Where in your life could you benefit from serving others, instead of focusing on yourself? This is a huge struggle for me as my natural tendency is to focus on myself instead of others. (Maybe you know an artist or two who’s like that, eh? 😉

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