Netography 9 – Critiquing other people’s drumming

One of the most interesting forums in Drumeo is the “Student Progress Discussion” forum. Here people post videos of themselves and encourage you to critique them. In my previous course I had spent a lot of time writing about the difficulties of giving feedback when you have no monetary motivation or specific training in how to do so. It is regularly a key part of how a MOOC or online education community is expected to operate but is often neglected in the terms the amount of support given to community members. Drumeo is no exception. There is a pinned post at the start of the forum where the community manager (ostensibly the most authoritative figure on the message boards) gives only two rules:

1.) Stay on topic

2.) Be constructive

Both are hugely open to differing interpretations, particularly the idea of what is constructive criticism.  As an extreme example, this approach could be considered to be constructive by some but would probably be frowned upon in this particular community.  The replies the community manager got to his post of forum etiquette extended out into a 2 page debate where different members proposed various guidelines including:

  • Don’t just say “good job”, be specific. (although others argued there were some benefits to giving people simple “nice ones!”)
  • The player should say whether they are open to brutal honesty or identify specific areas of their playing where they want to improve.
  • If someone takes the time to write an in depth critique then either reciprocate or acknowledge it.

All of the videos are publically available on youtube so I think it is ethically OK to embed them in this post.

Here is the first video I tried to critique:

Well, everything fits and it is played well. It’s really hard to give much in the way of feedback without a vocal line. I presume you didn’t get one, in which case you made the best choice by not making it too busy. It’ll be easier to sing over later. Plus it is in keeping with the whole Smiths vibe.

My only suggestion is whether a different fill could be played on the high hats at 2:30. Nothing wrong with what you play but doing a single stroke roll on open high hats is an unusual choice. Feels a bit noisy for jangly guitar pop song. A different rudiment with a some opening and closing of the high hat perhaps?

This got a positive and timely response from the community member. He explained a bit more about his decision making in the roll at 2:30.

Ah I see what you were going for then with the high hat fill. That could work. It is tricky to crescendo in such a small space of time, for me it sounded like it was one volume. Bit more closed with the foot at the start of the roll with give it the contrast to make it a crescendo.

This is my first attempt at giving forum feedback. It’s bloody tricky given that it feels weird to critique other players who technically better than me. Also the very openess of musical interpretation means I rarely can identify something as “wrong”, more like “that’s not what I would try and do”. Then it becomes a question of why do I think that? How can I articulate it?

Anyway.

A repeated motif in your track was the high hat lift on the ah of 4 (might be wrong about that, my counting is a bit shaky). Maybe dropping another one on the e as well? You know, two open and closes in a row. It adds a little variety but is still very straight ahead indie rock.

For me, this reinforced how it is important to give people specifics as well as general critique. A habit I tried to continue when I commented on other videos.

Every month there is a vote on the message board for the “collaboration” song. Then everyone goes away and records themselves playing along. People then post and critique each other.

This is an interesting community activity although I would argue it is far from collaborative. The end product is a track where no student has any input or control over what it sounds like. Each student is working on their own and it appears to be rare that a student re-records themselves incorporating another’s critique so that it becomes true “feedback”.

All of the videos are publically available on youtube so I think it is ethically OK to embed them in this post.

In his post this student said he could have put more of a reggae feel to it. I tried to give him some feedback on how he might achieve that. He seemed like a pretty competent player so I felt safe to use drummer jargon but then I am still a little uncertain whether he understood this. A teacher who had built up consistent relationship with a student would be better placed to judge their student’s background knowledge. He didn’t respond to the post.

If you wanted more of a reggae fill you could try using some of the classic reggae vocab like using cross stick, the one drop beat, 3/4 triplet accents on the high hat whilst keeping the groove going. That kind of thing.

Your general groove on the bass drum on the ah of 4 and the 1 which is more like reggae rock Stewart Copeland thing than full on reggae. If you do have a second go at it I’d be interested to hear how you change things.

 

The shaker is a cool idea. When you switch from cross stick to the practice sticks how about a little crash or fill. Something to transition into the new sound texture. I’m always a sucker for that.

At 2.23 the high hat closing at the end of the fill is a good idea. It does sound a little like you are snatching at it by bringing the foot down that quickly though. Bit more relaxed feel for reggae perhaps.

Just as a final thing the way the light catches off your toms makes them look like they have disco lights in. That’s very cool.

I used a lot more equivocation and conditionals in my wording than I would had I been a more professional situation. Or perhaps if I was talking to the student in real time and could read his body language. Either way, I was conscious of the difficulty of trying to tell him what to do without sounding like I was telling him what to do. I also used informal language and expressed my views as a personal preference in order to make it seem less dictatorial.

I then decided to circle back round to the player I started with:

Hey J,

 

Just got round to listening to you on “If It’s Silent”. You’ve got wonderful taste. The choices you make both with the Smiths style song I previously listened to and this song are entirely fitting to the tracks. If you have that kind of deep understanding of genre combined with technical training on percussion (I think I saw something mentioned in earlier posts) then you’ve definitely got enough experience to get teaching (if that’s what you want).

 

Put it this way, I’ve been playing for 10 years or so and feel I could learn a lot from you.

What’s interesting to note here that I am using a lot more personal opener to the post and referring to other previous posts. We’re beginning to move towards more of a personal realm. This would be, according to Kozinets, the inevitable convergence that happens in online communication.

 

 

 

 

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