Topic: Are drummers improving?  (Read 6820 times)

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Passeist

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Are drummers improving?
« on: March 14, 2002, 06:36 AM »
I keep reading about how the drummers of today are so much more skilled than the drummers of yesteryear, but when I turn on the radio, the evidence is to the contrary.
To me, there seems to be a stratification happening, as with every other area of society.  (The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.)
What I consider "academic" drumming keeps getting more and more sophisticated, to the point that it's about as entertaining as calculus, while "pop" drumming gets more and more lame, to the point where a band is better off with a drum machine.
It seems there used to be more of a crossover, where you would see very skilled drummers playing in pop bands.
Now it seems the serious musicians consider pop to be beneath them.  I benefit from this because people tell me what a good drummer I am.  It's because they've never actually heard a good drummer or the good drummers they've heard have been playing stuff so inaccessible it sounds like an incoherent mess to the unsophisticated listener.
Any thoughts on this?

Online James Walker

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2002, 08:58 AM »
I don't know that one can make a blanket statement that drummers now are worse or better (or specifically, more or less skilled) than those of previous generations.  Things are certainly different - the type of "New Breed" coordination skills that most college-level drum set players seem to work on now, are far more advanced than the kinds of coordination exercises I dealt with as a student fifteen or twenty years ago.  Are there drummers on the scene today who swing harder than Art Blakey, or who groove better than Jim Keltner, or who are more tasteful than Steve Gadd?  Not that I've heard - there are some newer drummers who can really swing, or groove, or play tastefully (or all of the above), but I don't know that they're better than the drummers who preceded them.  (OK, Keltner and Gadd are still "on the scene," but you get my point.)

There are some great drummers out there now.  There are some crap drummers out there now.

There were some great drummers in years past.  There were some crap drummers in years past.

In terms of drummers playing the kind of pop music one hears on the radio - I wouldn't want to play it, not from an artistic perspective.  If the manager of one of the big-selling bands out there called me and offered me a chunk of money to play mallets or percussion with one of these bands, the businessman in me would take the money and run - some of the bands put together to back the big "names" in the industry have excellent players; Madonna's bands (w/Omar Hakim, Victor Bailey, Luis Conte, et al) are a prime example.  

In terms of working locally, I'm probably not the best example - how may mallet players do you see with the usual non-jazz local bands in your area?  FWIW, I do a bit of freelancing with some local folk/pop players, but they're not doing the Christina/Britney/Boyband crap one hears on the radio.  Personally, I'll play any style of music, if the quality is good enough.  However, I will say that many of the young "just out of University" drummers I've met dismiss any sort of pop work out of hand, which I think is unfortunate - "throwing the baby out with the bath water," so to speak.
"I played with Holdsworth, Fripp, and Belew...I wish we drummers could play that differently. Drummers are starting to homogenize into the same guy, which frightens me." - Bill Bruford

SheldonWhite

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Considered as a group, I think so...
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2002, 12:54 PM »
I don't think the best drummers of today are better than the best drummers of yesteryear. I do think the absolute number of 'excellent' drummers is higher that it used to be. The opportunities for drummers to get a quality education in their craft are greater, there are more and more 'role-model' drummers to learn from and emulate, there are a lot of instructional videos, there is a lot more visibility for drummers than there used to be.
If you tried to list the number of technically excellent, polished  rock drummers (for example) in the mid sixties, you might come up with a hundred names if you were lucky. Now, I'm sure there are many times that (even if I don't like the music, I acknowledge the skills). Everytime I turn on VH1, I see some band I've never heard of with a kicking, tight drummer.
My numbers might not be accurate, but I think I make a good point...

Rader_Ranch

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2002, 01:47 PM »
Quote
I keep reading about how the drummers of today are so much more skilled than the drummers of yesteryear

i'm curious...where do you keep reading this? i don't follow drum or music mags at all so i'm a bit out of the loop.

i kinda miss the odd fills and loopy playing of the Romantic Age of Rock :D (60's-70's). actually, i sorta miss the humanity of music in general. i should clarify that. i'm more referring to the humanity of musicians in a space interacting, the reality of the player and instrument speaking directly to me with as little in between as possible. i'm certainly not saying there's no good music out there or crap like that...

Steve_LeBlanc

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2002, 07:04 AM »
Maybe people in general don't listen to enough drummers from the past...there were some real smokers back in the early days.

Just one example that I use often...Clive Bunker...his rudiments were astounding (despite a very odd grip/style) and the fills he was playing, implementing double kick and totally getting around the kit...it just doesn't get any better. Of course there were many others earlier and later than him.

