Tuesday, June 1, 2010


What do you call people who hang out with musicians?      Drummers.

I bring up that joke because in my car earlier today I heard Iron Maiden's "The Number of the Beast."  The drums come in after a minute-long intro to provide a backbeat, but the drummer "anticipates" the snare shot before every eigth count.  It reminded me that drummers can be as musical and creative as their guitar-plucking, vocalizing, keyboard-tapping bandmates.  The fact that such drumming gets featured in mainstream music is an added plus.  We might overlook it, but it's there and it's something quite special.

Clive Burr's drumming example is just one of many in popular music.  Steve Gadd did wonders for the instrument in Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover."  The song's intro might be my first introduction to linear drumming.  Phil Collins' drum parts might seem straightforward but his sound is so recognizable and his fills add a musical punch that helps to propel the song forward.  His approach to music might be the reason he's the author of, arguably, the best drum fill in history.  And of course, I'm talking about his part in "In The Air Tonight."

More recently, Carter Beauford, of the Dave Mathews Band, has brought forth a musicianship to popular music that he surely stands alongside with the best in the business.  Sometimes it's not so technical as it is innovative and fresh.  I'm sure you can name a drum part that's stuck in your head over time.  It can be a simple beat.  It can be funky or groovy.  But such contributions should not be dismissed as easily as they sometimes are.

Check out Steve Smith as he explains the drum part for the song, "Don't Stop Believin'."

This upbeat song hasn't lost its mojo even though it's coming up on its 30th birthday.  The drums do a nice job of blending in but if you listen closely, something different is afoot.  The backbeat is somewhat replaced with toms, and the part is further enhanced with offbeat ride cymbal accents.  It might seem tricky at first but it's not impossible.

This song might be the perfect example of how, sometimes, drummers put a lot of thought into their playing.  So next time you hear a song, enjoy it to it's fullest.  A melody just might lie somewhere beyond the vocals.

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