A lot of percussionists—and drummers, too—have that problem of overplaying. The way you overcome it is by developing discipline.

I learned all about discipline when I became a session player. I’d go into the studio and the producer would say, “Okay, let’s hear what you hear on the song.” I’d play what I felt, and lots of times they’d say, “What you played was too busy.” So I’d play again, but cut in half what I played the first time. The reaction usually was, “It’s still too busy.” What I’d usually wind up doing was taking away three of my four conga drums and playing one drum with one hand. Most of the time the people I worked for wanted that clean sound. Instead of playing those in-between beats, they’d usually want something simple. I knew that if I was going to keep working, I had to give people what they wanted, so early on, I learned about discipline. The key is not to overplay, but to lock into the groove and stay there.

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