Pat McDonald - Drums and Percussion

Personal Skills...


Since I've begun doing gigs on a larger scale in the last few years, I've begun to get asked a lot of questions from drummers about how to "make it", how to get a big gig, how did I personally end up with my gig, etc.    These are all valid questions that we all have at some point in our development.    From my experience,  the first thing you have to have down as a drummer is the ability to play well.   Not too many guys are out there making a living playing who don't have the basic drumming skills happening.    Most everybody out here can play well.   Some may play better than others but at a core level, they all are good solid drummers.    I think most people can reasonably understand that fact.   


But a major factor that I've discovered in getting a good gig and one that alot of people don't consider is personal skills.    Playing music for a living is a great life and comes with a certain amount of glamour (although probably not quite as much as most people think!!).    But it also can be a tough life and try even the most mellow person's patience.     On all the gigs I've gotten and seen my friends get, there have been guys who may have been better drummers auditioning but they didn't get the gig because something about their personalities just didn't mesh with everyone.    When an audition is held and you walk in the room to give it a shot, you're under the microscope from the very first moment.    Everyone is checking you out.   Before you've ever played a note, they may have already decided you're not the guy.    Or they may have already decided you have the gig.   If you're cordial and kind to everyone, project an air of relaxed professionalism, are on time (not late and not early either!), have the material down pat and play well, you're closer to having the gig than you know.    But if you come in late, tired, high, hung-over, gloomy, sloppy-looking or just generally pissy about life, you may have killed your chances before you've played a note.  


Life on the road can be taxing and if there are 10 guys crammed on a 45 foot long bus, riding 12 hours to a gig in the middle of nowhere, nerves can get frazzled really fast.  Nobody wants to deal with a crybaby.  Or a psychopath.  Or someone who is just plain freaking odd.    Who in their right mind would want to put up  with that?    Sometimes the accommodations are not what you were told, or the food is not fit for farm animals or the A/C in the bus goes out..... all these WILL happen at some time!    But if you're able to bite the bullet, remain cordial to everyone, and remember that no matter how bad it is, you're still playing music for a living, and just get thru the gig and put it behind you, you're the kind of person they need.   


One fact that a lot of musicians tend to lose sight of is the fact that what we do is fun for us but its not brain surgery.     We're not out there curing disease or helping the underprivileged eat another meal or solving international political crises.   We're making noise.   That's it.    We're banging on things with sticks and making noise.     Hopefully it will be a nice noise that people will enjoy listening to and maybe even pay to hear but at it's core, music is just noise.  Sound.   All we do is create it.     And if some of us get lucky enough to be able to make a living doing it then we've done extremely well.     We should be happy about it.     We don't have to get up and punch a clock and work long days for our living.    We have it so good its ridiculous sometimes.    Having some success in this business is not a license to act self-important holier than thou.    Its a privilege we're enabled to enjoy by the people who enjoy listening to us play.    We have to remember to treat those people well and be grateful for what they give us.      And we have to remember that this business is chock full of "yes men" and people who blow smoke all day long.     The people who survive always seem to be the ones who have their feet planted firmly in reality and who don't buy into the fiction that is thrown in their faces daily.     You can't go wrong in this business if you make it point to be nice to people, be respectful and make it a point to be someone who people like to be around.      Some people say "Nice guys finish last." but from my experience, it seems much more accurate to say "Nice guys get the gigs and are always working."



Good luck and groove hard.....



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