Monday, November 7, 2022



What's the first thing we hear when anyone plays an instrument? Their sound. Yet we spend very little time talking about it. I'd like to offer my opinions on the subject, and remember, they are purely mine.

1. Very little of your sound comes from the gear you're using.

Recently, I played a jam session and two very talented young drummers came up and played. One was someone who had played in the church and it was evident he had been heavily influenced by Gospel music. As soon as he started to play, the cymbals got quieter, the hi-hat and snare drum sounded much drier than before, etc. Then another drummer sat in ( in think she was from Ecuador and was here studying Music in College) and when she played, the cymbals all became crashes rather than rides, and the toms took on a beefier and more predominant tone, aided by a healthy dose of rimshots played on all the drums (except the bd.) Now, both these individuals were playing my drums, and I'm sure they sounded different when I played them. Why? Because we were all hearing different things! At that point I realized that sound develops as one listens and discovers one's taste in music, long before an instrument is touched! As good as these players were, I don't believe either of them had been playing as long as me, but already their sounds were fairly established and continuing to develop. Speaking of which……

2. Your sound develops as your taste evolves.

I'm sure I sounded a lot more like Peter Criss in the late '70s than I do now. Partially, because I hadn't heard a lot of music and didn't have a lot to draw upon. The music that turns us on effects our touch, ideas, tuning, dynamics, cymbal choice etc. and that all comes out in the sound we make. Conversely, if I never had heard Tony Williams or Elvin Jones, I'm absolutely sure I would sound very different than I do now. Also…

3. Your sound continues to grow and change.

This is especially true if one keeps studying and learning. I have heard much more World, Classical, and R n' B than when I was a young person, and that has changed my sound significantly. Even the physical limits of aging (as well as the greater common sense and erosion of ego that goes with it) changes one's sound.

4. Your sound becomes more prominent as you accept and understand it.

The more you understand the sort of player you want to be, and the effect you want to create when you perform, the clearer your intent will be. This cannot be overstated. The intent creates the sound. I'll repeat that. The intent creates the sound.

Of course, there are so many great drummers I could use as examples of sound, but i thought I would post this footage of Louis Bellson ( a big early influence for me) in 1992. Check out his snare drum sound. Magic.

No comments:

Post a Comment