In this blog post, I’m going to share 6 tips to that will help you perform your best at all of your drum gigs. I know this is difficult time for gigging. In fact most musicians around the World are not gigging regularly due to COVID-19. This will pass, however, and after it’s over, I want you to be ready to gig again.

Following these 6 tips can greatly improve the quality of your gigs and get you new opportunities to play.

Rehearsing before a gig.


For all of my drum gigs, I check to see if there are specific charts or arrangements of tunes. If there are, I ask the band leader to send me PDF’s of the charts and any sample sound files. This usually gives me all of the information I need to practice effectively for the gig.

This is the longest drum chart I have ever played!

If the gig is really challenging, I will practice one week before, at least 2-3 different days for about 2 hours each day. It’s a lot like studying for a test. I can’t cram my way into success on the stage. If it’s tough music, I simply have to practice a few different days before the gig to really get the music and drumming into my mind and muscle memory.

I also use a metronome app (there are many out there) to set up a setlist of the songs with tempos. The drummer is often the one responsible for counting off tunes. I like to be ready to do this.

Making a setlist of tunes on your metronome app is a great way to count off tunes on your drum gigs.
Here is an example of a metronome app playlist for a gig.

Counting off tunes, takes the pressure off of other musicians and scores me many respect points. They then feel relieved that they can rely on me to get the songs going.


The night before my drum gigs, I get all of my drum gear together and place it by the front door. I also put my printed drum charts in my cymbal bag. I double check that I have a pencil and an eraser (to make notes on charts at the gig).

If I don’t put everything out the night before, there’s a chance that I’m going forget something. It’s a terrible feeling when I get to the gig and realize I’ve forgotten something important.

My gear the night before a gig.

I also try to get a good night’s sleep or sneak in a power nap (10-15 minutes) before leaving for the gig. This little bit of extra sleep really increases my concentration and energy level on the gig.

I also try and eat dinner before going to the gig. It’s good to have my basic needs taken care of so I can focus 100% of my attention on the music.

Tip #3: BE ON TIME

As a general rule, I try to arrive 15 minutes before load-in and set-up time for my drum gigs. If the band leader wants me to load in at 5:30pm, I will typically arrive at 5:15pm. Drums usually take longer to set up and tune than other instruments.

If it’s a recording session gig, I will typically arrive one hour before everyone else. Set-up, tuning and micing take longer than in a club situation. This makes everyone more at ease and helps the session get off to a good start with less stress.

If the start time for a club gig is 7:30pm, I will get there about 2 hours before hand, to run through tunes with the band. The rehearsal is usually about an hour to an hour-and-a-half before customers arrive.

Being on time shows that I respect the other musicians, the music and the gig. It shows that I am grateful for the opportunity to play and is definitely a reason I get called for other gigs.


During the rehearsal for my drum gigs, there may be comments or suggestions about my drumming from the band leader or other musicians. I take them in and try to give everyone what they want to hear. It’s at this time, I also make suggestions to other band members, about their playing.

One of the many fun Jazz groups I play with in Kobe. (Left to Right: Yutaka Hashimoto, Mariko Yoshida, Atsushi Ide, Me)

The way you deliver feedback is very important. Check out my blog post about attitude to learn how to deliver feedback like a pro. It’s important to note that everyone wants the music to sound its best. If everyone in the band remembers that, we can usually give and receive feedback in a positive way.


Staying in the pocket means not over-playing on your drum gigs. I have an informative blog post about my 25% rule for drumming which you might want to check out as well. This will help you learn how to filter the ideas that pop into your head. You’ll start to learn how to be choosy and play only the most musical ideas.

A great Smooth Jazz group I perform with regularly in Osaka. (Left to Right: Satoshi Sugiyama, Mariko Endo, Akira Hasegawa, Me)

The gig almost always goes smoothly if I focus on creating a great groove with the other players and listen carefully to what the other musicians are playing. When I start a gig, there are also some very important things I focus on to get the gig off on the right foot. Click here to read my blog post about how to play with others on the gig.

Pocket playing is powerful. It doesn’t have to be hard-hitting. In fact, playing in the pocket is very subtle. It’s actually so subtle, that many drummers miss it. In my blog post, “How to play drums. Really,” I teach you exactly how to develop your ability to play in the pocket.

Tip #6: SAY “THANK YOU.”

“Thank You” are two IMMENSELY powerful words. I say “Thank you” for feedback on my drumming (positive or negative). When we are done with rehearsal, I say thank you for the opportunity to play together. When I am paid at the end of the night, I say thank you for the money.

Another great Jazz group I perform with regularly in Osaka and Wakayama. (Left to Right: Me, Noriko Iranami, Phillip Strange, Tetsuro Aratama)

I throw those two words in whenever I can. Using them, demonstrates my gratitude for the opportunity to play music with others. Other musicians, band leaders, recording engineers, producers, club owners, customers and many others love to hear those words.

“Thank you” will open many doors for you. Being successful in music is not just about drumming skill. It’s as much about having a great attitude. Again, you might want to check out my blog post about attitude.


So try using the 6 tips I shared for your drumming gigs. As with everything I teach here at vonbarondrummer.com, on my YouTube channel drumming4life.com and in my private lessons, I want you to learn the truth about being a working drummer.

Of course, learning the mechanics of drumming is important. However, it’s connecting those mechanics in musically meaningful ways to the other musicians that will get you the gigs. Please be safe out there and KEEP ON DRUMMING’!

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