The first example of efficient drumming I experienced was when I saw Doctor Feelgood, one of the greatest English bar band of the 80’s.
The drummer laid the beat in an obvious and minimalist way. He played the beat and the fills, and rare fills at that, and that was it. I couldn’t detect any fat around the edges. The tempo were strong and driven with precision, the fills placed at the right moments with the appropriate dynamics and the orchestration was glued to the mood of the songs.
I realized, as I watched him, that he had put a lot of intentions behind every note. He stroke the drums with determination and conviction. It sounded not only beautiful but deep, like the famous unstoppable force against the no less famous unmovable object.
Now, that was for Doctor Feelgood’s drummer. He was definitely in the category of the strong silent type. But what about the Keith Moon, the Carter Beauford, the Stewart Copeland of our world? Those drummers don’t hesitate to add flurries and ornaments. Do they still pray to the altar of efficiency?
The answer is yes, absolutely. They always have in their drum part a very strong foundation that rests on the fabric of the music, some gigantic pillars they erect with a bass drum on all 4’s, a repetitive snare drum or a stubborn pattern that anchor the song into something meaningful.
“Meaningful” is the key word of the previous sentence, because I know that the best ground on which to bolt efficiency is the meaning of the song. If the drummer illustrate the musical moment correctly, the magic has a better chance to happen. If people understand what the man who delivers the beat is trying to “say”, they will probably jump on his boat more willingly.
I invite drummers from all styles to spend time questioning what they want to express in a song. Then, try to say it with the minimum of notes and build from there. Should they put too many notes, add too much cream and sugar to their music so to speak, they can always trim back. As long as they keep a strong compass of what the music mean to them, they will be in safe territory. Well, actually, even that can be questioned, because it is also possible that someone doesn’t agree with your approach at all, that they do not like your personality, in which case they won’t “believe” you, and all your efficiency will be lost.
But that’s another subject for another day.