They say you shouldn’t but I did. Thirty years ago.
I thought, “Blow this for a game of soldiers”. Which is ironic, because for decades the snare drum has sent out a bright rallying call to many groups, armies and batteria saying, “Here. Now!” However, when I gave up kit drumming for hand drumming everything went but the groove.
A hardware purge for a software re-boot. Why?
In a nutshell, if you’re a kit drummer you’re sitting at the back supporting someone else’s song. There’s a book in this but let’s leave it there for now. You’re also bringing attention to the lead singer’s… OK, I’m stopping there. Maybe it’s a trilogy.
As a hand drummer you can be out front, with a smaller audience but in control of what you say. At a private ‘society’ party for forty people yesterday I noticed when I moved from djembe to snare drum, there was a definite surge in commitment to the groove. It was like, “Wow, this guy is LEGIT. He’s a proper drummer and we suddenly sound like a band!”
I’d previously told them we were heading to find the groove at the crossroads of discipline and surrender. When they heard that snare they surrendered big time with their forty hand drums. It’s been happening all summer.
When I bought my first kit, at the end of my time at Art School in Leeds, I enthusiastically tried to play it for a week, failed to make any progress, then reluctantly decided I needed some rudiments. I threw a blanket over the rest of the drums and simply learned to play the snare for a month. That practice has been serving me well in 2019. Around festival camp fires, at corporate events and leading activist marches through city centres the snare seems to say, “Commit, commit, commit!”
What to? Our own dance, our own tribe, our own legacy? That’s a question for all of us these days, as we’re urgently called forward to be the lead singer in our own band.