How To Stay Motivated

When Drumming Gets Tough


There will be times in your drumming life when things get tough – you have a hard time learning a particular beat, you practice but don’t seem to get any better, you can’t get any gigs. Whatever it is, it’s stressful, it leaves you feeling flat and undermines your love of the instrument.

It happens to the best of us and if we don’t know how to cope then we might do something we regret.

The Worst Thing You Can Do

I can remember it clearly.

The week I returned to my hometown in the UK after living and studying in LA.

Going from a city with so many great players and opportunities to a sleepy town with, well, nothing much at all.

I remember sitting with the newspaper one night staring at the job section as I decided whether or not to stop drumming completely because despite all the hours of study and practice there just weren’t any gigs and no way to pay the bills.

I hate to think what would have happened if I had in fact stopped drumming – because it went on to become a major income source for the next five years, gave me many, many fun experiences and brought me to writing this blog.

7 Ways To Stay Motivated

As a change of pace from the usual video lessons and interviews I really wanted to write about motivation and inspiration because it applies to every drummer out there – no matter what level they are at – whether they are just starting out or are working professionals.

These tips will help you keep things fresh, keep moving forward and most of all to keep on drumming… because you never know where it might lead you:

1) Play For You

First and foremost is to play for you. Play songs that you like and practice things that you really want to develop. You’ll stay consistent for years to come if you feel like you are in control of your playing and are doing what you know is right. If you want to explore a certain topic then follow your instincts and go for it.

2) Set Goals

Setting big picture goals and little practice goals is a great way to keep you excited about playing. Say you want to be a working professional in three years time with a brand new DW kit and a Mercedez van. What steps do you need to take in order to get there? How much practice will you do? Who do you need to build contacts with? How much will you need to save? Figure out what you can do each day, monitor your progress and keep that dream alive at all times.

3) Watch And Listen

Go to live gigs, listen to incredible music and musicians, check out drum clips on you tube. If you are always exposed to playing and players that blow you away then you can’t help but want to get better. Watching and listening is time well spent and will help to get the music inside of you.

4) Find A Mentor

Finding a drum teacher is one thing but finding a mentor can be life changing. If you are under the tutelage of someone you really want to emulate you will come on leaps and bounds. There success, drive and enthusiasm will rub off on you and you to will find yourself on an accelerated learning curve.

5) Competition

For some unknown reason, I’m not sure why, musicians tend to shy away from competition as if it’s a bad thing. But think about it. How do top athletes become so damn good year after year? It’s the competition pushing them to reach new heights of ability and performance. If you are surrounded by mediocre players there is nothing forcing you to improve but if you are surrounded by great players then your competitive streak will kick in and drive you to practice better and more often.

6) Have A Big ‘Why’

If you have a big enough why, you can get yourself to do almost anything. Ask yourself, ‘Why do I play the drums?’ How does it make me feel? What will happen if I don’t practice? For some people it could mean the difference between happiness and depression, having to work a job or not, paying the bills or being skint. The bigger your list of why’s and the stronger your list of why’s the more motivated you will be.

7) Take A Break

When I ask all of my friends who are working musicians how they freshen up they always say to take a break. Just a little time off here and there to go for a run, read a book, play tennis or do something not related to the instrument. You’d be surprised how creative and disciplined you’ll be when you come back to it.

How The Pro’s Stay Motivated

When I wrote The Psychology Of Drumming I asked all the guys what keeps them motivated and what inspires them. Here are some of their answers:

“When I’m in New York, which is where I live, It’s always exciting to go and see others play jazz music – whether it’s on the street, in an expensive night club or out in the park for free. That keeps me motivated because I love the sound of the blues and the grit of the street that the musicians here play with. It’s dirty and nasty and funky and I love it. I want to be good when I go out and play and that’s what keeps me motivated” – Mike Clark

“The big thing is that I enjoy what I do; I enjoy the process. When I am in enjoyment mode I get a lot of ideas and when these ideas come up it’s just inspiring – it makes you want to work hard and be your best, at least that’s what it does for me” – David Garibaldi

“Listening to music, going out and listening to new bands and new players. Life motivates me in different ways to make music – sadness, happiness, love, loss, positive, negative – its a ying and yang energy that all goes to the drumset” – Walfredo Reyes Jr.

“Inspiration is not inside of us. Inspiration comes from outside. It comes from our spiritual guides and from different energies that are in the universe. If we keep in touch with god and our spiritual guides, just knowing that they exist and they are there for us, gives us the strength to say well this is a bad phase but it’s going to end and when it ends I’m going to do something good” – Airto

“My family, I’m sure. Whatever I’m doing now, I’m doing for my kids and for their future. The decisions I make professionally today are decisions that will affect their future and it makes me think twice about certain things and it also makes me a little more disciplined and driven than maybe 10-15 years ago. I was always fairly driven but I think even more so these days” – Thomas Lang

“My church is American Football. I’m an avid Kansas City Chiefs fan because I’m from near there. I support the team and I go over to games, which is a long way from Los Angeles. When the fall comes in here, it’s football season. That motivates me and keeps me inspired, in other words I don’t live and breathe music 24/7. I need a break because I’m always playing music and it’s nice to be able to have a balance, you know, more of a meditation time or whatever it takes” – John ‘JR’ Robinson

A Final Word

Just knowing that times will get tough gives you a nice advantage. You will be prepared and you will know what to do. Take comfort in the fact that everyone – from Jojo Mayer to the other drummers in your town – feels that way and what matters most is that you find a way to keep your head up and keep on grooving.

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