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School of Drums
(ALL STUDENTS: Beginners thru Ultra Advanced)
Beating the Monster Players to that 'Dream Gig'
If you are a professional drummer and your current job situation is less than satisfactory, this lesson is for you. Maybe you are in a 'dead end band', going nowhere. Maybe the money you are making is too low or the quality of the music just does not meet your standards. Any number of reasons can make you want to look elsewhere for employment. What are the secrets to landing that 'Dream gig'?
Defining the 'Dream gig':
Before we begin, maybe we should define the so called 'Dream gig'. I am sure it means different things to different people.
In short, we are talking about good money, quality music and terrific people. Your personal 'Dream gig' may be a specific job on the local level, a traveling group, a session clique, or maybe you dream to land a gig somewhere in the big leagues. The bigger the dream, the more difficult the climb (usually.) Whatever your personal dream may be, the rules are essentially the same. Follow along and I will try to explain.
3 SIMPLE RULES FOR ACQUIRING THE BEST GIGS.
- Be the right person . . .
- in the right place . . .
- at the right time!
We cannot get around these rules. This is what success in the music business is all about. The sad part is that
lady-luck may play a major part in all this, much of the time.
However; We CAN focus on being the right person, and once equipped with that REPUTATION, we can only hope to manipulate the other two rules.
First, You Must Qualify: (Be the right person)
The whole thing boils down to reputation. Drummers and all musicians who strive to maintain a reputation of certain attributes seem to always excel. So, it goes without saying, if you can maintain those attributes, and make them known to the right people, your climb to success will be much easier.
What are these attributes?
What do the best bands look for, in a drummer?
- SOLID TEMPO AND PERFECT TIMING:
The point is simple. Develop a reputation as a human metronome! If perfect time is synonymous with your name . . . the great gigs will follow. For useful tips on how you can greatly improve your sense of tempo and timing, see the online drum lesson, 'How To Overcome Bad Gigs, Forever'
The total success of any group or band is dependent on each individual. Like a chain, one weak link can make the whole thing useless. Most successful groups are very aware of this fact, and they hire accordingly. Few musicians are good enough to combine a ‘no-show' reputation with success.
- FLEXIBILITY: YOUR ABILITY TO LISTEN
WITH BOTH EARS, THEN ADAPT:
We all have our own musical attitudes and ideas, but when we are the new kid on the block, or the newest member of a band, doing things 'THEIR WAY', is usually best.
Focus on your bass player, follow his lead, memorize and complement his/her licks. If the bass player has been with the
band for some time already, he/she will know what they want from both the drummer and the bass. This means,
the bass player can become the 'new drummers' best ally! By following the established rhythms of
the bass, we drummers will also discover that we can 'magically' anticipate the rhythms that the rest of the band
may be expecting. Do NOT play what you are thinking! Play according to what you are hearing from the
bass player and other instruments. Learn to be flexible on this issue.
Sometimes when we are just starting with a new group, we may dislike the musical arrangements, the routines, and their way of doing things. We shouldn't fight the established ideas, at first. We should conform to the group-effort, completely, if possible. After we have won the total respect of the group, introducing our own ideas, and our changes,
will eventually become a much easier task, as time passes.
Be sure you know your note values, rolls, and basic dance beat structures! Exchange ideas with other band members using terms they can understand. If they ask you to play something like 8th triplets in a certain arrangement, you should be able to do it without question.
- FRIENDLY, EASY-GOING NATURE:
This may be the most important attribute of all. Many people compare a band with a four or five-way marriage. No band wants to hire an obstinate jerk. If you have cultivated a reputation as someone hard to get along with, the great job offers may just never become real. It is very difficult to get a group of genius musicians to even share the same room for more than five minutes, much less share the spotlight nightly. Learn to leave your ego at home if it may cost good jobs. Start doing that now and discover that the good gigs may be just around the corner. Some of the best bands are made up of 'less than genius' players, who get along, and work really well, together. I will opt for that kind of group every time, because I know that success will usually be the result.
F. COMMITMENT AND LOYALTY:
With most of the top flight professional bands, the replacement of a drummer is a serious and critical move. They will want to make the right decision only once, and they will want to be sure of your commitment to them. Most will want to rest assured that you will STAY in the group, once they have accepted you. Again, if your previous reputation doesn't support that possibility, then they will probably overlook you as a potential band-member. Make it vocal that your intentions are to stay with the group as long as the group is together. This will greatly solidify your chances at getting the gig.
RULE #2: ( THE RIGHT PLACE)
The right place could be anywhere in the World, but if you keep your senses alerted, spotting the action is often easy, before it happens, right there in your own back yard. Investigate your own locality for the band with the largest following, and best local reputation. Get to know the individual band-members, if possible. Try to be on a first-name basis with as many 'dream gig' band-members as you can. Jam with them at every opportunity. If they decide they like you, your reputation, and your playing abilities; You'll
become their first choice, if ever they need to change drummers. One day the regular drummer may decide to leave and you will receive a phone call. It can happen just like that! The big secret to it may be . . .
RULE #3 (THE RIGHT TIME)
The right time could be anytime, but just like rule #2, we can do many things to increase our odds of winning.
Try to remain on a first name basis with members of several bands that fall under the ‘dream gig' classification. This increases the odds that eventually, one of those jobs will open, and you will be at the top of their
'favorite drummers' list.
ANOTHER TRICK: This may be the #1 SECRET TO SUCCESS!
Forming a small brotherhood of drummers wherever you may be living, works! Get to know the key drummers, the ones with the good jobs . . . and become best friends with them.
Never hawk another drummers gig or play games of politics. Trying to shoot another drummer out of his or her position is like courting disaster. Although political games of this type can occasionally work, the result is very often less than satisfactory. Tactics such as those will usually take a toll in lost friendships, and result in a spoiled or ruined reputation. You will brand yourself as a cutthroat by operating that way. The only people who want to work with a cutthroat drummer, are the other cutthroat musicians. As a result you could wind up in a self-made nightmare, working with . . . only the sleezbags, and no one else.
So the point here is this. Your best source of (dream-gig) leads can often be the other drummers, themselves.
Think about it! That rival drummer, if he likes you, is the very guy who can get you in through the back door. He will often be the first to know of upcoming changes, and his own decision to leave. He will be the very one to sell your name to the rest of the group as a possible replacement. In this way you may gain a friend for life, and the dream gig too. That is what I would call a win-win situation.
So, the harsh truth is that success is a waiting game. All we can do is build our expertise, a good reputation, good friendships and wait our own turn. Focus on the controllable factors first, and the rest will eventually
take care of itself. Your chance will come, when you are ready, and the time is right. If you have already
established the reputation as being the right person, success will eventually follow.
Copyright Bill Powelson 1994 all rights reserved.