Negative Attitudes & Drumming on the Internet

drums jazz russ miller Jan 03, 2016

Russ’ Blog - Nov. 2015

Negative attitudes and drumming on the internet

I have to admit, I’m not very excited about the whole “social” network thing. I

realize that I didn’t grow up with it and excepting anything “new” (especially something

that expects me to dance with it everyday) is not easy. But, it has surely become a

necessary in today’s market. A lot of the terminology also throws me for a loop. My

personal assistant is in her mid-twenties and is always on top of these things. I’m

usually asking her, “what does this mean?”. Awhile back, I was exposed to the term

“trolling” and I immediately went to her with a, “what’s this?” question. Of course, seeing

people be downright rude, inconsiderate and ignorant in the comments of internet

videos, was not new to me, just the term “trolling” was. For this month’s blog, I wanted

to ponder the “drummer troll” on the social sites. I also want to address one of the most

common trolling battles on the internet, “the greatest (or best) drummer” argument.

First let us start with the concept of trolling. This discussion is to not only expose

the characteristics of the troll but to also help reassure the victims of this, what is

actually happening. There are several attributes to a person who comments so

negatively all of the time. Let’s look at them:

1.) “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. We have all

heard this pearl of wisdom. Following this mantra would surely make the world a better

place. Our political campaigns might actually sound like adults talking, rather than

grade schoolers on the playground. Sports figures would teach our youth how to have

honor and sportsmanlike competitions. Road rage would stop. Even Rap stars would

not be in legal trouble because of “East vs. West” conflicts. Why spend a second of

your life committed to tearing something apart? Build something instead!

2.) “Too much time on my hands”. To quote a classic Styx song, the troll has a lot of

expendable time. The drummer troll, could be practicing and making themselves better.

They could be focused on long-term preparation, so when it is their turn to display

something, it might be better than what they are trolling about. Also, think about this

quote I wrote in my practice book, “You will want this minute back at the end of your life,

so use it wisely”.

3.) “Show us where you live!” The troll could take the time of negative commenting

and display themselves doing the playing (of course, at a much higher level than what

they are commenting on). O.K. fine, show us where you live! When you can do

whatever it is you are viewing so much better, you are welcome to show us!

4.) “Anyone who has the information, knows the difficulty of its acquisition”.

When you spend the time doing and learning, you begin to realize how little you actually

know. Also, you recognize how much more there is to learn. Also, every (good) thing

requires sacrifice. The troll needs to “put out” the sacrifice and then they will not be so

eager to comment on someone who has. This is why the greatest players are usually

the most humble. They know, how little they actually know!

5.) “One of the key components of a coward is anonymity” Finally, the troll who

hides behind their computer screen with a fake name, breeds true timidity and is the

definition of a coward. Of course, none of these comments would happen if the

comments were posted along with the troll’s name, telephone # and address!

“The Greatest Drummer of all time is….”

If there is a topic that brings the trolls out from under the bridge, it is surely the

“Greatest Drummer” titles and comments. Lets get this out into the open and hopefully

add some reasonable information to this discussion as well.

1.) The “Greatest of anything is subjective” The greatest of something is always a

difficult discussion, it is a subjective topic. Even in sports, the “greatest of a sport” can

be debated. Sports even have stats to help define this! Is the greatest quarterback in

history, the one who threw the most yards? Or, was this player blessed with

consistently having some of the best offensive lines for their protection until they threw

the ball? The best passer in the world isn’t going to be throwing laying on their back.

There are additional components to everybody’s success that are not under their total

control. Is the greatest Quarterback the one with the most Super Bowl rings? What if

the best quarterback was just never surrounded with the team assets to make a winning

line-up? Even in sports, where there are winners and losers, it is still difficult to make a

definitive claim about who is the greatest. If we look at art, it becomes even more

impossible. Art is completely subjective. I see paintings that go for millions of dollars,

that I wouldn’t hang in my garage. I hear “music” that doesn’t have most of the

attributes of composition (harmony, melody, lyric, etc.) on the radio, selling tons of

albums. Of course, we can never explain why somebody likes something, if we could

figure this out, we would all just do it!

2.) “The term, Greatest” gets used too easily. I see people comment all of the time,

“so and so” is the greatest drummer or “so and so” played the greatest this or that. Let’s

take a quick look at what it might take to be the “greatest” drummer. Or, why someone

(like a Buddy Rich) would be called “the greatest drummer”.

  • We should assume that anyone who is the greatest at something would have a high level of understanding and execution at many (If not all) the attributes required in that field. For instance, here is a list of things that are required to play music on the drums at a world-class level and could be a partial “checklist” for being the greatest:
  • Great timekeeping and groove in all that they play
  • A unique and consistent pulse in their playing
  • A unique and recognizable sound
  • Ability to play convincingly in many styles of music (Rock, R&B, Swing, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, social styles, Metal, Electronic music, and more)
  • Ability to read and write music well (they know the language)
  • A long and consistent tenure, of working in the music business
  • High levels of popular documentation (recordings) that would make their work known to the world
  • Recognition by the music, public and drumming communities
  • Represent one of the most sought after and well known musicians, who played drums
  • Made several historically regarded recordings that would show contributions to the recorded history of music
  • Made a unique and threshold raising contribution to the art form of drumming
  • Is held in very high regard by their peers in the industry
  • Secured a long visible career at performing, so as to create a recognizable name by the public and the industry
  • To have the publicity level, to represent the overall drumming community to the general public
  • To have achieved an extremely high-level of proficiency and execution on the instrument that would put them into the top percentile of drummers in history

Of course, there are even more attributes than this, which we can’t discuss now, do to

space. Notice that, “the fastest”, “the loudest”, “the most popular” are not in this list.

These are single qualities that are left for less integral discussions. There are of course,

many “categorized” discussions that can be had. Maybe about who is the greatest

“rock” drummer, “punk” drummer, “fastest double bass player” or even “soloist in a

music store”.

When someone looks at this partial list, I hope they would consider which

drummer’s name, can be seriously brought up in this level of discussion. I can’t think of

anybody who has all of these qualities checked off. This is why I believe there is no

“greatest”. But, there surely are players who have achieved the most “checks” on this

list. And I believe this is why players like Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta, etc.

are often discussed in this manner. With this in mind, it would surely make more sense

to see internet comments like, “this guy is one of the great technicians” or “this guy has

a made a great contribution to Progressive Rock”, even “this player sure has gotten an

amazing amount of views”. But, labeling a player as the greatest at anything, holds a

tremendous amount of responsibility and regard. I believe that a simple read through of

this discussion, might calm the trolls from a future battle of who the greatest drummer is.

I have literally read heated discussions on the net, where people are arguing about a

player who has only one or two items from this list and hundreds of people arguing

about it! Ignorance can sometimes be truly blissful (and disadvantageously time

consuming). We need to stay focused on what makes us better as people and as

drummers. And as for our top trolling topic, “The greatest drummer”, I believe we

should reserve the term “greatest” for a very unique discussion about an extremely elite

handful of players. Doing so, will help drumming move forward in an educated way. It

will also show a higher level of understanding about what we as drummers, are trying to

do. Most importantly, it will not exposed ignorance towards what we are all working

on….getting ourselves more checks on that list!


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