Drum Tips - Reality Check Your Drumming

Do you need a reality check of your playing abilities? Are you really a good drummer?

American Idol is starting another new season. I am looking forward to it.

I admit it - I’ve been watching American Idol for the past few seasons. I love it! I love the terrible auditions.

With so many folks – they are obviously terrible – the judges tell them they are terrible – and these silly contestants argue with the judges and tell the world how the judges are wrong and they are really great singers.

For those of you auditioning as singers on American Idol – we have seen your performance – chances are, if the judges think your bad, it is because you are!

I remember as a kid being told “there are THOUSANDS of people trying to make it in the music industry” with the implication that I would never make it – I would be much better off becoming a teacher or something.

Watching American Idol makes you realize that the true reason it is so hard for THOUSANDS of folks to make it in the music industry is because most of them really suck!

So – how does this relate to your personal quest to be a successful drummer? It is all about the reality check – are you really a great drummer? Or are you like all those wannabees on American Idol who think that they can sing better than Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, or Whitney Houston.

Unfortunatly there are no versions of American Idol for drummers, no Simon Cowell to tell you honestly about your drumming skills. However, here are some easy steps toward giving yourself a bit of a reality check – are you the drummer you think you are?

Record Your Practice and Rehearsal Sessions:

What you hear when your playing tends to sound very different from what you hear when you listen back to a recording. You don’t need thousands of dollars of recording equipment and a big room with great acoustics to get a good recording of a rehearsal. You can record the old fashioned way – set up one single mic just above your head – this should pick up everything that you hear when you are playing. Check the recording to make sure that what you hear when you are playing sounds like what you hear on the tape. Remember you are listening for timing, tempo, performance, and such – are you rushing? are you dragging? are you dropping beats? You don’t need a pristine quality recording to check the character of your performance – a cheap mic into your iPod will work just fine!

Video you Practice and Rehearsal Sessions:

Video can be brutally honest. Set up a camera to see yourself the way an audience would see you. When you watch the playback compare yourself to your heroes – do you look and sound the way the best players in the world look and sound? If your performance looks and sounds terrible on video – guess what – it ain’t working live either! Get back to the wood shed and start working to make sure that when you watch a video of your rehearsal it is exciting. Concert tickets today are going for $20, $40, up to $100 or more – how mad would you be if you paid $100 for a concert ticket and got a really bad performance? Your fans are going to pay a LOT of money to see you play – are you giving them their moneys worth? The music industry is a business and your performance is the product – if you are good people will want to buy your product! It is really that simple. Watch videos of your rehearsals and practice sessions and think about what you can do to make your playing so good that folks are going to be happy to pay $$$ to see you again and again and again!


Maybe your in a band that you really love and are having a great time – that’s fabulous! But if you want a great reality check – go audition for a few other bands, audition for a dozen other bands. You think your pretty good – your band thinks you are pretty good – but are you good enough that all the other bands want you to be in their band too? Your playing is on the right track if you are getting offers to play in all the other bands that you are auditioning for.

Musicians are very critical of the other musicians they play with, although they will probably not be brutally honest about what they see and hear. We don’t want to hurt your feelings so we say something nice and then never call you again. I have auditioned many, many musicians who never got a call back. Here are some the most important aspects of an audition - mistakes musicians have made when auditioning for one of my bands:
  1. Skill - can you keep up?
    I have auditioned many guys thought they could play but couldn’t keep proper time or didn’t know what chord changes were going on, got lost in every song – just couldn’t keep up musically.

  2. Listening – are you paying attention?
    I have played with a few really skilled musicians who paid absolutely no attention to what was going on around them. It was like they had spent years practicing by themselves in their bedroom. They could play amazing things but what they played made no sense in the context of the band. The notes you play should complement what everybody else is doing and the song should work as a whole.

  3. Personality – are you a nice person?
    This is a big deal – I have played some shows with great players who live their life a sentence or two from a punch in the face. Remember when you were a kid and folks told you “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I have met many great musicians who desperately need to revisit that concept. They were so full of negativity that it was really hard to be in the same room with them for very long.

The point is that although there are a wider variety of reasons that you might not be getting called back after an audition, one of the big ones is simply can you play well. If you go out and audition with a bunch of different bands and are not getting any call backs – it is time to re-evaluate your abilities – head back to the wood shed and put in more time!


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Wednesday, January 18, 2006