Posts in Rules For Drummers
4 Inconsistencies That All Working Drummers Eventually Face | Steve Such Drums


jeff queen drummer

If you are a working drummer, chances are that you are doing many different things to earn a living: fill-in gigs, summer tours, weekend cover band gigs, weeknight jazz gigs, teaching lessons, or all of the above. Because gigs come and go year-round and can be quite unpredictable, it means that your income will likely be fluctuating from month to month.

Therefore, you need to treat yourself as if you were running your own streamlined business, because you are! As a professional drummer, you need to have a better handle on your finances than most other people do because you don't have the comfort of a full-time salary position. But, the good news is that it IS possible to make a living as a working drummer, you just have to make some changes to the way you handle your finances/lifestyle. Here are some tips on how to face an inconsistent income:

SAVE MONEY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, STARTING NOW - Because working drummers have inconsistent sources of income, you'll need to make it a habit of saving a portion of your income for when (not if) work dries up a bit. A good rule of thumb is to always set aside 10%-15% of income from every gig you play moving forward. Send it straight to an account before you have the chance to spend it. You should strive to save up at least 6-9 months of living expenses and place it in a separate account in case you have a few months of unsteady work.

BECOME DEBT FREE ASAP - Having debt as a professional musician is not a good idea, period! If you went to college for a music degree, do whatever is possible in order to pay off your student loan debt NOW, not “some day". Avoid using credit cards unless you have funds to pay it off IN FULL the following month. If you currently are faced with any credit card or student loan debt, my best personal recommendation is to read the book Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, which will pump you up to pay off your debt and also give you the tools needed to become debt free. (This book is the sole reason I was able to pay off over $25K of student loan debt, as a professional drummer!)

LEARN TO LIVE MINIMALLY - If you want to be a professional musician, you have to be able to develop a lifestyle that does not revolve around material things. This means learning to make smart purchases that will last a long time, having discipline to say no to buying your “wants,” and being okay without always having the newest, shiniest toys. It doesn’t mean that you need to live as if you were poor, it just means that you need to keep your expenses low so that you don’t feel stressed when you’re in-between gigs. If you're currently bogged down with a large monthly overhead and lots of material possessions, check out this 15 minute podcast: “How To Practice Poverty And Reduce Fear” 

SET UP A BUDGET - I won’t go into too much detail here (refer to Total Money Makeover for specific budgeting tips), but if you don’t know what your monthly income/expenses are, you can’t have any control over your finances. Use a free tool such as to setup a budget if you don’t have one currently.


Many musicians are guilty of having an inconsistent practice routine. Why? As you become busier, take on more commitments in life, and travel more for gigs, practice time often becomes difficult to make throughout the week. Here are some tips to add consistency to your practice routine:

DON’T DO TOO MUCH, TOO SOON - For example, if you try to practice 8 hours a day every day, you’re likely to fizzle out by the end of the week, which makes you feel as if you failed. Instead, in order to build a consistent practice routine, you need to start super small. For the first week, practice just 15-30 minutes per day. This may not seem like a lot to you at first, but if you are able to do this 5 days per week (with 2 days off scheduled), you’re ready to add another 10-15 minutes per day the next week, and so on. If you start small, you’ll achieve small “wins” which will allow you to keep with your practice goals.

CHOOSE SMARTER GOALS - This means that you need to choose goals that are highly specific, achievable, and have a clear deadline. If you need help with creating smarter goals, read my article on effective goal setting: "RULE 9: Small Improvements Daily"

PLAN FOR DAYS OFF - Just as you should plan ahead which days you will practice, you should also plan the days you will NOT practice. If you say “I will practice every day”, you’re likely to fail. Instead, map out your practice schedule a week in advance so you can plan ahead for things that come up.

PRACTICE AWAY FROM THE KIT - You don’t always need to be at the drum set in order to get better. For more on this, read my article: 10 Ways To Practice…WITHOUT Touching Your Instrument


Working drummers face many inconsistencies in their overall lifestyle: Changes in time zones, locations, accommodations, food, amount of sleep, weather fluctuations, and more. 

You will also face many inconsistencies on the gig itself: Different musicians, genres, stages, crowds, venues, sound engineers (Check out “How to Work With A Jaded Sound Engineer), lighting, monitor setups, and more. 

The point is that as a working musician, almost everything you do will be different from night to night, so the most important thing you can do is to try to be as flexible as possible and learn how to MAKE IT HAPPEN


Professional drummers usually do not follow a typical 9-5 work schedule. Most likely, you’ll follow an irregular schedule from week to week (one week you might gig every night and the next week you might have zero gigs). So, how do you add consistency to an irregular schedule?

For any non-gigging days, you need to schedule time for you to work on other aspects of your life, such as your teaching, branding, practicing, learning, and so on. Just because you have a night off from gigging does not mean that you have a night off from getting closer to your musical goals. The most successful musicians are not successful because of their raw talent, they’re successful because they work way harder than most other musicians do.

Every day, you should ask yourself: "Am I Getting Closer To The Mountain?"



CREATE A MORNING ROUTINE - and stick to it!  Create a few "constants" in your life that never change (fitness, reading, practicing, meditation, etc.), and incorporate these things into a morning routine. Following a consistent routine for part of each day will help you to deal with the unpredictable and ever-changing life of a musician. For specific tips on creating an effective morning routine, I highly recommend that you check out these resources: The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life & 5 Morning Rituals That Help Me Win The Day


Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from the video "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!

If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at


-Steve Such 


Thank you to Jeff Queen for offering his 3 words of advice (PATIENTLY PRACTICE CONSISTENCY) and for inspiring me to write this week's article! 

Jeff Queen has been involved with percussion since the age of 10.  At the age of 15, Jeff began his drum corps career with the Canton Bluecoats and continued on to march with the Velvet Knights, Santa Clara Vanguard, Blue Knights and the University of North Texas. Jeff was the Drum Corps International Individual and Ensemble Snare Drum Champion in 1994 and 1995 as well as the Percussive Arts Society Individual Snare Drum Champion in 1994 and 1995.  Jeff has taught in the drum corps activity for over 18 years, including being the caption head for the Carolina Crown drum and bugle corps from 2003-04, percussion arranger for the Colts Drum and Bugle corps for 2007-08.

Jeff is an original cast member of the Tony and Emmy award winning Broadway Show "BLAST" where he was a solo performer and battery instructor from 1999 - 2003. Jeff has performed across the US, Europe and Asia. In addition Jeff has appeared on numerous Television shows including: The Late Show with David Letterman, The Kennedy Center Honors 2000, NBA All-Star Game 2001, Grey Cup 2007, “BLAST”, and “The Making of Blast” on PBS DVD and Video.

Queen is the author of “The Next Level: Rudimental Drumming Techniques” available through Jeff Queen Productions and “Playing With Sticks”, a more than 3-hour instructional DVD through Hudson Music.  More of Jeff’s compositions are available through Drop6 Media, Tapspace Publications, and  Jeff is a signature artist for Vic Firth Drumsticks, and proudly endorses Evans Drumheads, Zildjian cymbals and Yamaha Drums.

Jeff holds his BM in Music Theory and Composition and MM in Percussion Performance from Butler University.  Currently, Jeff is the Percussion Director for Carmel High School in Carmel, IN, and is on the faculty with Butler University and Marian University.  When not teaching at home, Jeff travels the world as an active composer, arranger, judge, clinician, and performer.

5 Ways To Handle Criticism | Steve Such Drums

Whether we like it or not, the actions you take in life will always be subject to criticism from others. This holds especially true in the world of music, where personal tastes can be so subjective and opinionated.

Criticism can often be a tough pill to swallow, so here are 5 things to think about when you encounter it:


I have a confession to make. Personally, I can’t stand the taste of seafood.

I’d say about 99% of the time, seafood tastes absolutely revolting to me. Of course, when I mention this to someone at a restaurant, they look at me like I’ve committed a cardinal sin!

But… me not liking seafood doesn’t mean that seafood is a BAD thing and should never be served again. It just means that I, Steve Such, don’t like seafood.

Some people like jazz. Some people like metal. Some people like hip-hop. Some people listen to all three. Some people don’t listen to any of it.

Just because a person doesn’t like something (or criticizes it) doesn't mean that it has absolutely no place in the world. It just means that it’s not their cup of tea.

No matter how good your intentions are, you simply can’t please everybody. When you try to, you'll end up holding back and playing it safe.

Instead of trying to please everyone, ask yourself “What is my gift to offer to others in this life?” Once you have the answer to this, just go out there and make it happen. Criticism may come your way from time to time, but you will also 10-20x the amount of positive impact you can have during your time here on this planet. Why? Because you weren’t playing it safe.

Once again: You can’t please everybody, so stop trying to.


Steve Jobs was criticized for creating computers with a “closed system.” The founders of AirBnb were laughed at for their concept (“You want a complete stranger to be able to pay to stay in another stranger’s home without ever having met?!”). Geddy Lee was criticized as having too high of a voice (the singer of Rush, one of the most successful rock bands of all time). Many of our world’s most respected figures faced heavy criticism before eventually being honored as an innovator.

Imagine if any of these people had quit at the first sign of criticism… what a shame that would have been!

The point is, whenever someone starts to criticize you, it might be a sign that you’re actually on to something. Many of your worst critics are simply those who are uncomfortable with any type of change. They “like it the way it is and want to keep it the way it always has been.”

Ignore their criticism. You may just be on to something.


Counterintuitively, some people choose to criticize you because they might be jealous of the very thing they are criticizing you for.

If “John" constantly teases you for being “too nice,” maybe it’s because deep down he wishes here were as nice as you.

If “Jane” writes a horrible review about how much she hates your album/playing/etc., maybe she's really trying to take the focus off of her own personal struggle as a musician.

Criticism can often be a coping mechanism for someone’s own securities or lack of action in their own life. Always keep this in mind when facing your nastiest critic.



If you encounter someone who criticizes your talent, profession, or character, ask yourself: “Why am I seeking validation from this person in the first place?” "Should his/her approval really matter to me?”

