I remember when I first started playing drums, they were the only thing I’d look for in music. I wanted to learn everything I could from the icons of my instrument. At this point in time, I was listening to music like a student in a classroom. I was there to gather information. Because this was my angle for years, my taste in music was lacking. Even now it can be difficult for me to appreciate a piece of music and not fixate on the competence of the drummer.
None of this is to say that I wish I wasn’t a drummer or that my musicianship has made it impossible for me to appreciate music. Rather, it’s something that I should understand. With that understanding, hopefully, I can work to make sure my experience as a listener isn’t boiled down to whether or not I liked the drums on any given track since there is so much more to music than that. The first experience that got me away from the drums was, oddly enough, a jazz tune.
Before I heard this, I thought of the drums as the center of music. The instrument was a driving force that the other players were second to. I assume that this is what happens to most new instrumentalists; they believe their instrument is the most important thing in the world. This song flipped that idea of mine on its head. In this piece, I could barely hear the drums because of how many other performers there are. And yet, there was energy and intrigue. This is when I realized that music was so much more than my instrument. This sent me down a whole path of music where drums aren’t the focus. I found so many artists I love because of it.
“Blue Sky” off the Allman Brothers’ Eat A Peach. In most of the group’s work, the guitars take center stage. This whole album got me to appreciate the beauty of melody and harmony, things that, as a drummer, I hadn’t paid attention to before. Now, to be fair, I also play guitar, so I wasn’t completely out of the woods yet. Was I loving this song because of how beautiful it was or was I taking notes again? It’s hard to say. This next got me out of said woods. After listening to this song, I knew what it meant to experience without looking for something I could learn from it. If barbershop isn’t your thing, let this be the one chance you give it. I promise it is worth it.
A good friend showed me this and after my first listen, I was inconsolable. The lyrics definitely had something to do with that, but it was so much more. These four singers were able to perform with elegance and were unbelievable to me. They sang these quiet little phrases that felt so fragile and then they effortlessly swelled into these moments that seem so unbreakable. It really does get me every time. If you’re looking for another masterpiece of emotion, intricacy and patience, you should listen to the original version of the song by Eric Benét.
This is an ongoing journey. Because of my love for my instrument, I will always pay attention to it more. It’s how I express myself so seeing others express themselves in the same medium feels so relatable like we are speaking the same language. However, if kept my head down and only looked for artistic expression in rhythm, I would be missing so much.