Posts tagged Routine
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 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.