Thursday, August 13, 2009

R.I.P. Les Paul...So What Does That Have To Do With Drumming?

Unless you've been under a rock for the past century, the name Les Paul rings a loud bell in your head. He passed today. Seeing as this is a place for drummers, you may be wondering why I would take the time to write about a guitarist. He's not a drummer, never wanted to be a drummer...

The reason I'm gonna write about him is because we need more Les Paul's...let me explain...

No doubt, you know Les Paul from his signature guitar...the Les Paul. I'd venture to say that for 85% of you, that's all you know of him. I'm gonna tell you the stuff you probably don't know, but should...because it pertains to every person, not just in the music business, but in any field.

He began his music career at the age of 13 playing country music and dropped out of school by the age of 17 to go on the road. He later began to delve into the jazz genre, where he had a good bit of success. He suffered a terrible car accident that shattered his right arm and elbow. Doctors told him there was no way to rebuild his arm so he would have movement and that whatever postition they set it in would be the position it would be in for the rest of his life. So Les had them set his arm at an angle so he would always be able to cradle a guitar. The guy was stubborn to say the least...

And what about his playing style...this is copied from Wikipedia..."His innovative talents extended into his unique playing style, including licks, trills, chording sequences, fretting techniques and timing which set him apart from his contemporaries and inspired most of the guitarists of the present day."

If his career was only about his playing, this would be a much shorter piece. Les became frustrated with the guitars that were available, so he set about to make his own...and so the Gibson Les Paul was born.

He maintained a radio show that later turned into a television show.

He recorded countless albums on his own. During the process of making his music, he began to make waves in the recording world because of his innovations. He's known as the "Father of Modern Music" because of these innovations. His many recording innovations include overdubbing, delay effects such as "sound on sound" and tape delay, phasing effects, and multitrack recording. In other words, any modern album you ever play is influenced by Les Paul in some way.

Oh, and while he revolutionized the recording industry, he was churning out the hits. These revolutionary recordings were made with his wife, Mary Ford, who sang. The couple's hits included "How High the Moon", "Bye Bye Blues", "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise", and "Vaya Con Dios". These songs featured Mary harmonizing with herself, giving the vocals a very novel sound.

Oh, and did I mention he won two Grammy's...along with numerous other awards and achievements.

So again, what does it have to do with drummers?

Les didn't just make a living playing music, he made a living by revolutionizing his field. Anytime he saw an opportunity to invent something that would help the music, design a different way to record a song so it would serve his purposes, or play, whether live or recorded, he did it. He wasn't content to just play, he had to make himself a movement. He was a force to be reckoned with.

Too many times we become focused on being a "working" musician. We stress over practice, how many gigs we're maintaining, are we making enough money to be considered a "full time" musician, what artist we play with...or whatever. There are millions of ways to make a living and to make money in the field of music and drumming that have nothing to do with playing your instrument. We just get tunnel has to happen one way...but what if it doesn't? Where does that leave you? Broke, working a dead end job, eating ramen noodles and talking about how you would've "made it" if you would have known so-and-so, or if you would have only landed such-and-such gig, or whatever other miserable excuses you can make up to appease your mind.

The simple truth of the matter is this....there has never been a better time in history to be in the music just have to find the right niche. There's money to be made, work to be done, innovations to happen...and guess what? Whether you choose to participate or not, the money will be made by someone, the work will be done by someone, and the innovations will pass you by. Do you think that if Les Paul had never perfected the electric guitar it wouldn't have been invented? You're crazy, he just did it first.

Here's the question I want you to remember...

Do you want to be a musician or do you want to be a force of nature?

Les Paul was a force of's not too late for you...


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