I posted my previous thread, Would Today’s Music Make Me Want to Be a Drummer?, on two favorite drum forums: DrumForum.org and Drummerworld.com. Interesting, thoughtful responses. Conclusion: I am not alone.
Some forum readers said, no, they would not be inspired to be drummers by today’s Pop music. But, Chunkaway on DrumForum writes, “[B]eyond the mainstream pop-music megabuck machine, there is a ton of great, interesting and even innovative music being made. Bands and projects that are fusing elements of rock, jazz, classical, electronic, etc. Usually it’s found in areas of music classified as ‘indie’ or ‘indie-folk’ or ‘underground’ and otherwise.”
Chunkaway also points out you have to “look for this music. You are not going to turn on the radio and hear it, certainly. But all it takes is one YouTube search of shows like NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts or Live from KEXP and you’ll have access to a lot of really substantive music being made.”
Another person said he was never inspired by pop music to be a drummer. He was, he said, inspired by jazz. A couple of posters said they were inspired by metal drummers, not pop.
In the main, I agree with everything written – including inspiration from metal drummers. For example, Blue Cheer’s Paul Whaley and Tommy Aldridge.
What has almost disappeared from mainstream radio (i.e. pop and modern country) is good songwriting and unique sounding headliner musicians. My best guess? These songs are written primarily with video in mind. That is, what the song looks like, what the artist(s) look like, is much more important than how they sound. Music is a visual media first, an aural media second.
It’s sad and disappointing. Early on I took to heart tenor saxophonist Lester Young’s counsel on the importance of instrumentalists, including drummers, learning song lyrics. Instrumentalists do a much better job interpreting songs knowing what the songs are about. Knowing lyrics always helped my drumset phrasing. I phrased to the song melody, or I improvised melodic drum phrases around the song melody.
Mainstream Radio is Dead! Maybe that’s real answer. Can’t find inspirational music on mainstream radio? Look elsewhere, young man, look elsewhere. Instead of lamenting the death of what was once THE source of great music, accept that great music’s new home is scattered around the internet: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
True Confession: Now and then a good song sneaks through mainstream radio’s Sameness Filter. I like Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), and Jamey Johnson’s In Color.
I’m just now starting to use YouTube as a go to source of new and new-to-me music. Before I mostly used YouTube for researching, i.e. “Any old footage of Dave Tough? Big Sid Catlett?”
Twitter’s been a new music source. I’ve had a few musicians “follow” my Life Beyond the Cymbals” posts on my @ScottKFish account. Trumpeter Jeff Oster did just that. I visited his Twitter account, then his web site, and ended up buying the MP3 version of his album, next, which I like very much.
Jim Fusilli reviews and interviews excellent “indie” musicians for the Wall Street Journal. His Twitter account is @WSJRock
Bottom line: No matter how it’s made, there are still only two kinds of music: good and bad. Also, as a student of music history, I know music moves forward in waves. There are times when great music is coming from all over the place. Other times we’re hard-pressed to find great music at all.
Circling back to my original question: Would Today’s Music Make Me Want to Be a Drummer? I would like to say yes, but mine would be a very unsure yes. I love good songs, good lyrics, and good melodies. Today’s pop music — let’s call it “Top 40” music — with rare exceptions, is in a low wave phase with a Least Common Denominator sameness to it. To my ears, the same is true of Modern Country.
But, as others have said, great music is alive and well. And the internet is a showplace for tons of great musicians.
Final point: I’m not now, nor have I ever been, frozen in musical time or locked into one musical style. I’ve met people who think jazz died with Louis Armstrong, Rock with Buddy Holly, and Country with Hank Williams. Not me.
As for young drummers and would-be drummers? I suppose a bunch of them will come up through a phase of playing always loud on dead-sounding drums. (One of the forum posters points out playing drums has become more like an exercise machine than a musical instrument. I love that analogy! Bullseye!)
But, as always happens, a small percentage of drummers will get bored, will want to be creative, will want to express themselves in their own way. They are the future of drumming.
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