“What the F*@k am I doing?” Excuse me for being frank, but we’ve all asked ourselves this question in some shape or form at some point in time. Every once in a while I go through periods where I just don’t feel inspired and want to do anything but sit at the kit and work on exercises, grooves, paradiddly goo goo gah gahs etc. Sometimes you burnout…… THAT’S OK. Below you will find a list I generated to help me get out of my recent rut and get back into the swing of things.
It’s OK To Take a Breather
It’s ok to take a breather here and there. You have to accept that. Until very recently, this has always been a struggle of mine. It’s healthy to take a week, two or sometimes a month if you need it. You should feel excited when you sit down at the kit! If it feels like work, maybe it’s time to take a short break. (I’m not saying to completely abandon your drums and go close out the bar every night.)
Find different ways to be productive. There are plenty of ways you can grow your skills as a musician without physically being at the kit. I’ll list a couple below.
Find new music with drummers you like and sit down and give an album a listen with no interruptions or distractions. Give it your full attention and really listen to the drummer and how they are interacting with the band. Soon into this “deep” listening you’ll start to pick up subtleties that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Find educational social media channels from drummers/other musicians you like and pay attention to what they are posting. There are tons of great drummers to learn from whether it be ideas on groove, licks, fills, gear, you name it and they’re all FREE.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Expand your knowledge in other areas during your “off time” such as; audio and video recording, marketing, products, and the music business itself. Recently, I’ve learned tons of quick sound engineering/production tips in the last month from Dan Bailey’s (@drichardbailey) and Tom Knight’s (@tomleighknight) instagram channels. This got me excited to sit down and work with the kit both tuning and mic placement wise which is much different then working on a rudiment, groove etc. but still important to the craft. (Ear Training)
Find a Different Hobby
This kind of coincides with the last one a bit, but I wanted to be explicit in the fact that it’s very healthy to have other hobbies. I took up reading after joining Bully and even take very crappy photos as a “photographer” while we are on the road. I’m not a pro, but it helps to take a step back to get a better perspective on the “big picture” of playing music. I recently bought a Nintendo Switch and have enjoyed plenty of time getting my @$$ kicked by the youngsters online at Smash Bros and I haven’t felt guilty about it. IT’S FINE.
Listen To Some Oldies
You remember all those bands you listened to in high school that you are probably too embarrassed to admit now. Crank ‘em to 11 and jam the bands that got you excited from day one. My go to bands for this are Green Day (specifically the Dookie album), GC5, Tanka Ray, Blink 182, Two Gallants, Hudson Falcons, Bouncing Souls, Millencolin, One Man Army, Those Peabodys, Tower of Power, etc. Everyone has their own style so try it out, it works for me. After reading back my list I’m not embarrassed to say I thoroughly enjoyed all of these bands at some point in time and still do!
Quit Comparing Yourself With Other Social Media Channels
Just stop, it’s that easy. If you quit doing this, your mood towards your craft will drastically change. There will always be someone better than you. Once you accept that, it’s easier to view these other channels educationally. You begin to see them as learning tools rather than competition. Hopefully you will start asking, “what are they doing differently?” As opposed to “why are they doing better than me?” It’s a fucking mindset!!! I preach this all the time and I swear to god it makes a difference. Having a positive outlook and ready-to-learn mindset will change your perspective. It’s cheesy as hell, but if you quit reading over one inspirational quote you will be missing out on so many better opportunities, trust me.
Help Push and Motivate Your Friends At The Same Level
Guess what? You don’t know everything. Be open to criticism and it will help you grow. Never in a million years did I expect to be where I am today. I wrote a similar post about this topic five years ago on my previous page and it’s insane to see how far all these individuals and myself have come since. Direct Quote: “Listen to what your friend’s bands are doing. It is always inspirational for me to hear Clayton playing with Pujol/Bully or Dan with Quichenight. Seeing Kyle shape and form bands until he finally found the one he wants to push and Tennessee Scum destroy a house show circuit and pack venues in Murfreesboro. These things are all great inspiration for me in many different ways.” So let’s break down what’s happened since I wrote that in 2014.
I auditioned for Pujol and was super stoked to be given the opportunity. I wasn’t the right fit and yes I was bummed. However, I didn’t let it get me down. Clay more than likely got me this opportunity.
Dan did his first extensive tour with Quichenight last summer and I was super proud. 👍
I played with and recorded on the album What A Drag for Tennessee Scum for about a year and a half.
I auditioned for bass in Mouth Reader. It was bad timing and it didn’t work out, but Kyle and Ethan are still rockin and heading to SXSW this year with big goals in mind.
I auditioned and joined Bully officially in July of 2017.
Every band and person I mentioned in that paragraph from 2014 I wound up working with musically in some shape or form. If you’re good at what you do and your friends are too, you help each other out. MOTIVATE EACH OTHER. My high school buddy Kaleb Britton (@KBrittonDrums) is one hell of a drummer based out of New Orleans and he spontaneously gave me a call last week during one of these funks. I chatted with him for 15 minutes and immediately sat down on the kit after our chat. I was inspired again and I strive to do that for others when they are in similar situations.
Take A Quick Look at Your Achievements
Tread lightly here because you don’t want to dwell on your past. Watch a video of yourself from 5 or 10 years ago. You will immediately understand how far you’ve come if you’ve truly worked hard. I cringe when I watch stuff from high school or college. That’s the point though, you’ve come a long way haven’t you? I received a private message from someone on social media this week expressing how much my YouTube channel has helped them develop and progress as a drummer. It made me feel great, especially since I haven’t really paid any attention to my YouTube channel in a couple years. However, it’s still serving the purpose of why I created it. Which is to help teach any level player simple concepts without having to understand how to read music. This was something I struggled with at a young age and wanted to help bridge the gap.
Here’s another brief example of reviewing accomplishments: in the past two years I’ve done things as crazy (in my mind) as open for FJM, play the Ryman, meet all of the SubPop team and play their Birthday Party, pay my bills only playing music, etc…. These are all things that I said would happen “someday” if I worked hard. It’s surreal but now I’m only setting bigger goals. I don’t want to coast and you shouldn’t want to either.
Live In The Moment
As with any good advice, here is my “contradiction.” Don’t fucking dwell on the past or ask “why am I not there yet?” Make sure you focus on what you are currently doing and give it 100%. Set goals for yourself, but focus on the task at hand to achieve them. Yes, this includes setting realistic goals. Below is my list of goals for 2019 to show as an example.
Get better at understanding sound engineering/production to produce better quality social media drum videos.
Help with and give my genuine opinion on Demos with Bully.
Get that fuckin left hand in shape. I mean c’mon, it’s pitiful.
Faster singles between the hands and feet.
These are all challenging but realistic goals. Are you starting to get the big picture? If you’re constantly accomplishing things, you feel as if you are always getting better. Apply this, it works.
I hope these tips help you find your own path out of the rut. If you need some motivation or advice on your current situation I’m always happy to help. Every person has been down with their drumming career at some point, but lets help keep each other from staying there.
As always, you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll respond as soon as I can.