Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Drumming diary: I'm Not Okay

I thought that I'd be learning "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones this week, but couldn't find an accurate beat sheet for that song, so I went with "I'm Not Okay" by My Chemical Romance instead.

Drum notation can be extremely difficult to work out. It's not like the guitar or bass or piano, where there's a specific melody to follow and thus some kind of formula based on the rules of music theory: with the drums, you only have the meter and the count. Within the space of a given measure all kinds of shit can be going down and you've got to a) pick apart where each hit happens in each measure and b) figure out what hit goes on what. It's tough, thankless work, so there are plenty of screwy tabs out there. Before attempting to play any song, I strongly recommend listening to it and reading along with the tab, noting the times of all major song changes (new chorus, etc), and determining whether the tab looks like the song you're hearing.

Sometimes, of course, even this process doesn't clear the waters completely. For instance, are the staccato 1&2&3&4& hits that start at :08 in "Paint It Black" on the snare, or a tom? It's difficult to say, especially given as every drummer will tune hir kit differently. Maybe sie likes the toms just as high and tight as the snare. Maybe hir floor tom sounds like a bass. It can be hard to discern even to the most highly-trained ear. Not helpful is the fact that musicians or their labels will often go after websites that offer tabs, claiming copyright infringement. Which, seriously, fuck those guys.

SO. Rant aside, I've tracked down what I think is a fairly accurate tab of "I'm Not Okay." I did modify it slightly so that it only ran two pages long and I can fit it onto my music stand. The drummer is Matt Pelissier. Tempo is 180 bpm, which makes it the fastest thing I've ever tried to play. The song itself is fairly simple, minus the way it jumps between quarter notes and eighth notes; the challenge will be the speed.

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