Think about this: if you aren’t receiving some form of this criticism from time to time, it might mean that you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough past your own personal limits and fears.

After all, it’s your life to live, not theirs. It becomes virtually impossible to let criticism effect you negatively if you stay focused your own happiness, goals, and purpose.


I’ll end with this. Renowned author Neil Gaiman spoke the following words at a college commencement speech:

"Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.

And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain."

If someone criticizes what you are doing, stop and ask “For the thing they are criticizing me for, am I at least getting closer to the mountain?"

If the answer is yes, ignore their criticism.

As long as your actions and efforts are always moving toward the mountain, don’t let criticism stop you in your tracks. Instead, use criticism as fuel to get you to the mountain faster.


Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from the video "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. This week’s rule (WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF) was submitted by the great Johnny Rabb.

My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!
If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!


If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at


-Steve Such



Thank you to Johnny Rabb for offering his top three words of advice for drummers (WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF) and for inspiring me to write this week’s article!

johnny rabb

Johnny Rabb is an active live and studio drummer. He is currently on tour with the platinum-selling rock band Collective Soul, and recently recorded the "See What You Started By Continuing" album, which will be released in Fall 2015. The band has a fall tour planned through the end of the year.

Johnny has been fortunate enough to develop a series of cymbals with the MEINL cymbal company. His Drumbals and Safari cymbals are part of the Generation X  line. He is also the founder of his own drumstick company. Johnny recently joined the NFUZD Audio team as a product advisor and clinician. He continues to design and develop new sounds and innovations for his unique concepts on the drums.

As an author, Johnny continues his passion for education. He released The Official Freehand Technique Book/CD. Johnny was also voted #1 Best Educational Author by Modern Drummer’s Readers Poll for his book Jungle Drum ‘N’ Bass for the Acoustic Drum Set.

He has performed with a wide range of artists such as Tanya Tucker, Hank Williams III, Maynard Ferguson, DJ Hype, Alain Caron, Frank Gambale, Larry Tagg, SheDaisy, Deana Carter and Mindy McCready.

He has traveled worldwide conducting countless clinics and master classes including the Montreal Drumfest, PASIC, Musik Messe, Meinl Drum Festival, Drummer Fest (Belgium) and the Ultimate Drummer’s Weekend, to name a few. He has also instructed at world reknown drum camps, including KOSA and RHYTHM (Bavarian Music Academy).

Johnny performs with MEINL cymbals, NFUZD Audio, REMO drumheads, Johnny Rabb Drumsticks, Pro-Logix Practice Pads, AUDIX microphones, Gibraltar Hardware, and Westone in-ears.

The Details Matter: A 10 Minute Exercise To Refine Any Rudiment | Steve Such Drums


Like many drummers, I spent much of my high school / college career playing in the school drumline.

However, many drumset players/teachers make the claim that playing in a drumline is not really transferrable to making a living as an actual working drummer. For example, in the real world, how likely are you to get hired to march around on a football field playing a snare drum? Not very likely.

So, the question is: Is it all wasted time here?

I’d argue very strongly that there are countless benefits of belonging to a drumline in your early years as a drummer. The hours spent on the following fundamentals are priceless: metronome work, technique, chop development, teamwork, accountability, memorization skills, consistency, performing under pressure... the list goes on and on.

However; above all, if I had to choose the single greatest reason that drumline improved my playing was that it helped me to understand the critical importance of one thing:



In other words, all of my drumline instructors throughout the years helped me to realize that it’s not HOW FAST we play, it’s HOW WELL we play.

How did we accomplish that? By spending days, weeks, and months breaking our playing down to the finest detail possible. It was tedious and often frustrating at times, but slowly we began to raise our own standards and create a sort of “quality control” for our drumming. This skill has served me well over the years.

An analogy here would be to think of what goes into giving a great speech. Of course the words you choose are important. But what about the pacing, the body movements, the facial expressions, the eye contact, the storytelling, or your vocal tonality? All of these DETAILS are what go into a great speech, far beyond the actual words themselves. Focus the details of your presentation technique and you’re on your way to becoming a solid speaker.

Applied to drumming: focus on the details of your drumming technique and you’re on your way to becoming a great musician.



But, you might ask, "If we break down our playing to the finest detail and always try to be “perfect", won’t we start to become robotic and mechanical?"

Absolutely not. The point is that the rules are meant to be mastered first, THEN broken later.

In other words, once you’ve identified the details that allow you to play each rudiment “perfectly”, you can then CHOOSE how you want to play them in the future. Once you have total command of each variable that goes into your playing, you’ll then be able to control the variables (rather than allowing the variables to control you).

Enough of the abstract here. Let me give you a concrete exercise that you can use in the practice room.


Your ability to focus on the details, like anything, is a specific skill that can be developed over time.

If you currently have trouble focusing on the details of your playing, it’s because you haven’t identified specific areas to focus on. I’ve created a simple PDF that will help you to refine almost ANY aspect of your playing (rudiment, groove, chop, etc.)

1) Select a rudiment you’d like to improve on.
2) List the top 8 “focal points” for playing that rudiment most effectively.
3) Play the exercise for 10 minutes straight while only shifting where your specific “focal point” lies.

The first page of the PDF below shows an example of how you might apply this exercise to Double Paradiddles. The second page is a blank template for you to practice whatever you’d like.

Again, remember: The point of this exercise is not to focus on WHAT you play, but to instead focus on HOW you play it.

Good luck and happy drumming!




Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from the video "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!

If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!


If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at


-Steve Such


Thank you to Joel Brainard for offering his three words of advice to drummers (THE DETAILS MATTER) and for inspiring me to write this week's article!

joel brainard

Joel Brainard has been the director and arranger of the IU Marching Hundred Drumline since 2003. In such time his drumline has performed for enormous game-day crowds at Indiana University and for thousands more at national events such as The Superbowl, The Insight Bowl, The Pinstripe Bowl, BOA Grand Championships, and PASIC.

Graduating with a music education undergrad and jazz studies masters degree from IU, Joel was also a proud member of the IU Drumline when he was a student. As a multi-tenors player, Joel spent three seasons in DCI performing with the 1998 World Champion Spartans, The Bluestars, and the Blue Knights. He was also a competitive tenor soloist at PASIC & DCI “I&E” events. In 2003 he "teched" tenors at Capital Regiment and was then hired as percussion caption head for Magic of Orlando in 2004.

Joel is also known for his time teaching at Bloomington HS North and the former WGI world class ensemble, Indianapolis Independent (I-2). Currently Joel teaches Band & Chorus at Batchelor Middle School (Bloomington), works as a drumset artist, and also works as a marching percussion clinician. Using Remo heads, Zildjian cymbals, and Yamaha drums, Joel is also a part of the Vic Firth Education Team.


Thievery Corporation's Jeff Franca On Why Drummers Should Write Songs | Steve Such Drums

This week is very special because I’m featuring my very first guest-writer on the Rules For Drummers site: JEFF FRANCA!

Jeff Franca is the drummer for the band Thievery Corporation as well as the leader of his own band, Congo Sanchez.


Why Write a Song?
By: Jeffrey “Congo” Franca

jeff franca congo sanchez thievery corporation

As drummers, we hold the key to what makes a song unique, funky, groovy, out, in… whatever the desired affect for the given song might be. The beats, timing and song structures that are instilled in us from the beginning of our time as drummers create the vibe that listeners (and musicians alike) physically react to in their bodies when listening to music.

Many producers are good with chords, aesthetic, SOUND, but often ask for real high hats, or a layer of live drums to give a natural feel to a wonky electronic beat. Not all electronic beats are meant to feel natural however, and that is where our knowledge and programming of our own brain to understand the swing of a groove, or the emphasis of a beat, automatically give us an advantage in the studio and with electronic music production.


This is why my three words of advice to drummers are, “WRITE A SONG.” We already provide what every song needs naturally based on our musical existence: the groove! So if you can harness what it takes to write a song; lyrics, form, harmony, melody, bass line, VIBE, then you can express yourself to the fullest because you already have the most important part down... The Rhythm! The rhythm is what allows us to make music with other people and to bring listeners together into a collective experience.

Clearly, there are many benefits for drummers taking part in the song writing process from the perspective of being a musician/composer/producer first. I will rank three key points and describe a little bit about my own song writing process.


Taking bronze on this list, because we all have to eat, (drum roll please.......) BUSINESS! All drummers should be producers; not only producers but founders of original projects with committed musicians and friends. I believe they call these groups of people “bands"? A band is a business. Being in a band is the best calling card one can have.

A couple of years back, Adam Deitch tweeted a list of forbes 30 richest living drummers:

Guess what? No Steve Gadd. No Dennis Chambers. No Steve Jordan. Not to disrespect a few of the most recorded drummers of all time, but ZERO “Studio Musicians” made the list.

All 30 names were drummers from successful bands that have been committed over the years. Some drummers bounce around here and there and do some session work. Sometimes we don’t even get the gig until the first drummer quits or even worse, dies in a freak gardening accident that authorities deem better left unsolved, or decides to become a doctor, or go to law school, or even takes up the guitar and tries to be a frontman/woman. Excluding death, all of these reasons stem from why we are talking about this in the first place, BUSINESS.

If you take a second and look at the list, it doesn’t take long to realize why the top 4 drummers are who they are:


Number four is Don Henley. Don Henley is/was the drummer for the Eagles. I know, “ Anything but the Eagles man,” but still. Five number one hits is not bad. Also, if you know how the business works, when you write a song you own more of the royalties. If you sing that song then you get even more. If you play drums on a TV show, you get less money in royalties than if your voice was to be heard over a broadcast. I know it’s not fair but that’s how it works. Let’s just say The Eagles could sing, all of them, but Don Henley, the drummer, was also sometimes the lead singer as well. So his songwriting within the Eagles led to him gaining more monetary returns from the royalties paid for performing and distributing their music.

Ok, so 5 number one hits with your band and you are good to go? Sorry but no. Not only did Don Henley contribute to more than just the groove of the Eagles music, he also released 5 records on his own as a frontman, all of which peaked in the top 50 of the U.S. Charts.

