The modern world doesn’t have any patience for patience. It is also losing patience for repetition.
But the job of the drummer is repetition. We take a pattern, any pattern, we repeat it exactly. That is, as a matter of fact, how you create a groove. Only that moto doesn’t fit the era we live in. Things have to be diverse, changing, surprising, bombastic.
Drums can be bombastic. But learning it is a sobering experience. Because of repetition.
I have pages of patterns. These could be rock beats or blues patterns, or whatever. Some students will be assigned 3 of those patterns to work on for the week. Just 3. And it will be great to really be comfortable with them next time we meet. Because we could play a few songs with those.
A week later the student comes back. Did the whole page, he says. Yes! tried all the numbers. Ha! Ok. I am surprised. But, all right. And so we start. Let’s see the first pattern I assigned. The student tries. He needs to remember the stuff. Which one was it? Then he reads or listen to it and puts it together on the set. It is not easy. He has to go very slow. All the parts, whether it’d be the bass drum, the ride or the snare, everything is wobbly, unstable, hesitating. Sometimes he gets it wrong, the count is off, he flips the beat on its head. He does the beat a few times in that fashion, then stops and moves on to the next pattern. And the next pattern, and the one after that.
Oh, have no doubts: he will do the whole page! Then, at the end, sweating and exhausted he will stop and look at me. And then I will ask him a simple question: which one can we use for a song. And the answer is none of them.
I feel for them. These are people who practiced hard, who have tried not to skip the assignments, who are brave and willing. But the law of the drums cannot be change: you need to be comfortable enough with what you do in order to be able to play with others. If you want to be part of a band you will have to play a steady groove. Any pattern you throw out there has to be stable enough to support other players.
What it means is that you need to have patience. All the beats you study will be repeated, and repeated. You will have to understand them, you will have to memorize them, you will have to digest them, you will have to own them. The band is counting on you.