When I first began reading Modern Drummer magazine in 1989, I recall there being an advertisement for a device that monitored a drummer’s rhythmic accuracy. It was cleverly called the Russian Dragon, because as it’s tag line suggested, it let drummers know when they were either rushin’ or “draggin’ their tempos.
If we look at our lives as songs, we each have our own song. Our songs have tempos. That tempo is not dictated by us. It’s dictated by time. We don’t always know how much time we have. We don’t know our songs’ duration. What we do know is that we have been known to attempt to rush through life by making unhealthy or unsafe choices. We’ve also been known to choose do to nothing for stretches of time as a means of falsely cheating time. The reality is that we have the choice to work on our timing; to develop a solid or deep pocket to use more drumming terminology. To be in the groove: the present.
When drummers are nervous about their meter (their ability to keep good time), they tend to rush. In non-drumming terms, this is anxiety. When we fear what comes next, we get anxious, and our minds rush with nervous anticipation. When drummers believe their meter sucks, perhaps playing a song while thinking about how much they’ve rushed the song in the past, they will drag their tempo. They play with a defeated cadence. In non-drumming terms, this is depression. When we are bummed about what’s happened before, while trying to be present. It will not work. There will be latency.
When we choose to focus our energy on either pushing or pulling, it’s extra effort – for our bodies and our minds. It’s best to lock into the groove. That’s where life innately want us to be, and yet for some reason, it’s also a paradox, because it’s also quite difficult to achieve. Perhaps when our minds race with thoughts or get bogged down by negative self-talk, what we sacrifice most is our ability to listen to the music. Sometimes we just need to take a moment to find the pulse: our pulse. Our pulse to our song.