The essential part: In order to get work, as drummers you have to provide good time, good feel, good musical and rhythmical drum parts that fit into the given musical context.
You have to learn to see things not from the perspective of other drummers, but from that of the people who will give you work. That is the musical director, or the other musicians in the band. The person who will audition you does not care how technical your playing is. He/she cares about your time, your sound, your feel and how you fit in
We know instantly when a musician is good. It sounds and feels good! Always remember that music is not a marathon. It is not about proving how big your muscles are or how fast you can go. It is about making music!
1) Time, Feel and Sound: That means being able to maintain a steady tempo from the beginning to the end of the tune, unless wanted otherwise. It is also about being able to play each note in the right place, at the right time. Think of it in relation to playing in a band. For everyone to play together, there has to be a collective sense of time. Develop an inner clock enabling you to feel the time. The time then has to feel great. Time can be interpreted, bent and a good drummer should be able to play on, behind and ahead, whilst remaining with the click or the given tempo. Finally the sound. It is a very important part of the feel. All drummers should work on developing their sound, focusing on every note.
2) Styles: Most of us tend to focus on the style(s) that we like. Even if you do not intend to play say Funk, Latin, Jazz or Hip-Hop, spending the necessary time to understand those styles, as well as many others will make your playing much richer. As a result we’ll be more creative. It will also push the boundaries of your technical abilities further and will come out in one way or an other into your daily drumming. Each style should be expressed with as much authenticity as possible, in the grooves, the feel, the sound and the attitude that goes with the style.
3) Vocabulary: We are talking about the phrases and fills that go with each style. Playing a fill/phrase in a Jazz setting will be completely different from playing one in a Drum n’ Bass setting. The type of pattern, the sound and the feel will be different.
4) Technique:To be able to articulate all these great things, we will need technique: Hand technique, bass drum and hi-hat technique and co-ordination. Remember that what you practise is what you remember and any wrong technique will be re-enforced through practising.
5) Reading: To learn and practise effectively and to work as a musician, reading is extremely important. It is far less complicated than a lot of people make it sound. When taught correctly and presented simply it is not a big deal. And it is such a great tool.
6) Creating drum parts: The reason we do all this is to perform with other musicians. It is therefore essential to learn how to create effective drum parts, and how to perform tunes. How to deliver the different sections in a tune, the dynamics, becoming one with the track. Otherwise you’ll become good at drum lessons but not at playing in a band. Would be a shame.
Apart from having to be a good drummer, here are skills that you should also seriously consider.
• Use of technology – When composing, recording and playing live, musicians very often if not always, rely on the use of technology. You should become familiar with the use of samplers; sound modules; triggers and the technology to enable the various units to communicate MIDI, drum machines and electronic kits, computers and the relevant software.
• Music theory – Drummers tend to often be at a disadvantage simply because they do not understand the rules of music; scales, chords, arpeggios, intervals, harmonizing and how to use it all
• Second instrument – It is somewhat difficult to understand music effectively and communicate your ideas to others if you do not play a second instrument. You don’t have to be wizard, just be able to communicate. Keyboard is a good gone.
• Writing and arranging – You can become an essential part of the band and ensure, hopefully, long living royalties, if you can write or contribute to the writing and/or the arranging.
• Business – Being a good player is one thing, marketing yourself is another. Unless you know how to promote and sell yourself, the world will never know. Business is also knowing how the industry functions, your rights, how to deal with contracts, preparing good business plans, convincing others that you are worth investing in. It is also understanding what being self employed really means.
• Percussion – Being able to Latin percussion is often very useful. If you learn it properly, you’ll will understand some of the origins of rhythm, study the genuine authentic parts and will be able to apply them to the kit.
• Studio and recording – Imagine if when going into the studio you know and understand what is going. You can contribute to and influence the creative and recording process.
All this may look overwhelming. Don’t worry because it can all be done. All my students express at the same time their desire to be good musicians and their fear of the unknown before starting. However once they are into it and the whole thing has been demystified, most students really get into it. The motivation of achieving their goal of doing the thing they love most and doing it well is often sufficient to make them succeed.