"Vocabulary is something you play that you want to remember so you can use it again."

Pillar #5 – Drumming Vocabulary: Crafting Your Unique Rhythmic Language

Possibly the best example of vocabulary on the drums is the drum fill. A “fill” is a rhythmic idea that is specific and repeatable. It’s played on certain drums and has a specific rhythm. In drum language, a fill is a word. Playing a beat and adding a fill at the end could be a sentence. Vocabulary isn’t limited to fills. A specific hi-hat idea or a combination of notes between your snare drum, hi-hat and bass drum can be vocabulary too. And those things may very well not be fills at all. 

The point is that in drumming, vocabulary is something you play that you want to remember so you can use it again. You want to be able to play the things you like at will, so you have to memorize them both mentally and physically (muscle memory). The more vocabulary you know, the more things you can say on the drums. Although the spoken and written language we use every day is a great analogy for drumming and music in general, the difference is that in our spoken language there are many words that we must know. However, in music and drumming, you can make your own choices about what “words’’ you wish to learn. You can even, eventually, make up your own words. Let’s say you are interested in rock drumming. Undoubtedly, you’ll have bands you like and, as you go deeper, you’ll discover drummers you really like. While listening to one of your favorite bands’ songs, you may stumble upon something the drummer did that you like. You want to learn how to do that. So, that’s what you choose to learn. YOU get to decide what vocabulary to learn and memorize.

There will be vocabulary in each style of music that is “required” to play that style convincingly, but beyond that, you get to choose the vocabulary that you like best. That’s exciting! You create the version of the drumming language that suits you. It gets even more exciting when, as a more advanced drummer, you begin making up your own vocabulary. The art of drumming is limitless

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