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The drummer we all love, Vinnie Colaiuta. The monster, wizard of odd, studio legend, drummer’s drummer… many nicknames related to one of the greatest drummers alive.
As a long term drummer, I can’t be happier that I live in the era of this giant. I find watching every new video of him as a true privilege. I guess you figure out I am a huge Vinnie Colaiuta fan, but most of us are.
Let me tell you what provoked me to write this article. Recently I posted on Reddit something about Instagram drummers who play silly stuff that doesn’t have any value in the real world such as writing a song.
I got a bunch of comments, somehow Vinnie’s name came up but to make a long story short, one guy said “I find Vinnie boring”.
After that comment I had two options, hiring a hitman to shoot him in the head or to make a creative article and try to educate people who don’t get these giants, so here we are…
How come someone like Vinnie Colaiuta becomes a legend?
Before I dive into “the world of Vinnie” let’s find out how the world from amateur to a legend goes. There are probably more than a million drummers over the world, but, how come only a few of them become true legends, because of their Instagram flashy chops? Of course not.
Their work speaks for them. Let’s mention some features that make Vinnie Colaiuta a true legend.
Let's explore Vinnie Colaiuta
It is needles to speak about how enormous Vinnie Colaiuta’s discography is. He played on more than 680 albums and singles, and that’s just his studio work. If you take a look at his official website, you will see there are 34 pages of discography. It takes time just to go over all the pages.
If you tried to play some of his stuff than you know how skillful you need to be to execute. What makes him good is that nothing sounds like rudiments. Odd time signatures, metric modulations, the timing, playing around with rudiments, stretching them, split them in half, start them at the odd moment is what he’s known for.
What do I mean by that? Having precise hits reflects the sound. If you hit drumhead in the middle you get the perfect sound. But, being precise in groove means having your metric and timing perfected to that point that you can play for hours and not missing a hit
Dynamic is the first thing that separates boys from men. This is a number one thing new drummer miss, they develop over time and sometimes not at all. Having a dynamic between two hits as important as having a dynamic between verse and chorus. It’s like having a good dynamic in life not having every day crazy and not having every day too boring but a mix of those two.
I think speed is the last thing that makes some drummer great but speed comes with technique development. Since Vinnie’s technique is on the very high-level speed comes naturally.
It is very easy to notice how creative Vinnie is. Just listen to “Seven Days” by Sting and hear how he made extra hard drum parts in 5/8 sound very simple to fit the pop song. You can hear totally different approach to his song I’m tweaked where he jumps before the beat every once a while but the rhythm sounds like he just plays syncopated note here and there. That kind of creativeness makes him a giant, and that makes other drummers get influenced by him.
In 2004 Vinnie played a Megadeth album in September and Lindsey Lohan in December. That’s just a funny example of his ability. If you listen to Herbie Hancock, Sting, and Frank Zappa he sounds different in every scenario but he is still able to keep his unique style.
Jazz and rock have totally different dynamics and feel. If you are a rock drummer and ever tried to play jazz than you know how hard it is to make a switch. It takes a different approach, first of all, it takes a lot of listening to some music genre in order to feel it and to be able to imitate that feel.
Recently I tried to play some stuff from Vinnie’s video where he plays some RnB groove and then he throws 3 over 4 things and accent the 2nd triplet afterward. I was able to execute this but it hasn’t sound near as good. I figure out it’s because of the flow. Whatever he throws in doesn’t interrupt the flow of the main groove.
Imagine this like somebody dances to your drumming and you can play whatever you want but if you throw him out of rhythm you are out.
If the flow interprets like not interrupting the dancer than groove interprets like making people want to dance. His grooves are creative, precision is impeccable and the sound coming out of the drums is huge. He plays everything from Jazz, Funk, Latin to Rock and Metal.
Anybody can play many of those kinds of grooves but the questions are whether or not he can play funk grooves as a funk drummer and jazz grooves like jazz sounds and get that kind of sound. Just listen to some of his recordings and see how diverse he sounds.
What differentiates some drummers from the rest is his own sound. How many drummers would you guess just by listening?
I guess a few… to have that ability is very appreciated in the studio. There are better guitarists than Carlos Santana and much better drummers than Charlie Watts but it is very easy to recognize them and just a few people reach that point.
Having your own recognizable sound it’s like being a Rolls Roys among the drummers, there’s a lot of fast ones but you are still unique.
Vinnie Colaiuta is a synonym for being unique. With all the drumming skills I think he has some serious human skills bot, equally important. I am still happy I can educate people about Vinnie, still happy listening to every new track of him and still proud I live in the age of greatest, Mr. Vinnie Colaiuta.