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Some thoughts on Neil and prowess, etc..


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A few Fridays ago my band finished up a gig and as I was having a beer, the horn player from the opening act came up and asked me, "Do you listen to Rush at all?"


This has happened many times over the years and, as a drummer, I know it's because other musicians and Rush fans can pick up on all the little Neil things I weave into my playing: ride patterns, certain 7 rhythms, staccato emphases, huge descending tom fills, and so on.


Okay. That last aspect isn't exactly "little", but there are few more fun things in rock drumming than that wonderful 8" to 16" descending tom roll to finish off a phrase. In fact, it's what saves "Limbo" at 4:06-4:10. In fact, I wonder what you all think is the best Neil tom-fill in the Rush catalog? But I digress.


Which brings me to my point based on all the myriad discussions of who's better, who's best in the percussion world and whether Neil can hold a candle to the bonfire of the pure jazz drummer or the professional concert percussionist, etc. There's no answer to these, though they're fun inasmuch as wanking's fun, but what's important is not how good Neil is or where he ranks on the hierarchy of drummers, but how influential he's been for 40 years.


Countless drummers can point to Neil as the prime mover behind their style or their approach to drums. What about his influence in terms of the trees in the forest - the approaches to cymbal technique, snare patterns, china use, fills, triplets, and so on? What about the classic, Neil-originated ride pattern he uses on the chorus of "The Pass" and a few others - that 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 pattern that is so easy to weave into a groove? What about the alternating ride/china pattern on "Subdivisions"? What about that seductive 7 rhythm on "La Villa"? Jesus - what about the layers of rhythm on "Scars" - yes, they're meager reflections of the fokodoba African rhythm families, but no one in rock music besides Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads ever thought to use them.


You see, other drummers can do these things easily, but no other major drummer except for Neil has thought of them and put them into practice.


It's easy to emulate; it's another thing to originate.


Like Steve Gadd's fills on "Aja" or Bonham's triplets on "Moby Dick". Easy to copy. But I sure as hell would never have thought of them in the first place.


We all have our individual musical influences (my biggest influence besides Neil is Will Kennedy from the Yellowjackets - who I also think is a superior drummer to Neil in terms of groove and feel. But Kennedy could never do what Neil does in Rush and vice versa). But along with maybe Steve Gadd and Bonham, Neil has influenced more drummers (and drumming as an art) than any other rock drummer - and that's a testament to his legacy and beauty.

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I have often thought that Art Blakey was the original seed for what became the heavy or even heavy metal drumming style. I hear it in John Bonham's playing and I wonder if Bonham ever heard him at all.


I know Neil Peart heard Max Roach, but that is a different style altogether.




The man does not use sticks he uses logs.

Edited by drbirdsong
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I'm a huge Neil influenced drummer myself. Cut my teeth on Rush and have been playing Neil since 1984 or so. I think I get the point of this thread. Neil has the perfect balance of technique and style. No? Although Neil is known for his technicality, he's not in the top 50 in this regard. It's all about his style and creativity. That's what makes people notice. When I was a young drummer I thought Neil was THE drumming God. As I learned most of his "tricks", I realized the technique alone is not what makes him great(although he has plenty), but that he has a knack for coming up with creative, inspiring drum parts. That will trump technique any day. He has influenced me in a huge way as far as trying to be a link between the all out technical players and the groove players. That is where it's at.
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