A Drum Lesson with Freddie Gruber

Freddie_Gruber  Freddie Gruber

Fly Like An Eagle

My Moment With Freddie Gruber

This is a direct quote from an article in DRUMHEAD Magazine by Kent Aberle

This struck me and has increased my focus a hundred fold


Part 1

          ‘He grabbed my hand, put down his smoke, and said, “Do you dance man?”  I said, “Yeah, for a white boy, I’d say I have some moves.”  We both laughed.  He said do you dance when you play?”  I didn’t really know how to answer him.  If I’m playing drums, how could I possibly be dancing?  I responded, “I guess I’m playing to make other peoples dance.”  Freddie then begins, “Did you go to school dances when you were a kid?  Remember how at the beginning of the night, no one would dance.  Everyone was too nervous.  But then it happens.  Somebody starts to dance.  Next thing you know, the dance floor is full of people dancing, smiling.  Be the guy that starts the dancing.”  I was sitting there with my mouth open, maybe drooling, in a mind-melted confusion that is often talked about when first meeting and working with Freddie.  “The drummer is a dancer.  Drumming is a dance.”  He then started stomping his right foot and clapping.  “The whole drum-set design and sound is based around dancing.  The bass drum is the stomp, the snare is the hand claps.”  This all started to make sense to me.  Kinda.  “So when you are playing.  If you allow yourself to truly dance behind the kit,"  he starts dancing in his seat while singing “da dada da” in a swing feel, “you are being the first person to dance and soon the rest of the people will follow.”

Part 2

          ‘At this time in my career and my practicing, I would spend at least an hour or two a day focusing on speed, different fast fills, rudiments at faster tempos, etc.  “How do you feel when you play?”  I responded, “I guess I don’t know.”  “Do you feel free?” he asked me.  “I guess I’m so focused on what I’m playing, I haven’t ever thought about it.”  He said, “You just found the key if you want it.

Part 3

             ‘” The true masters of music can take you on a trip, to a place, when you listen to them play.  I just caught this cat in the city and when he played, it felt like an eagle soaring off its nest.  Whooooooooooosh,” He said while using his hands to imitate a bird in flight.  “So if that was what it was like in the audience listening to him play, how do you think he felt?  Or a better question, where do you think he was at?  What place was he in?  The world is a place.  The universe is a place.  We are surrounded by places to go, but [to get to] many of them, it’s up to us to go there.  If we allow ourselves to go there, then we can take the audience with us.  But first you have to have the patience to see the place, respect it and live there.  It’s right now.”

            ‘The only way I can describe what I was feeling at this point was that this is how Luke had to feel upon meeting Yoda in the Dagobah system.  I was listening, trying to decipher Freddie’s code of speech.  He continued, “The groove is a place.  It has a top, it has a bottom, there are endless places to hang out in a groove.  You have to be able to check out all of it before you can really live there.  Right now you are just living at the top, looking into the groove, not actually going in to check it out.  If you want to lay back, you need to live at the bottom of the groove for awhile.  But, you can’t do that if you are always thinking ahead.  You have to feel that moment, that place in your playing, and live there.  Chops, notes, are not important.  The air, the emotion, the feeling around the note makes it real, makes it a feeling.  If you master that, then you will truly feel everything you play, making notes, techniques, all the other stuff, effortless.”’