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Allen Herman / Blog

Practice, Technique, Music and Improvisation

Looking at the current crop of modern drummers who have made a name for themselves, well not all of them, but the overwhelming majority of them, use technique on their instrument to demonstrate technical ability, and their playing is based upon placement of rudiments on the drum set. Their whole purpose for practice is to generate a rudimental capability and apply it to the drums. So a favorite drum solo sound used is a droning, rolling, rudimental ostinado around the kit, randomly changing the positions and therefore the sounds generated by the stickings that contribute to the ostinados' 'melody'. Accents are also generated by the better drummers and the best weave some space in for even greater creative flexibility.

But to a classically trained person, technique is not practiced for pyrotechnics, speed, or power. Control is the overwhelming force. After all, the drum bible is called "Stick Control", not Stick Power or Stick Speed. So speed, power, dynamics, accentuation, and the misbegotten endurance, are all subsets of Control.

Playing a piece of music is a demonstration of control over one's instrument for the sake of musical/emotional expression.

So when a classical pianist practices, he does the same kind of mechanics that a drummer does on his instrument. But when performance comes to fore, there is no demonstration of their familiarity with scales, arppeggios, and octaves. Technique is expected to bring forth characteristics that enhance the playing of the music, not the instrument. Tone, time, and control are what matters.

So what if we approached the drums as if it were a classical piano? And used technique to express musical ideas? And instead of performing a composed piece of music, we compose music ad hoc, ad lib. And the object was emotional expression, not shock and awe?

Okay, call it improvisation, just for brevities sake when we talk about it.