Here’s a couple a stories that might influence you in some way. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but wouldn’t change any of them because, well… here I am. There isn’t an artist out there who doesn’t have a list of failures equal to his list of accomplishments. Your drumming heroes may not speak of the failures but they happened. So… two things.
I began playing drums when I was 9. At 11 years old, I began playing in bands; YMCA concert bands, rock and soul band(s) made up of mostly high schoolers. During that year I met John, a high schooler at the time who turned out to be very influential to me. He loaned me jazz records, which began my music studies – Charlie Parker, Jimmy Smith, Count Basie, and Buddy Rich… I would go to his house and play the Chapin quarter note triplets over jazz ride pattern that I’d just figured out with REAL OLDER MUSICIANS! Holy crap that felt good.
I ended up playing in bands with this person all the way through high, even a bit more. I learned so much from John and am entirely grateful, but one regret that I have is I got “comfortable” playing with this particular group. I stopped learning on the drum set, or you might say “on the job.” I think I stopped listening to the band then also, yet nobody called me on my selfishness. I was practicing like a madman but my playing wasn’t being challenged by anyone and it wasn’t growing.
So, something you might want to note as you swim through your career?
#1. If you might be the best musician in your band or feel bored, look around for a more challenging gig.
I love baseball, I see players who are favourites on the team and in the community. They get traded and boy, they are gone. Like immediately! See ya! On more than one occasion I turned down far more important work because of a conflicting date or dates with my (at that time) current employer. A conflict with one stinking date cost me the better gig entirely. The thing to realize is our employers will sack us immediately, with no regrets. While working your way up the sideman trail, don’t be too loyal. Realize that even if we become successful working sidemen, we are still the catfish at the bottom of the lake.
I recommend approaching your career with the same zeal that you have shown to get better as an individual musician. Relentless pursuit is as necessary as improving your musicality! What about that current gig with lifelong friends? Well, carefully negotiating your relationships is a super important tool. Try to maintain all relationships, but if your heart wants that other gig, and especially if you think it might be a bit over your head….
#2. Take the gig.
See you next week. Please comment to me at my website, billyward.com
Hi everyone. Here’s my second blog and I believe it’s packed with information that could last a lifetime. Now to it…
Music is a big part of my life everyday. Good habits are a powerful life tool. Here’s three things I do that perhaps you can get into and incorporate it into your daily or weekly activity.
ONE. Listen to music. I go to my music service online (so far it is Tidal but I may change at some point) and float around with searches and see what I can find that I’ve not heard. Sometimes it’s yet another jazz record from the 60s or 70s that I once listened to, such as Jimmy Smith Trio with George Benson – highly recommended for tasty feels to copy as well as understanding when to do that fill… Other times it’s something I haven’t heard – today was the Luminaires. Pretty sweet record.
Thinking about music and how to approach it as an author of drum parts is crucial for growing personal technique that is yours and yours only.
TWO. Change the tuning on your snare drum, or if you have time, change the tuning on your entire kit and play play play! You will find new technique that works with that ridiculously higher or lower pitch of your drums. Each area has pluses as well as minuses. Great for learning how to tune the damned things also! In most all recording engineer’s opinions, drummers don’t know how to tune their own instrument! Figure it out! The benefits are extremely high. In my case today, I took a 6.5 X 15 Liberty Drums snare and cranked it as high as it would go. This led to me playing some seriously crazy funky shit for about an hour! Stay fluid with your tuning and approaches to the kit!
THREE. Record yourself. I say those two words to students more than any other. Record yourself often and listen to it as if you are listening to a stranger, not yourself! Imagine it is someone you have great hatred towards – look for the flaws! Now you know what you need to work on, and THIS CAME FROM YOUR SPECIFIC NEED, NOT A BOOK OF EXERCISES.
As I envision this unfolding series of blogs, future topics will include the following and likely more:
– Technique. Both physical as well as “life chops”
– True stories from my career. Some funny, some simply odd, some hard to believe. We will all enjoy this. I’ve got stories.
Who are you? I like to envision you as my friends because we have so much in common. We all love drumming and music! I suspect you already are, or at least certainly wish to be, exceptional. Many of you may feel somewhat close to reaching your next goal in music, but maybe you need a push in one way or another to move forward.
I will tell it like it is based on my perceptions and experience. I hope that when I suggest doing something that you like, you don’t just nod your head and think “That’s a great idea” and then never do it. This is a Nike gig, folks! “Just Do It.” You want be special? Unique? Deeds, not words are what matters, so put the work in. Everyone you look up to, who is great, has put the work in, for hours and hours and day after day. I’m reminded of Mark Craney’s drumstick. It said “Mark Craney – No Excuses”. I suppose that’s the main point of this particular blog – let’s get serious!
Finally. I’m thrilled to announce my blog will appear regularly at mikedolbear.com. I met Mike Dolbear in 2006 where he organized a thrilling teaching tour throughout the UK and we have remained friends to this day. I have “tortured” many UK students at two of his sponsored 5 day intensives and I can’t express how much love I have for those students and fellow teachers from those two events. I am thrilled to be on Mike’s website and hope to remain close to my accomplished students living in the UK and Europe. I’m so psyched! Let’s get serious. Let’s go!