For those who don’t know, the “less is more” principle revolves around the idea that if you do something too often, you cheapen it. This, in my experience with music, is true. And helpful. However, a common follow-up to this principle is that musicians shouldn’t play very many notes in general… that your playing should always be simple and spacious. In this logic, “busy” playing of any kind is discouraged – in the name of “less is more.” That conclusion is one that I disagree with.

To be sure, there are many environments where a drummer should be careful to not overplay. Most times a simple fill (and not a complex chops fest) is all you need – or a skeletal groove instead of a heavily syncopated one. However, I’ve noticed that POCKET is rarely considered in determining whether someone is playing too many notes, and in my experience that’s one of the most important factors. A busy fill where every note lands dead center in the pocket is normally not a problem for anyone, while a less crowded fill that rushes/drags is accused of being too busy.

SUMMARY: The “less is more” principle is a helpful reminder that you have to choose your moments, but it doesn’t need to be a unilateral prohibition on busy playing. Before you simplify the fill/groove that you’re playing, try landing your notes more in the pocket and see if that doesn’t make the difference in your sound.