When I first began drumming, I did it because it was fun. More fun to me than anything else I knew. As I got better, practiced and invested more time in it, I realized that it was what I wanted to do with my life. I dreamed of making a living playing in front of thousands of people every night. As it turns out, I've managed to make that happen. I still haven't achieved all of my goals but every step I take has taken me closer to them. It's the greatest feeling in the world. The stars don't always align for everyone but I've learned over many years of playing that if you want something, you have to practice hard, work hard and be ready when the opportunity arises.
One of the most important factors in making a consistent living playing music is being versatile. Over the years, my personal development as a drummer has taken many different paths. Some I planned on. Some I had no idea would happen. But they all have blended together and left me where I am now. I've had the good fortune of being able to play A LOT of different gigs. And because I spent time in my early years listening, absorbing and becoming familiar with lots of different types of music, I've been able to take almost every gig that came my way and made enough money to eat and keep a roof over my head.
Personally, I prefer to be a jack of all trades when it comes to drumming. I can't do it all. No one can. But I can do a little of a lot of it! And most times, a little is enough. If someone needs a master straight ahead jazz drummer, they most likely won't call me. If they need a master Latin player, same deal. And so on and so on... but I've found that most people don't NEED a master. They need someone who "knows the bag"-- Someone who is professional, shows up on time ready to hit and can make the music feel good. THAT much I can do. And that's probably the single most valuable skill I could have as a working drummer. That and the fact that I have a hard time sleeping if I turn down a gig! I hate to say no to work!!
If someone calls me to do a big band gig, I don't have to turn it down for fear of not knowing how to read and interpret big band charts. If I get called for a wedding gig, I don't have to worry about not knowing the standard schmaltzy wedding tunes. If I get called to sub in a Salsa band, I don't have to refuse it because I'm scared that I'll make a fool of myself. If I get called for a session in Nashville I don't have to worry if they're gonna hand me a number chart or ask me for a "train beat" And the great thing is, I've been called for all of these plus a lot more over the years. The more gigs I can take, the more money I can make. It's as simple as that. I may not nail everything to the wall like someone else might but I can get through it with minimal problems and make everyone happy. And I always try to do it with some musical "attitude"-confidence in the notes I play. That is what makes those folks call back next time.
The most important advice I can give a student or aspiring drummer is listen to everything. Check out all there is to check out. Become familiar with the repertoire, stylistic elements and vocabulary involved in jazz, funk, latin, rock, country, reggae, fusion, metal, polka...whatever!! If you don't know about it, ask someone who does. Get a teacher and take some lessons. Go out and listen to bands who play it. Read about it. Get familiar with it. If you do, the phone WILL ring. You WILL work. And the more you work, the more you continue to work. That I can live with!!! You'll never hear me complain if my calendar gets full......!!!!!
Good luck and groove hard........
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