Learning from Singers to Be a Better Drummer

SKF NOTE: Paging through books from my music book collection, reading again the passages I underlined, I remember I did so because all of these passages — or almost all of them — helped me become a better drummer.

Breathing properly, phrasing, melodies, lyrics, rising above mediocre band members — I applied all of these to drumming.

Here are some favorite singer passages I underscored in one chapter of Whitney Balliett‘s book, American Singers.

Teddi King

  • The lyrics direct my choice of notes.
  • A good accompanist breathes with you. An inferior one forces you back into yourself.

Mary Mayo

  • The lyrics light up the melody – give the melody a tongue. Most melodies are dumb before they have words.

Barbara Lea

  • I worked with a piano player in Boston who couldn’t read, couldn’t keep a beat, couldn’t transpose, couldn’t play the songs of the day, and hated to play the piano. And that gae me a great musical independence — I learned to sing with anyone, anywhere, under any conditions.
  • Phrasing has to do with the meaning of the lyrics and the play of rhythm against rhythm.
  • The most important quality musically in an accompanist is rhythm, and that means being able to swing and to control the motion of the song.

Source: American Singers, by Whitney Balliett, Oxford University Press 1979

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