Drummers: part workhorse, part pack mule, part unicorn.

Ina ZajacMusicDrummers: part workhorse, part pack mule, part unicorn.

Jun

24

Drummers: part workhorse, part pack mule, part unicorn.

InaDrum  Next time you’re watching a show, check out the drummer as they work their magic. Give thanks to the bringers of the beat. It’s easy to be enthralled with the cocky lead singer slinking the stage like a wildcat in heat. But if you do, I’m afraid you’ll be missing the real star of the show.

I think drummers are actually a lot like writers because when they are doing their job, you don’t notice them much. I’m a writer and not a drummer. Not yet. Though I’m learning AC/DC’s “Back in Black” which is something any four-year-old can learn in five minutes. Wait, make that something any three-year-old can learn in four minutes.

I feel it’s important to get this admission out there because the author photo on the back of “Please, Pretty Lights” shows me in front of a drum kit. This is actually because Nick (a main character in said novel) is a drummer for Obliviot, a rowdy 90s cover band.

Nick’s motto is, “The beat is…it just is.” As the drummer he never stops—no matter what. The beat is what binds. A song without a beat… isn’t much of a song, is it? Music is integral to my book. You can check out the setlist and listen to iTunes samples at www.inazajac.com under the music tab.

Today a friend of mine is gifting me an unwanted drum kit, and I can’t wait to set it up. Sorry in advance to my neighbors. I am so psyched, like a kid waiting for it to get dark on Halloween. Today seems the perfect day to blog about my heartfelt respect for those who drum.

 The mental and physical skill that drummers harness absolutely blows me away. No offense to singers, but come on. A lot of people can sing. Many others think they can. While the thought of singing in public may be mortifying, imagine trying to fake your way through a drum solo. Good luck with that. Still, lead singers get the most attention, followed by the lead guitarist. I’ll save the sympathy I have for bass players for another blog. Those poor babies (like Nick’s best friend Matt) need their own blog.

The past couple of years, I’ve interviewed — formally and not so formally — several drummers (rock and jazz) both male and female. Some of my questions were technical. “Do you say ‘count in’ or ‘count off’ and is this for unison starts?” Or, “how many sticks do you burn through each show?”

I also asked them about their craft and what (other than their sturdy ring of gear) sets them apart from other musicians. What I heard across the board is a distinct feeling of responsibility, and a desire to stay in control. Much like a kindergarten teacher with her class out on a fieldtrip. Natural problem solvers, they tend to hear things, notice things. Subtle things. They seem to be perfectionists, but in the best possible way.

Sorry if I sound like I’m dissing singers, but here’s another example. While the singer is contemplating the lyrics, what is the drummer focused on?

The typical drummer is working the hi-hat with the left foot pedal, the bass drum with the right; the sticks are all over the place: the hi-hat, the snare, low tom, mid tom, high tom, the crash cymbal and the ride cymbal. Brain circuits screaming, each limb has its own list of things to do. But wait, there’s more. The drummer is also paying attention to what the bassist is doing, the guitarist, and the singer.

Their efforts are physically exhausting. Think about it. Have you ever seen a fat drummer? Aside from the occasional beer belly, they are almost always in better shape than their band mates. They don’t just stroll on stage with a guitar case and a beer. This is where my workhorse/pack mule analogy comes in. Their “show” started hours ago when they packed up their drum kit, scrunched it into a van or car, hauled it through some back alley and into the venue. Then they unpacked, set up and prepped for sound check.

Showtime! They power through their set. Applause, applause and then — wouldn’t you know — they turn back into a mule and have to do the whole thing again in reverse. Hopefully, they’ll have at least one band mate to help. Their best bet is probably the bass player.

These are just a few observations. Of course, there are many more reasons drummers deserve more credit. They can’t stretch their legs during a set. That’s another. What else? Comment and tell me what I’ve missed. Oh, and the unicorn thing. I’m second-guessing that because unicorns are mythical creatures. Non-existent.

Thankfully, drummers are very real.

Check out www.inazajac.com to see the Please, Pretty Lights setlist. I’d also love to have you subscribe to my blog. Like my facebook author page at: https://www.facebook.com/InaZajacWrites

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