11 ways to improve your creative drumming! Last month we looked at tempo and dynamics as problem-solving tools to help us create and shape our grooves and / or fills. We used these variables to help us question a piece of music in detail to figure out how to best tackle it from our instrument’s perspective.
Remember, nothing here is absolute; these are ideas and concepts to draw inspiration from places we might have not thought of before. With that in mind, in this issue, we’ll take a look at the concepts of reduction, developing a language, and vocals / lyrics to help us chisel out our parts.
Sometimes, we can find inspiration in solving a problem by a process of reduction. This means either transforming the problem into a simpler one, or into one with an existing solution and constructing or deducing the solution of the original problem from the solution of the new one (Armoni et al., 2005). In other words, we could simplify the problem down to its foundations, or look at what others have done before and find inspiration to create your own version of it.
To transform the problem into a simpler one try to focus on the song at its simplest elements; the root notes and basic rhythm. From here, you’ll be able to lock into thebasic foundation of the song to which you’ll be able to incorporate embellishments, etc.
On the other hand, when looking what at others have done before, refer to a similar song you’ve heard before and pay attention to what that drummer did in order to build his ‘solution’. Incidentally, this is a fantastic way to help you become a better session musician. The more music you listen to and therefore expand your reference base, the more adept at nailing a specific feel you will be.
Developing a language
Having recently attended a Jojo Mayer & Nerve masterclass last November in London, Mr. Mayer had some excellent points which I thought I would contextualise into creative problem solving.
One of the main things that struck me from the Q&A session was how the band approaches improvisation. Jojo spoke of developing knowledge of a subject matter as developing language in order to be fully conversational with it. Bassist John Davis elaborated on the concept by pointing out that developing this musical knowledge as a language transcends theory.
We could infer that in trying to write or figure out parts for a song, deep knowledge of the genre (style, characteristics, structures, players) we’re writing for will be a helpful tool in the process. Yet, where do we begin? We could hit the books, or find tuition from an expert in your style will provide you with direction. Similarly, music schools offer courses specific to your requirements.
Vocals / Lyrics
Anthropologists believe that whilst the human voice was the first musical instrument, percussion instruments were the first musical devices (Latham, 2002). The link between rhythm and language is deep (Scaruffi, 2015 and Bergland, 2013), and can be used to great effect creating our drum parts.
But how? I find that working closely with the vocals, which are ultimately the focal point of a song, is just as important as working with the bass. Whether through accenting on vocal lines for emphasis or providing them with space to breath, we need to be effective in carrying the message. With this in mind, perhaps working with the singer / lyricist to create hooks based around simple rhythms can be a great way to develop congruent parts that fit these hooks.
We could go even further and form rhythmic patterns from sentences by paying attention to syllables, and their vowels to mimic drum sounds.
E.g. I eat grasshoppers in the summer.
I hope this has provided a bit of inspiration! Next month we’ll look at rudiments, genre-specificity, and context / interpretation to help our creative process.