Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Offbeat Drummer: Surprisingly On-Topic to Drumming

You can teach an old dog new tricks, but you need not to force the dog to do the trick the first time expecting it to be done well.

I've got a big stick bag. Lots and lots of sticks in it. Various weights, compounds, tips, and mallets, brushes, Hot Rods, all kinds of crazy drummer stuff. Put simply, I have a wide breadth of long objects to shove down the throat of our new contemporary band director. Last night was his first night. He can play lots of lots of instruments: the drums aren't one of them. That said, I didn't appreciate his 360 degree direction of changes to songs I've known by heart how to play since I joined my band 8 years ago. I wasn't the only sourpuss in the gang. We all sort of stormed out after practice, saying nothing but a "Yeah, we'll see you tomorrow." Pastor hung back in the back of the sanctuary most of practice just looking sort of downtrodden and every once in a while, I'd shoot him a "THIS IS COMPLETELY NOT WORKING!" eyeroll.

I know songs by heart, but I still keep a referral sheet (usually the guitarist's chord sheet) with notations and scribbles, whatnot, that only I understand on a music stand to refer to if I need while I play. I'm not a professional. My brother is 20 times the drummer I am, and I found myself irritatingly texting him last night during practice with essentially an "I just can't work this way" vibration. He was encouraging ("You can do it, kiddo!"), but I think he'd even be frustrated by practice last night.

I'm self-taught. I play by ear. I don't know what any of the school-taught technical theory terms mean, nor do I frankly give a crap. In flies this director hired without our vote or opinion as the new leader of the band. In my opinion, he should've sat there for a few weeks and listened to us do our thing---take note of our strengths and weaknesses, and worked around them to, well, strengthen us. Hang back for a while.

Instead, he came in blasting masters degree guns (in "singing and literature....opera, really...", which I wanted to say "That's really fuckin' useful!") with notated sheet music in accordance to how HE wanted us to "perform" the songs this weekend. Number one: We don't "perform." We lead worship. Number two: We already know how the songs bloody go.

Some of the intros he wanted to change on songs I lead sound downright craptastic. "Do a 3/4 stick click & start on the ride on 'Hallelujah.'" My guitarist kindly leaned over and simply said, "She doesn't understand what you're saying." He said to her, "Watch your tone with me." HELLO??  EXCUSE ME!? Can't you just tell me to tap the sticks 3 times and hit the ride? Not only that, but an intro like that? Without a fill to start it out with? Sounds like shit. A "stick click" isn't an intro. A count-in on the hi-hat is a better intro and that's not even a really good intro. Forgive me. Sorry. It gives the singers no sense of timing and throws the guitarist's own intro off completely.

I don't care if you've studied music in school since you were a goddamn baby. If you don't feel it naturally and play it naturally, and sing it naturally, it's going to sound like phony shit, which is what it sounded like. He was pleased. Of course he was. We gave in to how he wanted things done.

We are our own little family. We speak our own language. HE needs to learn OUR language, not fucking teach us Esperanto and expect to follow along seamlessly. My musicians understand if I say, "I'm going to go tick-tick-bump-a-bump-a-bum-bum, then come in." There's no theory---there's no logic behind it. It's what I hear in my head. And that's what they're accustomed to. And we need to have a meeting with this dude and explain that.

Ask any unorthodox drummer (professional or amateur) to instantaneously play formally and unlearn everything he/she has learned and you're going to get backlash at the very least; at the worse, a stick, again, down your throat.

Pastor says everyone's got to start somewhere. True. He should've started out sitting there quietly assessing our skills, not changing everything around, particularly for the musicians. Now I have to have dinner with the guy after church tonight and I just feel like cowering in a corner, nibbling my pizza, going home, valiuming out and going back to sleep. (Maybe I should bring Valium to pass around to the whole band tonight.) I have midterms to study for. I don't need this stress.

Drozd'd be far less of pain in the butt by which to be conducted or led, for his ego is tiny in comparison. Jesus, why didn't they just hire Steve Albini while they were at it? Or fucking Billy Corgan?

I'm not remotely as good as the drummer below. But I do have my own unique style, and I'm not altering my style to please this director. I can't roll from left to right, but I can from right to left. What I am claiming is that I play in a similar mindset as the drummer below. I can't repeat fills once I've done them. I play backwards, lefty on a righty kit. I play by emotion. Guess who else does that?

Whatever virus that has infected my body either hasn't made its way out, or I'm in a serious mixed-mood episode (my skin hurt yesterday and I slept 90% of the day but was up most of the night and got up at 9am today). I'm in a HORRIBLE mood.  After last week's utter suicidiality, I had a couple of up days, chiefly because I wore boots that always make me feel like conquering the world, appropriately enough. Maybe I'll wear them tonight. They'd hurt smack dab in the balls, that's for sure. While I normally don't like to swear in church (it's not that I don't like to, I just try not to), I got so aggravated at the director, that at one point, I told him, "You're fucking me up."

Anniearchy in the USA. Expect a revolt. 


Very Moon said...

There's a great tutorial on YouTube, of a woman slapping one of those box djembe things. I'm sure it's all very good, but, "and a 1-y and a 2-y and a 3-y and a 4-y" mean fuckall to me. Keep it simple. Play with soul. Let the music happen with the heart! While there is totally a place for reading sheet music, that probably isn't it.

I'm still sick as hell too. I did way too much yesterday. Like, dishes, and vacuuming, since the dog hair was suffocating me. Boots! I can totally see you saying, "shut it, or this Anniearchy boot is gonna reign some Anniearchy in your US ass."

Anonymous said...

I love how you managed to pick the 2 biggest dickheads in the music business to choose as alternate leaders--Albini and Corgan. What a couple of pricks.

Andrea Miklasz said...

I *had* a DVD on how to play the djembe and I mailed it to a friend learning to play it who has no percussive skills. I just went with my emotional sense of rhythm and fucked around with what part of the drum made which sound and I was off to go in no time. Watching a tutorial will fuck you up.

I don't know what's wrong with me physically. I feel like shit, I can tell you that. But I'm in Dinosaur Jr shoes and a shirt with, uh, HIS face on it, so what could go wrong? Don't ask...

Off to church!

BMF said...

Hey, I'm sorry it didn't go much more smoothly last night and you had to have dinner with the guy. How douchey was it?

Andrea Miklasz said...

It (and he) got douchier as time went on. It just sucked. Then I asked him for some YouTube links to these 2 new songs for next time, because with shitty contemporary Christian music, there's like 15 versions by 20 artists....& I wanted to know what he was aiming for. He told me to look them up myself. Douche!

He's trying waaaaay too hard to be nice and cool and get along with us. A bandmate and I seem to be the only ones not buying into his crap pile thus far.

Anonymous said...

The only stick click intro I ever heard that worked was Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend." Why don't y'all play that number next time?

Kate said...

I predict this new fearless leader will be in love with you by the end of the end of the month! $50!

Andrea Miklasz said...

Kate, I betcha $50 I beat him to a bloody pulp with a pair of mallets before he falls in love with me.

Talk about perky! This guy's young, chipper and excited.

I feel like Lou Grant on "Mary Tyler Moore" when Mary starts and Lou Grant tells her, "Ya got spunk. AND I HATE SPUNK!"