Jojo Mayer On Greatness

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This quote pretty much nails the big picture of how to conceptualize what a drummer needs in order to be a great player. We’re not talking about skills. Yes, you need to learn to read rhythmic notation and gain technique. Yes, you need to study and gain multi limbed independence. Yes, you have to learn foot technique and study different styles. But those are micro level things. Jojo is great at explaining details but he is also really good at condensing the big picture into understandable concepts. That’s what he does here. He boils it all down to three big picture ideas. Succinct and thought-provoking. Check it out. It’s Yoda-like and heavy.

Do you know the John Bonham logo, the three circles that intersect? Those three circles I see as the physical or technical world, or the body; the conceptual world or the mind,the choices; and the emotional world. There are areas where the three overlap, but you can also separate them.

Now, say there’s a drummer who’s ready to emote and share his feelings but is technically unable to execute his ideas. He’s going to be frustrated. Now let’s say there’s a drummer who has a meticulous understanding of the physics of his instrument and a very good concept, but he cannot emote. He will only be interesting to other drummers. He’s going to be a clinician. He’s going to do incredible things, but your girlfriend is going to go out and grab a coffee and meet you after. Then maybe you have a technical or body understanding and you are ready to emote but you have no concept. You’re going to become a clone of somebody who’s already out there. And you’re going to miss authenticity, which is very important.

So, all of us have to allow ourselves to be honest and aware of our emotions. We want to share these things with someone else, so we have to put them into some sort of structure so people can understand it. And then we need technique to do it. So in the process you make acquisitions of knowledge. You process this, but then you have to let things go, because you cannot be everything. You cannot be Jack DeJohnette and John Bonham and Stewart Copeland and Elvin Jones. But you can simplify and find clarity, and you find clarity when you remove things and you spend time with simple things.

–from Modern Drummer magazine, May 2015 issue