Scott is one of my favorite local drummers.  He’s an interesting drummer.  He’s familiar with a wide variety of styles, listens constantly to wide variety of music, and then…here it comes…he shapes his drum part for that room, for that song, for those players, for that audience, for that day.  Just to make sure I’m being plain:

For THAT room

For THAT song

For THOSE players

For THAT audience

For THAT day

Which is why he brought this kit to church one Sunday:

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I’m sure there’s more to it, but he didn’t bring the rest of it because he knew he wouldn’t need it.  The little church where we played meets in a smallish, low-ceilinged room, with people sitting right up next to the band.  Most of the time they don’t even have a drummer.

Scott was a study in ensemble playing on that particular Sunday.  He watched the leader and the other players, and I could SEE him thinking.  Was the leader pushing for a little more energy on the second verse?  Scott helped him take it there with a little more volume, a little change of stick position on the snare.  The bass player would play something, Scott would pick up on it and reinforce it.  Just for a change of pace, I saw him play his right hand on the rim of the snare instead of the HiHats.

And here’s maybe the coolest thing:  his playing disappeared into the song.  I saw him doing all his little things, but the congregation didn’t.  And that’s exactly right.  Scott served the song, and by doing so, served the congregation.  And he did it gladly, and with a tiny, curious little grin on his face.

He wasn’t thinking ‘Watch this’, but rather:

“What do we need right here?”

And just to be clear:  Scott can play some really cool stuff.  If there’s room, he always includes it in his performance.  He just doesn’t put his own fun first.  Or maybe he does.

Maybe he defines fun as making the song really good.

Scott’s young compared to me (I have at least thirty years experience on him), but I’ve learned from watching him play.

There’s almost never one right way to play a song.

You tailor your part, your arrangement, to suit the size of the room, the people you’re playing for, and the people you’re playing with.  Make it work RIGHT NOW–not tomorrow.

Like this, for those of you who are more visually oriented:

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Serve the song, serve the audience, serve yourself–in that order.