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#2 Less is (Not) More

less is NOT more!   Less Is More is an unambitious, reductionist notion that is only ever used to dictate the default drum part or approach of a drummers set-up should be as simple as possible regardless of context. It tries to pass as wisdom but is a rationale to stifle one's creative instinct or enthusiastic curiosity for fear of rejection.  Like the folly of collectivism, it boasts "mediocrity is brilliance" but it is not. Enter a minority of musicians who wish they had some capacity to play in busier, more complicated fashions and instead of recognizing their perceived shortcoming and applying themselves appropriately, they opt to dissuade others from seeking to do better.

   The majority of drummers not infected with self-directed disdain play “less” or “more” based on their musical or creative inclinations as well as the dictates of their experience.  Would it not be better to say when you are trying too hard to be creative you may find playing less than you think you ought can do more for the overall success of your effort? To not over-reach your capacity when in doubt of the musical situation? We could have just said "Don't try so hard" and called it a day. People would have gotten it.

   So why is it only ever meaning less playing? How does obsessing over limiting the number of notes in spite of the other factors that affect "complexity" like: tempo, dynamics, texture, phrasing and feel solve this riddle? Less Is More puts a morality on numbers. It's proponents smugly profess one-liners like “I don't think about it”, “I just play for the song” or “I don't need all those drums” but imagine applying such low-brow reductionism to any other industry or activity: Would a dancer brag about only applying hop steps? A mechanic reduce themselves to using only pliers? A CPA boast about his trusty abacus? Maybe the Swiss could bring back the sun dial? You get the point. But remember they even berated Mozart and Beethoven! So what would have become of Bluegrass, BeBop and Heavy Metal if playing the least amount possible became the standard?  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the simple drum part if it is what comes naturally or as an approach until you understand the musical situation. So the "why" does matter!

   All great composers/bands that warrant intrigue with their art feature Musical Injusticebusy-ness or complicated arrangements as a symptom of their muse – not the other way around. Even if the best part for a particular song is simple it ought not come from an obsequious pre-calculation. But if you want to hear the tragedy that occurs with Less Is More compare early Genesis with the latter 'I Can't Dance' ilk. Blindly reducing drum parts to the point of bare bones pulse architecture because you're afraid someone might be offended is bloody-minded. You're just going to have to learn to trust yourself if you are going to enjoy this venture in music. I've never seen or heard a drummer who was happy with their playing ever start an argument over less versus more. And neither will you.

   Ultimately, less is less and more is more - everything in between is your experience, feeling or conviction! Think for yourself. Creative experiences can be painful because ideas can't always be pre-calculated - you just have to see when you get there. But you can't have valuable experiences or learn to trust your instincts if you proceed in constant fear. Learning to face the challenge of each moment without a safety net is the very thing that makes being a musician a special experience and the very thing that Less Is More demands you avoid...more or less!

   Here is another article on this topic by drummer Mat Marucci that I really enjoyed.

   Thoughts? Comments? Criticisms? I'm open to read your thoughts!