PLAYING FOR A LIVING

Joe Morris

DRUMMERWORLD PRO DRUMMER
Recently many of you have sent me private messages with this question:

A quote from sanadadrummer in my mailbox.

Im sure you have had many messages asking the same question, but if you could tell me a couple important aspects to keep in mind if I want to make a living out of playing the drums what would they be?

This could be an extremely long thread so lets just start with some basic stuff and then I'm sure everyone will chime in and we shall see where it goes. I'm not even gonna go into much playing stuff because it should be common sense. Yes, you have to groove, be able to play to a click or sequence, play for the music, have a good sound and so on and so on.

1. Listen when you play. Don't play in a bubble, listen to the other musicians around you and interact with them or hold it down when you should. So many players just forget to LISTEN!!! Its so important and will get you noticed.

2. Dynamics. Have them, use them. Build players into their solo's bring it down and build it up. So important and will get you noticed fast.

3. Be a nice Guy. Be happy, don't complain, don't be a winer!!! Be a positive force so people are happy to see you. Have a personality!!

Just the first few things that popped into my head.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
3. Be a nice Guy. Be happy, don't complain, don't be a winer!!! Be a positive force so people are happy to see you. Have a personality!!
All great points Joe, but it's this one that resonates most with me. Back in the day, when I was a bottom feeder guy soaking up basic "new signup", "ghost" stuff, & minor tour/regional live work, it was this element more than anything else that got me the gig when there were a ton of better players available. Being 100% reliable, on time, & as prepared as possible can be put on that list too.

I hate to put it in these terms, but it's true - "be the whole package".
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
great thread idea. i add:

4) be diverse - play all styles, have a working knowledge of other instruments, sing, master your own recording skills, know how to program and write, to run a business, to teach, to promote.
 
You'll need to live somewhere where there are gigs and be able to network with people
Great social skills are equally if not more important than technical drummer skills..
At a pro level,, everybody has a command of groove, timeing, musical awareness ect..
But to make a living from it you have to be in a place that has lots of bands to be in

You'll also need to work very hard and be lucky to a certain degree.. But luck to me is being in the right place at the right time, and having the abilities needed to take advantage of opportunities when they arise..
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
...don't be a winer!!!
An unintentional typo, but worth mentioning that alcohol and career do not mix well. Same for drugs. For those who enjoy them, simply keep them separate from your work.

Be a nice Guy.
I've always said that music is one of the things in life where "nice guys finish first". I would rank being a good guy/gal equal with playing ability and musicianship, and sometimes being likeable is actually more important than ability.

How many pro drummers and drumming idols are jerks? Well, there are a few... but VERY few compared to the percentage of career drummers out there. If you know a drummer who's not a nice guy, there's a good chance he's not getting far with his career, and that's probably the reason.

Bermuda
 
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Joe Morris

DRUMMERWORLD PRO DRUMMER
great thread idea. i add:

4) be diverse - play all styles, have a working knowledge of other instruments, sing, master your own recording skills, know how to program and write, to run a business, to teach, to promote.
Excellent point. Versatility is a huge factor.
 

Joe Morris

DRUMMERWORLD PRO DRUMMER
You'll need to live somewhere where there are gigs and be able to network with people
Great social skills are equally if not more important than technical drummer skills..
At a pro level,, everybody has a command of groove, timeing, musical awareness ect..
But to make a living from it you have to be in a place that has lots of bands to be in

You'll also need to work very hard and be lucky to a certain degree.. But luck to me is being in the right place at the right time, and having the abilities needed to take advantage of opportunities when they arise..
I would disagree to a certain point about living somewhere where there are more gigs. Along with places like LA and NY yes there plenty of gigs to be had, there is also a ton of drummers trying to get those gigs so the odds are against you. The thing is no matter where you live is to conquer that scene. You are the guy people call when they need a good drummer in that town.
 

Joe Morris

DRUMMERWORLD PRO DRUMMER
An unintentional typo, but worth mentioning that alcohol and career do not mix well. Same for drugs. For those who enjoy them, simply keep them separate from your work.



I've always said that music is one of the things in life where "nice guys finish first". I would rank being a good guy/gal equal with playing ability and musicianship, and sometimes being likeable is actually more important than ability.

How many pro drummers and drumming idols are jerks? Well, there are a few... but VERY few compared to the percentage of career drummers out there. If you know a drummer who's not a nice guy, there's a good chance he's not getting far with his career, and that's probably the reason.

Bermuda
I myself find that doing drugs while working is just fine for me. LOL Just kidding!! Only you Jon could hit my winer comment. LOL I'm tired when I write this stuff. LOL And the being a nice guy thing. OH yea your right on the money with that. Actually, when we first met you were and continue to be always a great hang and a nice guy. So you should know. So true so true.
 

dale w miller

Silver Member
An unintentional typo, but worth mentioning that alcohol and career do not mix well. Same for drugs. For those who enjoy them, simply keep them separate from your work.
I'd like to say that is a 100%, but I was once fired because I didn't "party".
 

Sparkboss

Senior Member
These are all great tips, and seemingly apply to all working drummer situations.

