Will I Ever Make Another YouTube Video?
Posted on May 8, 2022
Here’s a fun fact: I have a YouTube channel, with one whole video: my “Good Times Bad Times” sheet music playthrough. Having amassed a whopping 500 views, it’s probably the most popular thing I’ve ever done.
When I went through the ordeal of getting that video together, I mused that I would probably make more from my collection of transcriptions. Well, I haven’t made any more videos, and I’m not sure I will. It’s pretty time–consuming, and I don’t know what the payoff is. I don’t want my content to be flash–in–the–pan kind of stuff: a short video people think is cool and then promptly forget about.
I enjoy writing very much, but I will concede that certain topics work better in video form, like demonstrations or things requiring rapid–fire audio examples. Personally, I’ve been interested in making a monstrous video about drum tuning, but I can’t say if it will ever see the light of day. Maybe I could be a bit less ambitious and become the 1 millionth drummer to explain the double stroke roll. Of course, my concern with day–one videos is that I’m never sure how much I need to break things down. Will I also need to explain what 16th notes are? What about holding a drumstick?
Producing a video requires writing a script, shooting the video with proper cameras and lighting, delivering a competent performance (which could require prior rehearsing, if not many takes), editing, and publishing. Compare that to a humble blog post, which calls for writing and coding.
Still, some topics are ultimately too unwieldy to write about, whatever they are… so maybe I’ll do something more with the Tubes. But one of the reasons I have more motivation to write is because I typically enjoy reading about the drums much more than I enjoy watching videos about them.
I subscribe to a handful of music YouTubers, but not a lot of them are drummers. Sounds Like A Drum is by far and away the best YouTube drum channel out there. radvidr is good for whacky experiments and reviews. EMC is good for humor.
But the majority of drummers on YouTube really just turn me off of the whole scene. A lot of drumming videos are just… kind of silly. And then some feel downright gimmicky.
Some of the most popular drumming content on the site includes things like drum covers and these goofy reaction videos (e.g. “PRO drummer reacts to DRUMS!”). A lot of people enjoy these videos, and that’s fine. My issue here is that very few drummers have ever done or said anything interesting in a cover video or reaction video.
Another classic is the “How To Sound Like Your Favorite Drummer” video. Obviously, I value breaking down another drummer’s playing, so if there’s any video that speaks to me the most, it would be this one. But I really don’t think videos are good for this kind of content. I’d rather just whip up a five (maybe ten) minute read, and if you just scroll to the bottom of one of my posts to grab the PDF, I don’t really blame you.
Most videos of this sort feel too narrow in scope. They usually take a look at one or two measures of music in isolation, without much analysis or direction regarding what to do with these licks. But since longer videos tend to get better visibility, these lessons find a way to balloon in length with overwrought and redundant verbal meandering. It’s tough to paint a clearer picture with anything other than sheet music, and if there ever is sheet music, I feel like I always have to jump through hurdles to get it.
Aside from those types of lessons, there’s also a glut of drumming contrivances that I just can’t deal with. Much of it has an accusatory tone, e.g. “You’re Doing Something Wrong!!11!!11!!”. Then there are the videos that set out to answer some difficult and profound questions or share some “insider” secrets. These are tried and true advertising strategies — I can’t tell you how many ads I’ve gotten telling me that I’m learning to program the wrong way, I need to join somebody’s website to know the truth, yadda yadda yadda.
I’ll admit, I’ve indulged in many opinionated pontifications, but some of these video topics are so vague that it would be tough for anyone to come to a reasonable conclusion if they were to consider them. And usually, the answers within are inconsequential, either because they are painfully obvious or frustratingly nebulous.
Think of videos that say “Don’t practice kick drum speed… unless you’ve set your pedals up correctly!”. Or perhaps “What makes a drummer a pro? Good technique!”. I’m really not straw–manning here. Moving past this style of video gets us into territory that’s downright harebrained. I recently found a video that was something like “Can I Teach My Friend DRUM CHOPS?”. I mean… what? What does that even mean? Do I care to find out? No, I don’t.
Maybe I’m just not the right audience for this kind of stuff. So be it. I’ll stand clear — in more ways than one. But here’s the $64 question: is there really something inherent to the combination of “drums + YouTube” that’s put us in this situation?
Going off my earlier programming example, I have no doubt that many fields are filled with hacks and quacks. Some of this comes down to YouTube itself, which is a deeply dysfunctional website. We have a glut of lackluster original “premium” content that makes YouTube come off as a wannabe Hulu/Netflix, not to mention some hackneyed attempts to garner mainstream appeal — most of the content on the trending page is stuff you could just watch on your television. But YouTube also has the worst of social media: a few popular stars who make the rest of us feel like we’re doing nothing that matters.
On sites like YouTube, your popularity is very salient. I don’t have comments or views on my blog, namely because it would be a pain to program, but also because all it would really do is let me know how unpopular I am. If you spend hours putting together a video that gets no traction on YouTube and then you come across some genius who gets hundreds of upvotes on Reddit just by posting a photo of Stick Control, you might think to yourself, I’ve been doing this all wrong!
I’m not joking when I say that I’ve learned more about rhythm from Adam Neely than any drummer on the site, and he’s not even a drummer! I’ve wondered if his drumming counterpart will ever be discovered, but I now realize that’s a dumb question. Adam is a bassist, but he doesn’t really focus on the bass; he talks about music holistically. Much of what he says just doesn’t have to do with the drums.
That takes us back to an enduring issue: it’s tough to talk about the specifics of drumming with any real insight. Mankind just doesn’t have the same tools to analyze the drums the same way we do with other instruments that use melody and harmony, probably because we don’t need such tools.
A lot of times, it feels like we’re grasping at straws when we try to come up with stuff to talk about. It can be exhausting, and many drummers might just decide to take it easy and talk about “Fool In The Rain” for the umpteenth time. Or maybe just go for clickbait and laugh all the way to the bank.
It’s funny to think about drumming videos from the pre–internet days. There are a few ones that are still popular in the 21st century by guys like Jim Chapin, Jeff Porcaro, and Bernard Purdie. These old videos are invariably scatterbrained, but I can see why many would find them valuable. Such a video was once the only opportunity to see a real drummer talk frankly about how they approach the instrument. Producing these videos was no doubt time–consuming and expensive, so drummers would need to make the most of the opportunity and try to cover everything they wanted to talk about. There’s something kind of earnest about that.
I do wish there were more pros on YouTube. Most professionals on the site just make videos of them playing through their music. I guess maybe they’re too busy being professionals to do much else, but these are incontrovertibly more valuable than the average schmuck who thinks they’re going to become the next [insert famous drummer here] by ripping off [insert the same famous drummer here].
One big thing I feel like the YouTube drumosphere is missing is perspective. A lot of people come off as being terminally online with internet drum culture, treating (occasionally hokey and faulty) ideas like chops, rudiments, microtiming, and blast beats like catch–alls to the instrument when they’ve become punchlines more than anything else. I often want to tell these people to just get out more. Read some books. Spend more time with musicians who aren’t drummers.
So, no, I don’t have any plans to make more videos anytime soon. Most of the stuff I talk about is better in the written form, and I just dislike much of the stuff on YouTube to begin with, which is driven by the inherent difficulties of the instrument and the omnipresent desire to rack up views. That being said… you never know.