Shellacked - Drums vs Mallets

Listen to Shellacked HERE

A substantial part of my career has been lived out as a mallet player but at my core I'm a drummer. It's how I got started and basically what got me interested in music. For years I didn't even know how to read in treble clef and some of my most important mentors worked with me prior to my even touching any of the mallet instruments. Due to the playing opportunities available growing up. I began studying classical music and it wasn't until then that I really picked up and pursued mallets. This culminated with my attending Juilliard Pre-College in high school and ultimately The Juilliard School itself in college. Although upon graduation I continued working in the classical music world both as a soloist and a section percussionist, in many ways I shifted back to my roots. It didn't happen all at once. It happened in phases but today I don't even view myself as a mallet centric musician. However, I don't really think of myself as a drummer either. I feel more like I'm just a musician with a wide variety of options and tools at my disposal that I'm always adding to. Each tool has a different history and focus.

One of the interesting things about having a broad based skill set is the vantage point it provides. I basically spend every day immersed in both drums and mallets along with other areas of percussion. I see and understand the culture around each as it pertains to education and general viewpoints. This topic alone would warrant an entire series of posts but I will zero in on one key point that is always for me the elephant in the room. In the drums vs mallets arena one thing is for certain, there are FAR MORE drummers than mallet players and as a result there is so much more talent. Don't get me wrong, some of the greatest musicians ever have played mallet instruments. I'm thinking of artists like the master story teller Milt Jackson or Gary Burton and of course there are many more. However, there are so many more drummers. The market is huge and they span every genre. It's a different game.

For example, I've rarely had a conversation about mallet and instrument choices with an elementary school aged student. This is despite my experience working with some of the top young talent in the world when I served on the faculty at Juilliard Pre-College. In the USA, young mallet students are not entirely uncommon but definitely not in abundance. When a young mallet student comes to me, usually their parents ask for my recommendation on how to proceed regarding mallet and instrument choices. They may be excited to study but they tend to know very little. It's just not something they've been exposed to. Drums are a completely different story. At the Simon Boyar Drum School it's not uncommon for a drum student of the same age to come into the studio for their first lesson with opinions about what they want their drums to look like and even sound like. It's not uncommon to find myself talking about drum hardware and cymbals with a young drum student. In our culture drums are everywhere and early on in the learning process, students are already being influenced by the sheer amount of drum driven music around them.

That's the thing about drums. It's truly an ocean. Pivoting back to "Shellacked," despite the fact that I feel I'm a very good drummer, I find myself constantly aware of both the lineage and current crop of incredible talent that exists in the world today. It's a challenge to compete no matter what level you play at. After all Buddy Rich and Tony Williams played the drums. Steve Gadd is still out there killing it and showing us how it's done to this very day. Younger players like Anika Nilles and Thomas Pridgen are constantly pushing the envelope as well. As an educator I am basically using exactly what my teacher Joe Morello taught me and what his teacher George Lawrence Stone taught him.

Don't get me wrong, it's a challenge to compete on mallets and there are some phenomenal players out there but it's a different game that lives in a different house despite the obvious cross pollination. Some of the greatest thinkers in music have played mallet instruments but MANY of the greatest thinkers in music have played drums. I will definitely write about this more in the future.

The old saying "no matter how good you are at something, there is always someone better than you" had to be created by a drummer. The lineage of the drum set is among the most rich in all music and as a result there is a gigantic pool of talent compounded today by social media. The sheer overall level of playing speaks for itself. This is the essence of "Shellacked." Just another day at the office trying to measure up. Whenever any of us picks up a pair of sticks we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Speaking of trying to measure up here's another one:

Getting In There - Experimental by Simon Boyar


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