Have you ever watched another drummer and just thought to yourself “Man… that drummer is so much better than me. He just lays it down like he owns the world, and he’s way more fun to watch than I am. Everyone talks about how great he is and how he’s ‘the man.’ I wish I could play that way.”
I grew up at a large church that launched a modern worship service while I was in high school. They’d bring in professional musicians each Sunday, and it was always a thrill seeing who was playing drums. Some of these guys were local legends, and they were all great drummers.
There was one particular guy, though, who was the absolute loudest drummer I’d ever heard. Even with a drum shield up, the sound guy had to boost the house mix a bit to compensate for how loud the drums were. He was slamming rimshot backbeats, stomping the kick, and smashing cymbals in every song. He played like he owned the place, and he laid down grooves and fills...
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...
BIGGEST MYTH: The most important thing you'll do as a drummer is listen to the bass player and lock with what they're playing, because this is the most important relationship in the band.
Why is this false? We’ll break this down, and I’ll share with you what you should ACTUALLY be focusing on when playing.
What’s the most important part of any song you might play on a gig? Think pop, rock, country… most typical styles of music you’d play. What’s the most important element of the song in any of these styles?
It’s the MELODY! That melody will be sung by the vocalist, or it might be played by a guitarist during an intro riff. Either way, all other parts in the song are based off of that melody.
Now what’s the SECOND most important part of a song? If melody is most important, we could probably say that harmony (or chords) is second most important. But we could also go another direction...
Perfectionism is the thief of joy. So is comparison, as the saying typically goes. These two attitudes together can form a deadly combo that will stop your growth and possibly even destroy your potential on the drums.
I don't mean to be overly dramatic here, but it’s true! And if you’ve spent any time obsessing over perfecting your playing or comparing your playing to others, you know what I’m talking about. This is a dead-end street.
If you’ve struggled with...
...Then you need to take a step back and release the perfection you’re holding onto....
“We as a band need to practice messing up.”
This was the statement my friend and I landed on over coffee the other day. He’s the worship leader at my church, and we were talking about ways for us to grow musically as a worship band.
The best bands are not the best because they never mess up. They’re the best because they know how to handle and hide mistakes. Sometimes we fear mistakes so much that our primary goal is avoiding them, rather than learning how to recover from them. You can try and try and try to never mess up, but it’s going to happen. The key in no longer fearing the mistakes is knowing how you’ll handle them. So we were brainstorming ways to actually practice doing this in rehearsal.
Believe it or not, Sunday rolled around and we didn’t have to intentionally practice messing up in order for a good old-fashioned, accidental mess-up to happen.
Now I want you to think about something for a moment… What’s the...
A recent survey response I received from one of you guys blew my mind… But it made me realize something interesting.
A few weeks ago I emailed out to you a survey asking you questions about what your struggles and goals are on the drums. Someone’s response read like this:
SURVEY QUESTION: If you could accomplish anything in your drumming in 2021, what would it be? (Your biggest drumming dream!)
RESPONSE: Play live
SURVEY QUESTION: What is your biggest fear that you worry about all the time as you’re learning drums?
RESPONSE: Playing live
Wait a second… you mean the biggest, most exciting, ultimate dream… is also the greatest fear? For a minute I thought this was crazy. Then I looked back at my own life.
In middle school my biggest dream was to play drums in a rock band. I got to high school and had the opportunity to literally play drums in a rock band… and I was terrified. Thankfully I faced my fears and did it....
Time to get real with you guys. The last several emails I’ve sent out have been about dealing with failure - overcoming it and using it to learn. The truth that I’ve tried to reiterate is that you’re never going to avoid failure, no matter how good you are at something. However, you can use the failure to learn and to overcome.
I failed at being a good drummer the other day at a rehearsal, and I’d like to share this story with you since I think it might help you out.
Speaking of avoiding mistakes, check out this video while you're here about the "5 toxic drummer habits you MUST avoid at all cost."
Ok on with today's story!
We were rehearsing this moderate-tempo, four-on-the-floor song that was very long and repetitive. The tune also didn’t have a lot of dynamic contrast throughout…It built up after a minute or so then stayed up the rest of the song. I launched into the first chorus, enjoying the rock ’n roll, driving feel. When the second...
I recently heard a gig horror story involving a drummer who failed at his job in more ways than one. The sad thing is, he may not have realized how badly he was failing and wreaking havoc on the band.
Now my point today actually isn’t to share with you all the details of how this guy failed miserably. It’s really to give you some preface to today’s video, which highlights the “5 Toxic Drummer Habits You MUST Avoid.”
This particular drummer actually excelled at all the usual “drummer skills” that come to mind, like solid timekeeping, appropriate playing (playing for the song), arriving on time prepared, and in general “sounding good” on his instrument.
So what went wrong?
The drummer on this gig had an ego problem, and his lack of respect for the bandleader and overall arrogance led to a whole host of issues that good timekeeping and proper playing couldn’t solve. He failed to have the vocalist's best interest in mind,...
I remember playing a church rehearsal when I was in college where I was struggling to remember what was coming next in the song. I had a chord chart next to me with some notes I’d scribbled, but they weren’t doing me much good. I felt clueless as to what to play at the end of each song section, because I wasn’t really sure what kind of fill should happen. Sometimes I wasn't actually 100% sure what was coming next, so that made it pretty tough to know whether to play a fill. Everything felt like a stressful mess, and I was honestly pretty lost. I was faking my way through the song, but I probably sounded anything but professional.
I remember that particular week when I was in school, and I was so busy that I literally was scrambling to listen to the songs for Sunday in the car on the way to the rehearsal. My phone wouldn’t plug into the radio of my 1997 Honda Accord, so I had it sitting in the cupholder blasting the songs loudly enough to hear while driving. I...
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...