Practice vs Performance

A lot of people don't seem to realize that there is a great difference between practice and performance. They also don't realize that while it's important to practice, it's also important to practice your performance.


For me, practice is where I work out things, like technical details, logistics, body mechanics, and everything else associated with making the music work. 

It's important to get the notes down and to get down how to make those notes. As a percussionist, touch is of utmost importance. Even slight variations of how we touch the instruments with our mallets/sticks can bring about a great variation in the resulting sound/tone/timbre. Within a phrase or passage, it's important to have a consistency of sound. 

I also find it important to work out the logistics of moving around a large multiple percussion set up. I need to be able to easily go from one instrument to another. I also need to be able to change mallets without interrupting the flow of t…

Use Your Limitations To Your Advantage

We live in a world of excess. Everyone wants more, needs more, only feels complete when they get more. But is more always best?

Think of 2 restaurants, 1 with 15 menu items and 1 with 100 menu items. 

Which one is better? 
Which one is easier?

The answer is probably up to each of us. Some people like more choices. Some like less. Some take what is in front of them at any given moment.

Percussion can be like that. We can have 10 instruments or 100. Are you a better musician if you have more? Not necessarily. If you are not satisfied with your musicianship, will buying another snare drum or cymbal make you better? Not really.

Yes please, I'll take one of everything. (Photo by Yamaha)
I own boxes and cases full of percussion. I love choices. But I often put limits on my choices, because there's only so much gear I can haul around to each gig by myself. And often there's a limited amount of space to set up in.

But I use my limited choices to my advantage. I always pick out my instrume…

The Importance of Ear Protection


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

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

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

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…