Offline Bart Elliott

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2002, 07:50 AM »
I believe that in general, drummers & percussionists are improving over the years. It's not about being better than our predecessors necessarily, but rather the growth and evolution of the instrument, and the people who play them.

I think without question, the technical prowess of the drummer has come a long way. Think back when Jim Chapin first published his book Advanced Techniques For the Modern Drummer; the drummers of the day said it was impossible to play! Nowadays, this book is a very basic INTRODUCTION into the techniques used in jazz drumming.

The drumset is a relatively new instrument when compared with woodwinds, brass, piano and bass. It's also one of the few instruments that continues to evolve, largely due to the fact that a drumset is made up of many other instruments. It's a drum orchestra, containing various pieces, making up the entire ensemble.

Drummers are also improving because of the enormous amount of education materials, available in a wide assortment of audio/video mediums. Now every drummer (musician) has access to this knowledge, rather than a just select few.

Technology has a large role in the progress of the drummer. With the world wide web, a drummer in the UK can watch video clicks of his favorite US drummer, and vice versa. Without the WWW, many players would go their entire lives having never seen and heard such things.

The fact that you are sitting hear reading what my thoughts are on this subject ... it's an amazing thing! Communication is allowing all of us to grow and improve, not only in our playing, but in our knowledge base, etc.

With the invention of the digital metronome, we now have an awareness of what a perfect, steady tempo really is. Whether you like playing to a click or not, the fact of the matter is that without technology, we would never have had the opportunity to develop our internal time keeping skills ... like we do today.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point I'm wanting to make.

Steve_LeBlanc

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2002, 08:31 AM »
Ok, I agree with you...but I don't think it's as large an improvement as is commonly thought.

As an aside...the metronome was invented a long, long time ago at a time when drums as an instrument in western music were very sparse. :)  Not that it changes your point at all...I just think it's kinda cool to think about.

rudibass2

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2002, 07:56 AM »
  I have to agree , the WWW has made the education of drummers , or any interest for that matter , extremely easier for those with a thirst.

    In the 18 months or so that I really got involved with a PC at home I've learned tons of stuff. Not that all the information in the world can take the place of the hard , day to day work of honing  of your craft . But the information is there to keep your interest peeked weather your on a growth spirt or need a psychological boost during those dark periods .

      I learn  something new almost daily . Whether from an organized lesson plan like Bart's 5 minute lesson , or trying stuff that someone is discussing of a forum .
      Just this past week I picked up some stuff here from Felix , a simple thing like his reply to someone on triplets , he told the guy to try diddle stokes to do the sextuplets . I've been applying this to all kinds of stuff all week . Also his question on playing an 8th note ride over quarter note triplets on the snare in 5/4 with 5 on the floor .  I don't know weather to thank him or choke him for that one . ::).  ;D But it's given me something to work on that I might not have ever thought to even try if it wasn't for the Information Super Highway.

     So in response to the original question , if *they/we/me* aren't better technically , they certainly have no excuse for not being more informed / educated .  I know I'm a better drummer for all the tools I've gained from the NET. ;D    So thanks everybody !!!  8)

Offline Bart Elliott

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2002, 08:48 AM »
Quote
I keep reading about how the drummers of today are so much more skilled than the drummers of yesteryear, but when I turn on the radio, the evidence is to the contrary.
To me, there seems to be a stratification happening, as with every other area of society.  (The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.)
What I consider "academic" drumming keeps getting more and more sophisticated, to the point that it's about as entertaining as calculus, while "pop" drumming gets more and more lame, to the point where a band is better off with a drum machine.
It seems there used to be more of a crossover, where you would see very skilled drummers playing in pop bands.
Now it seems the serious musicians consider pop to be beneath them.  I benefit from this because people tell me what a good drummer I am.  It's because they've never actually heard a good drummer or the good drummers they've heard have been playing stuff so inaccessible it sounds like an incoherent mess to the unsophisticated listener.

My initial response was to talk about how drummers have improved over the years, but after reading Passeist's original post, I realize that he's addressing something that I over looked.

I think that the drumming community at large IS improving; technically, musically, etc. What I think is NOT improving is the ears and tastes of the general public.

In my opinion, Classical music and Jazz is some of the highest forms of music there is in the Western Hemisphere. By the word highest I mean that there is a lot of depth to it intellectually speaking. What's puzzling is just how small the audience is for these art forms. I don't want to turn this thread into an argument on all the genres I've left out, etc., so stay with me here.

