NOT JUST CHOPS
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!
#1 - HAVING A GREAT SOUNDING DRUM KIT
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.
#2 - CONSISTENCY
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.
#3 - RELIABILITY
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.
#4 - CONFIDENCE
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.
YOUR ACTION STEPS THIS WEEK:
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?
100 RULES FOR DRUMMERS
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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ABOUT 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.