Lets Talk About Feelings.
How do you feel about your drumming right now? Are you satisfied or far from it? From time to time many of us find ourselves in a weird place with our drumming. This can be due to a number of factors from not feeling like you’re progressing in your practice sessions to not connecting with the vibe on a gig.
But what is this weird place? Well to be honest it is more of a state of mind than a ‘physical place’ and is something I call “Drum Discouragement”. In simple terms it is when you feel and think very negatively about your playing. And it really is a state of mind. The way you think about things, your attitude and self confidence has a massive impact not only on your playing but your entire life.
In this day and age we are exposed to thousands of drummers playing super slick amazing beats and fills daily. Whilst this is very influential and encouraging it can also prompt negativity. We all tend to compare our abilities to those that we are watching.
The internet and social media asides, we can also inflict this mindset upon ourselves. Ever felt disheartened whilst recording? The red light goes on and take after take goes by. What about gigging? Ever felt you weren’t playing your best or had kit troubles during the show? Makes you feel pretty disheartened doesn’t it.
It happens to all of us and it’s OK. I’ve been in this place before as have most of you from time to time. In fact I’ve had all three experiences happen to me in the last six months; frustrating recording sessions, gigs where the kit literally fell apart (kit shares 🙄) and compared myself to far too many drummers online. So how do we cope with this? Well let’s deal with it piece by piece.
Social Media and The Internet.
First thing to remember is that nobody wants to post imperfect versions of themselves. Social media is about selling a lifestyle. With this in mind think about the hours of practicing, the number of takes and amount of edits drummers do to get that perfect shot.
We see the finished product. The final few minutes of a process that probably took hours to make and years of practicing, learning and honing their skills to get to.
Keep that in mind whilst scrolling. And for those of you that post I urge you to share your bloopers, outtakes and processes more often to help the newer players. We are all on a journey and whilst it’s paramount that you have a goal it’s also important to take note of where you are on YOUR journey and learn to accept and appreciate it.
Red Light Fever.
Hands up who suffers from ‘Red Light fever’ 🙋🏼 I do. Again there’s a perception that you’re not good unless you can record in one take first time. This is ramped up by the cost of recording. No one wants to be responsible for adding another day to the fees.
Again recording is the final product. The best version of those songs. So the pressure to make it so is on. So how do we make this better for ourselves?
Well first of all, RELAX. Take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down. Finding a calm relaxed headspace will help you stay in control when the recording starts. Ask yourself ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ Seriously! What is the worst that can happen? You play it again that’s all and is that so bad really?
When it comes to recording, preparation is key. Have you rehearsed your parts to death beforehand? Is your kit in good condition? Have you practiced to a click and found the tempo of the songs? The better prepared you are the more relaxed you will feel during the session.
Talk to the producer or engineer and find out how they work, what they need from you. Finding harmony here will make everything flow better. If you make a mistake will they want you to stop and start again or carry on and re-record that little bit later? It’s not just about their needs it’s about yours too. Let them know what you need in your headphones, how loud you need it. Tell them if you need the lights off to record or a drink. The worst thing to do is not say anything if something’s wrong. You’re just going to waste everyone’s time.
The pressure is on when in the studio and being under prepared is going to magnify that pressure but, that is in your control. So prepare, relax and communicate.
Live? It shows!
Finally we come to playing live shows. For a lot of us we have to share the stage with other bands and more importantly other drummers. Who sees these as friends and who sees them as competition? Firstly they are both however, they are competitors in a healthy, friendly way.
Ever heard of ‘The Big Four’? This is the name given to the top four thrash metal groups who pioneered the genre back in the 80’s. It is well known that each band tried to compete with each other and out do each other. Whilst this sounds like they were against each other they were all friends and would play shows together. That was healthy competition and actually had great results pushing the genre and the individuals abilities to new levels.
The other drummers playing the same gig as you are friends and healthy competition. But don’t worry about them. I know I often play with the impression that the whole crowd are drummers judging me. This is tremendous pressure that I create for myself and completely unnecessary. In reality they’re not and most people don’t notice if you drop a stick or change a fill.
You’re there to play YOUR songs with YOUR band. Forget everyone else. Honestly FORGET the rest of the room just focus on the guys and girls sharing the stage with you.
We all know that the adrenaline is flowing and for some of us there’s nerves to contend with also. Again the only way to combat this is to RELAX. Control your breathing and remember ‘you’ve got this’. You’ve played these songs loads of times in rehearsals and you know how to play drums so you’ve got this.
As for the kit…. well kit sharing can go either way. You can either get an amazing kit that stands you well or you get a joke. Now the jokes are exactly that a joke. Stands held together by duct tape, heads that have taken more of a beating than a boxer and the whole thing is unadjustable and sounds like hell.
What can you do? Well for starters you can tune a kit and make it sound as good as you can but miracles don’t always happen and time can often be limited not to mention everyone else making noise whilst you’re setting up!
You can combat the unadjustable stands at home. Sorry you can do what? Adjust someone else’s stands at home? Roro you’re talking rubbish! Stick with me here.
Practicing on a number of different set ups at home will help you become more comfortable to whatever situation you find yourself in. Your ability to adapt will help cure a lot of problems with playing kit sharing shows. I’m not saying you have to change your setup everyday but every now and then will help you learn to adjust.
Live shows are magical. Everything that happens, happens in that instant and then is gone. Keep that in mind when you sit down at your stool on stage. It’s not recording. It’s not a finished product that lasts forever, it’s a fleeting moment remembered as an overall experience rather than a microscopic transcription of every detail.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, we ALL suffer from ‘Drum Discouragement’ from time to time and believe me when I say even the pros have days when it’s just not right.