This blog is designed for all drummers in drumlines (or instructors) who have ever had a bad attack (This applies to everybody by the way). Why are attacks so difficult and what are some contributing factors? Let’s dive into it.
The most common way to bring a drumline in on an exercise or musical passage is 1 player (the section leader or instructor) giving an 8 count, count-off. At the end of the countoff all of the players come in on count 1 (usually) and progress forward through the music. What many experience is a “cut” from their instructor to start over, usually accompanied with some words like “Come on guys, can we get the attack?” or “Do it again”. Though both phrases hold value at times, there can be various reasons why the attack is bad that should be considered.
1. It’s a bad count-off
Sounds simple, yet is OFTEN overlooked. If the count-off is not perfect rhythmically and sitting on the middle of the beat, how can the rest of the drumline come in perfectly? I think this is overlooked because the person counting off fails to realize how important their precision is to the rest of the lines success. Plus, it’s always easier to point the blame on others than pointing at oneself. If you’re the guy tapping off, you need to be perfect in this sequence. If you’re not perfect, time to point the finger inward.
2. It’s harder than it looks
I think a big reason bad attacks happen is because it’s inherently more difficult than your instructor makes it out to be. On 8-on-a-hand, the group comes in with a cold attack, forte legato stroke with no prep. How many times do you do that in your music? Probably zero. Most musical phrases either have a comfortable lead in or smooth musical transitions. Cold attack legatos at forte is equivalent to a part in the show where the ENTIRE battery plays cold attack 16th notes at 140 BPM. Not so simple…
3. The group is not ready mentally
So many times I see a group ready to start their exercises without first making sure the full group is ready mentally and understand the directions clearly. Maybe they just got off a 3 hour bus ride, so 8 beeps from the metronome at 130 BPM isn’t exactly comfortable immediately. If the group has had a long day, they may be mentally exhausted, resulting in the need for the instructor to slow down the instruction pace. If the group cannot groove comfortably and confidently to the count-off, you’ll never get a good attack. Quality over Quantity.
There you have it; 3 reasons often overlooked that cause bad attacks. I have never seen a group INTENTIONALLY play a bad attack because “they don’t care”. Every group wants to be great. We as instructors, mentors, and leaders need to give them every opportunity for success. And if failures occur, try looking inward first before blaming the kids.
Let’s Drum Smart.
Author: Matt Regua