So here is our model: A founding creative member of an uber successful band followed by a successful solo career. Let’s think about who the remaining drummers are in the first three slots. Got it yet? Yes, you are correct.


Number three is Dave Grohl, the drummer from Nirvana. Dave did not sing lead in Nirvana the way that Don Henley did for the Eagles, but Nirvana did also achieve 5 number one hits. It’s what Dave did after Nirvana that kept him in the running and put him as the number three most valuable living drummer. The Foo Fighters, founded by Dave after the death of Kurt Cobain, featured the drummer stepping out from behind the kit picking up a guitar and singing. Since then, the band has sold 9,450,000 copies of 8 full-length albums. Once again, drummer from an uber successful band takes to the front of the stage with their own band and BOOM! Good Business.


The second most valuable drummer still walking the earth is, you guessed it, Phil Collins. Phil’s band Genesis broke ground as a progressive fusion of rock, jazz and popular music of the 1970’s. Like Henley, Phil shared the vocal responsibilities with his bandmates in Genesis, who achieved 6 number one records in the U.K., and most importantly developed a cult following of musicians and listeners that sought out their more complex approach to composition.

This following, as it did for the aforementioned “drum-miliionares” allowed him to launch a long and successful solo career where he achieved number one status for 3 of his songs and “In The Air Tonight” isn’t even one of them! Proving yet again that writing songs is the key to a long and successful career. Any ideas on the number one most valuable drummer in the world? One hint. He was in the most popular band of all time.


Ringo Starr was the drummer for The Beatles. Need I say more?

With The Beatles, Ringo had songs where he was featured as the lead vocalist and received writing credit. “Yellow Submarine” even went to number one . We have already talked about how singing and songwriting can contribute to the success of a musician. Since Ringo is a Beatle, his writing contributed to his enormous success as a musician. As a side note, Ringo also took on fictional roles as himself and other characters in T.V. and Film (A model now sought after by many musicians). His band, “Ringo and his All Starr Band,” still tours and sells out venues all over the world. Proof that even if you aren’t the frontman or woman, writing songs and creating music on your own leads to a more fruitful career (in Ringo’s case, roughly $300 million worth of “fruit.”).

Clearly, business is boosted when you have more of a stake in what is going into the music. Continuing on to the Second most beneficial trait picked up by drummers who also write songs, lets talk about what you learn about the writing process from writing music of your own.


Taking silver in our trials of the drummer-turned-musician is the understanding that one achieves regarding the process that other musicians and song writers go through when realizing their work.

Part of the success we talked about earlier was the idea that teaming up and collaborating with people to form committed bands is part of creating a livable model for a musician. This means you must be able to not only tolerate but contribute to a collective idea. A concept that is agreed upon and loved equally by more than one person.

Wow! Sounds like a relationship or something. Well, it is. Singers have to come up with lyrics, melodies, harmonies, TOPICS!! Everybody else in the band is there to support the song which in turn supports the singer. The occasional solo or feature is always cool, but until each bandmember has to write their own song, they will never know what it’s like to have the responsibility of being the lead.

We all know what a diva is. Not that it’s bad thing (anybody can turn into one at anytime) BUT, the more you understand about the diva’s situation, the more you can deal with their respective issues. Basically, in my opinion, you can’t really get bent out of shape about somebody not having an immediate idea, or not feeling a certain beat, or needing to write in certain key because that happens to everybody!!! You have to look at yourself through the same lens and then the creative process becomes a more understanding one. Allowing for more creative juices to flow and the vibes to be right for creating the music. This goes for all instruments, in both directions.

A singer might want a drummer to play a certain beat that is new to them and it might take a certain amount of shedding to get correct. The last thing you want when you are trying to figure out something new is for someone to be unsupportive and non-understanding while you are trying to get it down. Church musicians are surrounded by a controlled environment of positivity and encouragement. People believing in them, literally. This might be why some of the baddest musicians grew up playing in church. They were not just surrounded by musical greatness and tradition, but a congregation of appreciation and encouragement. These characteristics can be achieved outside of church, in your garage, basement, school, practice room, studio, anywhere where you are making music.

Drummers who know what its like to come up with a chord progression, or a hook, or a bass line, can exist easier in an environment where people are carrying out these very practices because they can relate to the person who is working through the music. That being said, our final and most beneficial thought about why writing songs is crucial for drummers ends up being a direct result of this understanding nature that we have just talked about.

Jeffrey "Congo" Franca shakes up the drum riser with this fat reggae groove. Thievery Corporation, Golden Gate Park, May 9, 2015. DW kit from S.I.R. Filmed with my iPhone.


The ultimate benefit that drummers obtain by writing songs is the fact that once you are thinking about the song first, and the drums as just part of the song, you better your understanding of what the song needs from you, the DRUMMER! There is nothing worse than sitting through a band’s performance when the drummer (or any musician for that matter) takes away from the music by overplaying. It can happen in many ways: volume, drum selection, cymbal selection, or just TOO MANY NOTES.

Transversely, you never hear somebody say “great band, but terrible drummer.” The drummer’s job is to hold the groove, set the tempo, and tastefully accent the music to their technical/musical ability. Not all music is meant for shredders. Some of my favorite music contains elements of virtuosity blended with purpose and culture. This purpose and culture are the denominators that depict the acceptable vocabulary and function of the music in any given setting.

Taking time to learn all of the parts is how one gains the knowledge of how important their actual part is. In Afro-Cuban Rumba, the clave is the time indicator. Once you understand where the clave is, then you start hearing the actual melodies of the drums and vocals. It’s what tells the dancers and musicians where they are in the groove.

This concept holds true for ALL MUSIC. There is always something that keeps the boat afloat. It could be the vocals. It could be the bass line. It could be the drum beat. We all know at least one song that starts with drums and right away you know what song it is based solely on the beat! This is how you became a great drummer. Understanding all parts of the music and being able to react and express yourself within the vibe of what is going on.

The question is, “How do you go about learning about all of the aspects of the music that you are into?” The answer I have for you is, write your own song in that vein or style and gather the knowledge that the other contributing musicians have gained on there own instruments for their own parts. Then and only then will your part make the most sense. This leads me to some thoughts that I have on my own song writing process, and how I go about exploring the different channels of the creative process when making music.


If you have read what I have written so far on this topic, then you have heard me talk about a few things consistently. These are the foundational aspects that different musics contain: Melody, Harmony, Rhythm, Bass Line, Subject Matter, Technique, Cultural Purpose, Vibe, Sound, and Instrumentation. All of these musical characteristics are what I think about when making a song.

The goal is to get to the point where you aren’t even thinking about these things and you are just channeling your existence into your music. As a composer, I feel as though one of my responsibilities is to document the vibrations of my time here on earth. Music is a sonic representation of life. This is why different cultures and different regions of the world have there own rhythms and compositional structure to their music. I for one believe that the latitude and longitude contribute greatly to how we perceive sonic frequencies. I also believe that altitude has something to do with why certain music is the way it is. We are just antennae for musical vibrations that are constantly around to transmit through. When that antenna moves, it picks up different vibrations.

That being said, knowing what you like (and what you are trying to do with your music) is the first step in writing a song. It’s easy to get caught up in the whole “I’m going to make a song like this” or, “check out the progression in this song, lets use this with a different beat.” The void of unoriginality is vast.

It is important to practice making something that you did not preconceive. Bob Weir from The Grateful Dead talks about following the music THROUGH a composition as in, once you hear a riff, you can then hear what that riff is lending itself to, or where the vibe of the rest of the song wants to go.

This is why I like to listen back from the top, A LOT, when creating original music. Starting playback half way through a song won’t give you the full idea of what a moment needs or where the next section needs to go because your frame of reference is not accurate.

These days, a lot of successful musicians are making music on their laptops with headphones on. A lot of solo artists using technology to create their “band.” As long as the purpose is there than I see nothing wrong with this. Personally I like to write by myself but there is nothing like working out some tunes with other humans. You learn more about yourself and about others this way. But don’t get me wrong, a day of nothing but beat-making/songwriting on my own is part of how I stay insane. Oops did I say that wrong? I meant sanely insane, or whatever you get it. We all have our quirks. That is why we need to be writing music.


The differences we all share are what create the beauty of the world. I believe that as a musician, you owe it to yourself and to the world around you to put yourself into your music. Understand yourself, and the musicians around you. Know what you like. Take care of business. Strive for success.

The best way to do that? Write a song.


Each week, I select one person from the video "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. This week's rule: WRITE A SONG. My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!

Big thanks again to Jeff Franca for guest-writing this week's article! Check out his music and see him on tour! You can connect with him on Facebook at

If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!


If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at


-Steve Such

How I Solved The "No Practice Time" Problem | Steve Such Drums

I often look back to my music school days with a bit of nostalgia… Most music students usually have anywhere between 4-8 hours PER DAY to practice their instrument, spend the rest of the day in music classes, usually followed by some sort of rehearsal or gig later that night. Music students have the advantage of TIME… those critical 4 or 5 years of life when it's actually your JOB to practice!


rules for drummers

The music school practice regiment is as follows: spend as many hours as possible practicing everything you possibly can! Ask any percussion/jazz studies major to show you their practice schedule for the day and they might show you something like this:

August 9, 2016 Practice Schedule
1 HOUR: Warmup / Stick Control exercises
1 HOUR: Left foot hi-hat jazz comping exercises
1 HOUR: Chart reading
1 HOUR: Uptempo swing
1 HOUR: Classical snare drum excerpts
1 HOUR: Double Bass Drum chop building session
1 HOUR: Open Drum Solo practice
1 HOUR: Samba

Ah… the glory days. How I long for thee.



Now... ask any professional, gigging drummer how much time THEY have to practice each week. They might look at the schedule above and laugh!

They’ll often explain to you that they may not have even an hour per day to practice their instrument, let alone an hour per week!

