Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Psychology of Drumming - An Interview With Peter Erskine

By Chris Peacock

What were your main goals as a kid learning your craft?

I wanted to do what the musicians were doing on the LP albums I was hearing. I wanted to be just like them and to be able to do what they could do. Television at that time was showing a lot of music, and this was inspiring as well. I wanted to be Art Blakey, and Shelly Manne, and Don Lamond and Sonny Payne. I wanted to be Sol Gubin, Saul Goodman and Elvin Jones!

Every summer was spent going to a Stan Kenton jazz camp, known in those days as the National Stage Band Camps. This is where I first met such jazz luminaries as Louis Hayes, Joe Zawinul, Oliver Nelson, Ron Carter, Alan Dawson, Jimmy Garrison, Donald Byrd, et al. (other students attending the camps at that time included Gary Burton, Keith Jarrett, Randy Brecker, Don Grolnick and David Sanborn). Of course, the members of the Kenton band were there, as well as Stan's staff of composers and arrangers. These were all very generous people with their time, talent and wisdom.

One piece of advice that made the biggest impression: "Listen to every kind of music." (Johnny Richards). I eventually started studying classical (orchestral) percussion, and for a while, this is what I wanted to do: play in an orchestra. My main goals, then, were to practice for my lessons and make my teachers happy, and to experience as much music as was possible. My parents were completely supportive of this, and I was allowed to play music in the house at any and all hours and volumes.

How did you approach your own development?

I just played ... and I listened to a lot of music. In that sense, I was always practicing. I also studied piano and trumpet in addition to drums and mallet percussion.

Do you still set goals for yourself today?

Any goals I set nowadays are usually along the lines of trying to be a better person. I have always strived to play music with the best of intentions and the utmost of sincerity; I don't know any other way to do it (but I do know how to do it better nowadays than when I was younger). I guess if I were to think about specific musical goals, then those would be along the lines of trying to find those moments of musical truth every time I play. I enjoy the craft, as well as the art, of playing. I'm also trying to learn to be a better composer, especially in terms of orchestration and counterpoint.

Have you picked up any tools over the years that have really helped you perform better?

Yes ... the art of surrender. I'm also really enjoying the instrument more and more now. There's so much to discover. It's quite fun.

About The Author

Chris Peacock began playing drums at the age of 12. He received a scholarship to Berklee College Of Music and studied at LA Music Academy under the guidance of Ralph Humphrey and Joe Porcaro. He has performed in the UK, US and Japan. His book, The Psychology Of Drumming features interviews with 20 drumming legends including Jojo Mayer, Steve Smith and Kenny Aronoff. You can download a free copy of the eBook by clicking here.

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