Con brio. It sounds like a phrase spoken in a foreign tongue. It sounds like a musical expression. It sounds like it’s important. So, what does con brio mean and what can it do for you? Let’s find out.
Con Brio, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary is an adverb, derived from the Italian words, “con” which means with and “brio” which means vigor or spirit. Simply stated, con brio is a musical term that tells musicians to play “with spirit.” Playing with spirit? Do I have to be a ghost to play con brio? Actually, it’s quite the opposite! Playing con brio means to play music with great feeling.
If you’re a drummer, you have many opportunities to play con brio. One way to do so is to enter the physical realm and play music using dynamics. We can express ourselves using the same manner in which we talk. We can perform the tender moments of a song quietly (pianissimo) or we can perform the exuberant parts by playing loudly (fortissimo). We can also carry out this dynamic approach throughout the entire song by matching our volume with our emotions.
Another way to play con brio would be to use our hearts to foster con brio. The drummer, who performs with eagerness to convey great music to others, is going to play with spirit. This attitude will come through in the drummer’s performance, no matter if one is playing a solo recital, small club or stadium!
The incredible benefit for drummers who play con brio is that they become exceptional communicators. They communicate emotional messages on their drums to an audience that senses the energy and feeling. The music that’s being played on stage is finding its home in the souls of those who are listening to it. That’s why people dance to the music!
Would you like a tip on how you can play con brio? It’s simple. Practice it.
• Practice con brio mentally. Don’t settle for being bored with your own playing. Get excited about learning new things!
• Practice con brio physically by using dynamics in your playing. Think about the emotions in the songs that you’re playing and try to match your choices of volume to those emotions.
• Practice con brio soulfully. Cultivate a love for making a difference to your audience through your musicianship.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, in music, it’s the sound that’s worth a million words! Here’s my own personal list of drummers who have exemplified the art of playing con brio: Papa Jo Jones, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Max Roach, Joe Morello, Roy Haynes, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, John Bonham, Phil Collins, Carl Palmer, Danny Seraphine, Jeff Porcaro, Neil Peart, Dennis Chambers, Vinnie Colaiuta, Max Weinberg, Steve Smith, Tommy Igoe and Keith Carlock. Trust me. No matter if these musicians are playing jazz, rock or some form of music in between, you’ll hear them playing with feeling!
I truly hope that my forty-two years of drum set playing and my experience in performing with spirit have come through in my words. May you all develop a calling to play con brio. It will be time well spent for you and those around you.
See you next time!
Gary “Porkchop” Schopmeyer
About Gary Schopmeyer
Gary Schopmeyer has been playing drums since the age of seven. After studying Percussion Performance at Indiana State University, Gary went on to play with many Christian acts as well as popular Tennessee musicians Billy London (Stephen Bishop), Cactus Moser (Wynonna Judd), and noted Nashville guitarist San Rafael.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury in 2010, drumming, along with other therapies, helped him recover and move forward with his life. Gary has proven that he is a “Survivor-Thriver.”
In 2013 Gary released his debut country CD Little Ditty Doodles and his autobiographical film Timber, Tones, Tricks and Other Things: A Percussionist’s Perspective. In addition, Gary “pays it forward” by conducting his “THOR” (The Heart Of Rhythm) Workshops to help children and adults with mental and physical challenges through drums and rhythm.
For information on Gary’s recordings, film, and workshops, visit his site at