The problem is that once drummers enter the "real world" (w/ family, bills, commitments, etc), they often try to honor the same kind of practice regiment they once had in music school. Unfortunately, this system isn’t sustainable because there are far too many variables to cram into a shorter amount of practice time. With this many variables, the practice routine becomes way too complicated for the amount of time allotted. When this happens, you may start to feel like you’re A) not improving or B) no longer seeing the point in WHY you're practicing these things in the first place. When that happens, the motivation to practice starts to melt away.

If the majority of drummers will eventually face this “lack of time" problem, what do we do about it? In this article, I’ll tell you how I solved the problem for myself, but first we’ll need to turn to the world of fitness.


Let me ask you this: If you only had 5 minutes to work out each day and wanted to stay as fit as possible, which 1-2 exercises would you choose to do?

Calf raises? Wrist curls? Of course not. Instead, you’d be smarter to spend those 5 minutes performing total-body, “bang-for-your-buck” moves called COMPOUND EXERCISES. A compound exercise is an exercise that works many different muscle groups simultaneously. An example of this would be something like a pushup-burpee, a deadlift, or a pull-up.

For busy people looking to get fit, they don't have time to do a series of “isolation exercises” (such as bicep curls), which only work one muscle at a time. Instead, they'll choose a compound exercise such as a chin-up, which hits both the bicep AND the back. The result: similar (and often better) results, in significantly less time.

Yet, if we move back to drumming, many drummers with limited practice time still choose to spend their precious time on a routine filled with "isolation exercises.” This might be things such as pad work or chop building exercises.

When faced with limited time, this type of practice is ineffective. Instead, we need to take the principles we’ve learned from fitness: our practice routine must shift to compound exercises in order to be most effective.

How do we come up with compound exercises for drum set practice? By asking yourself the following question:

“What is the ONE thing will get me the most bang for my buck in the practice room today?"

Which brings us to how I was able to simplify my practice routine.

Enter the “60 Minute Showdown"


GOAL: In 60 minutes, you will complete the following: Learn and perform one song of your choice from start to finish. This performance will be recorded on video.


Here’s what a sample 60 Minute Showdown practice session might look like:

10 Minutes - Listen to the song while writing out a form chart
30 Minutes - Groove construction / work on sections of song
5 Minutes - RECORD SONG, TAKE 1
5 Minutes - Listen Back, taking notes on what to improve on
5 Minutes - RECORD SONG, TAKE 2 (implementing notes)
5 Minutes - Listen back. Are you satisfied with the job you did?

- If you don’t have a video camera (such as a GoPro), your phone will work just fine.
- Try to find a “minus-drums” version of the song. There are many places online as well as drumming books that offer play-along tracks with “minus-drums” versions.


The 60 Minute Showdown is the ultimate compound exercise for drummers. In order to understand WHY, let’s take a look at the areas of drumming you’ll address over the span of just 60 minutes:

1) TIME EFFICIENCY  - You only have 60 minutes to complete this exercise… there’s no time to slack and you have a deadline to meet. You have to find a way to make it happen. Welcome to the real world!

2) GROOVE CONSTRUCTION - You’ll need to come up with different grooves for each section of the song (or learn pre-determined drum grooves note for note). Perhaps you never would have practiced / thought of these grooves independently, but the music now calls for it.

3) STYLISTIC AUTHENTICITY - You may need to change your playing, tuning, or even the gear you’re using to match the style of the song you are playing. This may require you to learn new techniques/skills you currently don’t possess.

4) MUSICAL CONTEXT - By playing along to a song, you’re no longer just practicing mindless patterns/rudiments, you’re practicing MUSIC. Everything you practice now has a context.

5) TIMING - Maybe your play-along has a click track, which you’ll need to be locked into. Playing along to a song without a click track will force you to focus on locking in with other instruments (which you should be doing anyway), and is much more fun than working with a metronome.

6) CHOPS - Instead of mindlessly playing chop-building exercises, now you can develop your chops with an actual musical goal in mind. For example, there may be a tricky double bass drum pattern in the song that you’re uncomfortable with. Now you have a real, tangible musical goal to achieve rather than just playing repetitive exercises at a random BPM marking.

7) CHART READING / CHART WRITING / MEMORIZATION - Perhaps the play-along comes with a chart. In this case, you’ll be refining your chart-reading abilities. If the song doesn’t come with a chart, you may need to quickly write one out of your own. Or you simply may choose to memorize the tune by ear. Regardless of which method you choose, all 3 are critical skills required for any working drummer.

8) PERFORMANCE MODE - Turning on the video camera will immediately force you to practice "playing under pressure". It also forces you to stay focused so that you don’t waste time in the practice room. You’ll be surprised at how turning on the camera will inspire you to bring your “A-game."

9) CONSISTENCY - Are you able to play the song all the way through without any mistakes? If you do make a mistake, are you able to quickly recover and keep going?

10) CRITIQUE AND REFINE - Perhaps the most valuable part of this practice. After you’ve finished performing the song, watch the video back. What did you do well? Where did you fall short? Being able to analyze your drumming is the fastest way to improve; by watching the video you’ll immediately know right away what to improve on and where to focus your efforts in the practice room.


Look at how much you’ve just accomplished in the span of one hour… if you’ve successfully completed this exercise, you should feel extremely proud of yourself!

But why did it work? Because in 60 minutes you hit many different musical “muscles” all at once: groove construction, timing, chops, soloing, chart reading, time efficiency, performance pressure, consistency, reviewing and more! If you had tried to isolate each of these areas individually, think of how much time you would have spent!


Does this mean that we should stop isolating specific areas of our drumming? Absolutely not. Isolation exercises (such as practice pad work, rudiments, or specific coordination exercises) are still critical to refining your drumming, but they should be supplemental rather than used as the bulk of your practice. For example, rather than spending an hour per day building double bass drum chops, maybe you spend 15 minutes of your practice session working out a tricky double bass drum fill because you NEED IT TO PLAY THE SONG. You’re using an isolation exercise to carry out the compound goal… far more effective. A fitness analogy: adding 5 minutes of ab work at the end of a total body workout. Important? Yes... but supplementary to the larger goal of total-body fitness. If you instead ONLY worked on abs, your body would be out of balance.

Further, if we primarily focus on isolation exercises, we end up “learning” hundreds of patterns/chops in various drumming books but never applying them to our actual drumming vocabulary. However, by starting with a compound exercise (in this case, learning a song), then that pattern or chop you end up using is far more likely to remain in your drumming vocabulary long-term because you are already practicing it in a musical context.


You can also practice this compound exercise over the span of a slightly larger timeframe. For example, let’s say you want to practice the 60 Minute Showdown over the span of one week. Perhaps your goal is also to create a nice drumming video out of this experience that you can put on your YouTube channel and share with the world, so you’d like a little more time with it before you hit record.

Here’s what a “1 Week Showdown" might look like:

DAY 1 - Write out chart, learn / construct grooves (60 min)
DAY 2 - Isolate each section of the song / chop building for drum solo section (60 min)
DAY 3 - Practice problem areas (60 min)
DAY 4 - Practice problem areas (60 min)
DAY 5 - Practice running through the song (60 min)
DAY 6 - RECORD SONG (30-60 min)
DAY 7 - Edit and upload to YouTube (60 min)

Along the way, you may be practicing several isolation exercises (focusing on a chop, fill, or technique), but everything you practice now has a PURPOSE: to record the song by the end of the week.

Some food for thought: Imagine if you followed this schedule every week for a year… you’d have 52 unique drumming videos on YouTube! Think of how much you would have improved in one year by doing this!


Try this exercise and let me know how it goes. I can guarantee that the amount of growth you’ll experience will be far greater than if you had spent the same amount of time playing mindless paradiddles and double bass drum exercises with a metronome. The difference? COMPOUND EXERCISES give you a purpose to your practice and put everything in context.

Hopefully, you see that the point here is not how much time you have to practice, but how you spend the time you DO have so that it’s as effective and uncomplicated as possible! Now stop reading and start drumming!


Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from the video "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!

If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!

Subscribe to my weekly blog by clicking HERE.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at


-Steve Such 



Thank you to Walfredo Reyes Jr. for offering his 3 words of advice to drummers (DON'T GET COMPLICATED) and for inspiring me to write this week's article!

walfredo reyes jr

Walfredo has played with: Carlos Santana, Traffic, Steve Winwood, Jackson Browne, Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan, David Lindley, Ricki Lee Jones, Richard Marx, Sergio Mendes, Smokey Robinson, Robbie Robertson, Joe Sample, Boz Scaggs, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Johnny Hallyday, Khaled, Lindsey Buckingham, Chicago and many others.

Because of his versatility, Walfredo is one of the most in demand musicians in the world today. He currently lives in the Los Angeles area where he continues to expand his talents to recording, producing, composing, education, live performance, and touring. Walfredo is currently touring with the world renown Classic Rock band, Chicago, playing percussion. 

How To Sight-Read Drum Charts Like A Pro | Steve Such Drums

Sight-reading drum charts can be a VERY scary thing, especially if you don’t have a lot of previous experience doing so. 

In this article, I’ll offer some of the tricks and techniques that I personally use when sight-reading drum charts.

I’ll break it down into two sections: First, I’ll provide some tips on what to do BEFORE performing the chart, and then I’ll discuss things to think about WHILE you’re playing the the chart.



rules for drummers

ROADMAP - What is the form of the tune? Are there solo sections, and if so, who's soloing? Are there any drum solos? Vamps? Get an idea of the form of the tune ahead of time. This will help you to understand the big picture.

REPEATS - Are there any repeat signs in the music? What about D.C., D.S., or Coda markings? Forgetting to follow these types of markings is one of the most commonly-made mistakes when sight-reading, so be sure to note where these form signs are so you don’t miss them. If you need to, highlight them with a pencil so they stand out more.

ENDING - How does the tune end? Is there a fermata? Does it end with a specific rhythm? Ending the tune wrong can be quite embarrassing, especially if you’ve done a great job up until this point!  Be sure to be completely comfortable with how the tune ends before you start it.


TEMPO - What’s the tempo of the tune? Are there any tempo changes in the music?

