I find that a big part of the reason I get asked to play drums for people is not necessarily because of my playing.
At a certain point you start going to auditions and getting called for things, and the people you are up against for the drum seat, are all of a similar, if not better, standard than you. But what’s the thing thats going to tip you over the edge and get you that job?
Aside from personality, how nice you are, and what they think they’re looking for, it’s all about your ‘added extras’. And this means building up other skill sets past hitting those skins in front of you with some bits of wood! It’s all about embracing the new. This isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s been happening for years!
I remember first being told by a teacher that a lot of incredible drummers stopped getting work in the 50’s and 60’s because there was a big musical shift from jazz music, to this rock n roll ‘backbeat’ thing emerging. A lot of drummers refused to embrace it, and thus manoeuvred themselves out of lots work. Guys that did go with it were those like Earl Palmer (whose biography is actually called ‘Backbeat‘!) and Hal Blaine.
This has carried on as music has evolved. Click tracks have been bought in, drum machines, drummers programming their own sounds to play live. Programming and creating whole shows using things like Ableton, QLab, or HD24’s and any manner of other ways to run a show. And this list will continue to grow!
I know some drummers who have decided to not embrace these things, and flat out refuse to learn them, so as great as they are as players and people, they won’t get called because they just can’t do what the job entails. This of course isn’t always true, but personally I think it’s best to have as many skills as you can!
Here are some jobs that I didn’t get (I think, and choose to believe) because my skills weren’t up to scratch at the time (I used these as motivation, and they sure as hell are now!)
I may have these years slightly wrong as I can’t remember for sure.
2004 – Zein Simone – Click
This was a nightmare situation! My first ever recording session to a click, and my playing (in more ways than one) was so horrific, I was asked (very politely) to leave.
2007ish – Kyle Minogue – Electronics
As far as I can remember it was an all electronics setup they wanted, and I had probably about 2% knowledge about electronic drums at the time!
2009ish – Goldfrapp – Singing
All was going so well in this audition, until the dreaded question as I was packing up – ‘oh, and you sing right?’
These things happen to everyone and it’s what you take from, and make of them. It all just depends on your goals as a musician.
Are there any opportunities you weren’t ready for and you’ve learnt from? Leave your experiences in the comments below!