One of the saddest things in our industry is to hear young drummers criticize or put down older drummers. After all, when you really analyze the history of drumming, all of the newest beats are just new ways of combining the patterns and rhythms played years ago by older drummers. We would all be playing differently today with out the older players to learn from.
An even sadder thing is to hear older drummers put down younger drummers. I guess some people would prefer to live in the past. This is unfortunate because learning works both ways. Any honest parent knows this. Our children learn from us and, at the same time, we learn from them. When you lack respect for someone you indicate that your mind is made up. This is a closed mind. A closed mind cannot learn. A mind that cannot learn soon discovers it has allowed time to pass it by. When time passes you by long enough, you become one of those older drummers putting down the young guys. It’s just a matter of time.
Respect is an attitude that is best cultivated early in life because it grows as you grow. When you have respect for an older player you are not really helping him, you are helping yourself. Respect opens your mind so that you can appreciate and learn from what has preceded you.
Respect doesn’t mean that you have to agree in every way with the other person. It doesn’t mean slavishly copying and imitating someone else’s style. It just means that you respect them for what they do well; for the effort they have made to achieve their particular success.
I recently performed on a series of clinics with Dave Garibaldi, the drummer who was in many ways the heart of the group Tower of Power. Working closely with another drummer on a clinic requires some adjustment on the part of both players. For example, Dave and I are from different generations. In age we’re ten years apart. My experience has been primarily with big bands, jazz groups and studio work. Dave’s experience has been varied, although the major part of his playing has been in the rock and funk styles.
For us to talk, play and demonstrate sounds and styles together required team work. The foundation for team work is mutual respect. I found Dave to be an unusually considerate, articulate and dedicated musician. I’ve learned from him and he has learned from me. As a result of mutual respect we have both gained, musically and personally.
I’ve also performed on clinics with Jack DeJohnette and Louie Bellson. In some instances I was the younger drummer and in others I was the older drummer. In each case, I found these performers respectful, cooperative and free from ego games. Respect for each other has been the common theme. I’ve enjoyed working with all three of them.
One concept that can help is to realize that anyone who can make a living playing the drums does something well. It may not be your favorite style or your favorite type of music, but you can respect the effort that went into creating it.
Also, all famous drummers play well and, fortunately, they don’t all play the same way. It is the differences that makes the whole music thing interesting. Learn to respect those differences and you will learn more about drumming, more about music and, perhaps, more about yourself. It all starts with learning to respect yourself. Don’t put yourself down to yourself. Don’t criticize yourself to yourself. Self criticism doesn’t help.
Learn to be more self aware. When you make a mistake, ask yourself, “Why did I goof? Did I stop concentrating?” Analyze the situation and then decide what to do about it. Study a drum book, take some lessons or go watch someone else play and respect yourself for making the effort to improve.
Play as well as you can. No one is perfect and no one plays their best 100% of the time. Just do your best under the conditions in which you find yourself. When you stop being critical of yourself the need to criticize others fades away. It changes into respect.
Respect for others who have achieved some measure of success also helps to keep your ego in check. It is easy to lose your perspective when success comes early. This is something that happens to many of us, but respect for others will help you to out grow the ego trip easily and painlessly.
People with respect for others have a lot of friends. Ego trippers just have acquaintances because it is tough getting close to an ego. It is much easier to get close to a person and, I might add, a lot more rewarding.
When I was seventeen, Louie Bellson heard me play at a drum studio in Kansas City. He took me to one side and said, “Young man, you are as good as you are going to get if you stay in Kansas City. With your talent you should go to New York or LA and study.”
I did just that! I went to New York City. Eight years after that meeting Louie and I were doing clinics together on the same stage. And he was genuinely happy for me. This encounter changed my life in several ways. One, it got me out of Kansas City. Two, I was so impressed by the respectful way that Louie treated me that I vowed to myself to be the same way to others if I was successful. Louie’s attitude and respect for others has been a life-long lesson for me. He is surely the outstanding gentleman in the drum business. I also know that he has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to countless young drummers. My respect for Louie and the other drummers I’ve mentioned in this article has enriched my life both musically and personally.
Start by respecting yourself and begin respecting others, no matter what their age or style. You will find that having an open mind is one of life’s richer experiences.