Archive for 2016


Last week I was called a “purist” for playing music that I enjoyed at the expense of making money. Not to be too hasty, I looked up the meaning of “purist”. I found this on the Miriam-Webster site: “a person who has very strong ideas about what is correct or acceptable and who usually opposes changes to traditional methods and practices”.

Well, that’s not quite what I’m about… In my teaching practice, I cover everything from current music to music from a few decades ago, depending upon the student’s desires and needs. Along the way, we may wander into rudiments (like the 5 stroke roll that Chad Smith uses for a quick fill on the recording “Otherside”, for example…), or the derivation of different styles, many of which are linked by a feel (shuffle, swing, hip-hop) or connected to a location (Go-Go, second-line, samba, reggae, Motown, etc.).

By the way, after a painful rehearsal last week, I’m spending time studying the Basie band charts. I am digging deeply into how the drum fills are played as part of the ensemble (emphasis intended!) as opposed to small drum “solos”. Seems obvious, but it’s mostly about hearing the music as it should be played… Maybe I’m being a bit of a purist??

Playing to Play

I meet up with a guitarist twice weekly to play jazz. No gigs, no money; no obligation other than to play the music as best as we can. The only requirement is that we show up on time ready to play. The “payment” is the satisfaction gained from perfecting the music over time, or rather as my friend puts it, “growing the music”. The focus is on playing the songs (mostly jazz standards) better each time we play.

We take what we are doing (but not ourselves!) seriously.

The investment is personal practice time learning the songs and perfecting the chosen arrangements, which usually come from recordings, supplemented by charts.

When I talk to drummers, and I tell them that I’m in two rehearsal bands, playing jazz, and not making any money, they almost invariably respond by saying “Cool!”

Why is that? My suspicion is because they know that I’m practicing the art for no reason but to do it. There is no money, no recording deal, no gigs, and no business negotiations or marketing, there is just the music.

We begin learning the instrument, and before we start playing for money, if we ever do, the spark comes from doing something that we want to do, for whatever reason. The exact reasons may be less than lofty (especially for drummers, who beat on things), but reasons, nevertheless. Having spent decades (literally) teaching private lessons and playing a wide variety of gigs so that I could pay (some of) the bills, reaching a moment where I consider only the music for its own sake is a bit of a change, and a welcome one, at that.

It has been even more decades since I looked forward to a rehearsal as much as I do now. Each time I get ready to play, I am excited, much like I was when I was when I first started learning the instrument… Being allowed to play challenging music that I like is truly a gift.

So, play the drums. Find the best place for you, the best sound for you, and the best music for you (including what’s in your head…), and just play it.

If we have no other desire than to play good (to us) music, do we need to be reimbursed?