CRASH Course For Success

Principle 4: Skill
by Rich Redmond (part four of five)

Hey folks! Do you want to be a better musician? Do you want more gigs? Do you want more overall happiness in your life?

Rich Redmond
Photo by: Paul Griffin

Well then, try my “CRASH” concept on for size. CRASH is an acronym for Commitment-Relationships-Attitude-Skill-Hunger. The CRASH Course For SuccessTM is a true philosophy for living with five main principles that I have developed over the years. I would like to share them with you!

Honing your skillset helps you determine your strengths and weaknesses and the essence of your abilities. Focus on developing five main skills to ensure you succeed in your musical quest.

1. Technique, touch, tone. Great musicians know that you have to learn proper technique, so you can create a quality touch and tone on the instrument. You achieve tone through the technique. The tone you produce with your instrument is a musical attribute that separates amateurs from true professionals.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you draw the sound out of the instrument and make it sing?
  • Are you connected with your instrument?
  • Is your instrument an extension of your personality and a vehicle for your creative voice?

These are skills that you can develop only after countless hours of repetitive practice alone in a practice room. To practically apply these skills, you must play music with real musicians in the same room at the same time.

2. Time, feel, groove. Every great musician knows that all members of a band are responsible for creating a solid time feel and for keeping it “honest.” In its simplest form, time can be divided into two categories: perfect and human.

Perfect time can be achieved by playing in synch with an inhuman electronic source like a metronome, drum machine, digital audio workstation, etc. Human time can flow in a truly emotional and intuitive way. Like the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tide, human time can push and pull in all the right spots in the music. An example of these human tendencies is pushing the time forward on choruses and laying back the time in verses.

Perfect time doesn’t necessarily always feel good, and human time can sometimes be too human (ha!). So, our challenge is to play great time, but also make it feel amazing. You can fine-tune this skill by playing constantly with great musicians that hold you accountable to the groove. How do you know if things are grooving? Watch for a packed dance floor, bobbing heads, fists pumping in the air, smiling bandmates and increased record sales!

3. Colors and creativity. Always push creative boundaries and explore the many colors and moods your instrument can create. As a drummer/percussionist, I can play with various parts of my hands, or I can play with brushes made of metal or plastic, dowel rods of different thicknesses, sticks of various makes and models, cymbals with or without rivets, as well as wood, plastic and wool bass drum beaters. I can also use various muffling devices (tape, moon gels, notebook paper) to alter my sound and ultimately, the music’s mood.

No matter your instrument of choice, always try to paint pictures. Having a full palette of creative ideas and sonic options is crucial.

4. Playing, personality, people skills. Play your personality on your instrument, and watch like-minded people find their way into your life. They will seek you out. Remember the old phrase, “birds of a feather flock together?” It’s true! Don’t hold back. Let your personality soar on your instrument, and your soul will resonate and affect people in meaningful way.

Don’t forget to also focus your attention on people skills. Music is a group art form and without other people, we are forced to play in our basement by ourselves. Which would you rather do, play in a filthy basement or play to a sold-out arena?

Focus on perfecting your “bedside manner.” I am always surprised to meet a doctor who takes time to ask me about my lifestyle, diet, stress level; and I’m always disappointed by the doctor who spends two minutes not looking me in the eye and quickly writes a prescription for a drug he is paid to peddle.

Be like the doctor who truly cares about the overall wellbeing of his patients. If you are easy to get along with and possess a “team player” mentality, you will play lots of music with lots of people. People will line up to play with you!

Knowing how to take direction form bandleaders, recording artists and producers is extremely important. Don’t take suggestions and criticisms personally. Have a servant attitude and give, give, give. Taking direction and criticism without being offended or becoming angry is a skill. It’s the one skill that will make people remember you and recommend you to their friends. Ask yourself this question, “Am I easy to work with?” If there is hesitation before your answer, then you may have to work on that bedside manner.

5. Reading. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times an artist or band has asked me to leave for a tour the night before a run (without a rehearsal) after losing their drummer. I have filled in many times on tour for opening acts after the drummer sustains an injury or leaves the tour for a family emergency. This has happened an hour before show time. If I didn’t have the ability to listen to a record and scribble out “cheat charts” with important rhythmic figures and phrases, there would be no way for me to help in that situation.

You can develop a reputation as the go-to guy who can fill in for bands with little to no rehearsal and make it sound like a finely tuned machine by reading music. Reading music is the single greatest thing you can do to improve your chances for sustainable success in the music business!

Rich Redmond is a Nashville/Los Angeles based touring/recording drummer/percussionist with multi platinum country rocker Jason Aldean. Rich has played on 13 #1 hits and has helped bring a new rock infused sound to Music Row. Rich has also worked with Kelly Clarkson, Bryan Adams, Jewel, Ludacris, Lit, Joe Perry, Miranda Lambert, Steel Magnolia, Rushlow and many others. Rich is also a member of a full service music production company called New Voice Entertainment or “NV” which is responsible for creating the sound behind Thompson Square’s #1 single entitled “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”? Rich’s “CRASH Course For Success” ™ seminar focuses on applying time tested concepts to help people everywhere attract more success to their lives. Rich is also a member of Rocker’s Collective.

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