I have a 25% rule that helps get me lots of drum gigs. When I’m performing, I try to play only 25% of the drumming ideas that come into my mind.
When I was young, I would literally play 100% of my ideas when performing with others. That was some pretty crazy drumming! If I was working on a specific drum lick or fill, I would try to play that as many times as I could in a song.
I would also respond to every rhythmic idea that the other musicians were playing. When I was comping (short for accompanying), my left hand and right foot were insanely busy. I’d try to fill in every bit of space in the music.
The young musician’s mind
The other night, I played a gig with an 18-year-old Jazz pianist. He was on fire! Lots of energy and ideas. At the end of the night, he asked for feedback about his playing. I told him he had lots of ideas but that he needed to play 50-75% less than he was playing. That would allow the music breathe.
I think it’s better to play a targeted musical idea rather than shotgunning it and playing whatever comes into your mind. Playing lots of notes all night, isn’t impressive. It’s annoying for the other musicians. I was happy he was open to my criticism.
I think that’s probably natural for all young musicians. We have to go through a phase where we try everything to see what works and what doesn’t.
I thought older players were boring but they would always get drum gigs
I remember watching older players when I was in my teens. Honestly, I thought they were kind of boring. They didn’t play lots of notes and most of what they played was time, nothing too fancy. Even so, they had lots of gigs.
Fast forward 30 years and now I play like those older guys. Funny ya? I actually used to say to myself, I didn’t want to end playing like an older drummer. It was terrifying to think about, really. I thought that would most certainly be the death of my creativity and passion.
25% = You get drum gigs
What I didn’t know in my younger years was that solid time and good feel are king when it comes to getting gigs. All of the fancy pants drum fills and advanced coordination are secondary.
It seems there is a direct correlation to the number of notes I play and the number of gigs I get. The more notes I play the fewer gigs I get. The fewer notes I play, the more gigs I get.
Since moving to Japan almost 4 years ago, I really pared down my playing. I estimate that I cut 75% of my extra drumming stuff out. Instead, I now focus intensely on supporting the other members in the band through playing solid time and good feel. This has resulted in TONS AND TONS of live performance opportunities and studio work. Even during tough times, I have lots of drum gigs.
Below is a video me first playing 100% of what I think and then only 25% of what I think. Check it out. I’m sure you’ll understand instantly, why you can get more drum gigs using the 25% rule.
Benefits to the music and other musicians
When I play less, other musicians can trust that I’ve got their back. When I perform, I give them the 25%. It get’s the job done, and provides several benefits to the music and musicians. Playing only 25% of what I think:
- Allows space in the music so other band members can fill it in with their ideas or just let the music breathe.
- Doesn’t clutter things rhythmically. If I play too many notes, many will end up clashing rhythmically with what the other musicians are playing.
- Allows me to dedicate most of my mental energy toward creating a great groove with the bassist for everyone to lock into.
- Allows me to listen to what other musicians are playing and interact with them more like a conversation.
So it all comes down to mental control. Controlling the flow of thoughts in your mind and choosing on the best ideas to express on the drums. How do you know they are the best? They fit the context of the music beautifully.
When you are less focused on your own drumming, you can be focused on the other musicians’ playing. From that connected place, all of your best ideas will flow.
I wrote a blog post about this to help you refocus your thinking when you are playing with other musicians. This is another important thing to help you get more drumming work. The blog post link is below.
Time and feel bring deep satisfaction
When I was young, I also played many notes to cover up the fact that my time and feel weren’t so happening. As I got older, I corrected this. Now when I play, the first thing I establish is a groove that feels good and stays in tempo. As long as that’s there, everything else I play fits like a glove.
When I play a gig that feels great, I am energized and often have a hard time falling asleep that night. There is something deeply satisfying about creating a groove with the band that moves me emotionally. Playing only 25% of my ideas allows me to achieve this almost 100% of the time.
So get some music to play along with. Get my drumless tracks and try playing everything that comes into your mind. Then try playing 25% or 1/4 of your ideas. Really limit yourself and see what happens to your time and feel. I think you might be surprised how much things smooth out.
Everything I share here at my Von Baron Drummer Blog, drumming4life.com or my podcast Beyond Drum Beats is for you to improve you drumming and get more gigs! COVID-19 has put a damper on our gig possibilities in the short-term. It will pass however, and I want you to be ready to come out swinging when it all settles down.
Please be safe out there and KEEP ON DRUMMIN’!
PREPARE FOR YOUR JAZZ GIGS. Download high-quality, effective DRUMLESS TRACKS. Improve your time, feel, comping and soloing. Learn to play better with real musicians.
For fun and free YouTube JAZZ DRUM LESSONS.
Also check out my BEYOND DRUM BEATS PODCAST. If you are pursuing a career in music and drumming, this podcast is a valuable resource.