The Trap of “Faster”

When I was in 8th grade, still new at playing the drums, the number one goal my friends and I had was to play everything faster.

Rolls on a snare drum? I bet I can do it faster.

Scales on a xylophone? Who can play them the fastest?

That cool drum set fill? Look how fast I can play it.

Faster is easy to measure. There’s a number, called beats per minute, that I can write down to prove that I was faster than you (140 bpm is faster than 139bpm, I win!). I can SEE it.

But since when did faster mean better?

If this were drag racing, then yes, faster is better. But this is music, not racing. Listeners don’t care about tempo — they (we) care about how it makes us feel. What it does to us. What it says, implicitly or explicitly. No one listens to a new song and says, “Wow what a great song! I loved that it was faster than the last one I listened to!”

So…what DO we measure? What I’ve noticed is that we should measure things that are hard to measure. Things like emotion, groove, feel, message, impact, boldness, empathy, delight, excitement…

I’m not sure how to measure these things, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make them go up. How do I we know when we’ve made them go up? We, and everyone in the room, can FEEL it.

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