Friday, August 11, 2017

Give The Drummer Some

Clyde Stubblefied...the man!
'Give the drummer some' was a shout out by James Brown in the song The Funky Drummer. James also guides drummer extraordinaire, Clyde Stubblefield at the beginning of the solo.

He tells him, "Don't turn it loose, just keep doin' what you're doin' cause it's a mother..."

James was giving his drummer some love and baby he had it right!

I've got an amazing drum student named Logan. Not only is he an amazing player, he's got a truly strong character and what you'd call, grit. I want to put the spotlight on a particular situation that he handled--masterfully.

He's sixteen years old, which makes him the oldest member of his hard rock band. The band has a unique situation where one of the parents manages the band; they have a paid band coach and all parents get together with the band at rehearsals. Is this helicopter parenting? Or is this a level of support that all young rockers deserve? You decide. I'm not getting into that here.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to see the band live and was blown away. These kids are playing challenging material and doing it very well--better than some bands with cats in their twenties. They cover everything from Deep Purple to Metallica to Van Halen and beyond.

At our first drum lesson after the show I told Logan he should be doing a drum solo. It's hard rock music and in my semi-biased (and scientifically based) opinion Logan is the most proficient on his instrument. Logan, the ever fearless cat that he is smiled and said, "O.k."

We discussed his set list and found the ideal spot in the set for Logan to rip it up. He'd come out of Black Sabbath's War Pigs and go into his solo. Then he'd open Van Halen's Hot For Teacher, which is perfect because the Halen song starts with drums. At the following week's drum lesson he told me that the manager or (Mom-ager) and band coach tensed up and gave him the empty calorie response,

"Ah, not on this gig maybe on the next one..."

I dropped a few expletives then immediately apologized to Logan--he was cool with it. I was not surprised by the response Logan got from his camp because this is a typical response we drummers get.

I pondered it and thought perhaps this goes back to a time of bebop free-jazz where everyone took twenty minute solos and when it came around to the drummer audiences just got burned out. Or perhaps it was during 60's acid rock where drummers took, again, twenty minute solos because, well, they were on acid and time just sort of flies...or drags on acid. (Or so I'm told).

Either way people's eyes glaze over when 'drum solo' is mentioned. To be fair it's also due to the fact a lot of drum solos are poorly executed.

"How many guitar solos are there in your two sets of music?" I asked Logan.

"Every single song."

"Precisely," I said. "Yet a brother can't get a two minute drum solo."

Logan and I discussed the solo, the art of building the solo. I stressed how it's necessary to have one ready because P.A. systems and guitar electronics go down all the time at shows, so the acoustic drum solo keeps the show rolling while roadies figure their sh** out.

I then let the issue drop and we carried on with the lesson. What I didn't realize was that Logan looked at the problem and took initiative. He grabbed the bull by the horns. This didn't surprise me. Logan is a confident, intelligent and thoughtful little (6 ft. tall) dude.

During the week he prepared a drum solo. Then at the next rehearsal with band members, parents and coach he told everyone of the idea and where to put the solo. He then said,

"Can I at least show you my idea? I'll play it for you and if you don't like it we'll move on."

The coach and Mom-ager agreed. 'Oh how big of them...don't get me started!'

Logan clued the boys in on the transition between the songs and played the solo. Everyone in the room went nuts. Logan was then granted permission to play the solo at the gig. This is a victory for all drummers but still the situation is pathetic. He initially was told 'no' based on prejudice and preconceived notions. Human nature 101: I don't understand therefore I say no! Oh, how I grow weary of the small minded.

I admire how Logan didn't give up yet did not bully his way into a solo. And never once did he take the typical millennial route and claim entitlement to his idea. No, he essentially created an audition situation for himself. It was a very mature move not to mention downright shrewd. The cat's a stud, I'm telling you.

Note to: parents, teachers, band members, soundwomen, soundmen, producers etc: Use your ears first before you strike down a drum solo or any musical idea for that matter...ya friggin' dummies!

I was unable to attend the gig as my nephew was in town playing in a basketball tournament. But I turned Tyler, one of my other younger students onto Logan's band and both Tyler and his parents said Logan 'killed it' with his solo. Tyler and his guitar shredder brother, Noah have a gig coming up and guess what's been added to their set? You got it baby...a drum solo. (Tyler played it for me, it's awesome).

We all know the old phrase 'act your age not your shoe size' right? Well in music,  'use your ears not your pea brain'. James Brown had it right back in 1970 and ain't nothin' changed today folks, you gots ta give the drummer some!


1 comment:

Jason Aro said...

JB - sage words and great perspective. How energizing to see young talent matched by even more patient (and shrewd) character. Keep up the good work, especially in developing prodigious musicians for us to enjoy for generations to come. What you're doin', it's a mother...