An Editor’s Overview

Signal to Noise

by Mike Dawson

When I first started playing drums, the challenge was finding enough credible content, whether in the form of method books, magazine articles, or instructional videos, to help me understand exactly what skills and tools I would need in order to become a professional musician. I bought whatever VHS tapes and drum methods my local music store carried, I borrowed every music history book and jazz CD my local library had available, and I practiced all of the exercises included in Modern Drummer each month. At times I may have gotten a bit obsessed with consuming and collecting information (did I really need to master a five-over-four foot ostinato?), but I never felt like I was being pulled too far off course.

These days, young drummers are navigating an entirely different landscape, one that’s saturated with information that’s instantly accessible via a single Google search. As amazing as the Internet is for researching and gathering up varying viewpoints on different topics, there’s a good chance that you’ll become overwhelmed with options to the point where you end up making less progress than if you focused on getting the most out of a single idea. The great drummer/educator Jojo Mayer touched on this concept at his recent clinic at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. Jojo demonstrated how he applies limits to his practicing, such as adhering to a specific three-note pattern between the floor tom, snare, and kick, so that he would have to rely on dynamics to create interesting musical statements.

Another PASIC clinician, New York–based modern jazz drummer Marko Djordevic, talked about how he incorporates rules and guidelines when practicing drum solos to keep himself from falling back on habitual licks and tricks. His first rule was that he would use no preconceived patterns, grooves, or time signatures to formulate the content of his solo. Instead, he reacted and built upon whatever sounds he felt compelled to make on the kit that morning. The result on that day was an incredibly fresh, emotional, and exciting opening solo that told a unique story. In his second solo, Djordevic limited himself to a specific 5/16 riff in order to keep his ideas grounded and focused. Both examples showcased how important it is to establish rules and boundaries when engaging in the creative process to avoid chaos and confusion.

In this issue, cover artist Stella Mozgawa of the genre-melding band Warpaint also touches on the need to instill limits to one’s art, which in her case goes as far as a self-imposed rule to only use her own drum samples in her SPD-SX pad so that she doesn’t become creatively paralyzed from having hundreds of sound libraries at her disposal. I dig that.

Enjoy the issue!

Mike Dawson

Managing Editor