HomeBlogsWalter Gali's blogExpanding Your Mind

As always, I apologize for saying anything that's SUPER obvious to anyone who may come across this entry with more experience. I'm going through information overload reading & learning from everything on this site that I can, & am looking forward to depositing my check so I can join CASA in full.

I remember, as a teenager, playing Mortal Kombat 3 on the Super Nintendo and at the arcades. There was the title screen that always pointed out "There is no knowledge that is not power." As a 3rd Dan black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, it's something I heard a lot from my instructors as well. "Knowledge is power! Remember that!"

How does that tie in to A Cappella music? This thought has been on my mind all night as I've browsed through the site, & it takes me back to something Mr. Jeff Thacher, at a meet-n-greet after a Rockapella performance in 2002, told me. It was something that Mr. Wes Carroll reiterated to me at a VP seminar he held here in Utah back in 2004. I can't remember their exact wording, but they basically told me that if I want to be a great vocal drummer, I shouldn't limit myself to just listening to other vp'ers, but to listen to all kinds of music to get a feel for the rhythms, the intricacies, the sounds, & to figure out how to incorporate those sounds into my personal style.

I must admit that both times I was told this, I had absolutely no idea what it meant. To me, all drums sounded the same, with only small variations in where the kick drum hit, or whether the hi-hat was open or closed. "Why should I listen to every kit do the same sounds?" Very closed-minded, I know.

Flash forward to 2007, and my younger brother and I are on our umpteenth playthrough of Guitar Hero 2, co-op. A couple months later, we're on our 97th playthrough of the DragonForce song from Guitar Hero 3. Two weeks after that, we're having fun taking turns playing the drum controller on Rockband.

At some point in that time period of musical gaming, my playlist on my mp3 player & mix cd's went from "Only A Cappella, Country, or Island Music allowed" to "Well, those, and some rock...AND some metal...AND some alternative...AND etc etc." I found myself singing with songs, percussionizing (it's a made up word, I know) with songs I probably never would have listened to had it not been for these games. For a year, I actually didn't listen to any A Cappella music at all. We (my brother and I) played Rockband endlessly (his wife no longer allows the words "Rock" or "Band" in the same sentence in their house), & hearing just the drum tracks from those songs in practice mode...I can't really describe it, but something changed about the way I heard music. And I began to notice changes in the way I did vocal percussion, and bass.

Listening to my self-recordings from before I played those games, to about 6 months after I started playing them, I hear a HUGE difference. It seems to me that, while I had, to use Mr. Carroll's terms, an effective "kit" of sounds and rhythms that I had almost mastered, I realize now that I was still imitating a mixture of my favorite VP'ers, Kid Beyond/Wes Carroll/Owen Knudsen/Jeff Thacher/Jason Smith, John Luthy, and David Stackhouse. But when I hear what I sound like after, it's almost a different person.

Perhaps I'd finally found my personal style. Sure, there are certain habits I have, particularly concerning the "organic" grunts & breaths I've always made during vocal drumming, but there is a difference. My kit is consistent, my sounds just a little more clean and crisp than they were before. I can hear these different subtle changes that just make me happier.

I think I finally understand what Mr. Jeff and Mr. Wes meant. It took me long enough, but I get it now. The knowledge, the expansion, of my musical tastes was the power I needed to find my niche (I think i used that word properly) in doing vocal percussion. I've expanded, and continue to practice and expand, my kit to try to cover more than just the traditional drum sounds, to incorporate more! Don't get me wrong, I don't want to try to be a one man show like a beatboxer, My focus is always on "What would I do if I ever had the opportunity to perform with a group? I can't do something that will overpower the other singers, I have to blend with them!" but I believe that, in expanding my tastes in music, I've also expanded my vocal drum kit, and in doing so, have given myself just a little more power to do more, should the chance ever arise.

It took me some time, but I get it now.