Do you try to count while playing a song, whether you’re playing along to a record or playing with your band? Then do you get panicked and frustrated when you realize you’ve miscounted and you don’t remember how much longer to play a particular pattern or when that fill coming up starts?
Then everything just becomes chaos and anxiety because you realized you’ve failed at counting yet again. How will you ever REALLY learn the song where you know when everything is coming?
I’VE BEEN THERE. Time and time again. I’ve also spent time in the classical percussion world where you have to count every bar because you’re reading sheet music, and that's scary sometimes.
But do we really need to be counting bars while playing music on the drums? Here’s my short answer:
Let’s unpack this a little, because I really want to help you learn songs well and play them the right way - yet not have to freak out about counting. YOU CAN DO THIS....
Sit down and listen to this record, and you’ll feel yourself becoming a better musician by the minute. I believe that every drummer should listen to John Mayer’s Where the Light is live in LA record. Whether or not you’re a Mayer fan, you truly can’t deny the world-class musicianship on every track.
The record features two world-class drummers, Steve Jordan and J.J. Johnson, and a whole host of fantastic musicians including bass players Pino Palladino and David LaBruyere. Check out the credits here on the Wikipedia page.
Grab a pair of headphones and get ready to listen along with me, because I’ll be including a bunch of Spotify links to all the tracks I’m talking about. Without further ado, here are the 5 biggest things every drummer can learn from this record.
#1: Undeniable groove is created by simple, musical consistency free of clutter.
If you’re unfamiliar with John Mayer or this particular album, the...
Do you remember the first gig you ever played, first song you ever learned, or just that first moment when something got you really excited about the drums?
I think we can all pinpoint one of those moments, because we all have a reason deep down inside why we play the drums. Something happened at some point in life that lit a fire that drives us to keep working at the nitty gritty non glamorous skills that help us to nail our favorite songs.
That big, motivating moment for me was when I got dragged into playing in the high school worship band at my church. I love looking back at this story, and I actually have a blog post about it on the website right here if you want to read the full story.
I was unprepared, timid, and didn’t want to play in front of people. But the “trial by fire” created by the opportunity to play in church completely transformed my relationship with my instrument, and I quickly started learning some key skills that would carry over...
In January of 2016, I was in a unique position that provided an interesting opportunity.
I was doing music full time, which consisted of teaching lessons regularly and playing gigs every weekend. I was doing some extra music-related work regularly also, but I had a good bit of down time during the day - especially mornings. My wife and I had just gotten married a few months before, and we were living pretty cheaply in our tiny 450 square foot apartment. (If you’ve ever watched some of my oldest videos, you’ve seen a glimpse of that place. Most of the time we don’t miss it.)
I was honestly getting a little bored, because I couldn’t just practice drums all day (#noiseconstraints!). Lessons didn’t happen til afternoons and gigs didn’t happen until evening. How could I spend the first half of my day wisely so that down the road I wouldn’t regret this time in life when I was blessed with so much spare time?
I decided to put myself to work at...
I learned the hard way that trying to impress other musicians with your playing will get you nowhere. That’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make, and I was making it constantly in high school and even into college.
When playing with other musicians, especially if they were well-experienced pros, my priority was constantly to “show them what I got” and make sure they could tell that I’m a “good drummer.” I felt like I needed to demonstrate at least a little of my technical ability every so often so that they knew I could play more than just groove and time. I needed to throw a 32nd note fill in there so they could see my facility around the kit. Most of all, I needed to look like I was working hard to make these things happen - because I was a “good drummer” with fast hands. Then after the gig I was pretty much just dying for feedback from the guys I’d played with. I wanted to hear anything - but especially some good...
I had the opportunity a little over a year ago to attend a masterclass by one of my all-time favorite drummers. This masterclass wasn’t a clinic, though, where a bunch of folks gather in a music store to listen to their favorite fusion drummer shred for an hour. This was a true “masterclass,” where the objective was to actually just hang out and have a Q&A session.
Only 12 slots were open, so the group attending was kept small. This allowed for more of a “hangout” kind of vibe, where the masterclass was all about group discussion instead of watching a performance. The entire event lasted for 3 hours, and it took place in a recording studio.
For the first hour and a half, we all sat in a circle in the tracking room and just asked this drummer questions. We talked about the music industry, getting paid, working in studios, how to learn songs, and lots more. It was really fun being in a room with 11 other guys my age who shared my exact interests and...
I was playing a church gig years ago with a bass player I’d played with a bunch. He was one of those guys who was a lot of fun to play with, and he had a keen interest in my personal growth on the drums, skill-wise and career-wise. That day he happened to mention a drummer friend of his he’d like me to meet…
Now this drummer-friend wasn’t just any drummer. He was a monster-player who was currently touring with a major act, and who had toured with several nationally-renowned bands in the past few years. He had played on several records I listened to a bunch in high school, so I felt like I already knew him. The realization that I could meet him had the introvert inside of me very nervous. But of course, I couldn’t resist.
I was able to get in touch with this drummer, and we set up a time to just hang out and chat. It’s amazing the power of a mutual friend!
As we conversed and got to know each other, I got the feeling that this guy already...
In light of last week’s email about my first week of music school, I thought I’d share the most valuable and practical skill that I took away from 4 years in a university music program.
Here’s the cool thing: You don’t have to go to music school to gain this skill.
The most difficult class I ever took was ear training. In this class we had to “sight sing” melodies (read the notes on the page and sing the melody correctly without accompaniment), listen to and identify chord types, scales, intervals, and more, and listen to melodies and chord progressions and write out the exact notation for what we were hearing. This musical “dictation” was the most difficult and dreaded portion of the class for everyone. The funny thing, too, about this kind of class was that there was no possible way for anyone to cheat. YOU had to be able to sight sing your melodies for the professor. YOU had to properly write out...
Somebody recently emailed me with the question, How do you develop your style on the drums? This is an excellent question, and replying to his message made me think a lot about this topic.
Many of us have had questions like:
I hope to answer some of these questions today, because I believe every great musician has some sort of style. Maybe it’s a certain feel they have where you always know it’s them when they’re playing. Maybe a drummer has certain licks he likes to play. Maybe he has a sort of “signature” groove you always hear from him. I think we can all agree that the best players out there have unique styles. You hear Bonham, you know it’s Bonham. You hear Ringo, you know it’s...