CUES - Are there any stops or cues in the music? If so, discuss these things ahead of time with your band mates/leader.

FEEL - Most charts will have some sort of musical information on the feel of the tune (shuffle, funk, swing, etc.). Does this change at all throughout the chart? Be sure to know all styles that you’ll be playing before you begin. 

OTHER INFO - These include musical terms written such as ritardandos, accellerandos, dynamics, crescendos, etc.


Are there any tricky spots in the chart that require a second glance before playing? This might include a tricky rhythmic section, a fast tempo change, a difficult page turn, or a musical cue from another performer (“Piano gives cue for downbeat, etc.”) Make sure you set yourself up for success by isolating these tricky sections before you begin!


MUSIC STAND - Make sure your music stand is set up at a comfortable angle so that you can comfortably look at the page while moving around the kit. The last thing you want is to NOT be able to play your kit because your neck is uncomfortably turned to the side!

PAGE TURNS - Are there any difficult page turns? If so, try to position the chart in a way that allows you to easily make these page turns. One way to do this is to make a small triangle fold at the corner of the page so you can grab it easier.


Okay, you’re ready to begin playing the chart. Take a deep breath, relax, and play with confidence!


Always know where you are in the chart. The best way to do this is to keep your eyes glued to the page as you play the chart. As you get more comfortable reading, you’ll be able to look around more, but when you're first starting out, the page is all you should be looking at. 

Lack of focus is the number one reason why drummers get lost in the chart. When you’re sight-reading, don’t get distracted by what you hear... just follow and trust the chart!


Interpretation is how you take what you SEE on the page and turn it into MUSIC. The best sight-readers are the ones who know how to musically interpret what they see. Developing your interpretation of charts is one of the most effective ways to improve not just your chart-reading abilities, but your overall musicianship as well!

I could go into great detail on interpretation, but it’s a bit beyond the scope of this article.

Instead, I’d HIGHLY recommend picking up these 2 books:
Studio & Big Band Drumming by Steve Houghton
Inside The Big Band Drum Chart by Steve Fidyk

These books are incredible; they have detailed instructions on how to musically interpret drum charts, as well as excellent play-along tracks.

I’ll just give you one important “nugget” here: Anytime you see “longer ensemble notes” written, tend to choose drum sounds that are “longer" (cymbals, etc.). For “shorter ensemble hits” written out, choose shorter drum sounds, such as your snare drum. Rhythmic accuracy is only part of the equation, the bigger goal is to compliment what the other members of your band are doing in a musical manner in your kit. 

Again, I strongly recommend that you refer to the books mentioned above for much more detail.


Once you become more comfortable chart-reading, you should start focusing on looking further ahead in the music as you play. Many beginning sight-readers will focus their eye on each beat or each measure, but you should instead be looking at longer phrases. This way, you can become PROACTIVE rather than REACTIVE.

When you look ahead, it gives you more time to prepare for what’s coming next, so you can make it easier on yourself to choose more musical decisions!
It’s sort of like driving. If you only look 2 feet in front of you, driving would be very stressful. Driving becomes much easier if you look further ahead… it allows you to plan for what’s coming next.


If you make a mistake, whatever you do: DON’T STOP!!
As long as you’re playing solid time and following the form, you’ll be able to recover from any reading mistakes that are made, and your band mates will thank you. If the drummer stops playing, the whole song will crash and burn!

Being able to recover quickly is one of the most important aspects of being a great sight-reader.


Do you remember the first time you ever rode a bike without the training wheels? If you were like me, you most likely crashed a few times before you got comfortable enough to zip around the block confidently. The same is true with sight-reading. You will crash a few times, but don’t get discouraged... the only way you’ll get better is by DOING IT! 


1) There are a TON of practice play-along books with drum charts. Purchase one of the books mentioned above, or something similar. 

2) Go through the SECTION 1 checklist above before you begin playing the chart: understand the form, understand all musical information, look for tricky spots, and set up your chart efficiently.

3) Once you’re ready to play, video record yourself as you sight read the chart for the first time. This will mimic the “performance pressure” that you’d face if you were doing it with an actual band. No matter what… don’t stop.

4) As you’re playing try to follow the SECTION 2 checklist: know your place, interpret the chart, look ahead, and don’t stop.

5) When you’ve finished, listen back to the video. Did you make it all the way through? What did you do well? What could you improve on?

6) Repeat, and repeat again. :)


Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from the video "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!

If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at


-Steve Such


Thanks to Dave Kropf for offering his three words of advice for drummers (KNOW YOUR PLACE) and for inspiring me to write this week’s article!

Dave Kroph is the host of "Drummer Talk", the internet's longest-running drumming podcast. As a versatile and well-rounded composer and percussionist for more than 30 years, Dave continually strives to focus on musicianship, expression, and emotion in both compositions and performances. His core belief is that music should always serve the greater needs of the client over the ego of the musician.

With over 100 works to his credit, Dave’s compositional emphasis is on film and commercial music. His expertise ranges from orchestral to electronic music production with his most recent work being featured on CBS Sports’ coverage of the Masters Tournament and the NFL.

You can hear many of Dave’s compositions on his Soundcloud page.

As a percussionist, his skills range from drumset to drumline, and concert to world percussion. His musicianship on drums and vibraphone can be heard on recorded projects from Lillenas Publishing, Inside Sounds, Madison Line Records, and Ardent Studios; and heard in live performances with Donnie Smith, Vicky Beeching, Aaron Strumpel, and Marty Parks.

Dave also has over 21 years of professional musical theater experience covering a broad range of production levels from community theater to professional Summer Stock. Performances range from Footloose to Fiddler on the Roof, and from Into the Woods to I Remember Mama. He maintains rock solid reading competency, and is always sure to play with sensitivity and appropriate dynamics.

4 Things Drummers Need MORE Than Incredible Chops | Steve Such Drums


In the internet-age of drumming, we’re so focused on how many notes we can fit into each measure. However, any working musician will tell you that chops are usually the LAST thing that got them hired! This week, I’ll talk about 4 things that are WAY more important than having chops. Here we go!


not just chops

Seriously… when’s the last time you tuned your entire kit?

For some reason, as drummers we often become lazy when it comes to keeping our kit sounding GREAT. It’s perhaps (ironically) the most overlooked aspect of our sound as we tend to be more focused on our actual playing. Maybe we leave our drum heads on for too long or are afraid to change the tuning of a drum for fear that we might “mess up a good thing.” However, the greats are the ones who constantly maintain the tuning of their kit, make deliberate choices as to WHICH gear is the best fit for the gig at hand, and make decisions on how each drum should be tuned.


How consistent is your playing from night to night, song to song, or from section to section?

The next time you listen to your favorite drummers, notice how consistent they are in the way they play. You’ll notice that they feel the pulse consistently throughout the tune (they’re either ahead, behind, or on top of the beat, it usually doesn’t shift in the middle of the song). You’ll also notice that they keep their backbeats consistent (or ride cymbal pattern, clave, etc). Here’s a simple rule to follow when it comes to consistency: anything that is NOT consistent should be INTENTIONALLY different, not ACCIDENTALLY different.


How reliable are you as a drummer? As a person?

Being reliable means many different things: Showing up on time, responding to emails/calls/texts, honoring commitments made, knowing the material for each gig, being a good traveler, executing your parts well, etc. It’s not enough these days to be a rock-solid musician, you must also be a rock-solid person, reliable both on stage and off.


Do you play with confidence?

Possibly more than any other musician on stage, a drummer must be absolutely confident in everything that they do. Where as some musicians may be able to hide behind a song they’re not comfortable with, a drummer simply cannot. A timid drummer can be heard the minute they start playing! Therefore, it’s absolutely crucial that you develop the confidence to be able to handle playing in high-pressure situations. If for some reason things start to fall apart on stage (musically or in any number of other ways), it is YOUR job to drive the bus, be a “problem-solver,” and keep everyone together. Every time you sit down to play, it should be your mission to lay down a strong, confident foundation for the rest of the musicians to comfortably play on top of.


Take a few moments to honestly assess how well you embody the 4 characteristics mentioned above. (Does my kit sound good? Am I consistent? Am I reliable? Do I play with confidence?)

When finished, answer the following questions:

1) Which of these 4 items is your greatest strength?
2) Which of these 4 items is your greatest weakness?
3) For the area you just chose, what is one small, specific action that you could take THIS WEEK to improve on that weakness?

Here are some examples:

DRUM KIT SOUND - Focus on the tuning of just ONE drum this week. How can you make it sound better?
CONSISTENCY - Practice only backbeats with a metronome for 15 minutes each day this week. How consistent are you?
RELIABILITY - Intentionally show up to a gig 30 minutes earlier than you need to. How does it feel?
CONFIDENT - Smile more, interact more with the other musicians in your band. Do you feel more confident?



Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!

If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!

Subscribe to 100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS by clicking HERE.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at




jay north

Thank you to Jay North for offering his three words of advice to drummers (NOT JUST CHOPS) and for inspiring me to write this week's article!

Jay is a music lover currently residing in Los Angeles, CA.

How To Keep It Moving When You've Hit A Road-Block | Steve Such Drums


No matter what path you end up on, it will not always be a smooth trip. You WILL hit road-blocks from time to time… guaranteed! What actually matters is not the actual road-blocks themselves, but what we do about them.

When you've hit a road-block, does the train grind to a halt or do you find a way to keep it moving?

I was recently listening to one of my favorite podcasts, “The Tim Ferriss Show,” and in one particular episode, Tim was offering some advice for what he tries to do when hitting various “road-blocks," the moments where you seem to find yourself banging your head against the wall trying to solve a problem that seems impossible.

His advice? When facing a road-block, Tim simply asks himself the following question:

“What would this look like if it were easy?"

Asking yourself this one, single question acts as an incredibly powerful tool for solving problems, reducing stress, and getting past the various road-blocks we face.

What is it about this question that is so powerful? By imagining the easiest possible scenario first, we often forget about the problem and instead focus on the solution. By imagining an easy scenario, we’re forced to eliminate complexity. It then becomes quite clear which things need to be changed, added, or removed.

