The Troupe
This drummer's journey with other drummers.

Rehearsal: September 30, 2009

More practicing with the dancers last night, which is never a bad thing.

Our transitions have been getting smooth, but last night was a bit of a set back.   Nothing terrible, and almost certainly my fault as I have been very tired from work for the last few weeks.

There is a great story from back in the 1950’s, about Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.  Both are remembered as two of the best hitters in baseball, ever.  And certainly as two of the greatest hitters within the time they played.  But they were as different in their approach to hitting as they could possibly be.  By 1952, when both were playing on the same All Star team, Williams was a sure Hall of Fame player, and essentially a living legend.  “The Last Man to Hit .400”  He was renowned as a student of the art of hitting.  He studied film (which was practically unheard of), he took copious notes on pitchers (their pitches, their tendencies, their throwing motions) and he did nothing but watch them through every pitch of every at bat.   He worked tirelessly, relentlessly and obsessively towards his goal to be the greatest hitter that ever lived.   By contrast, Mantle was a rookie at this point, and hardly thought about baseball at all, getting by on pure atheletic talent and raw ability.   His cure for a hitting slump was to go out and party all night, and be as hungover as possible when he got the the stadium the next day.

But Mantle idolized Williams, as did most players of that time.  So when Williams sat down next to him to talk hitting Mantle was thrilled.  And quickly, almost instantly, out of his depth.   Williams started talking about angles of swing, changing bat speed to create line drives instead of deep fly balls, holding your hands just so on the bat to create back spin to get a soft swing to drop into the outfield safely.   Things like that.   Mantle was flabbergasted.   All he ever did was look at the ball and swing as hard as he could.  Technique?  Finesse?  He couldn’t believe that anyone could think ANY of that stuff up at the plate, not to mention ALL of that stuff like Williams said he did.

And, after the All Star game, when the regular season got back in session, Mantle promptly went O for his next 48, the longest such string of his career.   He was simply thinking too much.  Going against his talents and his ability, and trying to be something he wasn’t.   It wasn’t until Casey Stengel said irritably, “Mickey, would you just go out, get drunk and get laid and forget about that @*&#%@! Williams already?” that Mantle followed the advice, relaxed and went back to hitting.

The reason I bring that story up is that it happens to everyone that is learning an art or skill.   You learn something, and in the process of focusing on that new thing, fall into a bit of a slump.   Your focus is not there for what you already know because, well, you already know it.   It is no longer hard and exciting.  You are busy with this new thing, which is challenging and fun.

This is normal, and almost impossible to avoid.  You just have to know that it happens, and work through it.

The drummers are going through this to a greater or lesser degree all the time recently, which is a good sign actually, even when it makes us stumble from time to time. As we get better and better we are demanding more from ourselves, and from time to time we need to step back and take a look at how far we have come, and how quickly, and enjoy the moments.

We will be working more and more on getting back to the basic groove, using the simple call and answer and on our overall sound.  Again, my fault for not communicating as well as I maybe could be, but we have all been busy at work, and this is the fourth week in a row we have rehearsed with the dancers, and not among ourselves.  That time to just the drummers (when we can adjust, discuss and critique) is crucial, so I will try to set up a drummers only rehearsal in the next few days.

I am going to do my best to make sure we go back to the basics, those things we know how to do, for the performances coming up.

Gig on Saturday, which works out to about four hours of live drumming, so I will be writing about that for sure.

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