So proud to have been featured
on the cover of Drums Etc!
Han Bennink sits at his open windowsill overlooking Amsterdam’s bustling streets with only brushes and snare drum. Focusing on small points of the city’s sonic palette, he zeroes in on the sound of a car engine and imitates it on the drum. He then takes in the sound of rustling newspapers and imitates this on the drum, creating yet another groove. This is an exercise in listening. We truly are sound crafters!Remember, you have 2 ears; one of them is for you, the other for the rest of the band. If we are going to speak in the language of music, we have to let music speak to us.
In this 4 part series of ‘The 4 Musical Keys’, (also known as ‘The 4 Offenses Of Drummers’!) we will start with the most important element, LISTENING.
Listening these days is a challenge with so much competing for your ears attention. With noise and distractions bombarding us morning to night, many of us suffer from Broken Focus Syndrome. And drummers are energetic, passionate people to begin with! To really FOCUS is such a big part of listening. We all have so much to say, and we all want to be heard. In order to be listened to, you need to become a good listener.
It has been said that ‘ego is the enemy of music’. We all know that voice in our head that says ‘I’m crushing this gig, they love me!!’ or the opposite ‘why did I just play that, I should have been a plumber.’ Neither is true! Music and drumming is about SERVICE to the best in yourself, and to the bigger picture. You can change lives by helping and inspiring others, and music is the international language to achieve this. Ironically, the more you focus on contributing to the whole, that is when you will sound your personal best, and the rhythms you play will really impact people.
One of my best habits is reflection. In life this is keeping a journal, and in music this is recording my performances. I’ll never forget one of my first times listening back to my gig tapes. Thinking it was a really great night, I proudly popped in the show tape ready to bask in the awesomeness of my grooves. I did have my moments, but what I hadn’t heard was the expressive ideas of the guitarist which had nothing to do with what I was playing. If music is a language, this conversation didn’t make any sense! Sometimes our biggest game changing moments are also some of our most painful ones, and I gradually realized I wasn’t really listening to the band, but thinking only of myself. I needed to truly listen. I was lucky to play the next night again with the same band, but my ears were now transformed. I ‘heard’ everything that was played in a new way, and I found it gave me 10X the ideas I had before! I got the ‘smile-nod’ from the guitarist, and we had a great night. I learned the hard way that there is a big difference between hearing and listening. Listening, both in music and in life, creates ‘synergy’ meaning ‘to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of the separate parts’. This is when 1 + 1 = 3, and everyone goes to a magical place together that they couldn’t get to on their own.
The more you really listen, the real you has a chance to come out. This is what every musician strives for, our unique personal sound that no one else can duplicate, our own fingerprint. REALLY LISTENING puts you inside the present moment, not being worried about what you’re going to say or play, or what you did say or play. When you listen you are fully present, and all possibilities lie within that moment. The world opens up, and it is not about you anymore. Listening is a selfless act. Allow your whole body to be a resonator to what is going on around you. Music WANTS to be listened to. Ask ‘What does the music want me to play?’
Listening is also about ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’, experiencing the greats that have come before us. Spending uninterrupted time everyday listening to the past musical masters will add depth to your playing, and exercise your ear. “Empty your cup,” Bruce Lee said, “for if your cup is always full, you cannot fill it with anything else.”
-Choose any song, and see if you can pick out and sing all the individual parts.
-Regularly tape record yourself!
-Practice the 60/40 rule: listen 60% of the time, and speak 40%.
-Practice leaving space in everything you do.
-Watch Evelyn Glennie’s TED talk on ‘How To Really Listen.’