In this article, I’ll provide 2 practical examples of “road-blocks” that a musician might face, and how we can use Tim’s strategy to completely eliminate them.


Let’s say you get a call from a band-leader who got your contact information through a mutual musician friend. He explains to you that the drummer in their band is sick and they need a fill-in drummer who can play their entire 30 song catalog, without a rehearsal.

"The gig is in 2 days and pays $400... can you do it?"

Normally, you’d have no problem playing a gig like this because you know how to write out quick charts that you can use on the gig. But, there’s just one problem... you’re completely swamped over the next 2 days and won’t have any time to write out the charts. You’ve hit a roadblock.

Most people, at this point, would turn down the gig.

But what if you stopped and asked yourself: “What would this look like if it were easy?"

Well... if this were easy, the charts would already exist; you could just sight read them on the gig. Because you know how to sight-read charts at a high-level, you’d be able to accept and play the gig.

So, working backwards, how do we use charts on the gig if we’re not able to make them ourselves? Here’s a solid solution: Hire a drummer friend to write out the charts for you and give them part of your pay for the gig. Explain that it would be an easy way for your friend to learn some tunes, they could keep these 30 charts for their own use whenever needed, all while making some cash… not to mention that they would be helping you out tremendously. Everybody wins. You get to play the gig and your friend makes some money out of the process.

Now, let’s take a look at what just happened here. If you’d just stopped at the road-block (in this case, not having enough time to prepare), you would have turned the gig down, missed out on potential income, and also missed out on opportunities for future work with that band. However, because you worked backwards imagining the easiest scenario possible first, you found a way to eliminate the roadblock. You were thus able to play the gig, make some money (for both you and your friend), all while creating the opportunity for future work with that band! How’s that for problem-solving?


Let’s say you’re a “hired gun,” making your living playing with a number of different bands. You might be hired for several days at a time up to several months on tour. Travel becomes a huge part of this nomadic lifestyle you’ve chosen, which is great! The problem is, when you’re NOT out on tour, you suddenly don’t have a place to live... You want to live in a house/apartment and feel like a “normal person," but it doesn’t necessarily make financial sense to sign a lease or enter into contracts with various utilities like water/cable/internet when you might need to leave town at a moment’s notice. You don’t want to crash on couches, but you also don’t want to be forced into renting a place that you may only live at for a few months each year. We’ve hit another road-block.

Again, we need to turn to our trusty question: “What would this look like if it were easy?"

If housing for traveling musicians were EASY, you wouldn’t have ANY signed leases or contracts. The place you stay would always be furnished (eliminating the need for “moving") You wouldn’t have to pay utilities, and you would easily be able to pack up and leave for a gig without losing money renting a place that you aren’t occupying. You only pay for the days you actually live there.

The solution: Use a service like AirBNB, where you simply pick the days you’d like to stay. When you need to leave town for a gig, simply place all your belongings into storage.

See what we did here? Because we first imagined the easiest possible outcome, it allowed us to work backwards to find a way to get past the housing road-block.

*Side Note: This solution is precisely what I’ve been doing for over a year now. Living through AirBnb has saved me thousands of dollars annually, and has also allowed me to see more of the world in between gigs. I used to need to fly home between gigs, but with the AirBnb solution, I simply choose where it makes the most sense to live next. For example, last year I had an entire week off between gigs and decided to stay in New Orleans, a place I had always wanted to visit. If I had been paying a monthly rent check to a landlord, this kind of one-week trip would not have made financial sense. The AirBnb solution allows me to see the world while actually SAVING money... It’s bonkers!


To recap, when we face the inevitable road-blocks of life, the best way to keep moving is to first imagine the easiest possible scenario (“What would this look like if it were easy?”), and then work backwards until you come up with a solution for how to make that scenario become a reality.


1) Take an assessment of any major “road-blocks” in your life: What are the things you encounter regularly that seem be more difficult, inconvenient, or inefficient than they should be?
2) For each of these road-blocks, ask yourself “What would this look like if it were easy?"
3) Once you’ve created the ideal scenario in your mind, work backwards and decide which specific actions will allow you to turn this imagined outcome into a reality.
4) Take action.



Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!

If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!

Subscribe to 100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS by clicking HERE.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at





Thank you to Tim Lefebvre for offering his 3 words of advice to drummers (KEEP IT MOVING) and for inspiring me to write this week's article!

Rocketing between New York and Los Angeles, Tim Lefebvre is quickly carving out a bold and progressive vision of what a contemporary bassist can and should be. Fashioning a leadership role in avant-garde jazz and funk circles, Tim is also a capable and reliable sideman routinely called upon by today’s leading innovators from across the musical spectrum including: Tedeschi Trucks Band (his full-time gig), Chris Botti, Toto, Sting, Uri Caine, Dave Binney, Donny McCaslin, Mark Giuliana and Donald Fagen.

A native of Foxboro, Massachusetts, Tim majored in both political science and economics before earning his gigging stripes, on of all places, a cruise ship, thankfully not the Carnival “Triumph.”

Once back in port, Tim dove headlong into New York’s burgeoning underground live electronica and jazz scenes, exposing himself to some of the city's most progressive players including drummer Zach Danziger and the legendary guitarist and former Steely Dan sessions player Wayne Krantz.

As word spread that a funky new bassist was in town, bridging the gap between James Jamerson’s signature strut and an emerging live-tronica sound, Tim’s opportunities grew. Furiously incorporating the dictates of the avant-garde with a more mainstream and commercially viable sound, Tim emerged from this formative period with a singular style and a trajectory for evolution that has yet to lose steam.

Tim’s career began to skyrocket when he subbed in Saturday Night Live’s house band, quickly catching the eye of television and film executives, soon landing playing and writing roles for shows such as “The Sopranos,” “30 Rock,” “The Apprentice,” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

It wasn’t long before Hollywood came calling. Tim performed on a number of movie soundtracks including "Oceans 12," "The Departed,“ “Analyze That!” while composing music for “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle,” “Please Give” and commercials for Microsoft and Chevrolet.

Tim’s good fortune, open mind and willingness to play with anyone and everyone has supercharged his development enabling him to play with genius talents such as the guitarist Wayne Krantz, the neo-classical jazz pianist Uri Caine and scores of other. A recent domestic and European tour with ferocious post-bop saxophonist Donny McCaslin cemented Tim’s status as one of the industry’s most sought-after rhythm partners. Recently he recorded a record with Germany's Michael Wollny ("Weltentraum" ACT music and vision) that was awarded the ECHO trophy for Best Jazz Record of 2014.

He is Endorsed by Moollon Guitars, Callow Hill Guitars, MXR + Jim Dunlop Efx, Ableton Live, TC Electronics, Izotope, M Audio, Ampeg, and DR Strings.

Appearances with/recorded with  Leon Russell, Chris Robinson, RIta Coolidge, Taj Mahal, TOTO, Empire of the Sun, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Chaka Khan, David Hidalgo, Emmy Rossum,  Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, AR Rahman, , Corinne Bailey Rae, Allessandro Amoroso, JOVANOTTI,  Donald Fagen, Roseanne Cash,Till Broenner, Patti Austin, Mark Isham, Draco Rosa, Tony Orlando, Donny Osmond, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Andy Garcia, Anthony Hamilton, Bette Midler, Drew Barrymore, Snoop Dogg,  Jim Belushi, David Holmes, Pati Yang, Paula Cole, Melissa Errico,  Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Larry Carlton, Deborah Gibson, Abe Laboriel, Jr.,  Karsh Kale, Russell Ferrante, KT Tunstall, Tenacious D, Jill Sobule, Hildegard Knef, Andy Snitzer, Bob James, David Ryan Harris,  Mark Whitfield, Dr. John, Warren Haynes, Chuck Loeb, Les McCann, Bill Frisell, Chris Potter’s Underground, Arif Marden, David Cassidy, David Johanssen & The Harry Smith’s, M People,  Donny McCaslin, Philippe Saisse, Les McCann, Bill Frisell, Angelique Kidjo, Chuck Loeb, Jon Pousette-Dart, Kneebody, Larry John MacNally, Jim Beard, Steve Coleman, Chieli Minucci & Special EFX, Mitch Forman, Eddie Daniels, Tim Berne, Brian Blade, and Jim Black

How To Turn Off The "Critic Voice" In Your Head | Steve Such Drums

STEVE: “Greg, if you had 3 words of advice to give to drummers, what would you tell them?"

GREG: “...Always Play Honestly."

STEVE: “That’s a great one man! What made you decide to say that?"

GREG: "My mentor by the name of Ernie Adams always told me (and still does) that you can’t think about what you’re playing. As soon as you do, you’re not in the music anymore… you get sucked into your own world. You have to feel it. So to me, play honestly means to be in the mental space to just let it come to you… to play what you feel. If you do, it will all come out well."


Greg is really on to something here... How many times have you overanalyzed your playing DURING the gig? How many times have you had that nagging voice in the back of your head (let’s call it the “Critic Voice”) giving you the play-by-play: “That beat was early! That beat was late! You’re playing too loud! Your time sucks! Stop slouching! Come on man, get it together!"

We’ve all been there before. When you do have the Critic Voice barking at you, there's so much noise in your head that it’s really difficult to play musically, and it’s basically impossible to play HONESTLY (from the heart).

Why? Because in that state, you’re just trying to satisfy the VOICE.

greg essig always play honestly

When we’re in the practice room, the Critic Voice is actually important. It’s how we focus on the details, and it’s how we develop our ears so that we can improve on our instrument.

But when we go on stage, the greats are the ones who know how to turn that voice off!

Turning the Critic Voice off means that you FEEL THE MOMENT. It means that you take more risks. It means that you contribute to the musical conversation rather than staying in the background.


Ask yourself: "When I play on stage, am I playing honestly, or am I simply trying to satisfy my Critic Voice?"

