After the sad death of Dave Matthews Band saxophonist LeRoi Moore, I was reminded of a video I had seen months before. It wasn't of Moore or anything, but another of the guys in DMB: drummer Carter Beauford.
The guy's incredible. I say that as someone who played as a kid and prayed frequently that one day I'd wake up to a Tama rage cage with double bass, more toms than I knew what to do with and cymbals hanging from the rack by a chain. (Mick Brown totally had the right idea.)
As proof, I'll offer up this doozy. Apparently he's making some sort of documentary or instructional video and he plays along with the studio version of Ants Marching. Since the camera's exclusively on him, he can showboat a little (which he does) and play much more intricate fills than he does on the released version (which he does).
The clip's on Google video, so no embedding here, sadly. But here's the link.
The first minute is pretty tame; the nature of the song pretty much determines that. But at the minute mark (:55, actually), Beauford starts getting into it. The standard beat on the song is pretty easy, but at :55, he fluffs up some of the fills with some syncopation and an off-beat accent on the partially open hi-hat.
It's not easy. Drumming is about rhythm, and the fill from :55 to 1:03 is anything but. It's intentional, of course, and impressive to watch a pro pull it off.
He cools it out again for a little while. At 1:45, he makes use of the full complement of equipment by using the small 'splash' cymbals. While it's hard to tell there, those little guys can make an interesting sound.
At 1:49, his fill is quite difficult, giving you a quick hit on the snare, chilling on the hi-hat and coming back with the crash, right on time.
When they pull back for the wider shot at 2:33, you can see an odd-shaped cymbal in the upper right; it looks like it's inside out. It's called a China, and adds a different kind of sound, as you can hear. He comes back to it again later.
The fill at 2:58 might be my favorite. It utilizes the low toms by themselves for effect, which you don't often see in pop music. Usually they provide more of a rhythmic background (think of the trippy bridge in 'Welcome to the Jungle', here at 3:24), so it was nice to see them stand on their own.
A few seconds later, my favorite technical piece: He uses his right hand to take down the toms and the splash cymbals. Speaking from my own lack of expertise, that would be something I'd need two hands to do. Beauford needs only one, and is pounding on a cymbal on the left with his other hand. But then again, that's why he's a world-famous musician.
The fill coming out of the bridge at 3:42 is also impressive. Quick hands are a necessity.
At 3:51, he rides the toms up and down. I've always thought that was underused in pop music; it seems like you can get a wonderful effect when you go against the grain like that. Out of the fill, he puts the China on display, and you can really hear the difference from a normal crash.
The showboating's at 3:58. Nothing hard about hitting cymbals the way he does, but it does make for a more flashy performance. And that's really what it's all about, right?
Even so, it's an impressive display of musicianship. Bravo, my friend.