Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Flam to Groove

Every now and again I come across an exercise that I don't like. I want to like it. I know I would be a better person if I liked it. But, being a "normal" red-blooded human being, I instinctively avoid it. It is not just exercises too. There are drum patterns I don't like. I am not talking about things that are mind-numbingly difficult. It could be as simple as some 12/8 bell pattern I heard someone play. I remember a lesson with Robert Kaufman, with whom I studied for several years, where I mentioned not liking a certain feel played by another drummer. I don't think he had ever heard of this before and was curious as to why I felt this way. As any good instructor does (he smelled blood) he challenged me to explore this feeling. At the time, I was clueless as to where this reaction came from. And, being a "normal" red-blooded human being, I instinctively avoided that challenge.

This morning I was working through the Don Famularo book It's Your Move. I came across an exercise I didn't like. Instead of passing it over I found myself compelled to pursue it. The idea was pretty standard; take a rudiment and make something musical out of it. Specifically, take this...
and turn it into, amongst other things, this...
The result is a "samba like" groove with a kind of fusion bell pattern. The sticking was LR RL LRRLR RLLRL LRRL with the bell played with the right hand and the snare with the left. After shedding the flam-diddle sticking on a single voice I worked the right hand (bell) part with the Samba bass pattern. Now, I can say with certainty I would never play this kind of samba feel. Not unless I was being compensated in a manner befitting lapsed aesthetic principles! Dig? At this point I was ready to move on to something else but I decided to finish up by adding the final (snare drum) part. OK, well...that was challenging. It just did not feel natural. I could play LRLRR RLRLL at 220 but struggled with this sticking at 90!
I was at a crossroads. I could walk away or let loose the obsessive beast in me. Lately I have become very interested in what happens at the exact moment we make decisions about which impulses we act on and which we pass on. After all, creative pursuits are made up of a chain of these kinds of events conscious or not. I consciously decided to go with the latter and obsess. Ultimately I discovered I liked the way the idea sounded up to tempo. If I had not persisted, I would have missed out on this discovery.            
So what am I trying to say? It is OK to not like an exercise or pattern? We should suck it up and pursue both our likes and dislikes?  Fusion samba patterns are super cool? More shut-up-and-play and less talky talky? Yes! Yes to all of those. Really I think I am trying to make a case for perseverance irregardless of appeal. 

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