Posts

Refine Your Movement

Image
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

Image
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…

The Artist's Way - The Book That Saved My Artistic Career

Image
My artistic career had come to a crossroads in the mid-1990s when I felt both a lack of direction and motivation. Then, in 1997, I came across a book called, The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. In the midst of the 90's self-help craze, this was a book all about artistic self-help. The book is a 12-week course on recovering, and jump starting, your artistic ability/career. Each chapter covers a different aspect, giving you affirmations, practical advice, and exercises to do during the week. It doesn't teach you how to be creative, but how to access and nurture your innate creativity.


My well worn copy of The Artist's Way
One exercise Cameron recommends is morning pages. Each morning when you get up, sit down and write out 3 pages—long hand is preferred to typing—of whatever comes to mind. It's a sort of stream-of-consciousness brain dump diary. I was faithful to this at first, filling up a whole filing cabinet of notebooks, but eventually felt that it was a lot of eff…

Towards Greater Consistency

I'm often surprised at how a musician will sound one way one day, then sound very different the next. It's not just the actual sound, but the performance, and little details of the performance. Many artists aren't consistent in what they do.

So much of this goes back to preparation. You need to be prepared for every gig/performance/recital. This would seem like a given, but it seems that it's not. This is not to say that we want every performance to be a clone of the previous one, but that there needs to be a consistency, a sense of connection for all performances, especially in a series or a tour.

Playing night after night naturally has its ups and downs. Some nights are amazing, others, just average. But as a performer, we need to try our best to present a consistent performance across a range of dates.

Here are some tips:

1) Work out everything you need ahead of time! Often people keep putting things off, thinking they will get them done before the performance date, the…

Towards Greater Clarity Of Sound

While I think percussion can be some of the most beautiful sounds in the world, others may feel that a lot of it is noise. This difference in perception often has a lot to do with both the clarity of the sounds being made, and the message being transmitted by these sounds.

As a percussionist, I have always striven to create a good sound. This is important to me. Even when I'm creating more of a noise type sound, I still want it to have a certain quality to it. I don't like leaving things up to chance, or just making an indiscriminate racket. To me, everything starts with a good sound. 

I also strive to have a sense of purpose in what I play. Paradoxically, in improvising, I never randomly strike things. There is always thought behind what I am doing. Even in the moment, at an instinctive level, I'm always asking myself questions about what I'm doing:

What sound fits with the previous sounds I've made (or that others have made in a group situation)?What rhythms fit wit…