“Rock Is Too Heavy” Drum Transcription — Maciej Dzik with Owane

Posted on May 28, 2023

 Rock Is Too Heavy Summary

Here’s another fun song I’ve been wanting to transcribe for a month or two now: “Rock Is Too Heavy” by Owane, with Maciej Dzik on the drums. 

Owane is the stage name of Norwegian instrumentalist Øyvind Pedersen. Today’s song comes off of his 2018 album Yeah Whatever, which is a great example of a high–fidelity record with only a few people involved; aside from Owane and Maciej, the only other people credited are an engineer and a sax player. 

The album is a lot of fun — I would group it along with the other instrumental metal/djent projects from the last decade (e.g. Animals as Leaders, Plini, Chon, et cetera). That being said, there’s quite a jazzy flair to this music, and it has a lot of the energy and zaniness that I’ve been missing from Snarky Puppy lately (to be perfectly honest, I haven’t listened to the newest record all that much since writing about it this past October). 

As is typical for a lot of modern metal–esque music, drummer Maciej Dzik has a video of him playing through the track:

It made my job this week a little easier, although I’m fairly certain that the audio is taken right from the album drum tracks, and Maciej is just miming along. You’ll watch him play one thing but hear something different, so the video isn’t note–for–note perfect. Still very good work though.

“Rock Is Too Heavy” starts with some pretty straightforward half–time grooving before some more intricate 16th note work on the hi–hat.

Throughout the song, you’ll notice phrases often start on beat 4 of a measure of common time, like on the third measure of this line:

It’s a very effective gag — it sounds like a bar of 3/4, until you hear the backbeats and realize where the beat is.

Another point: pretty much all the 8th notes on the hi–hat are played with an accent on the quarter note. I didn’t feel like notating all of it because it’s kind of irritating to do so, let alone look at it. 

The next major section has more half–time 8th notes and dense 16th note playing — note how the hats follows a three–beat pattern of 16ths:

Soon after is some more tricky hi–hat work, with a strange bar of 9/8:

I’m not totally sure what’s going on here. The drums switch from a 2 & 4 groove to a half–time feel, so there’s an extra 8th note somewhere in this section. The 9/8 bar doesn’t feel quite right, but I don’t know how else to count it. 

After some more simple grooving, we get to the section that really motivated me to talk about the song (at 1:51):

It might not look like much on paper, but it’s a hilariously disorienting synth riff that’s mirrored on the kit. As you can see, each phrase is 3 bars long, ending with a measure of 7/8. 

This movement basically repeats twice. There are a few subtle differences in the drum part the second time through, so I was tempted to use a somewhat obscure notation element called an ossia. It would have looked something like this:

Ultimately, I decided that it wasn’t a good fit for this transcription, so I just wrote out the section twice with the proper changes. 

The final big section I looked at has some busy 16th note funk before another half–time transition: 

Again, note how a phrase starts on beat 4 of the last line from above. 

After reading more about the LP, I think Owane had a big hand in the drum parts. I have no doubt he made MIDI demos, and probably told Maciej to play the parts as closely as possible the way a real drummer would.

That makes me feel a little… uneasy. It’s one thing to provide broad directions, but to get that specific? I dunno… a lot of the licks are a smidge awkward, and in the description of Maciej’s YouTube video, he makes the session sound a bit unpleasant. At least it’s not MIDI on the final tracks!

You know what time it is now: MuseScore 4 Glitch of the Week

Like a word processor, you used to be able to click on MuseScore’s big dropdown menu of fonts and search for the typeface you want. That’s busted now. Better yet, you might inadvertently trigger a keyboard shortcut as you type in the font family you’re looking for. 

I’ll throw in a bonus: if you copy text from MS4 and paste it outside of the program, your computer will spit out the text in a markup language, so it’ll look like this:

 <font size="24"/><font face="Open Sans"/><b>“Rock Is Too Heavy”</b>.

I’m probably going to take next week off. I know I’ve been missing weeks lately, but I’m doing a bit of traveling, and I don’t know if I’ll have time to get anything out.

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