11 ways to improve your creative drumming! In this last article in the series, we’ll be looking elements / considerations which, whilst obvious, can sometimes be overlooked when it comes to the creative process. Let’s dive right into melody, the bass, and the concept of keeping it simple, stupid! Enjoy.
In evaluating what a song is trying to tell us, aside from rhythmic patterns and lyrics, melody is crucial. Whether it’s happy, sad, melancholic, quirky or otherwise, a melody needs to be complimented accordingly.
How can we use the drums to achieve this? There isn’t a right or wrong answer here (unless perhaps you’re presented with a pop ballad and play a hyper gravity bomb blast beat on top). Great examples, however, include Tallulah Rendall’s “Black Seagull”, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon, and The Beatles’ “Come Together”. Pay attention how the grooves perfectly compliment the sentiment of each song.
A slightly different approach could be using our tom-toms, tuned to match the song’s melodic structure, to help embellish passages and create complimenting melodies. For instance have a listen to Seinabo Sey’s song “Poetic”.
A melodic and rhythmic instrument. It’s well-known that us drummers should work closely with bassists. By paying attention to what the is bass doing we can not only avoid rhythmic clashes but, if we’re stuck, can match their rhythm or create complimenting grooves. Either way, the tighter this relationship is, the better the band will sound.
Keep It Simple, Stupid! This can be overlooked as we try to come up with cool and complex, yet sometimes unnecessary parts. Think of the song as a method of communication, on that’s been around for thousands of years (Kilmer, 1976). Consequently, the clearer the message, the more effective it is.
Therefore, perhaps thinking about our drum parts as an instrument of clear communication can help inspire, or think differently about what we could / should play. AC/DC are a perfect example of keeping it simple, with drum parts to match. The caveat here, however, is musical context and your choices will be influenced the genre, style, brief, etc. you’re working on.
What this series of articles has tried to distill is that the more clearly we define the problem, the clearer our solution is. We have considered different elements that may help us, as Michelangelo suggested, carve out a suitable groove.
Keep in mind that this is a process. The ideal solution will, most likely, not come out straight away but will develop over time as the song takes shape, or as you become acquainted with what’s being presented to you.
You can even put this problem-solving mentality to work when you’re not behind the kit too! Listen to your favourite records and check out what the drummer does. Think about about how you would change what they have done slightly, and then try and come up with something of your own. Picture yourself playing it; tapping it on your lap might, as a bare minimum, provide you with the sticking pattern you would use.