For some of you out there, drumming has become more than just a hobby. You are in a band and are serious about showing off your music to the world and hope to be noticed by all the hippest kids and important record label executives.
Drumming has become a serious passion and you are considering a musical profession playing in bars or festival stages, or in recording studios and on TV.
All of this is possible with patience, hard work and experience and below I have outlined some key tips to start you in the right direction towards your lifestyle as a working drummer.
Make Sure You Use Your Own Equipment!
There is nothing more irritating to drummers than another drummer frantically running up to them before a show to deliver a panic-stricken request to borrow their snare. You will learn very quickly in the live music industry that this just isn’t okay.
You will encounter drummer solidarity in many scenarios, but not this one. Very few drummers will be sympathetic to the fact that you either do not own, have forgotten, or couldn’t be bothered to bring you own gear.
The majority of music venues will have a house drum kit, and it will suffice to bring what we refer to as “breakables” (that is your cymbals, snare and sticks). It may also be worth bringing a hi-hat clutch and kick pedal along with you too. However, do not take this for granted either. Check with the venue for backline specifications.
Make A List!
Before and after your gigs use and update a list of equipment including miscellaneous items you’ll need for your gigs. Include everything you can think of and check it off. This will save your butt. Have you ever shown up to a gig and forgot your bass drum pedal, drum key, extra heads or secondary snare drum?
One time a drummer asked if he could ‘barrow’ my snare stand. By the way, maybe another tip is to never lend out your equipment because I never saw that snare stand again.
Know Your Value!
As a drummer in a band, one of the things you will need to understand most is your value. We are not just talking about financial value here – this is obviously important too, but money should never be your sole motivation for being a touring musician – we are also talking about creative value.
Whether you have started your own band or you are working for another artist, everybody in the room is equal. Although you are not invincible, you should appreciate why you have been chosen to be the drummer in the first place.
Your playing, ideas and contributions all have merit, and acknowledging this as well as everybody else’s equal significance will do a lot establishing to establish diplomacy and a pleasant atmosphere in which to create.
Learn A Second Instrument!
Learning a second instrument will help you immensely in your career as a working drummer. Understanding another instrument and melodic element in your band will make you a much more sensitive and collaborative player.
Your ideas in the rehearsal room or studio will be far easier to communicate if you understand rhythm as well as melody. Nowadays, production skills are also a highly sought after commodity and will come in very useful in live and recording situations. Not to mention that if things are quiet on the drumming front, you could always respectably perform for other gigs playing your second instrument.
Learn to sing! This is a golden ticket for drummers because many bands and venues put a huge value on back up vocals, and if you can do this, you will have a long and healthy career. So take some classes from a good vocal instructor. If I could do it all over again, I would learn to sing and become a good backup vocalist.
The Professional Mindset!
I don’t care if you are playing for free at a party, you should always be professional. This means you look well groomed, you show up on time, and you behave maturely. I know a bass player that has used this mindset for three decades and he gets more gigs than most other bass players in the area because he is reliable, has a professional attitude, and is easy to get along with.
Don’t Drink or Do Drugs!
Unfortunately the music industry is loaded with druggies. Conversely there are many sober, well grounded musicians too. Being in a sober state when you practice, record, and play live is the only way you’ll improve at a good tic, and also you’ll gain the respect of other musicians in the long run.
I know several musicians that like to get stoned when they play and they are never as good when they are in this sorry state of mind. They look silly and play sloppy. Stop making excuses for smoking weed, you know it’s wrong and it’s bad for you. Period. Trust me, I know.
And Have A Good Attitude!
This may seem like a strange tip as it doesn’t necessarily relate to drumming, but being the best drummer in the world will only get you so far. Having the right attitude towards your music and the people around you is what will get you the most work.
Think about it this way: in an audition, the first thing you do is greet everybody in the room and introduce yourself. Then you might be interviewed briefly, before you are instructed as to what will be expected from you for during your performance – all of this before you have played a single note.
Walking in there with a frosty glare with arrogant posturing, or shuffling in aimlessly with downcast eyes and delivering monotonous “yes/no” responses, will lose you the gig before you have even started. So be kind, be friendly, be confident and enjoy yourself on the road!