The point I am trying to make is that commercialism has run amuck in our society, it's been doing it for years, and seems to continuely desensitize the masses little by little every year. We've lost the art form that we call music. The general public seems unaware and continues to crave what I consider ... bad music.

Now I'm not trying to make a blanket statement ... like everything you hear on commercial radio/tv is bad, or that there's no good music being produced to day. What I'm trying to get across is that it seems, via the media, we are lacking musical growth and indentity ... as a society at large. It appears we've lost our sense of knowing our heritage or where we've come from. Having been cut off from our musical family tree, most of what I hear, which is being shoved down our throats by the corporate music industry, is nothing more than the product of musical incest.

Thoughts?

felix

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2002, 03:01 AM »
I agree.

BUT who buys all the CD's???   The kids right?

And then people have to make an effort to listen to music.  Listening to music can be TOUGH...POP music is much easier to just sit down and brainlessly listen too.  That is what people want now.  They don't want to think or expend any energy to understand a higher artform.   Just be transfused entertainment from a screen.  But that could be a generalization on my part.  

I would love to go and see some great bands.  Problem is, they just aren't promoted properly...even on smaller levels.  I don't know.  I don't do what I do to be popular...I don't care if people like it.  As long as I know it's the best I can do at the time then that is all that matters.  If you or anyone else likes it...great!  If not, well I don't really give a hoot.  Corporations will always be there, one just has to be wiley enough to work them to his or her advantage....

groovsmyth

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2002, 06:55 AM »
Quote
Having been cut off from our musical family tree, most of what I hear, which is being shoved down our throats by the corporate music industry, is nothing more than the product of musical incest.

"musical incest" . . . What an appropriate way to express it! This may apply more to music in general than to drummers evolving as a class of musicians, or even more so to the broader topic of Pop culture. IMO two major things have conspired to bring this about. . . technology itself, and the advancement of the science of market research.

I think it's been mentioned on other threads about the way digital technology and sampling have affected creativity. Instead of building on what has gone before in a natural way, by learning from the masters, and then creatively mutating it to make one's own contribution, the modern way has been to pirate samples. Instead of being a primary creativity, it is like a secondary creativity of manipulating what has already been done. If you think in terms of research, primary research goes directly to the source as in interviews or first-hand accounts. Whereas secondary research relies on building an argument through citing references. This can be seen in the amount of covers being done with minimal changes or additions as well. In other media it happens in the way of film remakes and television clones.

Market Research has become the fabric of our lives. We are ruled by the poll quite literally. In politics, the previous administration wouldn't make a decision without consulting daily polls. Due to "marketing to the masses" this attitude has permeated our culture. Like felix said, the demographic that buys most of the CDs are the kids. In an effort to be safe and provide a successful release it's always more of the same. With TV it's the Nielsen ratings. My wife calls me an old fart for saying this, but I don't see it as a trend that's likely to reverse. We may look back at it as the "golden age", something that technology killed.

Passeist

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2002, 10:12 AM »
Hmmm... So the popular answer is: The dumbing down of America by corporate culture, as reflected by insipid pop music.

What about the snubbing of pop music by skilled musicians?

(A gifted player keeping a box beat for some video actress doesn't count, if all they're playing is mindless drech.)

Misenko

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2002, 07:42 AM »
Dance music is the worst for taking samples...god, thats all it is!!! God, they don't even have real drummers! I don't so much care for Pop, but if there is one type of music which I feel doesnt even deserve the term music, its dance. Probably a poular opinion on the forum.

On the subject of Drummers improving, I would have to say that I think there has been a leveling off of skill in "pop" There used to be bands with AMAZING drummers, and ones with rubbish ones. Now mostly they are all average, with a few exceptions of course. I mean, they are all skilled, but I wouldn't think any of them are amazing. Todays drummers maybe just have more musical evolution on there side, as all music progresses through fases. Todays drummers have the work of drummers before them to build on. I think its not just the average drummer that is getting better, but also the average guitar player, bass player..they are all building on the foundations laid in the past.

Well, thats just what I think.

Misenko.

djarrett

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2002, 04:36 AM »
Well now, ... interesting thoughts.

I think we really have to be careful about overlooking certain specifics when we make blanket statements.

You cannot forget some slammin' great drummers that are playing the poop ( ... sorry) -- pop circuit out there. For example, Marc Shulman with Cher, Gary N. with Alanis M., Trey Grey with Jewel, Greg Bissonette with ELO, etc. These guys are killer players.

