My dear friend, Stuart Smart, shared with me some notes he took from a reading of Victor Wooten's book, The Music Lesson. I found them to be very helpful and informative in putting language to what many of us intuitively know, but are perhaps unable to articulate. Stu has tailored these ideas a bit for us at Trinity.
1 - Groove - it's the feel, not the chops; subtleties of being in/on/behind the downbeat; find the groove/pocket before you play.
2 - Notes – the actual note/frequency/drum being played and its significance to the overall placement in the song; passing tones/drum fills; never lose the groove in order to find the note. For bassists: don't be afraid of 'finding' the 'right' note: you're never more than a half-step off!
3 - Articulation/Duration - attack + resonance, don't beat the heck out of the drum, or you choke the tone, be happy we don't have plexiglass at trinity!
4 - Technique - to reproduce what you want to play as naturally as possible; wrist movement, elbow, how to hold the stick to maximize rebound; muscle memory!
5 - Emotion/Feel - You're a human, not computer; any music is about conveying emotion, and that is accomplished through your feel.
6 - Dynamics - playing louder is not the best way to get someone's attention, but real emotion has to and can be real when you're not hiding behind loud volume; each song has its own volume, and within songs, there is a build… a suspense; how to guide the rest of the team through tipping your hat at dynamic changes
7 - Rhythm/Tempo - the true pulse of the song is something that you should feel even when the song is over; keeping time, esp in fills; finding the tempo that settles.
8 - Tone - size/shapes/styles of sticks and impact on tone, percussion extras (eg shaker, tambourine); for bass, tone is mostly in the fingers and how you touch the string; the tone is what generates emotion.
9 - Phrasing - repeating the beat, establishing a consistent pattern; variations of phrasing as a component of song dynamics (i.e. more or less busy); for a bass player, phrasing is working around the rhythm.
10 - Space/Rest - the "13th" note, that can speak louder and deeper than any note played; When/what you play is just as important as when/what you don't play, don’t fill it up. Allow room for other musicians; less is more with drums
11 - Listening - How what you play works with what everyone else is doing around you; maintain an awareness: keep your ears open (and maybe your eyes)- be dynamic: play off the bass, and be ready for an unexpected change to the arrangement or feel; always be reading the cues of the leader. The more you listen, the better you can respond…and also better know when to be quiet.
Thank you, Stu.