Naturally, everyone has opinions on the type of music they like or don’t like. Some people are quite happy to voice their opinions on the matter also. However, the average musician will justify the reasons for why they don’t like something vastly differently to a non-musician. The musician will enter into the ring swinging arguments such as that the harmony is too simple and predictable or the melody doesn’t use enough of the Lydian mode. Drummers will chime in with how there’s not enough double bass drum playing or the fills are too easy and so on and so on.
Of course, the above statements paint all musicians in bad light and this is not my intention. These opinions are only the opinion of some, and usually there are factors that contribute; experiences as a musician, age, and level of study are some examples. We are all allowed to have our own opinions because music speaks to us in different ways, but what if you allowed yourself to have a more balanced approach and attitude to the music you play and sometimes have to play?
The change in attitude came for me when I made the decision to make money from the gigs I was doing. Yes, I loved the creative stuff and original projects, but as my age increased, so did my liabilities and costs. As such, I wanted to make the drums work for me and that meant making some sacrifices such as playing styles of music I didn’t like.
Weddings were the first real test, as I was required to play some material that really fell into the category of ‘lame’ in my books. I freely admit that at the time I found it challenging as a musician, because I felt like I was letting myself down and was subjecting myself to music that was beneath me, all the while submitting to the rat race of the cover band.
The reality was and is, different though. The crime to myself as a musician was not committing to playing the tune of the moment with conviction and feel. Instead, I’d be rolling my eyes and getting through it. Not a great way to live even if you are getting paid for it. Sure, I could have been playing the tune I really wanted and how I wanted but at that particular moment, the requirement was to play that simple pop tune and I wasn’t playing what the music was calling for. Another interesting situation came to light; weddings require you to play an enormous amount of different grooves and styles, and as I rudely discovered, I really wasn’t cutting all of them. Reality check? Yep.
Think about it. A standard wedding would require the drummer to play jazz, Latin, reggae, pop, RnB, rock, folk and disco to name a few. This is not to be sneezed at, and every one of these styles has some seriously great tunes if you dig beneath the surface. Think about some of the great players who’ve laid down the foundations for artists like Toto, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Whitney Houston, John Farnham, Bruno Mars, and Beyonce. The grooves are there, and they’re really cool. Of course, you’ll have your preferences but if you get in there and play with attitude – good attitude – you’re going to have fun and may even feel fulfilled. Just because something is simple, does that make it not good? There’s some real substance to the simple material.
For me as a drummer, I’m happy as long as I’m playing with good musicians and it feels good. There’s so much joy and satisfaction with laying down a good groove, and even though some of the songs I have to play aren’t the first choice on my iPod, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad songs. It’s a conscious choice that changes that perspective. Let’s face it, getting paid to play the drums is a great thing and sometimes the gig requires you to play music that may not be your cup of tea. However, if your gear sounds good, the musicians you play with have the same attitude and you collectively work together to make the groove feel good, there’s no song that can’t be enjoyed; even if you have played it a thousand times.
Besides, you can still do the gigs you really love too and they can be as crazy as you’d like. But, to be a versatile and working musician, you have to keep the balance and commit to whatever gig you do. Just make sure that, regardless of the style of music, you’re making it feel good. Hey, you might even learn something.