There’s essentially two schools of thought when it comes to technicality.
On one side, there’s the masters of the technical craft – the Jojo Mayer’s, James Joyce, Da Vinci’s of the world. The ones who can get lost for hours in the manuals for their motorcycles. Or their coffee machine. The ones who get deep on the minutia of the grammar of the Constitution and how it applies to today’s world. I love people who adore what they do; who dive in so hard that they want to know every little thing about it. They buy manuals, DVD’s, go to classes. Everything they can do to learn about what they’re passionate about, they do it, simply for the love of it.
Then there’s the people on the opposite end. The romantics. The ones who buck the confines of technique and truly express themselves, without regard for craft or form. The free-spirited, splatter-paint-on-the-canvas-and-see-what-happens kind of people. To authentically express oneself with no concern for how it’s being done; there’s a certain magic to that that can’t be replaced.
I’m on both sides of the spectrum.
If you want to learn how to do a clean thirty second-note single stroke roll on a snare drum at 140 BPM, you’re going to have to acquire a set of highly refined tools to pull that off. That shit isn’t easy.
However, if you have no concern for that, why would you learn how to do it?
If you get the exact sound that you want by throwing a pair of sticks on the ground, you are a master in your craft. It’s as simple as that.
The problems arise when artists have things they want to say – in whatever art form they’re choosing to say it – but can’t. Not because they don’t understand the ideas they have in their head, but because they don’t possess the necessary tools to create what they want. They haven’t trained their hands (or feet) to express the ideas they have in their heads.
I’ve spent a good portion of my life refining what happens in my hands and feet.
This isn’t to show up to drum groups and show off how fast I am. I sincerely don’t care how fast any musician is.
I had a specific goal in my mind with learning these techniques: I had ideas in my head that I couldn’t physically pull off. I want to hear the idea, and have the tools available in my body (or more importantly, in my head) to express it without thinking about it.
I don’t want to think about what I’m doing, while I’m doing it. I just want to do it.
With all that being said, I can dive in on specific technical ideas in drumming for hours.
It can be comforting and at times philosophical to study hand and foot technique.
However, at the end of the day, technique is only how you express your ideas.
If the idea in your head can only be expressed through free interpretive jazz, with no time or cohesive harmony structure – go for it. You’ve only got one life to live.
Art resides just as comfortably on the strings of an acoustic guitar as it does in the circuits of a computer.
Robert M. Pirsig, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”
Arthur Taylor, “Notes and Tones: Musician-To-Musician Interviews”, specifically the Erroll Garner interview
Jojo Mayer, “Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer, Parts 1 and 2”