Practice notes: The Space Between

This past November, I was able to practice every single day. The parameters of daily practice involved at least 15 minutes of focused exercise with no distractions, a.k.a no "multitasking" of rudiments with an ongoing Netflix binge in the background. Some days I was able to pull in 15 minutes, other days up to 2 hours. Not surprisingly, linear drumming emerged as the area of my playing that needed the most attention. I've known this for a good deal of time now, but have cleverly/stupidly overlooked this part of my vocabulary. With daily practice, you can no longer sidestep the obvious.

Linear drumming involves fills or patterns where no two limbs are playing at the same time. Early on in my playing, I developed a nasty habit of "keeping time" with my right foot on the kick drum throughout very hand-driven, Tommy Lee-inspired fills. In linear drumming, this nervous foot chatter does not fly.

So much of my approach to the instrument, or to movement in general, involves what I can act upon - what do my arms and legs need to do in order to make this beat happen. I can play RKKL RKKL RLKR LKRL until I'm blue in the face, and pretty much did for 30 days straight.

But making something happen doesn't always mean that it actually works. At a certain tempo (100 bpm to be exact, ask Justin Timberlake while he was singing Rock Your Body through my headphones), my 16th note linear patterns involve all the notes technically being played but not rhythmically making sense. To a degree, some of it is an issue of speed. But as I examined the pattern at painstakingly slowed tempos, my attention turned away from the actions of limbs and more to the control of space in between. This might be crazy obvious to most of my drumming friends. I've heard it time and again as well in my drum life, listening to Neil Peart interviews as he describes the "dance" of the limbs between each note that he learned from Freddie Gruber. But to feel the ways I am able/unable to control the space intervals between each note has unlocked an understanding of the instrument akin to that mysterious glowing box in the movie Pulp Fiction, looking from inside out of what makes a groove groove.

It continues to blow my mind how the things I learn about drumming are universal principles in a way.  A groove doesn't happen in a vacuum.  It is a series of relationships - between each note, between each measure - to illicit the Big Picture and a feeling. A beat can happen but a groove has to make sense - not just with each strike of the drum, but with the space between.