Let’s be honest. We all face those times when we’re frustrated by a lack of progress, we feel like we’re practicing the same things over and over, and we’re not sure where the light at the end of the tunnel is - if there even is one. We lose sight of our goals, and maybe we’re doubting our decision to even get into the drums in the first place.
This is a real challenge, and I bet every one of us has been there at some point. Good thing is, there are some simple solutions to the mental traps that halt our progress and stall our motivation. Let’s dig in.What was your biggest hobby as a kid?
Think hard… Were you into sports, music, riding your bike, building forts in the backyard, playing video games, designing your dream mansion, collecting rocks, trapping bugs….?
What got you excited about it? What made you want to rush to it each day after school? Here’s my guess why:
Because it was fun, there was no pressure, and you were a carefree kid.
The problem with growing up is we all get more serious. We’re told we have to get an education, get a job, pay our bills, and act like adults. Sometimes that takes the fun out of hobbies, because it becomes harder to 100% invest ourselves into the hobby.
I remember as a kid playing survivor in my backyard with my buddy, and we were giving it all we had and dedicating ourselves 100% to the game. We didn’t carry the burden of life responsibilities, we didn’t have kids to take care of, and we didn’t have to remember to go grocery shopping to make sure there was food on the table for dinner. It was easy becoming fully absorbed into what we were doing, because there weren’t any burdens distracting.
Think about the level of imagination you had as a kid. I know we’re all different, but I remember sitting in my bedroom staring out my window wondering where I could find a portal into Narnia. I played out the entire story in my head where I’d crawl through the drain pipe under the street where the creek went, then I’d come out on the other side in another world. How cool would that be!?
But then we grow up and have to stop thinking that way and have to move onto normal life. So here’s the question:
How do we recreate childlike excitement, creativity, and imagination - especially pertaining to the drums?
Here are some ideas…
#1: Find your 3 favorite records from when you were around 13 years old.
This works wonders for recalling that natural sense of excitement you once had and thought you’d lost. The study of “music therapy” actually delves into this. I’ve seen music therapists have older folks struggling with dementia listen back to hits from their childhood. The patients light up as they remember life when they were younger, and this brings back so much joy.
So what were the iconic “staples” of your childhood? Which records did you love the most, and better yet - which ones “taught you how to drum”? Which were most influential in you starting your drumming journey?
Sometimes getting motivated is that simple. Find that favorite childhood / teen hood record, and all the joy of music and motivation to learn an instrument will come flooding back.
#2: Make time for music.
This one’s tough. I get it! Between working and having a family, most folks’ schedules are pretty booked up. I honestly can’t spend the time I used to just listening to music and jamming on the drums, because when I get done working I want to spend time with my wife and one-year-old. You do have to keep your priorities straight, and those will of course change depending on which chapter of life you’re in.
But in order to become fully absorbed into music and drumming embracing that imagination and creativity you had as a kid, you have to allot a block of time. How else can you allow the stresses of the world to disappear for a bit, long enough to really focus on making music and having fun doing it?
Regular, daily practice goes a long way. And if that’s just 10-15 minutes on your pad each day, that’s awesome. But if there’s one day a week where you can spend an hour on your kit or just listening to music…DO IT! That will go a long, long way to keeping you motivated. If all you ever do is practice hand technique and coordination exercises, your drumming practice is out of balance. There has to be room for music. Let the weekend be your “icing on the cake” where you round off your practicing with having fun with music.
#3: Embrace the childhood carefree, go-with-the-flow attitude.
Way too often we’re trying to be perfect. We’re trying to better ourselves, be good at what we do, and be successful. These aren’t bad things, but they do sometimes get in the way of enjoyment of life.
Striving for perfection on the drums is a recipe for disaster. Even if you’re a seasoned pro, you won’t regularly feel like you’re achieving perfection. In order to be a creative musician, you have to be willing to let mistakes happen and allow imperfections in your playing.
Don’t get me wrong - We want to play well. We want to be the best we can be. Just don’t fixate on these things. Have fun, make music, and be creative.
I love what somebody said in the documentary, The Pixar Story. This documentary is all about how Pixar started and how they pioneered the technology to create digital animation as far back as the 1980s. When talking about the challenges of working with computer animation, one of the guys said something that’s always stuck with me:
“The technology inspires the art, and the art challenges the technology.”
Your technical abilities should inspire your musicality, and the songs you learn should challenge your technical abilities. Those two things go hand in hand, and you can’t have successful, enjoyable drumming progress without both.
Be a kid again, always remembering what brought you musical joy in the first place. Tap into that regularly, and find the “memory prompts” that help you get there.
If you play me some 2000s rock (Switchfoot, Thousand Foot Krutch, Kutless, Third Day), I’ll get excited about the drums.
If you play me some 2000s Hillsong worship (this stuff taught me how to drum in church!), I’ll get pumped about the drums.
Really if you play me any Christian hard rock from 2007 or so, all the memories of attempting to jam with my buddies will come back and I’ll be thrilled to be a drummer. :)
Keep your drumming centered around music! If you’re ever stuck in a rut, go learn some songs. Let the music inspire the technical growth, and let the technique lead you on to more and more creativity.
Keep growing, and stay non glamorous,