At some point between birth and age 4, I became fascinated with playing the drums. So, I used anything that would function as drumsticks, and banged on anything that would function as drums. At first, the infatuation was simply the noise that I could create…and obviously, the hopes of one day becoming a rock star. However, over time, the responsibility of being a drummer became apparent to me. As I have instructed many a young drummer, the primary function of a drummer is to establish and provide a consistent (and constant) tempo and rhythm for the rest of the band.
With that said, knowing and understanding rhythm has become increasingly more important to me the longer that I live. As the pace of life naturally quickens with graduation from high school, college, marriage, family, jobs, a mortgage, and on and on and on, it is vital that each and every one of us become aware of our personal rhythm. Here are 4 myths floating around out there about rhythm.
Myth #1. Your rhythm has to be my rhythm. The saying is true, we all march to the beat of a different drummer. What works for you might not work for me. My rhythm might not work for you. I have some friends who like to work late into the wee hours of the morning. I also have some friends that are not night owls, and love to get up at the crack of dawn. In fact, they get their best work done before the rest of the world has had their first cup of coffee. The point is this: find YOUR rhythm.
Myth #2. There is a right rhythm and a wrong rhythm. To be completely honest with you, I have struggled with this as of late. I have felt the pressure of conforming to the rhythm of other people. I have beat myself up for not “grinding” the way they do. Their hours. Their work load. The way they can multitask. The way they can’t say no to anything. The way they say yes to everything. The lesson that I’m learning is this: they’re not necessarily right, and they’re not necessarily wrong…they’re just different. And that’s okay.
Myth #3. Rhythm doesn’t matter. Ask a bass player, guitar player, keyboard player, or any other member of the band. Rhythm does matter, and it is important! Musicians understand the importance of “playing in the pocket.” This simply means that there is a precise tempo and rhythm that fits every song. In other words, the flow of the music and lyrics aren’t quite right if the rhythm isn’t right. Too fast? Too slow? Everyone else around you knows, and can even feel, when the rhythm isn’t exact.
Myth #4. Once established, rhythm cannot be changed. Most of the time, songs maintain the same rhythm. However, there are times when the rhythm might in fact need to be adjusted. This isn’t generally a problem, as long as everyone that is involved is aware of the changes. I’ve realized, that when the drummer is doing his own thing, and isn’t in tune with the rest of the band, chaos ensues. If the musician (for the sake of this post, the drummer) that is supposed to keep the tempo is constantly speeding up or slowing down, then everyone gets frustrated, no one has fun, and everybody is on edge. However, when there is agreement. Communication. Focus., and everyone is on the same page, rhythm changes can be powerful and moving.
The key takeaway is this: determine your rhythm, stick to it as long as you need to, and if necessary, make periodic adjustments and course corrections. My rhythm has significantly changed over the last few months. In addition to the other responsibilities of my “normal” life, I have added another job, to help adequately provide for my family and our growing needs. Needless to say, this disrupted my previous rhythm. I could no longer keep up with my previous pace. So, I had to make some adjustments along the way. And that’s okay. It’s not that it’s right or that it’s wrong, it’s just different. And it’s okay for you too.
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