In this week's drummer challenge, we want to discuss one of the elements that help good drummers turn great and earn their groove stripes.
That element is the ability to color the song by using various components of the kit. Many of us are taught the fundamentals of this early on when we are coached to move from the hi-hat to the ride on choruses. However, the greats will take this concept much further. Crafting complete orchestrations to capture the feel of the song and the mood of the songwriter's intentions.
This is one of those drumming elements that is often overshadowed in the drum community, where we tend to associate greatness with speed and pure technical ability. However, the songwriting community associates greatness with the drummer's ability to "color the song," which has risen artists such as Gadd, Beauford, Soan, Freese, and Porcaro to fame beyond drumming's boarders.
Perhaps, one of the greatest lessons in "coloring the song" comes from Carlos Vega and his live performances with James Taylor.
In fact, Vega's performances were so inspiring that they earned a special note in Modern Drummer magazine in 2008. I wish I could find the original article, but HighBeam research does a good job paraphrasing.
Carlos's playing on Live reveals a serious amount of thought behind his musical choices. Every note is played perfectly in time, and everything is played for a specific reason. There are no overly busy fills and there are no grooves that are too sparse or light. …
This week's drummer challenge is to listen through Your Smiling Face on James Taylor Live. Analyze how Vega colors various elements of this song...in a live environment, then sit at the kit and try to emulate his composition. Focus on creating space and texture over speed and intricate fills. E.g. let your Vega shine bright!
As always, feel free to tag us in your drum videos of you jamming along to this track and others on Instagram.