I salute Elton for bringing back Nigel Olson. He never was the most technically proficient player in the world, but what would the Yellow Brick Road album have been without him? I know that his playing greatly impacted my drumming development in regards to pop music.

but I digress:

I think that our society as a whole is producing kids that are much more advanced than we ever were at the same age. Heck, there are elementary kids now that are proficient at movie production, image creation, HTML, audio navigation, ... and everything else computers. As we progress as a society, and information and entertainment is instantly at your fingertips, you cannot help but create a generation that is more advanced.
Notice that I said advanced, not better. Seems that a lot can get lost due to this instant gratification. Some kids today do not really know what it means to dig deep to improve oneself. The art of self improvement can become shallow.

Then you have to look at the benefits of this type of exposure. I am sure that Tony Royster Jr. would not be the slammer today at 15 if he had not had access to all the great information and instruction available today. This kid studied CD's and videos, as well as the web for knowledge ... and soaked it up like a sponge!

Are we better for it as drummers and a society? I am afraid that this is much bigger mystery than a yes, or no.

DJ

sidereal

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2002, 09:42 AM »
I think you'd have to look not only at drummers, but the environment they (we) exist in. The current pop/rock environment calls for a) perfection in drumming and b) loop programming.

It's funny too see all these punk attitude pop stars, where the drumming has been polished to perfection with Pro Tools. There's little life to the performances, and even less originality. I see no signs that drumming for mainstream music is going to get any better unless there's a backlash. We live in an age where you can take a mediocre drummer and make him perfect once it's captured to hard drive. It's already happening, more often than not.

Add to that, the whole reality of loop programming (which I do regularly)... I was talking to a well-known engineer a few months ago, asking how one breaks into studio drumming. His answer: Learn how to be a programmer.

Anyway, my whole point in all of this is that the pop/rock/mainstream music environment doesn't demand talented drummers. Put another way, if you have an environment in which good drumming isn't necessary, why should we expect its practicioners to be any good?

Oh, yeah, and welcome DJ... Nice to see you've joined the cafe! I'll try to be a good boy. :)


marker

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #15 on: March 27, 2002, 04:04 PM »
Yeah, I think so, on average.  Gear certainly has improved.  As for great ones, they could crop up anytime.

As for corporate "product", we're in a bad period, right now.  Wait a bit and something more real will come along.  Actually, there's a lot of great music out there right now, but you gotta dig for it.  You definitely won't find much on the tube.

Misenko

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2002, 09:07 AM »
Don't worry, Don't despair, for my band "The Vision" will be coming soon...I hope....please....give us a record contract!!!...come back when we are good? Well, FINE! never wanted your crappy record contract anyway! ::)

Misenko. ;D

irishthump

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Re: Are drummers improving?
« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2002, 02:18 PM »
I think part of the problem here is that pop music is, by it's nature, a simple form of music. I don't mean that in any derogatory way at all! I play in a cover band, pop is all we play! But I think that drums are seen in a strictly "supporting role" in rock and pop music, the drummer is there to enhance the song, not try and outplay eveyone else. On many pop songs he/she is expected to keep time and nothing else. They are more restricted nowadays in how creative they can be on a track. Having said that, I definatlely think that drummers today are more dedicated to improving there technique than when I started playing (which is about 15 years ago).

Offline Matt Self (Gaddabout)

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Re:Are drummers improving?
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2002, 08:41 AM »
How could anyone ever know the abilities of a drummer until we see them out of context of pop/rock music? Did anyone think Kenny Aronoff could swing until they heard him on the Buddy Rich Memorial CD?

When it comes right down to it, few people (in America and the U.K.) want to hear drummers advance in their craft, and drummers, by their own obsession with certain techniques, limit the ways they can advance. Toss in the competitive nature of the business, and how working drummers decided they liked to eat as regular as possible, we've allowed ourselves to be put in a cultural prison.

I think you'll find where a qualified musician has most artistic control, the drumming standard is raised at least 10 notches above standard pop levels (John Fogerty excepted). Even if the music is intended for a broad audience, there is a certain level of freedom, and typically the better drummers get those jobs.

My hope is someday the technology will free musicians from the confines of big distributors. Maybe it means we all play to a smaller, even regional, audience, but only then will things change.

Is the art of drumming improving? I think it's impossible to determine, lacking crucial data input.
Odd meter isn't broken. It doesn't need to be fixed. - David Crigger

BAnimalG

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Re:Are drummers improving?
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2002, 06:45 AM »
LMAO @ Bartman!!   ;D

Quote
I never knew if Neal Peart could swing until I heard him on the Buddy Rich Memorial CD. So now I know for certain that the boy can't swing.

 

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