Play It Simple

Here’s a few thoughts from me today. Just where I’m at in terms of drumming.

I’ve been listening to a lot of pop music recently. Some really slick drummers. Steve Jordan, JJ Johnson, Kenny Arnoff, Josh Freese. Really heavy studio guys. These guys all have sick chops and can definitely hold their own in a drum battle. But one thing has stood out to me from listening to their records. They all play so simple.

When I say simple, I don’t mean just playing 2 and 4 while catching the obvious hits with the band. I mean sitting in the pocket and letting the simplicity speak for itself. One of the biggest revelations I’ve had recently is that so much can be said by not saying anything at all (this goes for life too, but that’s another topic entirely). If you listen to these guys’ records, you’ll notice that they rarely cut loose. You don’t hear any 64th note triplet fills. No flashy tricks and gimmicks. Just groove. Just pocket. We’ve discussed this at length on the show numerous times, but I think it’s worth mentioning again.

As drummers, our role is to support the other musicians. We are the foundation. We are what the rest of music is built off of. We provide the solid support that the other musicians need. We can’t do that if we’re off giving our best Mike Portnoy impression. Just… keep it simple.

What does this look like, you might ask. It means resisting that overwhelming urge to play everything our ears tell us to play. It means putting our pride aside. As Dave’s said many times, if you’re in this to be the star, you’re playing the wrong instrument. We are supporting actors in a larger ensemble. You have to love that if you want to play the drums in a serious capacity.

Enjoy space in your playing. You don’t have to play ALL the time. Enjoy stretching the music out. Listen to the guys I mentioned before. They are the cream of the crop when it comes to simple, groove-oriented playing.

Well… that’s all I got. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you guys think. Discuss!


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