If you want chops you must exercise, if you want to play music you must practice
If you want chops you must exercise, if you want to play music you must practice. That was the phrase, spoken by my musical friend and hero Jojo Mayer, that really stuck with me today. He was speaking about how extensive exercising grows your muscles, but with no concept or forward thinking goal for that facility, then it’s almost completely pointless.
I want to make it very clear that I’m departing from what Jojo was saying now, and entering my own opinion here… I think that drummers in particular, (and don’t get me wrong, they’re followed very closely by bass and guitar players), are the biggest offenders when it comes to music in this exercise vs. creativity question. It’s very easy to exercise on drums. It’s a physical instrument. I know this first hand, it’s my first instrument. And although I view ever aspect of every instrument in music as a rhythmic device, drums tends to lend itself far more naturally to that frame of mind in the physical nature of how the instrument is played.
I also think there are a list of 5 huge name offenders in the drum world that do almost nothing but hold clinics around the world wooing unsuspecting young musicians with their technical prowess, and not spending nearly enough, in fact ANY, time on talking about music and how a new student of the art might become inspired to play. Of course I’m not saying that a technically great musician wound’t inspire a someone to play music, but having an open attitude about what is at the root of communication in music (not chops) could be a much healthier way to go when it comes to helping educate and inspire new musicians.
You can make up your own mind who who you think those 5 people might be (and make you’re own list for bass and guitar players too), if you even care. It’s really not the point of the post. The point is to be thinking about practicing and not about exercising.
I exercise a decent amount as a human being. 4 days on and one day off. 5k run each day I’m working out, normally followed by 30-45 mins of circuit training and core work. I absolutely believe that there is some validity to “exercising” in music. You need to stay physically healthy as a player in order to avoid injury and make your career long and happy. But if it’s the musical exercise of patterns, chops, licks, and showing off that galvanize your thought process, then you’re going to be hurting for musical ideas and originality before long. The epitome of balance between physical health, incredible facility on the instrument, and fresh flowing original musical ideas is Jojo. I learn from him no matter where we are hanging in the world, and no matter what we’re doing. Hopefully I can pass on a few fragments of information from him to you that you can enter into your thought stream and perhaps enhance the way you approach things.
I’m not saying that technique isn’t important. I think it’s very important if you are having musical thoughts that require skilled execution. But technique is only of any use to you if it’s the musical, melodic, emotional, and rhythmic thoughts that are fueling your need to work on your technique.