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Be a Professional Musician

Drum Set Tips to be a Professional Musician

If you want to get paid and treated like a professional musician then you need to act like a professional musician. Here are a few things I have learned from professional working drummers and musicians:

Be prepared

Make a list of the equipment you will need. Select the appropriate equipment and mallets. Set it up in advance. Practice the music. Listen to recordings.  Search on Youtube. If you get the music in advance, the whole point is for you to have looked at the music BEFORE you show up at the first rehearsal. It is frustrating when musicians are not prepared for rehearsal because they didn’t take time to review the music or set-list. Nothing says “I don’t care” like not being prepared. Music directors first call will be to the drummer (musician) who is prepared and makes their job easier and rehearsal preparations go smoother.

Show up clean and sober

I can’t think of any profession where drinking or drug use is tolerated on the job. This isn’t the late 60’s or 70’s. Being wasted or high just is NOT cool or hip anymore. Drugs and alcohol impair judgement and motor skills. Two rather important things for a musician to be at their best. The musicians I work with have zero tolerance for drunk stupid behavior on the gig. Your band mates don’t want to pack up your gear because you are passed out in the bathroom. It’s a hassle for them to get another drummer while you are in rehab. And good-luck hauling your drum gear around on your moped after you get a DUI. There simply is NO place for drugs or alcohol in a professional workplace.

If you don’t have anything nice to say – then don’t say anything at all

Be nice. NEVER discuss politics or religion. You could lose future gigs if the music director disagrees with who you did or didn’t vote for. It’s appropriate to make constructive musical comments and suggestions. But continually criticizing and complaining isn’t professional or helpful. NEVER discuss or complain about money. Always try to see things from the music director’s, sound technician’s, choreographer’s, lighting designer’s, etc perspective. They are going to recommend and hire musicians they enjoy working with and make their job easier.

Act like you’ve played before and this isn’t the first time you sat behind a drum set

I remember playing a show and having a well respected trumpet player tell me that he really enjoyed working with me. I thought he was referring to my technique and musicianship. Wrong. He said that it was because I just sat there (in the pit) and didn’t make a bunch of noise banging on the drums before the show. Hey, whatever it takes to get more gigs. So just sit there. Sound checks and warm-ups are not an opportunity for a drum feature or the time to show off everything you have been practicing. Nobody cares. Save it for the show.

Keep the drum book in order

If the charts are numbered and organized numerically, then at the end of EVERY rehearsal and show put the charts back in the correct order. This is especially true if you are a sub. It is frustrating to get the book back after a sub left the music jammed in the front or back of the book. That sub just went way down on my call list. And even if you always play the book. Keep the book in order. The whole point of numbering the charts is to make it easier to find them quickly. Plus you never know when you will have to get a sub at the last minute.

Every day is an audition

You never know when, where or from whom your next gig will come. That non-descript 3rd trombone or Bari-sax player might be in a position to recommend or hire a drummer for another group or show. Years ago I made the mistake of offending a musician when I met them with a flippant comment about their instrument that I thought was funny. They did NOT think so. What I didn’t know at the time was that they were the major musician booking agent for all the orchestra gigs in the area. It took me awhile to prove myself and get to the top of their call list. So always bring your “A Game” and everybody you come into contact with should be treated with deference and respect. You never know…

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Categories: PRACTICE TIPS