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!

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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.