Discuss drumming technique here
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By bops
#10093
Most jembe students are so concerned about hitting the drum properly that they forget to pay attention to the rest of their body.

Does your face go into contortions each time you play a solo phrase? Are you a grimmacer? A wincer? A teeth-gritter? Do your legs, shoulders, or neck tense up when you play?

It's something to watch out for. You've no doubt noticed how the pros make it look easy. But how do they do that? Take a look at some of the jembekans by your favorite drummers. Try relaxing your body when you play. Your timing will probably improve, and the audience will notice, too.
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By Dugafola
#10094
nice one bops.

i've been known to make some pretty interesting faces while letting loose. :o :eek:

breathing is key.
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By e2c
#10096
Good post topic!

I have to work on this pretty actively, if only because I have TMJ problems. Stretching before playing helps me, along with some basic relaxation techniques, but I think it takes time to get a sense of how to deal with it (for each person), and some work on just being aware of tension in the 1st place. (In that regard, I've still got a long way to go - very noticeable when I take time off from a regular practice/playing schedule.)

The cool thing about learning to play relaxed is that you end up having a lot more energy and far less muscle strain/fatigue.
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By Rhythm House Drums
#10099
Sometimes I notice that I'm playing tense... especially if it's something I'm not comfortable with and I'm concentrating on the rhythm... or I guess my specific part, rather than the music as a whole. However, when I'm in "my groove" I'm very relaxed... BUT... my wife always makes fun of my faces... I dont feel tense, I think it's more of a thinking the phrase and mouthing the tones and slaps... like this... :o :o :D :o :o :D :o :o :D (throw a swing in there and that's my signature)

On the note of relaxing, exercise and stretching is a good topic.. maybe a different topic. As with kit drummers and rock climbers (because of the use of specific muscles on one side of the arm) the muscles on the top of the arm/wrist are over powered by the forearm and grip. Putting a weight on a rope and wrapping the other end around a stick, and then twisting up the rope is a good way to work those other muscles. There is also this thing called a Dyna-Flex. It's a spinning ball inside another ball... it's great for wrist/finger strength. I play with a lot, more than actually using it. One was given to my brother by a physical therapist when he hurt his wrist pitching. Really makes your arms burn after playing with it for a min.

I guess as with anything, being healthy; relaxing, and breathing will go a long way.
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By michi
#10102
I also mouth the phrases I'm playing quite often. It's completely subconscious. And I'm not tense for it--it's just that I'm singing along :) Makes for pretty silly looking facials at times though... :)

Cheers,

Michi.
By BobF
#10103
I"m also a mouth-phraser. I've been called out on turning my head side-ways, grimmancing, etc before too. Now I just try to stay relaxed and not do so much warra warra and play more melodic solos with upbeat/offbeat timing rather than fast n furious.
By bubudi
#10105
watch some of the guinean boys do that 'oh' face when they're showing off.

i've had to consciously work on smiling more. every time i do an echauffement i start it with a smile. if i'm playing one of my favourite phrases it's pretty easy to smile. after a while it gets to be second nature but occasionally people still bring me up on not smiling. i'm lucky i don't grimace, but i've seen some pretty bad ones! i've also seen people turn their heads. it feels like they've broken from the group and audience which is not a good vibe. i find smiling helps to relax.

if you're finding that soloing is hard enough let alone controlling your facial expressions, you're probably playing something too complicated and could ease up a little, kyss (keep your solos simple) the rhythm, and you'll find you'll enjoy it more as well.
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By Nodrog
#10114
Hi there,

Honestly I don't see anything wrong with having odd facial expressions when playing. After saying that, my first instrument is guitar but my wife for one as pointed out that sometimes, mainly when I'm getting into a solo, I do pull some weird ones, ha, ha. I reckon this is part of the natural performance and if anything, shows how relaxed and involved in the performance the player is.

I think it would look a bit strange if a musician, especially a drummer was getting really into it and then found they had a constant smile on their face. That's getting into the realm of ballroom dancing or gymnastics where they perfect the art of smiling whilst their bodies and minds are working overtime in concentration and pure physical technique.

If they can do that, good for them, but I'll happily stick with my natural expressions, even if they do look daft sometimes.

All the best, Gordon. :)
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By e2c
#10129
Gordon, I think it depends a lot on what you're doing. If you're in a band, it's one thing, but stage presentation for drum/dance is different. If (or should i say "when"?) the drummers have blank looks on their faces, or don't smile and make some kind of contact with the audience, it's very noticeable and isn't a good thing. Nobody's saying you have to smile all the time (that would, imo, be pretty phony), but good stage presentation is very important for these kinds of gigs. (As in, no chewing guum while playing, no slack-jawed, vacant expressions, etc. ;))
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By Dugafola
#10130
michi@triodia.com wrote:I also mouth the phrases I'm playing quite often. It's completely subconscious. And I'm not tense for it--it's just that I'm singing along :) Makes for pretty silly looking facials at times though... :)

Cheers,

Michi.
i do this too.

I started to do it more when i began working with Bolokada. Bolokada does it, but he's actually speaking the phrase in Malinke...language....
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By Nodrog
#10132
Hi there,

I agree completely. I think sitting there drumming with a "slack faced blank expression" is as bad as sat there smiling all the time but that blank type of expression is not what I was referring to . My point was the type of face some players naturally make when they are getting deeply involved in playing their instrument, whether it be drums, guitar or piano is part of the whole process.

I don't know enough to name examples but I can think of many videos on this site where drummers, balafola , kora players, etc, etc, have facial expressions which are a reflection of the effort and feel they are putting into playing their instrument. I can't see anyone objecting to that really.

All the best, Gordon. :D
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By bops
#10134
What it boils down to is, when we play jembe, we're not just playing for ourselves. We're playing for others. The idea is to make people happy, in the simplest of terms. Whether it's dancers, the audience, your band-mates, or other people in your drum circle, playing jembe is about connecting with people.

A good jembefola strikes up a rapport with their audience. It's all part of the game. Over the years, I've found that an audience's perception of a jembe player's ability level is highly dependent on visual cues. Not just outside of Africa, but also in Africa. People want you to engage them while you play. Make eye contact, smile, whatever, but don't just roll your eyes back in your head and purse your lips. People are going to get bored pretty quickly.

I'm not saying you shouldn't make funny faces when you play. I think most drummers do it a little - some do it a lot. Even when I played drumset, I used to move my mouth around while I was playing. I still do it with jembe. But don't tense up and contract muscles in your head, neck or shoulders, it's not good for your playing.
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By michi
#10137
This reminds me of John Weathers, the drummer of Gentle Giant. He used to pull great faces while drumming. It was fun to watch :) (The video on the linked page shows him playing.)
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John Weathers cartoon
341550154_m.jpg (9.34 KiB) Viewed 2915 times
Cheers,
Michi.
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By Carl
#10139
I have a simple rule of thumb for these issues...

If it detracts from the performance, don't do it!

I'm with Bops, when you perform, you have a responsibility to the audience. In addition to how you look, what you play should also be considered. If you have sick "wara wara" chops, and that's all that you do, you run the risk of losing your audience.

If your facial expression (or lack there of) is distracting enough that people are more interested in how you look than how you sound, then maybe you should reconsider what it is you are trying to do.

However, if funny facial expressions enhance the audiences experience, then go for it. I've been known to "put on a face" to make something look harder than it really is. Then I'd make the exact same face later in the show when doing something easy, and the audience usually laughs. I've pulled this off really well a couple of times over the years. Other times it was lost on the audience... ah well.

Later,
C