Learn What Bands Look For In A Drummer
I am a firm believer that some of the best drummers in the world will never be discovered. This is because they are lacking certain qualities that bandleaders are looking for. Usually a bandleader will try out a drummer for a single practice or gig, and only call them back if they make a good first impression. Here, in no particular order, are 10 things you can do to make that better first impression:
1. Don't be late!
When you are late for a gig you get labeled as unreliable. If you are ever late or are going to be late, make certain you call the leader and explain the circumstances, and apologize for the inconvenience you are causing other affected parties. When you are late you are wasting valuable set-up, sound check, and practice time. The easiest way to ensure you are on time is to plan to be 30 minutes early.
2. Know the music
Listen and learn all the music for the gig you are playing at. If you are playing all original and un-recorded music than you should listen to the artists previous recordings and get a feel for what style of drumming they like.
3. KISS - "Keep it simple stupid."
Don't think that you need to show everyone how fast you can move around the kit. Most leaders are more concerned with "groove". If the song has no groove it becomes very hard to listen to for the crowd and even harder for the other musicians to play with.
Always express how happy and excited you are to play with whomever you are playing with. If the leader thinks that playing with him is a burden to you he will not call you anymore. Get to know your fellow musicians who you are sharing the stage with. Even if you don't like some of them you must be nice. You want to build a good relationship with everyone.
5. Playing with a click
You must know how to play with a click. You don't want to have to stop in the middle of the song because the drummer can't keep the beat. I do not recommend playing every song with a click. When you are comfortable playing with a click then you can focus more on groove and not be worried about staying on time with the click.
6. Playing what they want
Sometimes you will have to play a groove that you think doesn't suit the song. You might be playing a groove that the leader tells you he doesn't like and asks you to play something else. Instead of throwing your sticks at him and telling him where to put them I recommend just playing the song the way they want it. You can play whatever you want when you go home at the end of the night with your paycheck. You can also pay the rent the too.
7. Monster Kit
I am a big kit type of guy, but it doesn't always work with every circumstance. Don't plan on taking up the whole stage with your huge ass kit. If you know that there is a big stage with lots of channels for mics and lots of room for other musicians than fly at it. However, if there is limited space then bring a smaller kit. The sound guys will love you more too.
Don't play so loud! This is a mistake that too many drummers make. If the leader cannot hear his guitar or vocal and his monitor is cranked then there is a problem. Listen to the sound in the room and then you can make a decision about how you are going to play or what type of sticks you are going to use. It works both ways, I have been told to play quieter and I have also been told to play louder. Of course I like it way more when they say "LOUDER!", but don't get your hopes up...You should be able to play the drums with dynamics.
If you cannot remember all of the 2/4 bars, 7/8 bars, and 15/16 bars along with all the other parts that leaders want to add to their songs - you must write it down. There is nothing worse than going through a part of a song in practice if you just forget it when it comes time to play it in front of a crowd. If you do, your only hope is that you have an understanding leader. I hate the nasty looks from the head honcho after I miss a important part.
10. Play for fun, not for money
Everyone has to make a living, and I am not saying to just play every gig for free. However, that cannot be the only motivation for you playing the gig. If a leader senses that you are just in it for the money he is not going to want you back. Only ask for the check right when you are about to leave. Do not ask for payment prior to playing the gig.
Follow these guidelines and you're sure to have improved success in seeking regular gigs. With any luck you'll form some great relationships along the way. Good luck!
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