The dictionary defines “confidence” as “Belief in one’s powers and abilities. Having assurance or certainty of success.” It also defines “insecurity” as “Apprehension and lacking self-confidence.” (“Apprehension” is defined as “Anxious or fearful about the future.”)
All drummers have experienced insecurity and apprehension-especially before on important audition, a big concert, or an important TV show. Successful drummers learn to deal with these emotions and perform will when the moment of truth arrives. Other, less experienced drummers can sometimes be paralyzed by fear to the point where they are unable to perform up to their abilities.
To me, confidence is based on preparation. The key is to be ready to give your best. If you can give your best to the situation, you have done all you can.
Organize your practice time and your weekly schedule. It is amazing how much time we all waste. Make a list of your weekly activities. Use a monthly calendar to highlight important upcoming events such as concerts, auditions, lessons and rehearsals. Just the act of organizing your schedule on paper and making lists will help you to feel better prepared. You can anticipate upcoming situations with confidence because you are preparing for them.
If you are disorganized and unprepared, you will generally feel apprehensive and insecure. If you are organized and well prepared, the confidence will take care of itself.
Confidence is not strutting about and bragging to others how great you are. In fact, most drummers that I’ve met who act in this manner usually do not play that well. As my fiend Ed Shaughnessy said, “Good, professional player are nice people. They understand what it takes to be successful and are sympathetic to younger player. It’s the drummer who play only pretty well that are usually a pain in the neck.” Give yourself an attitude check! Ask yourself the following questions: Do you complain a lot instead of taking action to improve? Do you spend a lot of time criticizing other drummers who are more successful than you? Do you find excuses for not practicing? Are you often late for rehearsals? Do you blame others when things don’t go well? If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you need to change your attitude. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “What are my strengths and weaknesses as a drummer?” Make a list of your good pints and weak points. Then set out to improve your weak points.
For example, let’s say that, although you can read music, you do not consider yourself to be a really proficient reader. Each time you get a job that requires reading, you will be apprehensive. You’ll worry about the possibility that you won’t be able to read everything that may be required. If you take no action to correct this situation, it will eat away at your confidence and will affect your playing in a negative way.
To remedy the situation, you need to act. Take some lessons from a good teacher to improve your reading. Set aside some practice time to do some reading each day. When you do get a call, get to the job early, set up your equipment and look over the music for any potential trouble spots. Always have some pencils in your equipment case. Use the pencil to write in the counting of difficult passages, to mark important cues or tempo changes and anything else that might help. (Never mark a piece of music with a pen! This way, the next person can erase your markings, if necessary.)
You are now prepared to give it your best shot. You are no longer dealing with the unknown. You have taken action instead of waiting for something bad to happen. You have also started to improve your reading by studying and practicing. Your attitude towards reading and playing will be greatly improved.
Drummers who want to be “number one” often miss the point. Who decides who is number one and for that matter, number one at what? Symphonic drummer, rock drummer, studio drummer, jazz drummer, all-around drummer, percussionist, country drummer, Latin drummer or fusion drummer- there are many ways to play.
The best attitude is to want to be “the best you can be.” If you continually strive to improve, you will be the best you can be. Continual improvement is a great concept because there is so much to learn. Music is as vast as the ocean: there is enough for everyone.
When you initiate action to improve, you feel better about yourself. When you feel that you are improving, you feel even better about yourself. And when your improvement leads to better performances, you feel still better about yourself. Feeling better about yourself is a big part of confidence.