Becoming able to produce versatile material on any musical instrument requires a given level of experience. No matter how open-minded you might be, unless you are prepared to play in a versatile manner: you will not be able to.
People express their feelings similarly all over the world. A smile means the same in Brazil and Russia, we all understand the expression. Mimics, gestures: they are all very similar all across the globe.
And just like gestures, art, in particular music is also a way of expressing feelings and emotions – it has just become a little bit different in separate cultures. By studying different drumming genres, paying attention to the cultural differences you can develop a quite broad musical dictionary. Remember, no matter what genre it is, no matter where its origins are or how long it dates back: the fundamental feelings expressed by music in general are always the same.
Talent by itself is worthless. You might be open-minded; you might be talented, being able to play a bunch of things up to a certain level of complexity without practicing for a minute. However, skill, unlike talent is worth a lot, and can be earned; you are not born with it. Actually, it can only be earned – by hard, hard work.
In order to become a versatile drummer, you need to develop a stable practice routine; you should even define a schedule. “Practicing” drumming consists of a whole range of different exercises. Conditioning your body, becoming able to practice or play for a longer period of time without becoming too tired to play steadily and precisely is the basis.
Conditioning can range from doing push-ups and squats to nifty lower-arm and wrist exercises. Also, rudiments and different technical exercises are of key importance in your development as a drummer. However, you probably do not need to practice all forty rudiments: the single and double stroke rolls, the buzz roll, the paradiddle and the flam should be enough, once practiced steadily.
The final, but not less important step is actual playing. Whenever you have the chance to play your drums: do it. When you play more, more situations will already be familiar and your ability to accept unprecedented requirements becomes better.
When playing in conventional situations, your freedom as a drummer is quite limited. You have a number of choices regarding what you could play, but never too many. A 4/4 beat can be played a myriad ways, but only after you try to let go of the conventions you are used to. What are these conventions?
Accentuation, bass- and snare drum variation can make a rhythm a lot different. When starting out as a drummer, you usually know a few variations on these, but your choices are rarely conscious. Stop for a while: ask yourself how you could express different emotions on your drum kit.
How to perform a sad cha-cha-cha or a happy blues groove? When trying out unconventional things like these, you will push your boundaries, for sure. You will have to step out of your comfort zone; you will have to forget that until now you could only play the “standard”, melancholic blues.
Becoming versatile is just this: practicing the conventional until you can even play the unconventional. And playing the unconventional is always exciting. A happy blues groove may feel ironic; it holds a bit of might, it gives your art depth. And musical depth is something we are all looking forward to.
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