If you have trouble turning the Critic Voice off, consider the following:

1) Consider that, truthfully, you will not get any better at the drums during this gig. However good you are now, this is how good you’ll be by the end of the gig. Don’t try to get better… just do your thing! Accept where you are at right now in this moment and enjoy it.

2) Which conversations with people do you enjoy more? The conversations that are polite, timid, and cautious, or the conversations that are real, opinionated, and raw? Translate that to your playing. Don’t be cautious on your instrument… be opinionated.

3) Why are you so focused on your drumming in the first place? If you have trouble turning the Critic Voice off, try focusing your attention on your band mates instead. How can you interact with them? Are you really listening to them? How can you compliment or enhance what they are doing? If you’re busy having a musical conversation with your band mates, the Critic Voice will have no room to speak.


Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action steps you can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!

If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!

Subscribe to 100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS by clicking HERE.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at




Thank you to drummer Greg Essig for offering his three words of advice to drummers (ALWAYS PLAY HONESTLY) and for inspiring me to write this week's article!

Greg Essig, drummer, grew up in Plainfield, IL and attended Northern Illinois University for music performance. He has studied with Ernie Adams, Kris Myers, Mark Guiliana, and Chris Coleman. He’s played with notable artists such as Marbin, Sidewalk Chalk, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, Chicago Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble and more.

Bruce Becker's 3 Principles For Becoming A World-Class Drummer | Steve Such Drums

When asked to give his single best piece of advice to drummers, the great Bruce Becker responded with the following 3 words:


When we take a look at the true GREATS… the Vinnies, the Gadds, the Weckls, the [insert your favorite drummer here]… what is it exactly that they all seem to share in common with each other?

Besides being incredibly talented, the answer is that they are the ones who have been able to successfully embody each of these three principles at a world-class level.

This week, we'll take a close look at each of these principles; first by defining them and then by explaining how they directly apply to your drumming. However, please keep in mind that these principles don’t just apply to drumming (or even music for that matter)… they can be applied to virtually ANY field of study.

Along the way, we'll complete 3 simple exercises together where you’ll learn to be like the greats while simultaneously developing your own unique "you-ness."

Ready? Let’s get started.



assimilate |əˈsiməˌlāt|
verb [ with obj. ]
-take in (information, ideas, or culture) and understand fully: "Marie tried to assimilate the week's events."


Many of us listen to our favorite drummers and think, “Wow, that’s amazing/incredible/insane! If only I could play like that!” The truth is that you really can learn to play ANYTHING… but you have to first have to understand exactly what it is that you’re hearing.

Looking at the definition of “assimilate” (shown above), sure... we can easily become inspired by what we hear (“take in”) from our favorites, but where many of us fall short is in not taking that crucial next step: learning what’s REALLY going on (“understand fully”).

It IS possible to demystify what seems impossible; we just need to take what we’ve heard and place it under a microscope. We need to ASSIMILATE the idea.


- The next time you listen to your favorite drummer, pick something SPECIFIC that you enjoy hearing (or don’t quite understand yet).
- Start small. Choose one bar of a groove you like, or one cool chop/lick that resonates with you.
- Listen to the phrase over and over… and over… and over… and over.
- Be able to sing the idea out loud. Internalize it.
- Once you’ve internalized the idea you’ve chosen, don’t play it on the drums just yet.
- Instead, write it out on staff paper, note for note.
- Make sure to clearly define/notate all details of the idea (accents, stickings, orchestration, etc.). There’s something special about seeing the idea visually that allows you to TRULY assimilate it.


To help put things in context, I’ll complete these action steps with you along the way. Here’s a transcription of a lick I really enjoy by one of my favorite drummers, Adam Deitch. You can hear it on the song “The Last Suppit" by Lettuce when Adam takes a drum solo at the very end.



Okay. We’ve taken an idea that inspires us and have absorbed it fully. We've ASSIMILATED it. We’re ready for the next step: IMITATE.



imitate |ˈiməˌtāt|
-take or follow as a model: "his style was imitated by many other writers."
-copy (a person's speech or mannerisms): "she imitated my Scottish accent."


Musicians are CONSTANTLY imitating one another, that’s the beauty of the art form! Music isn’t created in a vacuum, it’s created by musicians who are influenced by other musicians!

The difference is that now, you’re well ahead of the game compared to most…. because you’re not just blindly attempting to imitate what you’ve heard… you’ve placed the idea under a microscope first so that you understand its elements. This will make it much easier to play, and play well.


-Begin playing the idea on the drums. Start very slowly and just focus on accuracy at first. Speed will come with time.
-Are you using the correct dynamics/phrasing/orchestration/accents of the idea?
-Are you playing the exact sticking used?
-If you recorded yourself and played it back, would it sound exactly the same as the original drummer? If not, how can you better-match the vibe? You’re not trying to be YOU just yet, you’re trying to IMITATE. Be critical and focus on the details.


Here’s a video where I’m playing the Adam Deitch lick in context. (skip to :55)




innovate |ˈinəˌvāt|
verb [ no obj. ]
make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products: "the company's failure to diversify and innovate competitively."


Let’s recap briefly. First, you started by identifying an idea you enjoyed hearing, and now can understand it (ASSIMILATE). Next, you spent time learning how to play it note-for-note (IMITATE). You’re finally ready for the last step... How can you take what you’ve learned and apply it to YOUR world? What are the core takeaways from the original idea and how can you make slight changes to turn it into something completely different and unique?


Change just ONE aspect of the idea you’ve learned. Here’s a few ideas of ways to change it up:

-Different tempo
-Different feel (swung, straight)
-Different time signature
-Different/opposite sticking
-Different rhythmic values (if it was triplets, change it to 16th notes, etc.)
-Different dynamic level
-Different accents
-Different orchestration (what drums/cymbals you play the idea on)


Here’s one variation on the Adam Deitch lick that you can use. Which variable did I adjust? I simply changed the orchestration to now include the hi-hats and toms:


See how many variations you can come up with on your own. Don’t try to create a million variations at once… otherwise you will forget them all. Just focus on one variation at a time and allow some time for it to become part of your vocabulary. Remember to be patient… it’s about quality, not quantity.


Seriously… it’s not enough to just read this article… you have to take action in order to grow.


I can assure you that if you’ve followed the action steps above, you’re most likely feeling awesome right now! Think about everything you’ve accomplished in a very short amount of time: You’ve come to appreciate/understand what the greats have done, you’re now able to channel the vibe of that drummer when needed, and you’ve also come up with brand new grooves/licks of your own!

Imagine if you were to repeat these 3 principles over and over with all of your favorite drummers… you’d soon find yourself becoming better on your instrument than you ever could have imagined. You just have to do it!

Lastly, I want to leave you with this: How can you apply these 3 principles to other areas in your life? (ex: fitness, sports, finance, business, cooking, the list goes on…). For nearly anything you’d like to become great at:  1) study someone who is already great 2) learn how to do what they do, and then 3) innovate by changing the variables and making it your own.

Good luck and happy drumming!


Thanks so much for reading this week's article! Each week, I select one person from "100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS” and write an article based on the three-word rule they offered. My goal is to provide questions, thought experiments, and specific action stepsyou can take in order to improve both your DRUMMING and LIFE!

If you personally found this article helpful, please pay it forward by sharing it with just one person in your life that you think would become inspired from reading it!

Subscribe to 100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS by clicking HERE.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Please feel free to reach out anytime using the comments section below or by emailing me at





Thanks to Bruce Becker for offering his 3 words of advice to drummers (ASSIMILATE, IMITATE, INNOVATE), and for inspiring me to write this week's article!


What do Neil Peart, Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, and Bruce Becker have in common.....? All of these drummers have sought the unique insights and perspective on balance and motion from drum "guru" Freddie Gruber.
Gruber's reputation rests upon an approach that stresses a more efficient use of the drummer's anatomy. Gruber has often been referred to as the "zen" master of teaching. This rare insight into this approach was spurred on by Freddie's close 40 year friendship with Buddy Rich. It can clearly be seen in Buddy's playing.

Bruce started his studies with Freddie back in 1977. It was at this time when Freddie's activity was at its height. Bruce not only studied for 8 years, but watched Freddie teach. Over the years Bruce was present for hundreds of students and became increasingly aware of the value of Freddie's approach. He was also able to watch the evolution and changes Freddie made in response to musical styles and drum innovations of the time. "I was there at a unique time during the late 70's and mid 80's. The pace at which I saw Mr. Gruber evolve was mind boggling. I would literally spend hours and hang......and this went on for years", Bruce recounts in a June '93 interview in Belgo Beat (Belgian Drum Magazine).

Upon relocating to Europe in 1992, Bruce spent quite a bit of time traveling with Gruber. Together they did a series of Clinic and Masterclasses in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. While Gruber would pontificate, Bruce would demonstrate on the drums. At this time Bruce also became the Head of the Drum Dept. at A.I.M. (American Institute of Music) in Vienna, Austria. There he spent time actively putting his thoughts and concepts together based on all that Gruber had shared with him.

Bruce's conceptual approach and unique ability yields great results. His equation is Balance + Motion = Emotion. He offers the most comprehensive insight into the teachings of Mr. Gruber, and has been teaching since '82. Since returning to Los Angeles, Bruce teaches privately and has a steady stream of working drummers.

Bruce has worked with diverse artists such as Suzanne Somers, Beach Boy Family and Friends, Andy Sheppard, Deborah Henson-Conant, David Becker, Joe DiOrio, Herb Ellis, Barbara Dennerlein, Suns of the Dead, and Frank Gambale.

RULE 6: Never Give Up


The most common trait I have found in all successful people is that they have conquered the temptation to give up.
— Peter Lowe


We’ve all been there before. What started out as something we really wanted to accomplish now suddenly seems impossible, and we don't like it one bit. We've hit a roadblock, become discouraged, can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and feel frustrated, unmotivated, and exhausted. We want to give up.

When we give up on something that is difficult (but still possible), we are telling ourselves that it’s okay not to fulfill a promise that we made to ourself. We are literally training the brain that it's okay to be unaccountable to ourselves, which leads us to become unaccountable to others.

