Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Feature: Will Champion of Coldplay

It's a topic for another day, but I absolutely love Coldplay. Every member of that band is a talented musician and performer. But, this is a drum blog, so we'll take a look at their drummer, Will Champion.

Start here:

Was there ever a more solid backbeat? I submit that there was not! 

One of the things that I appreciate about Will Champion is his ability to feel and fit into the music. He's there to support the message of the music, the feel, the texture, not to showboat or try to stick out. Will is the quintessential "band" drummer. 

He does have chops, he is creative - but he does exactly what he feels the music needs. He follows the old Tommy Igoe mantra, "I will never play a fill just because I can." In other words, he doesn't get in the way. 

(Here's another sweet little axiom that a band director buddy of mine tells his students all the time, "You're either the thing, you're supporting the thing, or you're in the way." This is what drummers need to remember. Your job is to support the music, to blend into the music - to give the audience the best experience possible. You don't do that by overplaying, playing out of context or showboating - that's what gets in the way of great music.)

Will Champion is as good as any drummer alive today at supporting the thing. And the thing is usually a heart-warming or soul-wrenching work of art that I can listen to time and time again. 

I can remember a time when I wasn't exactly a Coldplay fan. It was shortly after they started to get really popular in the States, and they only thing I'd heard was, "Yellow," from the album Parachutes. Not that I disliked the tune, mind you, I just wasn't all that blown away by the track. 

Shortly after, Coldplay came to my city on tour and I was given a ticket to the show by a friend. I went to the show because of said friend and had my mind absolutely blown. I've been to many a live show in my time, and I can count on one hand the number of those shows that I was actually pained when it was over. They could have played all night, and I would have listened.

One thing I noticed about Will - and all of the band, really - is that he was into the music all night long. He played relatively simple, straightforward stuff, but he felt every single note. He wasn't just playing drums, he was playing music. 

Anyway, suffice it to say, Coldplay was - and still is - solidly on my radar. I could give you a list of my favorite tunes (most of them) and albums (all of them), but I'll let you discover for yourself. You're probably already familiar with the band, so as you listen to your next Coldplay tune, listen to the drums - just the drums. I challenge you to stay focused on the sounds and feel of the drumming, but you're going to get distracted - that's how good Will Champion is at just blending in and making music. 

Here's a parting shot:

Even if you don't like Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland and Guy Berryman, you've got to respect Will Champion.

Happy watching, listening and feeling. 


  1. I absolutely love Coldplay! They are a fantastic group. Great post!

  2. I love the axiom of your director friend regarding being "the thing", "supporting the thing" and getting in the way. I think this is about the most important concept there is in making good music. I hate listening to decent songs and getting distracted by cymbal crashes every other beat that just seem to be there because the drummer was too insecure to play a more simple, but solid beat.

    Miles Davis comes to mind, we all know he had the chops, but he was all about playing the right notes, and sometimes that meant very few, well chosen ones.

    One more thought: sometimes I think it is deceptively difficult to play simple beat (or simple accompaniment of any kind - I'm a bass player) AND do it with the right feel. How do you describe and/or teach the feel of fantastic back-beat? A 1st year student could play a simple beat perfectly from a technical standpoint, but would likely not come anywhere close to the feel of an experienced musician. I think it is more difficult (and more important) for a musician to communicate emotion and feel in seemingly simpler parts than it is to master technically complicated skills.

  3. Matt, awesome comments. Thanks for checking in.

  4. Excellent read. Thank you. Sharing it with my band , especially the analogy of 'the thing'


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