Friday, April 17, 2015


Your feelings are like an unaturally-torn piece of
paper held by a hand model with weird thumbs.
Ideally we would all feel happy and confident always when playing the drums, enjoying every phase of learning, and of our playing careers. Unfortunately it don't work that way, and most of us spend way too much time feeling bad our playing— and, since we have too much ego wrapped up in that activity, ourselves. Here are some things you can do, if not just to immediately feel better about your playing, then at least to create a habitat for better feelings to grow:

Like good music. Your actual playing is just behavior. The music you listen to is really the center of who you are as a musician— it's the “real you”— so, you have to have something of substance in there. A lot of music is all surface. It's got a case of Yngwie-itis— it sounds amazing one time, then the indifference sets in, and you never want to hear it again. Somehow, people spend their entire playing lives listening to stuff like that— the Internet is burgeoning it, across all genres. Be real by finding something real.

Like music that is somewhat matched to your current abilities. If you're only listening to stuff that you are years away from even being able to approximate at a professional level, of course you're going to feel inadequate. When I took up painting, the only reason I was able to do it was because I was into Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg— paintings that at least looked like I could do them (even if I couldn't really). That gave me the possibility of making pictures that I liked, that matched my idea of what I thought good was, even when my technical skills were weak.

“No way,” you protest, “I'm just into *fractional/avian death-core. That's who I am, man!” Well, a) No, it isn't. b) Refer to our first item. c) There is great music in just about every genre; liking it, hating it, or ignoring it is a choice. Choose to like things. **Hating/ignoring whole genres is for amateurs.

Play good music. Bad music badly played makes everything you do sound bad, hey? First, get with better players; ideally, everyone else in the group should be better than you. Just so they're good at playing the style you're playing... I don't care if it's a polka band, anything. Then you can look at the actual quality of the music— just be aware that it can take some experience to recognize music that is unredeemably bad, vs. music you're just not knowledgeable enough to be able work with.

Turn off drumming media. You know how to hold the sticks, and you know what it looks like for someone to play one million times more amazingly than you will ever be able in your most harebrained fantasies. If you turn off the YouTube and get out and see some real drummers play, you'll see that real world drumming, good, great, or bad, is usually not amazing; and you'll get a much better idea of your abilities, and of how much, and what kind of, work you need to do. That won't necessarily make you feel good, but at least you'll feel bad realistically.

Respect simplicity. We all say we do, but I don't know about that. I don't think we fully believe it.

Don't play habitually. A thing that happens to everyone is getting stuck helplessly playing the same stuff, to the point of being really distracting to ourselves, and perhaps others. That happens because a) we're not listening, and b) we're trying too hard to put in a lot of drums. Relax, simplify, listen, and respond. With a little detachment, you can observe yourself making that same habitual move, and figure out a way to short circuit it.

Keep practicing. Even if you can learn to play to a basic professional level in a-few-to-ten years, it can take a lot longer to get to where you feel you really have a command over what you play. Be patient with yourself and realize that it's a process.

You sound better than you think. For a lot of us, it's hard to think of anything other than what we would have played in a world where we were more amazingly great. But if you're able to play pretty good time, cover the broad outlines of the song, and make some basic fills, you're doing 100% of the job anyone else wants from you. The audience is thrilled just to have someone hitting the drums up there. So relax, and let yourself be solid.

*- I refuse to learn the actual names of the alleged “genres” of Metal. -tb

**- With a few special exceptions. -tb

1 comment:

  1. Increasingly letting my anti-Metal flag fly, here- sorry if that bothers anyone. Someday I'll write something explaining why my feelings on that subject are actually objective reality...