If you find yourself playing stiffly as a result of getting nervous during gigs or recording you are not alone. But the good news is you can learn how to relax playing drums even if you get a little anxiety before your session.
Adopting the right posture and mood when practicing, playing gigs or recording is an important part of our journey to become a good drummer that people want to play with and hire.
When you look closely, you will discover that successful drummers adopt their own style and sound on their kit.
When you are drumming it is a good idea to adopt a concept as well as a mentality that makes you feel more relaxed and in synchronicity with your drum set. Consequently, you are able to move over your kit without hesitation, and with flow.
This is a work in progress for me. I find that I can achieve this at times but not as consistently as I would like, which is frustrating. But I know it is simply a matter for practicing with a good mental attitude.
So any drummer who strives to move over his or her drum set and operate with freedom and have good flow requires that you learn to relax your arms, relax your wrist, have good posture. One simple tip is to focus on stick control including forming a pendulum between your thumb and finger or fingers in order to move around your kit without restriction. Breathe.
On the other hand, rigidity won’t let you move around your instrument freely and you won’t stay in the pocket, and your chops will sound stiff.
In my experience, I discovered that when I’m not in a relaxed mood, I tend to be rigid and I do not achieve consistent snare hits. Besides, rigidity ultimately results in not getting a natural sound when moving over the snare and toms. But, with a more relaxed posture and feeling, you will achieve a free flow, as well as move around your drum set in a way that is more natural and pleasant to myself and therefore to the band members and audience.
Becoming a Better Drummer By Getting and Staying Relaxed!
The truth is, it is impossible to play sufficiently fast, slow enough, or sufficiently loud or soft if you do not adopt a relaxed mood and posture when playing your kit. Again, I find that this is a work in progress as well.
Sometimes I am super relaxed, sometimes I am not due to nerves. Early on when I had gigs in my late teens and early twenties I nearly had panic attacks right before going on stage!
I believe most of the problem when it comes to nerves is confidence. And I find that I get more and more confident with my playing the more I practice.
Side Bar: Practicing is not just sitting down in front of your kit and playing whatever you want. More on this in another article on practicing regimes.
Focusing on the music is nearly impossible without adopting and sustaining a relaxed mood and posture. Worst of all, you may end up sustaining injury as a result (tendonitis, lower back pain etc.).
There’s another great trick I employ in creating and maintaining a relaxed atmosphere when practicing. The trick is simple; see and use the drumsticks as an extension of the arms. Your drum kit and accessories are tools for you to work with, not tools to work against. Not paying heed to this tip is the major cause of burnout that can wreck any practice session or show. Relax, Relax, Relax! That is all that is required of you, and your technique will handle the rest.
A relaxed mood and mind will help you have more fun and enjoy all the awesome things that come with drumming. Keep introducing techniques and rudiments that will challenge your drumming skills, refuse to give up.
Playing Gigs – How to Stay Relaxed and Minimize Pressure!
What you should bear in mind is that when people come to watch you they are not there to criticize you. In fact, they are usually on your side. All they need is the entertainment you are about to provide for them. When you have this in mind it will help you to put your mind in a relaxed mood and aid your focus on entertaining them without feeling pressure.
Unfortunately, when it appears things are not working out well on the stage as expected, it is so easy to forget all that and you begin to stress out. This in turn affects the way you play and the level of entertainment you provide through your playing.
That’s why it’s also important to pick and choose who your bandmates are. If just one gets freaked out over small mistakes or problems it can effect everyone.
One thing has always helped me when I play gigs or live shows; if people are more concerned about perfect playing, then they are most likely the ones who will want the cd or mp3 version of music and would not bother coming to a show. So, the people who do come to see you play is pure entertainment. With this in mind, I adopt have a better chance at achieving a relaxed mood and do not allow anything to make me play under pressure. This does not mean you won’t pay attention to the quality of the entertainment, it’s just a way to condition your mind to be relaxed and cool…that’s all I’m saying.
Stay Hydrated and Healthy!
When you are going on a gig, one thing that can help tremendously in assisting you to get relaxed is to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. This is especially true for those embarking on hot outdoor gigs. You should also find quality time to sleep and rest, and to eat healthy. Don’t smoke, duh.
Also, get into a consistent mode of working out which includes cardio workouts and strengthening. I have discovered that this is vitally important to good overall body and mind health. Yoga is a perfect way to get your body and mind synchronized.
Lastly, if you have all drum kit and accessories handy prior to your gig, it will also help to keep your mind relaxed as you embark on gig tour. Pressure will inevitably set in when you discover you didn’t bring your extra drum sticks or other spare accessories at the critical moment you needed to fall back on them. So, take two or even more days to get all your stuff ready before the gig.