What I Learnt From 2017

187567568It has become popular to dismiss new years resolutions as silly, frivolous and almost a metaphor for how to fail.
I’ve also noticed a stigma surrounding heartfelt social media updates (alcohol infused?) and many cynical, sarcastic attempts to mock them (guilty).
That being said… here’s the reality. Most of us are on holiday. Possibly our ONLY holiday of the year. When else do you get to stop and take stock?
Now is as good a time as any, to reflect and make plans. Steer the ship in the right direction.
Don’t let the date affect your willingness to learn and become better.

Anyway, getting back to drums/music. My plans and revisions to how I do things for 2018 is yet to come. Here are some things I noted from 2017. Most of these points aren’t rocket science. But there is a huge difference between getting told these types of things and feeling them. Feeling them in the pit of your soul in a real life musical experience or acting on an old piece of advice that you had on the back burner.

* Gear
In some ways it was the ‘year of gear’ for me. I learnt a heap about hoops, bearing edges and shell types. 14 x 5.5, 1.2mm Aluminum with 45 degree edges thanks!
While developing an interest in gear, I am more convinced than ever that gear doesn’t make the drummer. The drummer ALWAYS makes the gear.
Never lose sight that Vinnie Colaiuta sounds like Vinnie Colaiuta on any kit. You and I can play on his USA Custom kit and we will NOT sound like Vinnie.

* Space In Between The Notes
This is the newest and (for me) most exciting revelation.
I’ve read interviews with Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk where he talked about the magic in between the notes. My Tutor at music school called it the negative space. Recently Daniel Glass referred to it as the ‘up’ or ‘ands’. Effectively, what is happening when you are NOT hitting the drums.
The penny has dropped. I see the value now. I get it.

* Don’t Chase Fads
Another thing that I’ve always known and have purposefully avoided. This year I did have some revelations though. Playing different gigs with different people a few things were mentioned from band mates. Some of these hit home.
‘Thank God you don’t have one of those damn (insert gear)’.
‘I really like how your set up is so simple’.
‘WOW that ride sounds amazing… the mics love it!’.

Just little comments that go to prove.
1. 18 inch hi hats, 12 inch kick drums, Stackers, Roland pads etc are great and CAN be useful but do NOT make you play better. If anything they are often just more ‘stuff’. You are getting sold products.
2. Less is more.
3. Classic drums and ‘industry standard’ gear have that status for a reason. They WORK!
It’s amazing how we fret over gear and are seduced by marketing (guilty) but take your supra and K’s into the studio and the engineer is doing back flips. It’s so obvious, but we all make the mistake of over complicating this aspect.

* Thin Crashes
This is part of the year of gear. How have I never used or owned thin crashes!?
My new Zildjian A Thin crash has been a game changer. To be honest, crashes were always ‘meh’ for me. I have always been about the Ride/Hats. I had no idea there was a world of buttery, thin goodness out there.

* Look After Yourself
If 2017 wasn’t the year of gear it was the year of rehab, Yoga and Meditation. One of those things I always got told to try and thought was silly or nonsense.
Live and learn.

* Practice Routine
I feel I’ve nailed my practice routine. Having less and less time to practice is not a bad thing. It just means you have to get better at time management.
You can actually have too much time to practice. If I could analyze a heroic 6 hour practice session, I’d guess around 20-40 minutes of those 6 hours would be ‘practice’. There would be a lot of checking the phone, selfies, coffee breaks, sidetracked jamming and taking photos of that new cymbal going on.
Using a timer, writing down progress, factoring in breaks to reset concentration and pushing yourself are the only ways.

* Time & Tone
Those words have resonated since my first day at music school. I heard and understood it. I didn’t feel it in my bones.
Play in time and have a great sound. So easy!
Well I’ve been playing for 20 odd years and my time stinks. So do my dynamics and touch (tone).
Time to hit the Benny Greb stuff… HARD! Time to do different exercises I had previously dismissed or avoided.

A really fun New Years gig means 2017 is done and dusted. Ready for a killer 2018!

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