‘Big love’ in life, drumming and music

Bob Marley Live Shot 6

I had this idea about ‘big love’ that came to me one morning over the extended Christmas weekend. It started out as a thought about relationships:

“Big love is about something bigger than the two people involved. It’s not just about loving and serving another person–at it’s highest level, it’s about serving the relationship between the two of you. In this case, the relationship is the ‘something bigger’ that both people are serving.”

Then I thought: How is this analogous to music? For me, it’s about the idea that it’s more than just loving your instrument, it’s about loving–and serving–the music. If you were a guitarist, this would take you beyond simply being a guitar player (although there’s nothing wrong with that) to becoming a more well-rounded musician who thinks of the music first, not the guitar or the instrument first.

I can relate to both sides of this example. When I was a teen and in my early 20’s, I was a total drummer guy–I played in a drum corps drumline, and I loved great drumming. Again–nothing wrong with that. Over the years since then, I’ve grown to love songs and music more–to the point that it never occurs to me to play something that is only good drumming (I call this ‘the drum-y stuff.’). For me, this ‘big love’–the love of the music–has become a much stronger love than that which I had for my instrument alone.

So, what might this transition look like? Well, in my case, over time–we’re talking years here–I starting caring less about great drumming (cool beats, great fills, rudiments, drum solos–again, nothing wrong with any of that) and caring MORE about the music. I would be really tuned in to the different sections in songs and what kinds of things a great song drummer would do to make the song ‘come alive’.

A drumming example might be how Ringo takes away and re-introduces the cymbal voices in a song like “Something” by The Beatles. A drummer might listen to this and think, “jeez, he’s not DOING anything–that’s totally easy.” Over time, this drummer might grow his sense of musicianship and realize what a musician would think about the drumming in that song, “That’s AMAZING! I wonder what made him think to do that? Changing any small part of that drumming performance would change the song totally…and probably not in a good way.”

In the working world, an example might be a retail environment where you might start out your career being focused on making the line at the register move quicker. After some time, your focus might expand to the experience your customers are having while in your store (something bigger than just making sure they get through the line quickly).

Why does this matter? Well, I think it’s a part of the process of continually trying to improve your life and the lives of others. In my example, if I was the same musician I was as a teenager, I think that music might have gotten a bit stale for me by now. Or worse, I could have grown a bit burned out and jaded about the whole music lifestyle. In a situation like that, if I couldn’t inspire myself about my music, how could I inspire others?

Having grown into a music-centric drummer, I’m happier, more fulfilled and better able to inspire others (be they my audience or my students) than I was when I was younger, when I was more of a ‘drum-y’ guy. Again, nothing wrong with focusing on the drums alone–lots of my friends are drum-y kinda guys and gals, and I love them!

Let me leave you with a thought about what’s next on this path. In other words, for someone like me, what is the level beyond the love of the music? Maybe it’s this:

I truly feel that most folks in an audience won’t remember what you play or what you do as a musician, but they WILL remember how you made them feel. So, perhaps the level beyond serving the music instead of the instrument, is about serving the thing that your audience takes away from listening to or watching the band. That emotion, that feeling, this thing that is…indescribable…

Music as an emotion-delivery system.


…is a post for another day 😉

Have you ever had an experience where changing your perspective on what your job really is (i.e. instrument-centric, vs. music-centric focus) changed your relationship with your job and the folks you come in contact with through your work? What is something similar to this in your line of work that you could change to make you more effective (maybe even happier) and draw others closer to your work?


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