Cliff Sarcona of As Tall As Lions : Modern Drummer
Photo by Kaley Nelson

After drumming for seventeen years, I don’t consider myself to be a highly technical drummer. However, my early classical training and private study shine through from time to time, as rudiments can play a large role in making a particular drum part go from good to great. My progress has been more reliant on heavy grooves, odd-time changes, and, most recently, on-the-spot improvisation. You can argue that these things aren’t needed to write “good songs,” but I believe that without exploring the full potential and possibilities of drumming, you can never fully understand what it is to lay back and be simple. As a result, beats become more addictive and are more original, something that is noticed by even the untrained musical ear. They become universal.

One thing that I have noticed about the repetition of playing the same songs every night is that you can visualize everything you’re about to play before you play it, while you are playing. The more advanced you become, the more bars ahead you are able to conceptualize. This is where I began to develop a strong improvisational technique. While playing, if I am able to pre-conceptualize parts ahead of time, why can’t I add and change those parts as they are played? It gets to the point where I am no longer paying attention to what I am playing, but concentrating on what parts are coming and how I can make them better. The only way this is possible is through experience and diversity in the music you play and listen to. The more weapons in your arsenal, the more you are able to work with. Improving live has become my passion this way. The thrill from successfully wowing a crowd with nothing but pure, creative self-expression is downright exhilarating.

All in all, I can say I’ve had an incredible time traveling the world and playing music in front of great people. It’s changed me as a drummer and as a person. One thing I can promise: I will always push myself to develop as a drummer, to explore new areas, and never settle with what I already know. There will always be more to learn, and I’m going to make sure I find it. Thanks for reading!

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