Posts tagged Gig
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.

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