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Bill Powelson's School of Drums

How to Snag That First Gig

Let's assume that you have been playing drums for some time now. You have a decent drumset and are at the point where playing along with nearly any recording on your sound system is easy. You are definitely a drummer and you want to take it much further!

What is next? Where do we go from here?

This is a very critical point in your development and it is time to make a bold move. We need to get you into a band and . . . not just any band. It must be exactly the right band.

Maybe you are the shy type. I know I was. I was much too shy to play for even a small group of friends. I remember those days. It took me four years to move from the back room of our house, and out into the public eye. I had been ready for nearly three years, but I didn't have the courage to consider it. I had even begun to lose interest in drumming because I didn't think I would ever be brave enough to get on stage and play with a live band.

Finally, one day when I was about fourteen, my mom set me up. She knew how shy I was, so she planned the whole thing, set it up for me, then FORCED me to follow through.

What a mom! ;>)

She made me put the drums in the car, then she drove me over to the home of two brothers my own age, who lived on the other side of town.

I had previously fought with these two guys in school a year or so earlier, and for all I knew, we were mortal enemies. (If they had only mentioned their interest in music, we probably would have been friends all along.)

As it turned out, we hit it off this time. We formed our band, and we began rehearsing regularly.

To make the long story, short . . . Within just a few months our new band began to sound pretty decent. Rehearsing was easy and fun, because it was just us, in the garage, day after day. We weren't under pressure to perform in front of a crowd. I gradually realized that the two brothers were as afraid to play in public, as I was. It was something we would overcome together, as a team.

The first few times we played in public were very anxious moments for all of us. However, we soon noticed that as the music began, all the nervousness and stage-fright disappeared. Once our hands stopped trembling, we had a ball. Before long, we had discovered that we were EAGER to play the live gigs in public. IT WAS FUN! Playing before an audience actually turned out to be much more fun than banging away in the garage.

So, if you are worried about all that stage-fright stuff . . . DON'T. You will probably experience it about the same way we did. Once the initial fear subsides; Playing in-front of a crowd is an indescribable blast.

The point of this story is that you must start somewhere, make your own breaks (or get your mom to make them for you), and put that first band together, on your own. Rehearse privately until you have your act together as a band, then put it in front of a crowd.


The trick is finding, just the right people. Starting with people who are on your same level is important. Look for people, who are just starting, and with whom you will feel comfortable. This is important! It is important because rejection at this point can be devastating. You don't need rejection. What you need is a big score.


Rack your brain, right this minute! Think of all your friends (and enemies) who can play an instrument. Piano? Guitar? Bass? Brass? Think until you can write down a name or two. Don't even worry so much about whether you like these people or not. You will learn to like them, if the music clicks.

Once you've come up with a name or two, get on the phone and give them a call. Invite them over for tacos and a good old fashion Jam session.

Just do it, and let nature take it's course!

OK! After racking your brain for twenty minutes, if you cannot think of even one person who fits the criteria then you must search them out. Go to plan B, and try this . . .


Get out the local phone book and turn to the ‘Yellow Pages'. Call the local guitar instruction studios. Talk with the actual teachers if possible.

The receptionist at the store or shop may not respond like a teacher will. Most teachers will not only have a student or two that will meet the criteria, but the teacher will also have a professional interest in seeing their own students succeed. They want to help their students get into the business. They will usually take the time to find the names and phone numbers you're needing. My bet is you will have a list of several names by the time you get off the phone.

If this has failed to produce prospects for your band, call all the local piano teachers, voice teachers and any other music teachers who may advertise in the phone book. You will eventually succeed if you are persistent.


OK! So, now you have a couple of names with phone numbers.

What is next?

Think about something for a minute . . .
Don't you wish someone would go to all this trouble just to give you a starting place in the music business? So do they! They have probably been waiting for this phone call for months. We are all alike! We wait for someone else to make the first move. We want success to bang on the front door and drag us out of the house and into the ‘big time'. These people are probably no different.

So . . . you make that first move . . . and make it as often as necessary until you get the right people together.

The odds are very high that this ‘name on a list' will probably try to climb through the phone line getting to your house. So don't be afraid to make the call. Simply entice them in a very informal way. Ask them over to visit and jam. No big deal.

Don't say anything about forming a band or any of that stuff. Invite them over to jam for fun, and say no more. If they want to do it, they will find a way. Then, If the jam comes off ok, you might make a few plans.

For the moment, leave yourself a back door, and a way out . . . just in case.

The truth is, you may be musically above them, or they may turn out to be jerks or something. Who knows, they may have one big green eye in the middle of their forehead. This way, it won't be a devastating experience for either of you, if the music just doesn't click. Getting a good band together can be difficult, but persistence and determination will eventually pay off.

Try to assemble at least a three-piece group. You will need at least one lead instrument (guitar, keyboard, etc.), one bass guitarist and of course you will be the drummer.

Bass guitarists are often hard to find, so remember, ANY guitarist is potentially a bass guitarist. Both instruments are nearly the same. You may be forced into calling two guitarists, then talk them into taking turns on the bass.

From this point on, the rest is up to you and the new band. Practice in the garage until the music starts sounding ok, then begin volunteering to play anywhere you will be appreciated.

Enter the band in local talent shows, play for family picnics, pool-parties and so on. You will find plenty of places to play if you will use your collective imaginations.

After you have a few free appearances under your belt, and enough material to fill a four or five-hour gig without repeating any songs, put a price tag on your services. Before you know it, you will be playing every weekend for major money. Ninety percent of the professional musicians I know, will tell you, they started this exact same way.

Go for it, and good luck!

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Copyright Bill Powelson 1994 all rights reserved.