Drumming Technique – Great, Good, or Bad?
One of the things that is so attractive about music and being a musician is the freedom. You create without fear of being told “that’s wrong.” Music is subjective, it isn’t right or wrong it just is what it is. Depending on what choices you make your music might be praised or reviled but those are just the opinions of other people. So many times when someone tries to make a comment, constructive criticism or a flat out admonishment… we get defensive. This is why internet flame wars between fans of different bands get so out of control. There is no right or wrong, there is just a bunch of people clubbing each-other over the head with their opinions.
Just as touchy a subject as the “correctness” of someone’s music is the “correctness” of how someone plays their instrument. Even when we are just learning the basics, most people don’t like to be corrected on their technique. It’s hard to be told that such a personal thing is being done wrong. The other problem is that for every person who says technique “A” is correct there are 25 other people saying that technique “B – Z” is correct. Well I got tired of just leaving this stuff up to the opinions of others. So I went out and created my own personal definitions of what makes a technique great, good, or bad.
JABB’s hierarchy of drumming technique is as follows.
Bad Technique = Technique that doesn’t give you the sound you want and/or causes injury through use.
Bad technique is to be corrected immediately because all it leads to is unnecessary frustration and injury. Neither of which has any place in any drummer’s life.
Good Technique = Technique that does give you the sound you want and doesn’t cause injury.
Good technique is acceptable and the most common. I think you’ll find that many players you look up to just have good technique. This doesn’t mean that this person isn’t an amazing drummer. Thomas Lang, Bernard Purdie, and John Bonham are all drummers that I would classify as having “good” technique. All three are awesome drummers & Thomas Lang has some of the most monstrous chops in the world but I wouldn’t consider their technique to “great.”
Great Technique = Same as good technique but with the addition of working with and taking advantage of the laws of physics and the human anatomy.
Great technique is the pinnacle of technique and is often overrated. Some drummers that I would classify as having “great” technique would be Steve Smith, Jojo Mayer, and Dave Weckl. Jojo has been the first guy that comes to mind ever since Secret Weapons was released on DVD .Most drummers don’t just develop great technique. The majority of the time it is taught to them. Steve Smith learned from Freddie Gruber & Jojo Mayer learned from Jim Chapin. Not unlike martial arts it is passed down to the next generation so as to preserve the knowledge and benefit future practitioners.
You read right earlier I did indeed say that great technique is often overrated. There are too many drummers who put chops and technique above being able to play music. I used to be the same way, I could blow heat like nobody’s business but I couldn’t lay down a groove to save my life. As Jim Chapin said “There’s no point in being a technical giant if you aren’t a musical giant as well.” I’d rather listen to a great musician with good technique than a good musician with great technique.
In summary… now that i’ve given definitions to the great, the good, and the bad. The great is what we should shoot for… but not at the expense of our musicianship.