Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Courage to Be Nothing

As a former professional book indexer, I recently indexed The Drum Recording Handbookby Bobby Owsinski and Dennis Moody. In that book, which has not been released yet, there is an interview with renowned Los Angeles drummer Bernie Dresel. Dresel was talking about a story he overheard in which Miles Davis expounds his advice to drummers, "When you think you want to play something, don't"

I remember an interview I read with Dave Grohl. I'm pretty sure it was in Modern Drummer when he talks about one of the hardest thing he ever had to endure as a drummer was being taken by a bass player into his basement and told to play a groove for thirty minutes straight without filling. After the first few minutes he was completely raging and wanting to explode.

When I was at Berklee College of Music for their summer program I had the sublime pleasure of studying with Dave DiCenso. One day after my lesson with him he broke down his approach to practicing grooves which consisted of a graph with grooves on the Y axis and Reps on the X axis. His recommendation was to build your way up to practicing grooves PERFECTLY up to 500 reps. FIVE HUNDRED. FIVE HUNDRED. FIVE HUNDRED. FIVE BILLION!

I had an idea in college for a piece of video art. I video taped myself playing the simplest beat there is FOR ONE HOUR CONTINUOUSLY

Kick on 1 and 3, snare on 2 and 4 and eighth notes on the hi hat. Horrible idea for a video but what an amazing exercise in will power and restraint. One hour without a fill. How many drummers can claim that, besides ?uestlove :)

As Philospher Simone Weil said "In order to be just, one must be naked and dead -- without imagination."

Set your metronome to 40BPM (if you're Victor Wooten 4BPM) pick the simplest groove or just quarter notes with all limbs and repeat continuously for an hour.

Approach EVERYTHING from the INVINCIBLE foundation of GROOVE; rudiments, stick control, sight reading, and especially fills.

In the Tao Te Ching #46 it reads

There is no greater sin than desire,
No greater curse than discontent
No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself.
Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

SING. DRUM. BE FREE. :) consistently


  1. wowzers that sounds like pure discipline! how did it feel afterwards?

  2. i do the 1 hour thing pretty often — though doing it in the nude sounds like adding another dimension — and yeah, you got that, ?uestlove is my man, lol. Cool blog. Come check mine.
    Love, Arka