In this post, I’m going to share about the importance of having a positive attitude. It’s the last of the 5 things you need to become a pro drummer. So let’s just do a real quick review of the first four essentials. You can click on the links below to view the previous posts.
- Have a deep passion for drumming and all things rhythmic.
- Find a good teacher.
- Develop a sincere love for practicing.
- Get mileage on your playing.
If you didn’t read about the first four in the other two blogs, please go and check them out. It’ll help you to connect the dots to what I’m going to share here. All right, so number five. Are you ready for this? Here we go!
Attitude Is Everything
HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Attitude is everything, baby! Hey, that’s what they say anyway, right? Well, it is, especially in music. People like to work with people they like, period. It doesn’t matter if you’re in music, have your own product business or serve in government work. People want to work with people they like. So we want to always treat others the way we want to be treated. Ah, where have we heard that before?
Personally, I also try to have a positive can-do “drummer attitude.” That’s what I used to write in all my resumes. “I have a positive can do attitude!” When rehearsing or performing this is critical. More opportunities will come if your drummer attitude is, “I want to do this! I want to make it work, whatever it takes.”
Bring a positive attitude to dinner?
Maybe think of attitude like this. If you’re going to have a guest over for dinner, what kind of person are you going to invite? Someone who’s kind, courteous, respectful, grateful and a good conversationalist? Maybe even someone who’s funny?
Okay, so these are all positive character traits. This is the kind of person you want to be when you’re playing a gig and anytime you’re playing music with other people. So it’s good to think about who you would invite to dinner. Obviously, you want YOU coming to dinner!
The drummer with the positive attitude gets the gigs
I want to share something interesting. People in the music community say this one thing a lot about me and it’s unsolicited. Audience members, club owners, recording session engineers, fellow musicians and many others say they think of me as, as “the positive one.” I’m the upbeat person. I lift up the room when I walk into it. That’s good because that’s who I really am and it’s who I want to be.
This attitude also gives me more opportunities. Believe me, if you have two drummers, for example, who are equally skilled at playing drums, attitude will make a difference.
If DRUMMER A has great attitude and DRUMMER B is difficult to work with, complains and talks behind people’s backs, the phone is going to stop ringing for DRUMMER B. It’s DRUMMER A that’s going to get the gigs. Try to be the drummer with the great attitude, always.
Another important point relating to attitude is showing up on time to rehearsals, live gigs, and recording sessions. This makes such a huge difference in reducing the stress of other people you work with. They will develop more trust for you and know that you can be counted on.
Having an open mind is part of being a drummer with a positive attitude
You’ve got to have an open mind and a willingness to work with other people. Did you know that a drummer’s job, 95% of the time, is to make everyone else feel and sound great? It’s only about 5% of the time we get to strut our stuff and whip it on the drums.
95% of the time we’re geared toward making the music and other people in the band sound great. That in turn, is going to make us sound great. We’re going to feel good and it’s going to lead to a lot more opportunities for us to have musical fun!
Okay. Now let’s talk about having an open mind. What I mean by this, is you’ve gotta accept criticism with an open mind. You’ve got to be open to correction and guidance and take it without flinching. Don’t take it personally. Just remember that everyone’s always thinking about how to make the music to sound its best.
Being a drummer, you are a support instrument. Musical directors or band leaders usually have a specific sound or concept that they think of when they think of the drums. So you’ve got to be open to that vision. You might also learn something to help you improve your playing.
Working with the best requires a solid positive attitude
I’ve learned that it’s never good to think of myself as being above learning because the minute I do that, I’m going to stop learning. I have a good personal example of accepting criticism. I work regularly with a great pianist here in Japan. His name is Phillip Strange and he is a world class Jazz pianist.
So the first few times Phil and I were playing together I was a little nervous. After our gigs, I asked him, if there was anything I could improve? He was appreciative of my question and the opportunity to share.
He said that there were two things that I could improve. One was, make my tempo (my time) more stable. The second thing was work on my dynamics (volumed) and adjust my dynamics more depending on the overall sound of the group. I really took his criticism to heart. I worked very hard on both points. One of the reasons I worked so hard on them was because he shared with me his perspective as a piano player.
It’s about time
For example, related to tempo, he said that whenever he’s playing a solo, if I start speeding up (because sometimes I get excited during solos), then his solo concept has to change. He already has an idea of how he’s going to approach his playing based on the starting tempo. If I start to speed things up, it forces him to abandon his concept. It stifles his ability to express and play what he’s feeling.
So I became really cognizant, really conscious of time all the time. It’s my job after all, to make sure that I’m supporting him the best I can. As a result, I can now keep more solid time.
When Phil shared that criticism with me, it helped me to be more aware of my drumming and make some adjustments. I had an open drummer attitude about accepting criticism and it has since payed off.
I wanted to also share this point to illustrate that my being open really helped ME improve my drumming skill. It also helped Phil and I to have more fun performing together. So you’ve always gotta have an open attitude toward learning. Learning helps you become a better drummer and a better musician.
