Taking the particular path of being self-taught allowed me the luxury of being a working drummer for 38 years, so who am I to second-guess my methods that shaped my drumming style. Still, in hindsight, I would have loved to have received all of that technical training back in the day. However, I haven't given up on such learning, as today I spend time every week picking up new material from amazing technically-proficient drummers online — Thomas Lang being one of my favorites.
While I am certainly capable of playing fast and, or, complex patterns on the kit (and indeed have with some projects), my playing style is fundamentally what I would classify as pocket playing. For the most part I enjoy playing a fat simple beat that provides for a foundation within which the music and vocals can move about on top of — a less is more approach. I am sure that this is the root element for my ability to remain in demand as a session drummer. While it never led me to any critical acclaim with a far-reaching audience, it did provide for a very comfortable living and lifestyle doing something that I love.
I have to say that while playing complex grooves is fun, rewarding and makes for enjoyable playbacks, there's nothing that I love more than simple pocket playing that truly gives a song life and makes it breathe. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy listening to busy drummers that have amazing technical prowess as well, but I what I really love and embrace most is simple playing that just kicks me in the gut. Let me provide you with an example of one of my all-time faves.
Aside from being one of the greatest songs ever written, there's actually an interesting story behind the drum tracks for that song, but I'll get to that in a minute.
Talk to Me was written by Chas Sandford, who also wrote Missing You by John Waite and countless other hit songs recorded by mainstream artists for three decades. Sanford is a super talented multi-instrumentalist. He played most of the instruments on the song, including the recording of the drum tracks, and produced the track.
The song boasted a robust drum sound, including a big fat powerful snare drum, which was the signature trademark sound of the song — simplistic and super tasty. It provided the entire feel of the song. It also gave us what I feel was one of the most powerful drum fills ever recorded in terms of placement, dynamics and emotion. It was also the simplest drum fill ever recorded, but it's impact produces goose bumps. It's the drum fill at 2:47 — the two big hits on the snare drum coming out of the break that takes you into the final chorus.
So, what is the interesting story behind the drum tracks? Sanford actually programmed them on a drum machine. Yep, those great sounding drums (timpanis included) were not live drums. Well, not played live on a drum kit with a live drummer during the recording of the song. All of the sounds, however, were taken from digital samples of live-recorded drums that were implanted into the LinnDrum, the most high-tech drum computer available during the 1980's. It still sounds incredible today.
Anyway, that pretty much covers my thoughts regarding my drumming style. I will be going more in depth related to the whole less is more and pocket playing concepts in the Instructional Section of this site.