A euphoric feeling of being in the pocket (aka driving the bus).
There is an amazing euphoric feeling when you’re in the zone while playing with other musicians behind a drum set. When you get to a level where you’re simply playing on autopilot like you’re one with the music is a special moment. It’s a bit of an out of body experience where you don’t have to think about how to move your body, you just play. You play for yourself, you play to and with the other musicians, but more importantly you play for the song. Setting a groove, accenting hits, creating tension and release with dynamics, and feeling the energy. A lot of musicians call it being in the pocket. A good friend of mine calls it driving the bus since the drummer is so in tuned to what’s going on that he is steering where he feels everyone should go. Whatever it is and what you want to call it one thing is for sure, it’s an amazing feeling.
When I was young I used to listen to a lot of music through my headphone. I would pretend to be the musicians on all of those rock and jazz albums. Sometimes I would pretend I was playing the guitar, sometimes singing, sometimes playing piano but my favorite was pretending to play drums. It seemed so complex and physical using your whole body to make music. Knowing when to hit each drum, cymbal or percussion instrument at just the right time. Knowing when to play loud, play quite, play fast, play slow. When to play a fill, when to change the beat, when to not play at all. I often wondered what it would be like to play with other musicians while playing those songs. What would it feel like to connect with them, like a conversation but everyone speaking at the same time. What a strange concept.
There is certainly a challenge in playing the drums. The biggest is how does one even start playing? It’s a loud ensemble of instruments working together. For me it started with a friend who had one in his basement. When I had the chance to get my own set I smuggled it into my basement without the blessing of my parents. I begged for forgiveness, I’m not sure I got it. It was always a challenge finding places to put my drum set, practice studio rooms that weren’t cheap, bedrooms that weren’t logically possible, living rooms that weren’t meant to have a drum set setup. It’s a challenge and I know now why there are so many guitarists and not enough drummers. So when I hear a good drummer playing live or on a recording I understand what that person must have gone through. I have only the highest respect for a good drummer who took the time to learn, to struggle with practice space, and to reach a level where he or she is able to experience that euphoric feeling of being in the pocket (aka driving the bus).
Brian Lundgren is a marketing professional, musician, and family man living in the Southeast region of Massachusetts.