Chops vs. Technique


What are chops? I think most people perceive this as being able to play really fast and play all of the stick tricks. I've met many, many people who have all of the chops in world but can't play in time. You ask them to play a basic sixteenth note grid to a metronome and interesting enough, they can't play it. The feet timing is even worse...  

The same can be said about the stick juggling, backstickings, and hi-moms. For whatever reason, being flashy is more important than the fundamentals of drumming, our sound. I've noticed a trend with all of the sticks tricks and it made me realize that most people don't know they have a lower quality of sound when they implement the stick tricks.


The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps 2007

The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps 2007

Technique is EVERYTHING. Technique will allow you to have the facility you need to play anything you want. When I was in the Academy Drum and Bugle Corps, Ralph Hardimon said something that to this day I will never forget, "Don't let anything get in the way of the hands." He was really talking about someone that fell and played a dirty roll but I took that to mean all the time, period. It doesn't matter if you're falling, coughing, or implementing stick tricks. The sound quality and rhythm interpretation come first. 

At some point, we need to know which is more important or the better question is what do you value the most? Do you want to have chops or technique? Having crazy chops has created a sense of delusion in some of our students. The flashier or faster they play, the "better" they are.

Start with great technique and allow the chops to take form by themselves. With some patience and some focused practice sessions, this can be achieved. 

When you allow your technique, sound, and rhythmic interpretation to take the lead, the chops are a byproduct of that. For me, I've always been a true believer in sound quality, great rhythm interpretation, and after that, the tricks. It seemed to work out for myself and most of my students. Even the lines that I've taught have always had an extra edge on other lines. What's the secret? Great sound, rhythmic interpretation, and most importantly, technique.