As my drum teacher, Clyde Lucas hugely influenced my style, mindset and technique as a drummer. He was very fluid in his movements, very controlled in his playing, and very creative overall. He wasn’t about the flashy, as in stick twirls and super fast playing, because he was so incredibly good at playing drums that he didn’t need to be. If you’ve seen me play drums before, I tend to play a lot like him. I don’t go all flailing-arms on the drums, but I can play well, staying controlled and creative at the same time (I say this not to toot my own horn, but because I’ve heard this so many times from other people that I feel confident in taking it as truth). I actually think that a drummer that can do that is already way ahead of the drummers who can only play super fast songs and twirl their drumsticks.
Clyde always used to say that being able to play a very slow song brought you to the next level of drumming. And he’s right. Playing slow is way harder than playing fast. It forces you to nail every single thing you are playing; there’s no room for error. If you play a fast song and mess up a few hits, nobody notices because you’re already beating the drums at a thousand miles an hour. Being able to play slow means you have CONTROL over what you’re playing.
Control was one of the main things Clyde focused on for his students. There are a lot of drummers that can improvise and not have control. He said control ALWAYS trumps fancy licks any day. Now, control isn’t FUN. But how fun is it to start playing crazy fills, making the band fall apart because there was no control over the crazy beats? So yeah, this control-over-fancy mentality was ingrained into me very early on. And I couldn’t be happier for it.
And then there’s the fluidity of drumming. You’ll notice if you watch them that a lot of drummers move a lot when they’re playing. Even if it’s just for show, there’ll often be arms flailing all over the place. This is quite unnecessary, but simply a style issue nonetheless. It might be just a jazz drummer thing, but I know Clyde and I both will move our HANDS all over the place, but not the rest of ourselves, if you know what I’m saying. And I actually think it looks way more impressive to play incredibly complicated stuff without looking like you’re moving much, than playing incredibly complicated stuff and looking like you’re in a seizure. Just personal preference, but drumming smoothly can stylistically be very impressive, and less distracting. The idea is the QUALITY of movement, not the AMOUNT of movement.
And you wouldn’t believe how helpful some of the basic disciplines involved with drumming like that have been beneficial elsewhere in life…say in dancing.