To Chop Or Not To Chop
Hello folks hope all is well with you.
Recently in the music community, quite a stir took place and it caught the music community, mainly the drum community by storm. A prominent drummer put out on his social media hashtag “stopthechop” challenge. This challenge was a personal declaration that he was tired of hearing certain style of playing across the drum set and he would play a certain pattern for an hour straight. Literally within minutes of his post, drummers and musicians from various backgrounds stated their opinions whether in support or in disdain of this post.
What i would like to do in this blog post is as educatedly as possible, state how I feel about this idea as well as share some possible solutions that I believe can help us as musicians to better communicate our feelings for approaches that we may not always understand or agree with.
Before I jump directly in this post, for the reader that may not be familiar with certain terms I would like to create a rubric that would allow you to follow along with out being completely lost when reading this post.
a.Chop= Complex musical fill or phrase that will allow musician to express oneself in musical situation.
b.Shed= Gathering of musicians, whether in mode of practice, challenging one another or jam session in which allows them to express themselves without disciplined structure as in church or concert.
c. Pocket= Disciplined pattern in which does not override other musical instruments that are playing.
Let’s Dig In….
I have been playing music for the last 25 years. I can truly say that I love it and appreciate all that it has to offer. Within the last 17 years of playing, I have seen a true shift taking place in the music community, especially in the percussive arts department .When I first started playing drums, my father also the individual who taught me some basics aspect of playing would not allow me to play any fills that were not basic until I rebelled (lol) because I wanted to start sounding like the other drummers that played on my favorite albums.
Growing up, I would see very amazing drummers my age playing this phenomenal figures and wonder in my head, “how in the world do they do this?”. It was amazing, however things did not click until I saw the amazing Ronald Bruner Jr. at a concert, my life was completely changed in that moment, I saw something that I did not know was possible. Ridiculous groove, but these amazing figures that are being played on the drum set. It was in that moment my world would change forever. The fills, the phrases and the tricks. I wanted them. With the introductions to different publications like Drummerworld, Gospelchops and the evolution of YouTube. Various drummers of all styles and backgrounds were at my finger tips even individuals who are not “choppers” who have had a very strong influence on the drum community.
Why am I bringing this up? I bring this up because I think just as the drum community and music in general needs individuals who can play various feel good grooves that makes someone want to dance. I believe we also need individuals who are going to press the limits of what the mind can do and bring a variety of tones out of the instrument. I don't think the issue should be focused on the chops or even sheds that take place where these chops are displayed. I think it all should be based on the music and the musicians that one is playing with. Even recently, I have played on gigs in which it was required for me to play the tightest of pocket and I have had some gigs where I was told that I was holding back and I needed to explore more ideas. It is all based upon the musical director and artist. I personally love the groove and I love hearing the discipline that comes from a pattern being executed perfectly like a live loop. But I also like the feeling in my heart as it pertains to my thoughts trying to figure out the sticking that took place for a drummer to express himself in an exuberant moment. I guess I’m saying that in it all, expression is based on the musical moment and expresser.
I think we can take the adjective “gospel” out of gospel chops. I’m not in disagreement with the phrase nor do i want to take away the phenomenal brand and franchise that Gerald Forrest created. I just think that it is a phrase that we put on a whole genre, when it only covers only about 20% of the spectrum of gospel music. In addition many drummers that are able to play these figures may not go to church or even listen to gospel music.
I think that our front runners of the drum community that understand both ends of music(chopping and groove) can show the younger generation the importance of learning of how to express themselves in musical situations with out taking away from artist or music. Placement is so important and I think at times there is a lack of knowledge in that.
I also think that our drum clinics could be more of expressing and demonstrating this idea of placement. I feel that there at times it is a disservice when front runners are preaching groove to get gigs etc. however all that is seen is chops and no groove. Now this is not to say that they don't have the right to express their heart in this way because it is an amazing site to see. However, I just think that it would help the community understand that there are more ways to express oneself.
I believe music should be about having fun. If you like the pocket, like the pocket. If you like to chop, like to chop. Just know your place.
I shared this thought because I think we can be of more help keeping musicians accountable. I believe that there are musicians who are willing to take in the information and should be musicians that are willing to give the information, rather the community being a place than to tear down or being defensive as it pertains the expression of such a beautiful instrument. Whether to chop or not chop, I believe that is based upon the musician and the situation. I think the biggest thing is that the musician be honest with themselves and understand the direction that they want to go in and give their best with the opportunity that is given to them.