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Dave Grohl and The Curious Nature of Drummers’ Brains

March 4, 2022

Live music is back.

The Foo Fighters play a stadium concert in Geelong TONIGHT. This is the first stadium concert in Australia in 2 years!!!!! Dave Grohl, the FF’s guitarist,  is a legend. He played drums for Nirvana and is considered by many to be the best drummer in the world. Meanwhile, Taylor Hawkins, the drummer for the Foo Fighters, is also considered one of the best rock drummers ever. 

In honour of this auspicious occasion and to work out what might be going on inside these rock legends’ heads, I’m reposting (below) the math article about drummers’ brains.

 

 

In a 2011 article in the New Yorker Burkhard Bilger wrote about neuroscientist David Eagleman and his research into time and the brain especially drummers’ brains.

Eagleman New Yorker

Some of the drummers he has interviewed and/or tested include William Champion of Cold Play, Brian Eno of Roxy Music and Larry Mullen, Jnr of U2.Roxy Music with Brian Eno

Eno, on keyboards (above) who was working on a U2 album,  talks about Mullen’s amazing timing.  They were using a click-track (computer generated beat) when mMullen complained he couldn’t drum to it. ENO adjusted the beat. Mullen was happy.

larry Mullen

ENO adjusted the beat by 6 milliseconds!!!!!!!!!

6 thousandths of a second or 0.006sec.

Cool Larry Mullen Jnr Drum solo

Tempo is measured in beats per minute or bpm. 

Drum Beats for different tracks:

Drum Beats

Here are some drum beats provided by Justin Alan Cox so you can get your timing right:

60 bpm

80 bpm

100 bpm

120 bpm

Drummer Maths:

How Cool a Drummer are you?

Pick a beat and see how accurate you can beat tempo. Time how long it takes you to beat out 60, 80, 100 or 120 drum beats using a pencil.  It should, obviously, take one minute if you are an ENO or a Mullens.

What was the difference in time in seconds?

But drummers like Eno, Grohl and Hawkins have other problems!!!!!

Bilger’s conclusion:

‘Like perfect pitch, which dooms the possessor to hear every false note and flat car horn, perfect timing may just makes a drummer more sensitive to the world’s arrhythmias and repeated patterns, Eagleman said—to the flicker of computer screens and fluorescent lights. Reality, stripped of an extra beat in which the brain orchestrates its signals, isn’t necessarily a livelier place. It’s just filled with badly dubbed television shows.’

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