The good news is that when your mind is telling you to give up, it means that you are actually right on the edge of growth, and I can prove it to you! Think back to any significant positive change in your life. Maybe you experienced a breakthrough or revelation, you started a new chapter in your life, etc. Now... how were you feeling right BEFORE that breakthrough happened?

Things were difficult, right? Of course they were. Most of the time, it was simply the fact that we pushed on through the difficult times that led us to that new, better chapter.


The next time you feel like giving up (on a personal project, a commitment/promise, a workout, a New Year’s resolution, etc.), stop yourself, zoom out your perspective on the situation, and ask these three questions:

1) If I just keep going, will it bring me closer to my goal?

2) If I give up right now, will I regret it later?

3) Do I want to stop because I think it is DIFFICULT or because it is actually IMPOSSIBLE?

I find that if I just stop and ask myself these questions (as simple as they may be), it often gives me the perspective to keep pushing through even when something may seem pointless or unrewarding at the time.

I'd like to challenge you to start becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable. Whatever you struggle with in life, flip it around and make it your STRENGTH rather than your WEAKNESS. If you are afraid of heights, go skydiving. If you are terrible at flexibility, sign up for yoga classes. If there’s something in the practice room that seems impossible, find a new approach, refocus, and keep pushing. You will be glad you did.

RULE 5: Get A Roadie!


Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.
— Joel A. Barker


As one of the world’s most respected musicians, Zoro has sat on the drummer’s throne commanding some of the most famous stages in the world of rock and R&B music. Z has toured and recorded with Lenny Kravitz; Bobby Brown; Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons; The New Edition; Jody Watley; Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire; Sean Lennon; Lisa Marie Presley; Lincoln Brewster; Phil Keaggy and many others.


When I received a video from Zoro, I basically freaked out... Not only was it so cool that one of my drumming heroes wanted to contribute to this project, but he even gave me plenty of options to choose from, which you’ll see all of in today’s video. Zoro is an incredible drummer, author of one of my favorite books (The Big Gig), and such a positive human being. Thank you Zoro!


1) READ ZORO'S BOOK - I HIGHLY recommend reading Zoro's book "The Big Gig: Big-Picture Thinking for Success".

This book is not just a must-read for drummers, but anyone looking for real-world advice about how to succeed in the music business BEYOND just being a great musician. 

2) TAKE ZORO's BIG GIG QUIZ - Take 5 minutes this morning/evening and complete Zoro's BIG GIG QUIZ (below). I promise that doing so will prove to be very revealing. The quiz is taken straight from the book and is a excellent way to add CLARITY to your goals in life, recognize the areas in which you excel, and assess any areas where you can improve. I personally try to revisit Zoro's quiz every few months to see where I'm making progress and where I'm falling short. *If you aren't a musician, change the questions so that they fit whatever your career is.

3) TALLY YOUR NUMBERS - For any questions where you answer YES, give yourself one point. Add up your numbers for each section.

4) CREATE NEW GOALS - For each section, look at your points to determine where your weakest area lies. Make specific goals for how you will work on this problem area and give yourself a deadline! (Example Goal: "For my next 5 gigs, I not be late. I will allow myself enough travel time so that I can arrive 1 hour before the downbeat", etc.)




  1. Do you consider yourself musically gifted?
  2. Do you have an overall vision for your career?
  3. Have you set short-range goals for your career?
  4. Have you set long-range goals for your career?
  5. Have you defined the objective of your musical career?
  6. Do you have someone to keep you accountable for your goals?
  7. Do you believe it’s possible for your dreams to come true against all odds?


  1. Do you study your instrument regularly via method books, the Internet, or instructional DVDs?
  2. Are you taking private lessons with a master to develop your talent and improve on your instrument?
  3. Do you regularly read music industry magazines or publications that pertain to your instrument?
  4. Do you regularly read books about the music business or musicians?
  5. Do you regularly read motivational books that inspire you to pursue your dreams?
  6. Do you have a mentor within the music industry?
  7. Do you practice your instrument for long periods of time on a daily basis?
  8. Are you constantly immersed in listening to and analyzing music?
  9. Do you know all standard songs for the genre of music you wish to succeed at playing?
  10. Are you studying all the greats who defined the genre of music you wish you master?
  11. Is the majority of your extra money invested in the pursuit of your musical dreams, such as studying your instrument, purchasing musical equipment, music CDs and downloads, and books?


  1. Are you extremely proficient on your instrument?
  2. Can you adapt quickly when musical changes are made in an arrangement?
  3. Are you an excellent sight-reader?
  4. Are you an extremely versatile musician?
  5. Do you come prepared for each gig or opportunity?
  6. Do you know how to contribute to the musical success of others, and do you enjoy doing so?
  7. Do you believe your musical skills are highly marketable?


  1. Do you have a strong work ethic?
  2. Would you say you are a flexible person?
  3. Do you consider yourself an optimistic person?
  4. Are you a reliable person on whom others can always depend?
  5. Are you punctual?
  6. Are you a humble person?
  7. Do you have a good attitude?
  8. Do you take criticism well?
  9. Can you work effectively with differing or abrasive personalities?
  10. Do you take instruction well?
  11. Do you deal well with competition?
  12. Do you handle rejection well?
  13. Do you do well with unpredictable schedules?
  14. Do you mind having someone else dictate how you spend your time?
  15. Are you living free from drug and alcohol overuse or addiction?
  16. Do you consider yourself a determined, focused, and ambitious person?


  1. Do you have excellent-sounding equipment?
  2. Do you have reliable transportation?
  3. Are you willing to live in or near one of the major music market cities of Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, Atlanta, Chicago, or Miami to increase your chances of landing the big gig?
  4. Are you are a good money manager?
  5. Do you know how to market and promote yourself at each subsequent stage of your career?
  6. Are you routinely building a network of contacts within the music industry?
  7. Do you know how to capitalize on current situations to advance your career?
  8. Are you willing to learn how to be your own manager to ensure your success as a musician?
  9. Are you willing to do everything necessary to make it in the music business?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, The Big Gig can help you become better prepared to advance your goals and live a better life. Take the next step now to prepare for YOUR Big Gig.



Did you enjoy this article? If so, please share this with the ONE person in your life who could benefit from it and suggest they sign up for the weekly dose!

RULE 4: Don't Follow... Lead.

BIO: Eugene McGhee is a Chicago-based bassist and music educator.


 "In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are." Max De Pree


This week we're focusing on leadership and how it affects our life and the lives around us.

  • How many of us feel stuck in a job that we hate?
  • How many of us stay in unhealthy relationships for far too long?
  • How many of us suddenly wake up one day and ask “where did my 20's, 30's, 40's, etc. go?"


Many of us choose to FOLLOW our life rather than to become the LEADER of it.

If WE aren't leader of our lives, then who is? How do we expect to live life fully if we don't take charge of where it's heading?


1)   Take an assessment of the things in life you are a LEADER of and which you are a FOLLOWER of. Think about your commitments, jobs, relationships, friendships, family, responsibilities, hobbies, etc.

2)   For the things/people in your life you’ve just thought of, is your role (Follower, Leader) serving that thing/person at the highest level possible? Would changing roles improve or hurt the situation?

3)   Is there a particular area in life that you seem to just coast through without contributing positively to? Why is this? Comfort? Laziness? Fear?

4)   How can you become the LEADER of your career, relationships, friendships, on the bandstand, in your commitments, and in life? How can you inspire others around you to fulfill their potential through leading the way for them?

5)   What is the first, smallest single action that you can take TODAY to move towards becoming the leader of your life? 

6)   Don't skip this part. Ask yourself honestly: Is life happening TO you or BECAUSE of you?


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RULE 3: Play It Slow.

Michael Miley began drumming when he was 4 years old. His dad played him “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins and after the classic drum fill, Michael knew right then and there what the future would hold for him. Then of course after he had heard “Hold the Line” by Toto and “Good Times, Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin, he began his pursuit for developing a fast right foot. Jeff Porcaro and John Bonham remain his top favorite drummers. However, being born on the same day as Keith Moon (August 23rd), Michael, with the Rival Sons (Earache Records), has ironically established a style of his own that echos the reckless abandonment of “Moonie” (now “Miley”). He has recorded and/or performed with Kelly Clarkson, Jay Buchanan, Joe Firstman, Bird3, Josh Kelley, Santana, Ricky Martin, Tony Lucca, Veruca Salt, Mickey Hart, and Rival Sons. He also was in the House Band for “Last Call with Carson Daly” on NBC for five years. He is currently the drummer for Rival Sons on Earache Records. They have three LP’s and one EP available on iTunes and in stores everywhere. They’re about to record their
fourth full length album in Nashville with Dave Cobb.

Michael has studied with Roy Burns, Dave Garibaldi, John Molo, Chalo Eduardo, Chuck Silverman, Chuck Flores, and Dean Cook.



RULE 1: Head Above Water

Andre's message is meaningful. If you aren't a drummer, how do you apply the core of his message to your life? To me, Andre is saying that often times, we spend so much time focusing on our "how" (our process) that we completely lose sight of our "why" (our purpose).

This week, I challenge you to ask yourself these questions:

1) What is your "WHY" on this planet?
2) Is your "HOW" currently serving your "WHY"?
3) If not, what do you need to change? Have a great week and I hope you enjoy!

Andre' Boyd, a native of St. Louis, began playing the drums at two years old. Watching his brother play every Sunday morning at church fascinated him so much that he wanted to become a professional drummer. Since then Andre has been blessed to tour with numerous artists and shows from the United States to Europe and beyond.

Andre' is currently on a world tour with Cirque du Soleil's Quidam show production. He is a very gifted musician that has mastered styles and genres such as Funk, Fusion, jazz, Gospel, R&B, Country, Rock, Blues etc... He has had the pleasure of performing with The Golden Gospel Singers, Dolemite, Shirley Murdock, Vasti Jackson, The Family, Denise Thimes, Gregg Happyguitar Haynes, and many more.

Andre' is an exceptional young talented musician who is commited to playing on the best gear, while displaying great musicianship and professionalism.