When I was in the sixth grade, I started taking drum lessons at my local music store in Louisville, Kentucky. Each week, I walked into my teacher’s studio armed with a new critical problem — how to play the drum beat or fill from my latest favorite song. Almost invariably, mastering the lick never quite lived up to my own internal hype — it just never sounded quite right. Years later, I realized this was because no matter how well I imitated the drummer on the recording, the recording process itself so completely shaped the sound of the drums that I could never make myself sound exactly like whatever drummer I idolized at the time. Even if I had realized the problem then, the idea of trying to make my own recordings was way beyond the realm of possibilities.
Do musical-themed video games like the Guitar Hero series, the new Rock Band game, and an avalanche of recently introduced me-too products from various toy makers do anything to get more people interested in learning to music in the real world? That’s a question that’s been hovering over the business for a while now and the answer is elusive, to say the least.
Often a good idea is so simple it makes you wonder, “Why hasn’t someone thought of this before?” The challenge has been well-documented in these pages for years: band directors take issue with some instruments — usually bought at a mass merchant and usually at one-half or even one-third the price of an instrument bought at a traditional music retailer — that can be difficult to deal with in the band room. Yet the few who have tried to send out flyers expressing the opinion that these instruments are below standards have been met swiftly with cease-and-desist letters (or worse), often on a law firm’s letterhead.
Dan Del Fiorentino, NAMM’s librarian/historian, is a collector of stories. Touching. Funny. Heartbreaking. Fascinating. Inspiring. It’s the NAMM Oral History Project.