Hey, this is Jacob from Pomegranates. It’s hard to figure out what I want to say to other drummers, especially when I feel like most of the people reading this are a bit more technically proficient than me. Hmm.
I’ll start with something I have observed watching many drummers play as we tour around the U.S. We play about 120 shows a year, so I feel like I have seen a lot of drummers. Pretty consistently it seems like drummers are trying to do too much. Too many fills! Always playing at 100% volume! We don’t need to do that.
I love nuance. I think pulling back can make a huge impact in making a song better and more engaging. Communicating that with your band is important. If everyone is aware of each other’s creative goals, odds are the songs are going to sound better. Work together on getting tight and letting each instrument fit its role for the song without competing for sonic space.
A lot of old soul and Motown recordings come to mind. The drummers find a nice groove that is simple and strong, but don’t try to prove how good they are. Bands such as Talking Heads or U2 also come to mind. Simple but effective.
One way to do this is to experiment with hitting your drums in a different spot and at a different velocity. Maybe tapping on your hardware or rims, or hitting a tom on the head near the rim at half strength. I found when I went down to a three-piece kit, it really stretched me to try different things, which is a great way to get some fresh creative juices flowing if you feel like you have run out of options. And I’m sure it can go both ways! If you play a three-piece, maybe try a four-piece or add a tambourine to your setup. Also, try and play a song where the fill only uses, say, the snare and one tom, and you only hit the tom once—no flams, paradiddles, etc.
I think ultimately what is most important for drummers who want to play in bands is to focus on the songs. It may be a matter of personal taste, but for me, I’d much rather hear a song that moved me and was tastefully arranged than see a drummer doing a bunch of complicated fills just for the sake of playing something complicated because it felt more fun.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of loving your instrument. That doesn’t mean it has to be an expensive kit. Does it sound good? Do you get excited thinking about playing on it? Know the purpose of your kit and what your creative vision is as an artist. Better to spend a few months tracking down the perfect flea-market off-brand ’70s Japanese 18×20 kick with an orange sparkle finish than to just get something expensive, if you know that old Japanese kick is going to make playing drums more fun and inspire some creativity! I lucked out and found an awesome drum maker who was able to make me a kit that was exactly what I wanted. And not just in terms of dimensions, but hardware, finish, etc. If you want to get in touch with him, his name is Chris Hartzell, and he can be found at www.bronwyndrums.com. He is a small maker, but I think you will be impressed at the quality of work he does.
Thanks for reading all this. Maybe Ill see you at a show!
For more on Jacob Merritt and the Pomegranates, go to www.myspace.com/pomegranatesart.