PEDERSEN: Yeah, and Buddy too. So maybe that physical thing helps. I know as a drummer, it’s a very difficult instrument because you don’t touch it. So we’re really removed from it. It’s like a giant condom for an instrument. [laughter] You play it with sticks and you’ve got pedals with shoes, and unlike bass or guitar, you don’t feel it, so it’s hard to connect with it anyway. But then the times when you really feel like you’re really involved, and this is what I try to teach my students here — it’s not separate pieces. You’ve really got to be careful to look at the instrument as everything together. And the thing that drummers that don’t play well often don’t know is they do okay here [indicates snare and hi-hat] and then they go to here [indicates snare and ride] and the groove goes away.
TIBBS: Oh yeah, especially the younger guys, they start riding a cymbal and, oh boy!
PEDERSEN: But when you really can embrace the whole instrument and can feel natural behind it — you’ve got to learn to kind of be at peace with the instrument. You’ve got to find a way that you can sit behind it and you feel like you can control it, but you’re still involved. And that’s different for everybody. Some people sit high. But when I sit high I feel like the instrument is too far away from me. And then when I sit too low I feel like the instrument’s taking me over, so it’s a very psychological thing. And that’s why sound is so important to me. If it sounds bad, it’s very hard to make it happen.
(Left) Tim Pederson
DRUM!: So how exactly does sound factor into the groove?
TIBBS: The sound is part of it, and how it feels. The sound of my bass, the sound around me, everything.
WAYMIRE: For me, that starts with the kick drum.
WAYMIRE: I can deal with toms that don’t sound good or even cymbals, but that kick drum ...
PEDERSEN: And we notice here, a lot of the students, the worst instrument for them is the bass drum. If the bass drum isn’t strong and isn’t secure and always the same, nothing’s going to be good. Because if the bass drum is perfect, and everything else moves around, it’s still going to feel pretty good.
TIBBS: Yeah, I had this one friend, he was like a college-educated percussionist-drummer, and every time we’d play it just didn’t feel right. And his foot was like a jackrabbit. [laughter] I said, “Just play a pattern.” And he was like, “Oh,” and it clicked in his head, and he did it, and it was like 20 percent better.
PEDERSEN: Yeah, they play like a bass drum solo. We see students here all the time and we spend all the time trying to get them to play like a one- or two-bar pattern for two minutes. All these bass drum notes — “But I got so much more I can play!”
WAYMIRE: The focus is different, though. Every four bars, “Oh, God! I need a fill. I need a crash. I need to open a hi-hat. I got to do something. Did I take out the trash? What am I going to do?” All this going on. It’s like, “No. Play the same groove for 16 bars.” That’s the hardest thing in the world for them.
PEDERSEN: It is. Well, it’s the hardest thing in the world to do, though! I mean that’s the thing. Playing great time for three-and-a-half minutes, that’s hard to do. It seems so easy when you’re young too. You’re like, “Really? That’s nothing, come on. Any joker can do that. I want to learn some cool licks.” And the cool licks are great. I mean, they’re fantastic, but they’re only fantastic if the other part’s great.
GALANE: The cream on the cake, man.
WAYMIRE: If you can’t come back to a good groove it doesn’t matter how cool your six-stroke roll is. It won’t make any difference.
DRUM!: Does it seem like these days kids are ignoring the groove and moving straight on to developing technique and speed?
PEDERSEN: Well, the instrument has to go somewhere if you’re young. This isn’t very exciting if you’re 13 [plays 2/4 backbeat on his thighs] because you can do it right away. You can teach anybody to do this in about a minute and a half. So they assume, “Great! I’m a great drummer.”
GALANE: Yeah, “I learned this in five minutes, I must be a genius. So, then I’m going to go on to playing something really fast.” And then they get the double pedal out. That’s just what happens, because, again, they don’t hear the groove yet. Because I think when you’re practicing your instrument, you’re practicing to become a virtuoso. You never practice the simple stuff!
WAYMIRE: Ninety-eight percent of our gig is 1 and 3, 2 and 4. While we sit and practice six-stroke rolls and paradidles all day, which I love, but ...
PEDERSEN: And, you know, drummers don’t realize how wonderful it is to play a great groove until they can. I mean, that feeling, when it’s happening, there’s nothing better. But until you can make that go, it does seem stupid. It just seems you can teach any knucklehead to do it. So it’s one of those weird catch-22s. And until you feel it, and know what it is, you can never see its importance, so you have to kind of search for it until you finally one day go, “Oh! That was cool!” And then it goes away. And then it takes you a few more weeks, and then you go, “Oh!” And then after a while you finally get to do it all the time.