Here’s a couple of stories that might influence you in some way. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but wouldn’t change any of them because, well... here I am. There isn’t an artist out there who doesn’t have a list of failures equal to his list of accomplishments. Your drumming heroes may not speak of the failures but they happened. So… two things.
I began playing drums when I was 9. At 11 years old, I began playing in bands; YMCA concert bands, rock and soul band(s) made up of mostly high schoolers. During that year I met John, a high schooler at the time who turned out to be very influential to me. He loaned me jazz records, which began my music studies -Charlie Parker, Jimmy Smith, Count Basie, and Buddy Rich… I would go to his house and play the Chapin quarter note triplets over jazz ride pattern that I’d just figured out with REAL OLDER MUSICIANS! Holy crap that felt good. I ended up playing in bands with this person all the way through high, even a bit more. I learned so much from John and am entirely grateful, but one regret that I have is I got “comfortable” playing with this particular group. I stopped learning on the drum set, or you might say “on the job.” I think I stopped listening to the band then also, yet nobody called me on my selfishness. I was practicing like a madman but my playing wasn’t being challenged by anyone and it wasn’t growing.
So, something you might want to note as you swim through your career?
#1. If you might be the best musician in your band or feel bored, look around for a more challenging gig.
I love baseball, I see players who are favorites on the team and in the community. They get traded and boy, they are gone. Like immediately! See ya! On more than one occasion I turned down far more important work because of a conflicting date or dates with my (at that time) current employer. A conflict with one stinking date cost me the better gig entirely. The thing to realize is our employers will sack us immediately, with no regrets. While working your way up the sideman trail, don’t be too loyal. Realize that even if we become successful working sidemen, we are still the catfish at the bottom of the lake. I recommend approaching your career with the same zeal that you have shown to get better as an individual musician. Relentless pursuit is as necessary as improving your musicality! What about that current gig with lifelong friends? Well, carefully negotiating your relationships is a super important tool. Try to maintain all relationships, but if your heart wants that other gig, and especially if you think it might be a bit over your head….
#2. Take the gig.
See you next week. Please comment to me at my website, billyward.com