When I first started exploring odd meters in high school, I hadn’t given any real thought to writing songs… until my brother started taking piano lessons. We rented an upright Baldwin, and I would tinker with notes here and there. One day, I got this very rough idea for some music, so I started mulling around the keyboard to see what I could put together.

I had no idea what I was doing, although I did know the names of a few notes. I figured out how to make a couple of major chords, but basically, we’re talking a complete lack of musical knowledge…

Our high school music program began requiring music theory study, and I was lost from day one. I could barely makes sense of notation, much less a horizontal keyboard and stacked vertical notes. It was painful. My ADD was raging, on top of that. I wanted instant gratification, which was exactly what the drums provided. I wanted to wail and rage, not ponder and focus…

I struggled over the years with trying to read piano music, but it never came (and does not come) easy… and then, technology stepped in to make my life a helluva lot easier. MIDI, sequencers and composition software were like food from heaven. I bought a very simple Tascam US-122 analog to digital converter that turned guitar and bass guitar notes into digital files; I used a simple Cubasis software program to record and edit music files, I bought a cheap Korg keyboard and read enough about MIDI to speak the language…

… in short, I learned the language of technology to help me learn the language of music.

As drummers, we start off with an atonal instrument. We don’t have scales, we don’t read changing tonal values for the most part, certainly not like a guitar, or saw, or flute…

And I think it puts us at a real disadvantage with becoming compositional musicians… but one thing is certain: if we are to showcase our abilities, and if we are to push drumming far beyond the 4/4 timekeeping that it is all too often relegated to, we have to write music that promotes our instrument and explores the boundaries.

So, as for why we should become composers… the advancement of the instrument depends on it, simply put.

We now have tools at our disposal to make that job infinitely easier. There are several voice to note MIDI music software programs that I’ve recently started looking into that let you literally sing a part, like a bass guitar line, into a microphone. The software captures the sound, converts it into a digital file, and you can then assign a bass guitar patch to it to have the file “play” a bass guitar line.

Now how cool is THAT?

The exploration of music is at our fingertips like never before. All we have to do is learn a little about the language of technology and we can open doors to wide and beautiful vistas. I’ll be putting more info up about this as I learn more, and I’ll let you know what works at an affordable level.

The further I can take my own odd meter compositions, the further the improvisation over those meters can go. Maybe I’ll never take it to a Berklee student level, but it’ll be fun along the way, and really, that’s one of the best reasons to become a composer… to have fun and get the stuff outta your head and into the world…