A week ago we had a bunch of friends over who also happen to be musicians. Like me these guys put away or sold their instruments many years ago giving up dreams of rock-stardom to become nice respectable family-men. Or at least a close approximation. Anyway, Because we’re all at that “K, I haven’t played in 30 years and am just taking lessons” stage the ability level is pretty consistent and there are no prima donnas. We were even fortunate enough to have a few experienced musicians with us to help guide the way.
The first thing I noticed as we lurched out some tunes was how much fun it was to be actually playing with other human beings. Practicing is a solo experience. Sometimes you are being taught by your teacher so there’s another person but that’s way different. Playing along to records (yes I said records – deal with it) is fun but there’s a plastic feel to it. Sorry for the bad pun. For a drummer, if you’re playing perfectly you can’t hear the drums on the track so you think you’re screwing up. You always fall back to listening to the music and it’s unchanging. Things constantly change in a live session environment and for better or worse, it’s awesome!
The second thing I noticed was how difficult it was to hear anything. Back in the day (says the old fart) guitarists and bassist were more macho. The guitarist always showed up asking if someone would help them carry their Marshall stack into the freight elevator. Bassists with huge Ampeg cabinets would line up their gear beside the drums like a sonic monolith. Then everyone would turn their amps up to 11. You could hear! Nowadays everyone has a little amp. Hell the big ones are even small. I mean, we had 6 amplifiers spread through a room that’s almost 40 feet long. Halfway down there was a beautiful, tiny Vox amp the Lead Guitarist was playing. I started setting up a mic on it and he says to me “It’s ok man, I can hear it fine”. “It’s for me way down there” I replied. After that I could hear him lots better! Still though, those little amps are really practical and sound great. If only they could go to 11.
This was the second live rehearsal we’ve done here but the first with this many people. We had 4 guitar players, 2 drummers and a keyboardist/vocalist. Everyone, of course, played multiple instruments with the guitar players switching up the bass roll. Why there is always a shortage of bassists I’ll never know.
During our first jam a few months ago I noticed whenever my teacher John sat down at the kit he played in a manner which caused the guitar players to, for lack of a better phrase, fall into line. When I played I’d kind of listen to the guitar player and play along to whatever tempo he was playing. This was both stupid and wrong because of one simple fact. Guitar players can’t keep time for shit. Trying to play drums ALONG WITH a guitar player is just bass-ackwards. It is the guitar player’s privilege to have someone there to keep time for him so his awesome licks and riffs really shine. Be that guy! Keep the time and they will follow. Thanks John!
During this second jam I followed this line of thought and I thought things went way more on tempo. We spent the afternoon throwing together both short and epic pieces of all kinds of genres. It was a real good time!
I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention my wife Mari and our friend Sandra. Thanks for all the cool food and all your help. And for not throwing me out when I ask if I can have a few friends over to play. I love you darlin’!
Thanks especially to Josh, Randy, John, Peter, Linda and Paul (way cool guitar man!). It was a blast playing with you all and great to spend the day together. Let’s do it again real soon!