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because we had eight string players in the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble, and they sometimes needed it when I wasn’t playing. Even in certain passages when I was playing, it helped us all to stay together. I was also required to stay in tempo with some long, legato sequences of keyboard or vocal effects, and the tambo-click helped with that, too. Even so, I am glad to say that the click appears in only a tiny percentage of the show, and only when absolutely necessary — or at least, “absolutely helpful.” On most songs, I prefer to hold it together myself, and let the band be a living, breathing organism that can push and pull naturally. These days many bands perform to a preprogrammed basic track, often a computerized software program. We always resisted that rigidity. Speaking of rigidity, one cautionary note — after some years of working with clicks and sequencers to that degree of exactitude, I felt my playing was getting stiff. If that was the price of precision, I didn’t like it — but what to do? In the mid-’90s I studied with the late Freddie Gruber, who emphasized movement over technique — or at least movement in the service of technique — and he helped greatly in loosening me up. A little over ten years later, in the late 2000s, I studied with Peter Erskine, remo_p77giveaway_drum-1215-half pg.pdf and he also guided me along the road to more

relaxed tempo control and improvisational ability. I owe much to them, and to my first teacher, Don George — all of them contributing to my development along the way.

PARTING THOUGHTS Finally, I can only conclude with encouragement. As I acknowledged earlier, times are tough for musicians starting out — but they clearly were for me in Southern Ontario in the 1970s, too. Miracles do happen. Maybe you will be one. In any case, whether or not your music supports you, it can still nurture you. It is not given to every aspiring musician to make a living at it, never mind fame and fortune, but it can still be a rewarding lifetime pursuit. I know several “nonprofessional” drummers who find joy in playing the instrument, sometimes with friends, and gradually getting better at it. (Because you do. When people ask me about my favorite recorded performance, I am taken aback — if I didn’t think my most recent work was an improvement over the past, I hope I would give up.) Other than “practice, practice, practice,” the only unqualified advice I can give to beginning drummers is to play live, in front of people, as often as youPMcan. Nothing teaches 1 10/8/15 4:30 you more about where the nexus lies between

what makes you excited, as a player, and what excites an audience. If the ideal is to play music you like, and have other people like it too, then the definition of luck fits perfectly: where preparation meets opportunity. You really cannot play too much, on your own, with a band, and onstage. As Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” The more you are practicing your chosen art, the more likely you are to stumble upon inspiration in that work. (It’s probably safe to say that more inspiration is stumbled upon than delivered from on high.) Years ago I read about a tabla player who practiced every day, but he said that only about every ten days did he feel he “got somewhere.” Beginning a long period of daily practice under Freddie Gruber’s teaching in the mid-’90s, I took that to heart, and found it to be true. The important thing is to keep striking that flint and steel, and eventually you will produce a spark. One related bit of wisdom I have acquired, in music and in life: “Magic happens — but it often requires some planning.” Determination, too. Excerpted from Pete Vassilopoulos’ forthcoming book Recording Drummers.











December 2015

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DRUM! Magazine December 2015  

Try a copy of DRUM! and learn to play better faster. The huge (144 pages) holiday issue features jazz triple grammy winner Teri Lyne Carring...

DRUM! Magazine December 2015  

Try a copy of DRUM! and learn to play better faster. The huge (144 pages) holiday issue features jazz triple grammy winner Teri Lyne Carring...