Saturday, September 26, 2009

more on drums...

I guess it should come as no surprise after writing a blog about musical skill, that I sit here humbled in Blackwatch Studios in Norman, OK. Levi and I made a weekend trip to start work on his new solo record.

For the few of you who have never recorded drums in a studio, the process is simple. Levi records a "scratch track" as a metronome keeps him in time. After that, I sit down and play along to Levi's track and the metronome. Then the engineer, Chad, performs a sort of audio surgery, in which he zeros in on and corrects each beat that is out of time. It turns out that my performance was stuffed with those things.

Chad's extended time fixing my out-of-pocket rhythms certainly put me in my place...which is a good thing. I'd like to work on that area of my drumming, but in the meantime I will console myself by taking a lesson from my last entry.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Art vs Ability

I'm a professional drummer... well, semi-professional. It sounds braggy until my part-time job at Starbucks enters the equation. When I'm not slinging lattes, I can usually be found behind the trap-set in several capacities. I play at churches. I play in bars. I play in studios. I play for punk bands. I play for pop bands. There is nothing I'd rather do than play the drums.

I cross paths with a lot of musicians with different ideas on what makes music "good." Many of them can be found on the wrong side of the battle between Art and Ability. 

People devote their lives learning how to shred like Steve Vai. The drummer for Dave Matthews Band spends most of the song letting you know that he is better than you at the drums.... and for some reason people love it. Unfortunately for these misguided souls, somewhere along the way they forgot that music is not a sport. 

But, those of us who are not so great at our instruments (true story) can breathe a sigh of relief, because music is art. That means Flea can slap his bass guitar until his fingers bleed and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still bad.

I'm not saying that skill is a bad thing. I'm saying that it's not the most important thing. Ever since the Velvet Underground's debut, musicians have been shaking off the idea that you need skill to make great music. 

From the mom that hums as she sweeps the floor, to the little girl who sits in the back seat of the car and sings a weird, out of tune song, great music is all around us. It's usually not coming from the people we call Virtuosos. Heck, the Beatles were not great players, but they are the fundamental artists of pop music. 

If I want to watch someone with great skill, I will watch Tony Romo throw a football... er, nevermind.

Until then, tune in next time for my take on Art vs Commerce!!!