"A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting." Abraham H. Maslow
Learning how to play the drums or any other instrument (electric guitar, bass guitar, saxophone, double bass...) is a great way to develop your creativity.
Music is a strong source of growth for brain plasticity which is at the base of musical learning. Thus, practising and listening to music activates and modifies different areas of the brain.
Music is a universally shared cognitive skill, with the exception of the 5% of the population with the disorder amusia. Thus, we don't all speak the same language but can still understand each other and be linked together by listening to the same melody.
Becoming a drummer, listening to drum music, taking drum lessons, learning to read drum sheet music... allows you to develop your creativity in many different ways!
How to Combine Technique and Creativity With the Drums?
Musical instruments take work! You don't become a pro at the snare and bass drum just because you want to.
When you start learning an instrument, it is important to acquire a certain technique before you can start improvising and let your creativity take over.
On the other hand, after learning the basics, it is possible to work on your imagination.
For example, in practising the paradiddle (one of the basic patterns of drumming), the first step will be to gain endurance, speed and dexterity. You'll be working on the synchronization between your right and left hands.
However, it is possible to go further and work on dexterity and creativity.
In this way, when working the paradiddle with your hands, it is important to also work with your feet by adding a rhythmic bar. The purpose is to develop the independence of your hands and feet and it's not easy to learn!
But this leads to the last stage of creativity. You can then create your own training exercises to work musical nuances. To achieve this, it is better to have a piece of paper on hand, as the goal is to analyze the rhythm that you create in order to perfectly master it.
But don't worry, you don't have to know how to read music or a drum score to be able to write down your exercises.
There is a multitude of creative possibilities:
- The basic binary paradiddle is performed on the snare drum: D G D D G G G D G D G G (D being the right hand, G being the left hand)
- But it is possible to add a kick on the first beat of the first and third bars, as well as a hi-hat on the 1 of the second and fourth bars
- Subsequently, it is also possible to replace the right hand with the right foot
- Then you can add some cymbals like the cymbal ride or crash with the right hand (since it's not active anymore)...
Start by working at a slow tempo and then accelerate with the metronome once you've mastered the exercise you've created.
You probably know that the sky is the limit with your imagination but learning the drums still requires a lot of work! Whether it's with acoustic drums or an electric drum kit, have fun trying out different rhythms or invent your own!
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What Are the Character Traits of Creative People?
Whether an artist is a writer, painter or musician, the creative ones around us have some common features:
- Perseverance: even if the artist fails, he will try again. Failures actually help us to grow and it is sometimes by messing up that we learn the best
- Openness to experiences: curiosity promotes innovation and originality. An artist will keep his mind open to anything that might help him evolve through trying new things. Observation is a key part to nurturing creativity
- Self-confidence: thanks to this trait, artists don't let themselves be defeated when a failure occurs. Self-confidence helps foster creativity
- Divergent thought: an artist will have many original thoughts, and will not be limited to familiar subjects. An artist, given his open-mindedness, may have thoughts on various topics
- The ability to synthesize their experiences: to create something new and useful
"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things." Steve Jobs
Divergent thinking is in itself a technique of creativity, often used by musicians without their knowing. Whether it be the cello, clarinet, tambourine or flute, all instruments can be used creatively.
Drumming leads to the development of the two hemispheres of the brain, even more so than with other instruments, because the independent use of one's hands and feet is more prominent with the drums and each side of the body is managed by a separate hemisphere.
In addition, a study by Charles Limb, coordinated by the University of San Francisco, highlighted the fact that creativity brings an emotional component. Certain emotions would thus favour creativity.
Indeed, the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex goes to sleep during improvisation. This area of the brain is in charge of planning and controlling behaviour.
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Tips to Improve Your Creativity on the Drums
Whatever your favourite kind of music and whether you take drum lessons or not, this percussion instrument will necessarily include some creativity.
Here are some tips to help realize your musical dreams!
Some general tips
Everyone can develop their creativity whether playing the trombone, folk guitar, harmonica or not playing an instrument at all.
Creativity, it seems, is the 21st century's skill and there are many different ways available to develop it.
Here are several tips:
- Open your mind: be curious again and again!
- Discuss ideas with various themes: force yourself to participate in social debates which will appeal to your creativity while developing your arguments
- Hang out with children: they have no barriers to their imaginations and we should all retain some youthfulness in our minds to continue to have access to the overflow of imagination available!
- Meditate: to let go of your thoughts allows you to approach life in a more serene way. Even 5 minutes a day can yield positive results
- Read and appreciate art in all its forms: because inspiration doesn't come only from music or the instrument you practices
- Exercise: just like meditation, exercise allows you to free yourself from negative thoughts and develop your imagination
- Procrastinate: Doing nothing can help you increase your ingenuity. Give it a try if you are not convinced!
"We have discovered that even the most mundane activities can fuel the discovery of new insights, new thoughts, and new ways of expressing ideas in a variety of ways. The potential is infinite." John Rink, Professor of Music Performance Studies at the University of Cambridge
Specific tips for drumming
Creative expression is realized through four postures: freedom, flexibility, being in the moment and giving/receiving the gift of the art form.
From this foundation comes advice for those wishing to start in the wonderful world of drumming:
- Be available and focused: turn off the television, laptop, internet... Creativity needs space to grow. Concentrate on everything you hear, see and do. And if you wake up with an unfamiliar tune in your head, write it down or record it. It could be the start of your new song!
- Listen to other musical styles: your muse needs to be nourished by different musical influences. By moving away from familiar sounds and rhythms, you will develop your imagination
- Follow your intuition: sometimes you will be led to play something that will seem strange, perhaps not melodious. Follow where this intuition might lead, work with the moment of inspiration. If you are not in front of your instrument at this time, write down your thoughts and ideas to explore later
A drum exercise to improve creativity
Learning to drum requires commitment from the drummer. And to develop your imagination, there is a simple exercise to try that can open the doors to new creative ideas.
This involves the connections between your influences.
Choose a famous drummer who inspires you (Mike Portnoy, John Bonham, Tony Royster, Vic Firth, Benny Greb, Larnell Lewis, Jared Falk...) who you find unique, talented or admire. From this drummer, look for three of the drummers who influenced him and so on.
Use Wikipedia but also interviews from the drummers for magazines. Wikidrummers is a good site to search and also forums like Drum Chat and Drummer World.
By discovering the heroes of your heroes, you will develop your musical culture and your creativity.
But it's not just about knowing the names of the artists who influenced your role-models. You'll need to delve a little deeper.
Listen to the most significant musical pieces of the drummer and ask yourself some questions: what do you find similar between this drummer and your muse, how do you think he influenced your favorite drummer...
Then give some techniques a try of a drummer that you like (Jeff Porcaro), the reggae style of another (Stewart Copeland), the explosiveness and powerful strikes of others (Keith Moon)...
For example, Stewart Copeland was influenced by Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker and Frank Zappa.
Get out your drum sticks and play to improve your creativity!
What is divergent thought?
It is a method of thinking used to produce multiple creative ideas by imagining a multitude of possible solutions.
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