Give feedback with tact and humility
Now, the other thing I want to share is how to deliver your feedback to others. I’m not talking about the annoying sound loop you experience on stage. The feedback I’m talking about is when you need to be critical of someone else’s work, playing ability or attitude.
Feedback is a two-way street so expect to get and not just give. Sometimes I have to deliver feedback to other musicians, club owners, sound techs, tour personnel, event organizers and customers. Without exception, I’ve got to always deliver feedback in a positive, humble and respectful manner.
Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s a stressful moment like when the sound on stage is terrible. I still have to try to really hard to deliver my feedback in a respectful manner. I need to remembering that the sound tech is also trying to do his or her best. It’s always good to remember that we’re all in this together.
How to give feedback
I have a good example of delivering feedback in a positive manner. Many times, the person I communicate the most with is with a bass player. That’s because the bass player and the drummer have to work together to support the rest of the band. We are the foundation.
I had this great gig earlier this year playing in a rather large hall. It was with a large group of musicians and singers and the most of them were feeling the time on top of the beat. They were rushing things a little bit.
I talked to the bass player and said, “Hey, can you work with me, and let’s really try to anchor these folks (the other musicians and singers). Let’s pull back on our time and let them play where they feel it. You and I will always be locked together and we’re going to hold everything down.” He said, “Sure, let’s do it.” We did it in the rehearsal and the gig went great. That was a really positive way to give feedback.
Before delivering your feedback get into your positive attitude mindset. Think first about what you want to accomplish to make the music sound better. That way, all of your feedback will come from a positive perspective.
So I want to touch on gossip. I mentioned earlier about DRUMMER B talking behind people’s backs. Here’s just a word about gossip. Don’t do it! Don’t backstab and don’t talk behind people’s backs. Remember what grandma said? “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” If you complain to your fellow musicians about another musician, for example, word’s going to get back to that musician.
The music community is just too small. Everybody plays with everybody, so that person is going to find out what you’re saying. That’s not going to be helpful for your career.
Remember too. If another musician is complaining to you about someone else, it’s only a matter of time before that same person is also going to complain about you. Don’t gossip. Keep the good vibes, baby!
You don’t have to be the best drummer
Another really good saying is, “Pride comes before a fall.” This means, when I think too highly of myself, I will soon be humbled. Personally, I don’t think for a second that I’m better than my fellow drummers, vocalists or instrumentalists in my music community. Thinking that I am better than others is a poor drummer attitude.
The second I start thinking that I’m superior, I’ve already lost my direction. My moral musical compass is gone. “Google Maps help me, PLEASE!” The whole point of playing music is to create something awesome together that I can’t create by myself. It’s not about me. It’s about we!
I’ve had to eat humble pie a lot. There have been times in my life where I’ve thought to myself, “Ooh I’m just so great. I’ve just got all my stuff together. I’m such a great drummer….yada yada yada.” Guess what happened? The next gig is super challenging and hands my butt to me on a silver platter!
Don’t ever think of yourself as the best or that you have to be the best. Music is not a competition. One of the points of this blog is to help you find your voice on the drums.
It’s more important for you to find your voice than it is for you to be the best drummer. A pursuit to be the “best” is pointless because there is no best drummer in the World. It’s about finding your voice, expressing that voice and connecting that voice to the music and the other musicians you’re playing with. That’s how you get the gigs.
No rockstar attitudes please
Another thing I want to share is please don’t have a rockstar attitude. Tearing up hotel rooms and ridiculous backstage riders are not the norm. Sometimes you read about big artists demanding a new toilet seat in the dressing room bathroom or the need for a 12-foot Boa Constrictor. I mean, come on! Really??? I’m not going to say who the artists are, but I read about these recently.
Let’s wrap it up
So the best way to sum up this blog post is, “Gratitude is the only attitude.” Personally, I’m abundantly grateful that I even have the opportunity to play. That someone trusted me enough to give me a call. Really, that’s how I feel about playing music. Every day I get to pick up my brushes or sticks and play, is a great day!
I hope you’ll marinate on this whole concept of a positive attitude. If your attitude is right and you’re following the other four steps, your path is going to take you to great places and great opportunities.
I also hope that this blog post series was also helpful for you. Even if you’re your goal is just enjoy playing music with your friends, that’s fine. The five things are still going to apply.
If you want to learn Jazz drumming, I have two options for you. private Zoom lessons and my YouTube drum instruction channel DRUMMING4LIFE.COM. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your private Zoom lessons. My YouTube channel has lot’s of good videos on brushes and Jazz drumming. Please check it out!
I see a lot of cool information out there about drumming. It’s good information but it’s mostly geared toward the mechanics of playing drums. I haven’t seen much on how to connect the mechanics to music. In addition to teaching mechanics, I want to help you connect your playing to the music. That’s really how you’re going to get the gigs.
So I hope you have a splendid super awesome, a wonderful day! Please be safe out there. Thank you so much for reading and KEEP ON DRUMMIN’!
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