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L.A. Beat

Drum Beat #10 — Are you a band whore or seasoned professional?

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Hello and welcome to column 10.
This column’s fundamental centers around whether you are a band whore or smart professional when it comes to being a gigging musician. This may not seem like a fundamental but it is fundamentally important to you being a working drummer throughout your life.
In my opinion being a ‘band whore’ (as it is called by what I like to call ‘band dicks’) is better than being a member in a band exclusively. Having said that  I believe everyone should be a member of a band but keep your options open. It is rare that a mix of musicians forming a band becomes transcending. The chances of making a lucrative living or being a rock star are incredibly slim even if you are a great  player. Several factors have to fall the band's way. Egos and personalities becomes obstacles, different visions, work ethic and playing ability all become factors that usually end in a band break up.

This is especially true if the goal of the band is to make it big. You can spend years relying on notoriously unreliable people resulting in you wasting valuable years building a career. Being a band whore allows to play with several people. This in turns rounds out your playing ability and chops both musically and personally. You learn to deal with several situations, different people’s  personalities, the nonsense of gigging and so forth. Instead of being a drummer in a specific band, be the drummer that is called by several bands to fill in or be part of a band on your terms. Do not let your career be dictated by non like-minded musicians. You will develop a reputation as a reliable, talented professional musician. This will lead to many gigs and opportunities.

Sooner or later you will find yourself playing with lots of people making a living being a musician. I have  known several drummers who say they are in a band but in reality they are waiters, cooks, retail shop workers or living with their significant other being supported.
Please do not get me wrong, it is possible to join a band and become famous making tons of money but it is very rare. The odds of this happening are worse than playing the lottery. Please do not take this so literally that you never join a band. There are a ton of local bands and touring bands that make good livings for the musicians.
Just be wise about which band you join. Know the goals and personalities of the musicians in the band. You will know within a couple of rehearsals if the goals and aspirations of a band are realistic and whether or not it is worth your time.

If you start to feel there is something not right in a band situation then more than likely you are correct. Run Forrest and run as fast as you can. Keep the door open and your mind clear while using extreme caution when approaching the commitment to a band full time. Network yourself; go to open jams and work hard to establish yourself in your community as the person to call if someone needs a drummer.
When other musicians give you a hard time about being a band whore just realize once you are established you can enjoy a long career playing music while you watch these so called band people go to day jobs they hate. Good luck.

Concept #10— What kind of drummer are you?

This column’s concept centers around what kind of drummer are you predisposed to being. Not everyone can play Metal or play like Dave Weckl from the Chick Corea Electric Band. Being a linear drummer may not be for you. Playing in Latin band may be something you should not do. Everyone can teach themselves to physically play the drums. With this in mind not every style is playable by every drummer. 

Every drummer has their strength. It is up to you to find it. There are only a handful of drummers that can play everything with excellence. Sure there are millions of drummers who can play anything that is put in front of them. These players can play the notes but for the most part there are a few styles that they sound great playing. With other styles they are just playing the proper notes. The point of this is do not be discouraged if someone is technically better than you. You might be better in some styles musically than they are.

Of course learn to play all styles and genres of music but find the few styles or genres you sound great in and specialize  in them. This approach allows you to play gigs of all kinds but lets you have some playing situations that you love to do.
It is great to be able to cover any gig such as a wedding where you play jazz standards. These gigs are usually done for  money and can suck the life out of you musically in a short time. So find your strengths and be sure to take paying gigs with a healthy mix of diversity thrown in. This concept will enable you to play drums the way you like  for a living instead of burning out on having to play "Misty" one more time while a Grandpa and his Granddaughter  dance at the wedding reception.

Lesson #10— How to play reggae

This column’s lesson is a discussion on the reggae beat. Most people are surprised when they are told the difference between a  rock beat and a reggae beat. For drumming, the accent lands on the 3 count of a 4/4 beat feel. Rock has a 2 and 4 groove to it. The Reggae beat gets it unique feel from just this simple basic concept. One important note is you can be the best reggae drummer ever but if the band cannot play their parts correctly then reggae will sound awful. Now it is possible to play a rock/reggae feel as well but for the most part if you are playing your bass drum on the three you are going to get the feel desired.

The best way to learn reggae beats is to listen to a rhythm section known as Sly and Robbie.They were the bass player and drummer for Bob Marley as well as many others. Go out and get a Bob Marley greatest hits record and then listen, listen, listen. Practice to it for hours. With drumming reggae is one of the funnest genres to play.
Make sure and swing the beats as much as possible when playing reggae. A stiff reggae beat never did a lick of good for anybody. Next go get a book on Reggae beats and learn them. Once you have finished with listening to and studying the reggae beat see if you can get yourself into a situation where you play some reggae with others. One last thought is you do not have to be stoned to play it.

Thanks for reading my column. Next time I am going to switch the format I have been following for the first 10 columns. For the next 10 columns I will be writing singular subject essays on drumming.

— By Stanley Jackson, Special to  L.A. Beat

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