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The Importance of Ear Protection

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WHAT??? WHAT DID YOU SAY???

I grew up in an era of huge amplifier stacks sitting on either side of the drum kit. When sitting at the kit, these amps were at my ear level. And they were loud! This was also the era when decent sound systems and miking individual instruments was just starting to happen. Otherwise, as a drummer, you had to play LOUDLY to be heard above the stacks of speakers and amps. And no one ever thought about all this volume and how it would affect their hearing over time.

Fast forward to today. I had a hearing test recently and found that surprisingly my hearing is normal for a person my age. Both ears are considerably flat in all frequency ranges until you hit the highs, where there is a steep roll off. 

I'm lucky. A lot of big name rock musicians (and not so big name) who are in their 60's and above have severe hearing loss. My hearing is good, but I do have tinnitus, which is a high pitch ringing/squeal in my ears. And it's always there—24/7/365. 

I can n…

The Importance of Clarity in Your Sound

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As a percussionist, it's so easy just to hit things, to create a rhythm, and all without any consideration for the actual sound we are making. As much care as we give to the rhythms we make, we need to give that same care to the sounds we make. 



If we just play without clean and musical sounds, the rhythms we produce can be muddy and indiscriminate. While there are times we may want dirty and messy sounds, in my experience, most times clear and focused sounds are what is needed.

“My assignment is to furnish the essence of the sound material in the best condition to the listener or space. While focusing on this endeavour, I transcend my sense of self. In my own way, I create sounds, and by myself, I emit them. It’s that simple. So to speak, it’s like living off the land.” Japanese Percussionist, Midori Takada
Clear sounds can get our musical message across better. Clear sounds also work well with each other, especially during dense or fast passages where clarity is needed. But above a…

Have A Life Away From The Drums

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How often have you heard some musician, especially a college music major, brag about all the time they spend practicing: “I usually practice 6-8 hours a day. I get up, have some coffee, then jump right on the marimba/drum set/timpani/etc.” Even professional musicians with established careers will talk about the hours of practice they still put in. 

I'm all for practice and improving my skills, but there's a limit to how much time practicing can actually be productive. One problem that being in a practice studio so much causes is, isolation. You become that person who is rarely seen, the hermit musician. But it also goes the other way, in that you rarely see anyone else. And seeing your barista or the pizza guy everyday does not really count as human contact.

Your practice room can become a prison cell if you let it.
Another thing is that you miss the world around you, all the things happening right outside your studio door. Isolation may help you to focus, but it's a very myo…

Refine Your Movement

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So many percussionists just seem to play with little regard for how they move and stand while they are playing. This is one reason studying with a good teacher, no matter what level we are at, can help us immensely. A teacher can look at us from outside, a place we cannot see ourselves from. 

Think of your favorite athlete. No matter how many championships and awards they may have won, they still work with coaches and trainers. That's because other people can see the things they do and help correct movement and posture problems. Drummers are no different, and I would say it's just as important for drummers because our role is so physical.

It's important to practice in front of a mirror if possible, so you can see yourself moving in real time. It's also important to record video of yourself to look at and analyze later. 

Another important thing for percussionists is to be involved in some sort of movement activity. Martial arts, Tai Chi, Yoga are all great for helping you …

Refine What You Do

It's so easy to grow complacent, so easy to find that groove you can ride in with little effort and maximum effect. It's so easy to become comfortable in where you are, and thus lazy in your future efforts.

We often see this in our practicing, where we continually go over the same well worn material. Just get in that groove and ride it to infinity. I know. It happens to me. That's why we need to be aware of what we are doing at all times. We can't just be on autopilot. We have to make conscious choices.


If all you ever practice is what you know, and how you know it, that's all you'll ever know.
Be conscious and choose to move forward. I often practice some of my favorite music. One reason is because I like it and it gives me immense pleasure to play it. But another reason—and this is a conscious choice—is that I'm always looking to refine what I'm playing, not just playing it on autopilot. I'm also looking for something new that I can bring to it. This…

No One Cares About What You Do

Let's get this out in the open—no one really cares about what you do. 

No one cares about all the time and hard work you've put into your art.

No one cares about the devotion you have to your art.

It may sound harsh, but it's true. 

Music has changed over the years. It used to be that listening to it was a ritual. You took the album out of the cover and sleeve, you put it on the turntable and cued up the music. Then you reveled in it. Often you spent hours gazing at the cover art and reading the liner notes. You knew who all the musicians were, and who wrote the songs.

Now, with streaming, all that is lost. People just call up the music they want to hear, and that's it. There are no liner notes, or musician credits, on Spotify or iTunes. So you could play drums on the biggest record of the year, and no one would even know it. And most people wouldn't care.

It's a strange world out there today. When we lost touch with actual physical product, we lost touch with being …

The Fallacy of Gear Worship

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First off, I must admit that I'm a total percussion nerd. I love all the different instruments. I love playing them, but I also love working on them. I get great satisfaction in taking drums apart and putting them back together again. And with this in mind, I have to say that I like to have the best quality and best sounding gear I can.

But as much as I love all the instruments I've collected over the years, I try not to get too attached to them for making the music I do. Like most percussionists, I bring my own instruments whenever it's possible. This is always preferred, but with the difficult logistics of traveling with hundreds of pounds of often very large pieces of gear in cases, it's not always possible to bring your own instruments. This is especially true when flying. Unless you are independently wealthy, the cost of flying percussion instruments is prohibitive. That's why I don't get too attached to the need to have my own instruments whenever I play.

E…