In my travels, I get to see many drummers of all ages and stages of their careers. By constantly observing, I notice many drummers lack commitment in their approach. When you make a commitment, you make a decision to see something through.
How many times have you seen a drummer play with a lifeless style?
It’s as if they are staring at his watch, waiting for the gig to be over so they could rush home to warm up some ramen noodles and settle in with Three’s Company re-runs.
Commitment means giving yourself over to the music making process and the whole experience. Be IN it. Don’t confuse a drummer playing with lack of commitment and a drummer trying to play soft. You can achieve every bit of intensity and INTENTION when you play soft. More than anything, a performance starts in the mind. Are you IN the music or are you thinking about the stresses of life (bills, domestic issues, schedules)? Let the music take you away to a special place. By making that commitment, the performance and the music itself becoming more rewarding and meaningful.
I’m always thinking in these terms:
Balance between the limbs, proper tone and articulation, use all of the colors on the drum set, play with even time, make things groove listen to the other musicians, stay out of the way of lead vocals, play dynamically … play musically.
When David Letterman asked the late Warren Zevon if he had any advice for people as he was approaching his final days, he said, “Enjoy every sandwich”. Those words resonated with me. We only have so much time on earth and the whole life experience can be taken away at any moment. Combine that with the thought that if you are actually playing music professionally or semi-professionally, you are in rare company. About .01% of people in the world that play a musical instrument get to do it on a truly pro level. I told myself very early on in my career, that I would always play at 100%. I would always serve the music, listen, lift the other players up and make it a fun experience. In short, I was going to always ‘play my ass off’.
Being committed to your craft means being prepared for any opportunity that comes your way. After college, I was determined to make a name for myself in the music business. I reached out to everyone I knew in the music business to see if anyone knew about auditions in major markets. A friend turned me on to a gate keeper for a major artist. I got my audition tape to them and they liked what they heard. I was invited to a ‘cattle call’ audition, but had to cover my own flight, transportation, lodging and food. This would be pricey, but I was committed, and I wanted that gig.
I was asked to learn 5 songs. I did, plus I charted out another Fifty from the artists entire catalog. That way, if they called any other songs, I would be prepared and I could set myself apart from the rest of the pack. I did not end up getting that gig, but every person I met that day ended up turning me on to 2 other major auditions. I never got those jobs, but I learned that all the gigs were awarded to drummers that lived IN Nashville. I reminded myself of my commitment, so I gave my band 2 weeks notice, packed up everything I owned and moved to Nashville.
I knew very few people, had no gigs and very little money saved. I had my abilities, my confidence and my commitment to my goal. You have to have goals. A life without goals will leave you wandering aimlessly with no direction. When I arrived in Nashville, my goal was to become a top call touring and session drummer. Fifteen years later, I am still working on that goal. I’ve survived hard times when I had to supplement my drumming with waiting tables, construction work and substitute teaching. I could have packed up my bags a million times. Doors were slammed in my face many times, but I had 2 things: A Dream, my faith in myself and a commitment to see if through.
Commitment to drumming as a career you have to believe that failure is not an option. In navigating my career for the last 20 years, I never stopped moving forward…I realized the importance of practicing constantly, taking lessons, recording myself, video taping myself and constantly improving.
I realized that I needed to be persistent. No one was going to hand it over to me on a silver platter. I was going to have to earn it.
Did I take every single gig that came along from weddings to bar mitzvahs, corporate parties, weddings, pool parties, dance halls, strip clubs, super market grand openings?…The answer is ‘yes’. I even kicked jokes for magicians. At the end of those gigs, I would ask my band mates how things were feeling and how I could improve my playing.
When I made the decision to move to Nashville, the first thing I did was copy of 500 copies of my demo tape “Rich Redmond: Drums and Percussion.” This highlighted my musicianship in a variety of settings: big band, small group, fusion, Latin, metal pop, Motown, etc. Every waitress, hostess and music person I met got one of these. I ran out the first week! Remember the Five ‘P’s for success in the music business:
I am constantly asked how to be a professional drummer by serious students and hobbyists alike. Failure can not be an option. It can never even enter your mind. One has to move to a Nashville, NYC, or LA to GET the gig. The chances of getting a gig and THEN relocating are slim to none. You have to be where the gigs are. Period. This is a chance that 99% of people that want to do something and are unwilling to take. It’s great to want to do something, but if you have to do it, then you will make that commitment and follow through.
Playing the drums and making music defines me as a human being. It’s truly how I express myself. Knowing that I get to play the drums everyday gets me out of bed with a huge smile on my face. Most successful people will offer the same advice. Make a commitment, fuel it with conviction, passion and persistence and watch your dreams become a reality. Conceive, Believe, Receive.