Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Drummer's 7 Stages of Enlightenment

These are stages that I think I've passed through on my journey.  Please note - this is my totally made up view of a drummer’s possible emotional evolution based on one drummer’s patchy memories. I repeat: I MADE IT ALL UP! That said, do any of these sound familiar?

Stage One: Having Fun Making Noise
The drums -- perhaps a gift from unsuspecting parents or a well-meaning uncle -- are new, fun, LOUD. So goal number 1 is to play hard, fast, loud, and with total abandon. Even better if some of it actually sounds like a beat.

Stage Two: Having Fun Making Music
You have a few decent beats plus a couple of fills in your arsenal, and now you've been asked to join a band. You may be the least or most capable player in the band. No matter, it's a real band and you're making real music -- your music.

Stage Three: Hero Worship
Your journey to becoming an actual drummer is going along well,  and then you hear/see the drummer who changes everything for you. So you get hold of every recording this person has made and study them over and over and over. Your passion knows no limits.

Stage Four: Getting Serious
You’re admiration of ‘drummer X’ has blossomed into an obsession with technique.  Plus your list of hero drummers has grown too long -- there are just too many good drummers. The only way to handle this is to branch out and embrace other techniques, other approaches.

Stage Five: Anger
Some call it a plateau., but that’s too gentle a concept for the feeling you get when you’ve put in hour after hour in the practice room and yet see no progress in your playing. Anyone would be pissed.

Stage Six: Disillusionment
My left foot sucks. My hands suck. My funk playing sucks. This isn't just a plateau. I'm getting nowhere. Maybe I'm doomed to suck ... I probably should just pack it in.

Stage Seven: One-ness
Well, I survived all the 'stages', and it wasn't all that bad. I learned a lot from all my perambulations -- blind alleys included -- and today I feel good about my playing and about where I am, both musically and professionally.  Now I can really focus on the music without all those distractions.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Are You Looking At Me?

I was waiting for something or other, and picked up a magazine to help pass the time. In an article on career management, I came across the most disturbing question ever, and it's a concept that I've kept in mind ever since. The question is this: "Who's watching your career?" ... Ouch!

Well, who is watching? Worst case answer is nobody, but I seriously doubt that there is no one who is interested in you and your musical journey. The challenge then is to discover who is interested in you and whether that interest can be nurtured toward some positive outcomes.
Society has rediscovered only in the last few years the importance of mentors. There's always something to be gained from having someone more experienced to look up to. And if that person is hip to the “pay it forward” concept, there will be two of you looking out for your progress and your career. This can be a great morale booster.

Mentors are invaluable for elevating your craft in a number of ways. They help you to learn the ropes and avoid the pitfalls, and to set goals and targets. They also model 'best practices'. They may even introduce you to their network.

The best situation is when a top pro takes an interest in you. It can be as simple as an invite to jam, and it can be as involved as a mentor grooming a mentee for greater things. It means other people -- talented, connected, influential people -- are keeping an eye on you. Even better, they’ll likely think of you when opportunities arise. A lot of careers have been launched when a teacher recommended a student for a high-profile job.

Teachers quite often evolve into mentors. My own student-teacher relationship was like this. My teacher and I spent a lot of time together outside the lesson hall and we became good friends. I've tried to repay this by carrying his message to my own students and mentees.

A mentor can be from any industry, although it makes sense to favour someone from the music business. Teacher, band-mate, music store personnel, agent/manager, good friend ... all are potential mentors.

Or maybe you're the one who's in a position to mentor a young (or at least newer) player. This is always a great experience, as the benefits go both ways. Aside from all the warm fuzzies involved, it's good experience, it helps build your character, and you can connect with your passion for music in a variety of ways.