But have you any tips that may be specific to playing in unfamiliar / temporary areas? Of course i'd expect the same networking rules to apply, i guess i'm just looking for reassurance or something i may have overlooked!
 

mikeyhanson

Silver Member
But have you any tips that may be specific to playing in unfamiliar / temporary areas?
If by "unfamiliar" you mean being asked to play for somebody you may not know or otherwise did hear of until then, then I think that focusing on honesty, punctuality, friendliness, willingness to adapt, and making a good impression would be the things I'd do to get another gig with someone.
Give proper respect to people that you want in return, and I think you'll be in good shape.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Does anyone here think that the better player you are, meaning if you are a great player, and can really deliver onstage, that people will be more likely and willing to put up with the opposite traits of what is being stated here? I know I look past a lot of personality issues if the person is a top notch player, because onstage is where it really counts for me. Let's assume we're not talking about road gigs where you will be required to live with this person for a stretch.

Like say a person isn't late for the gig, but isn't there right at the beginning either, and maybe is visibly buzzed, and not mean, but not nice either, but really makes the band sound like a well oiled machine. Think that guy will get more work then the prompt, completely sober, super nice guy that is half the drummer?
 

Sparkboss

Senior Member
If by "unfamiliar" you mean being asked to play for somebody you may not know or otherwise did hear of until then, then I think that focusing on honesty, punctuality, friendliness, willingness to adapt, and making a good impression would be the things I'd do to get another gig with someone.
Give proper respect to people that you want in return, and I think you'll be in good shape.
This sounds reasonable. Do you think people will often play with a drummer who they know will only be temporary? Of corse i want to be with a group for a long time, and get really comfortable with them, and i've got plans to do just that with a buddy of mine. But my main concern is when i'm away from him, i want to play, get a good feel for different genres and overall improve myself as a versatile drummer. I just don't feel that i want to commit to any bands when i know that i'll eventually be leaving, and leaving them high and dry with no drummer :(


Does anyone here think that the better player you are, meaning if you are a great player, and can really deliver onstage, that people will be more likely and willing to put up with the opposite traits of what is being stated here? I know I look past a lot of personality issues if the person is a top notch player, because onstage is where it really counts for me. Let's assume we're not talking about road gigs where you will be required to live with this person for a stretch.

Like say a person isn't late for the gig, but isn't there right at the beginning either, and maybe is visibly buzzed, and not mean, but not nice either, but really makes the band sound like a well oiled machine. Think that guy will get more work then the prompt, completely sober, super nice guy that is half the drummer?

This sounds reasonable. Of course it will vary from person to person. It depends on the patience of all the band members, as well as the gap between how bad that players personality is and their talent. And hopefully he's not actually blemishing the bands reputation! Just my two cents, anybody else have a different point of view on this?
 

inneedofgrace

Platinum Member
Like say a person isn't late for the gig, but isn't there right at the beginning either, and maybe is visibly buzzed, and not mean, but not nice either, but really makes the band sound like a well oiled machine. Think that guy will get more work then the prompt, completely sober, super nice guy that is half the drummer?
I guess it depends on who is making the decisions as to who gets the work and what the drummer is being hired to deliver (and how much in some cases). And it might also depend on the makeup of the rest of the band, and whether there are already problem members that they need to work around.
 

Garvin

Pioneer Member
I would disagree to a certain point about living somewhere where there are more gigs. Along with places like LA and NY yes there plenty of gigs to be had, there is also a ton of drummers trying to get those gigs so the odds are against you. The thing is no matter where you live is to conquer that scene. You are the guy people call when they need a good drummer in that town.
Good point here. I've found myself living in one of the smaller, more out of the way places I ever could've imagined living, and I've never been busier musically. It took a year or two to get to know folks. But eventually it seems like if you can keep time, you are already in the top 3 of the call list. There's a bit more driving involved working in a place so spread out, but the gigs are out there. I'm not talking about bar gigs either. Recording, festivals, special events etc... That's the stuff I've really tried to stick with. It's actually probably only 1/3 or 1/4 bar gigs.

I think you just have to be willing to say yes a lot to everything until you start to meet the folks who have other, more interesting projects. I took church gigs, and classic cover gigs until I started meeting some folks. Then I could slide out of those things I wasn't inspired to do.

One other thing. Be friendly with other drummers. If someone shows up that you don't know, but he seems to know everyone else, let him sit in. I try to be as generous as possible about this. It is something that I've always valued and appreciated about the drummers I've been around in other scenes. Letting go of the throne, or that sense of territory really helps it feel more like a friendly community. Good things happen when you are good to people. I think that goes back to one of Joe's best points. "Be nice".

 

rogue_drummer

Gold Member
Kinda like to add here, if you get hired, don't show up, set up your gear, then go someplace in public where you can be seen and light up a reefer or two to "get in the mood". There may be other people around and who see you who totally disapprove of it, are already in trouble on a drug related charge or are recovering drug addicts. It's like offering a recovering alcoholic a beer or mixed drink. Have some respect and tact.

Sound simple enough and should be a "no-brainer", right? But those drummers who do it, won't be working much?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Does anyone here think that the better player you are, meaning if you are a great player, and can really deliver onstage, that people will be more likely and willing to put up with the opposite traits of what is being stated here?... Like say a person isn't late for the gig, but isn't there right at the beginning either, and maybe is visibly buzzed, and not mean, but not nice either, but really makes the band sound like a well oiled machine. Think that guy will get more work then the prompt, completely sober, super nice guy that is half the drummer?
Half[/I ]the drummer? Sometimes, yeah. But abilities being equal or even close, the nice guy almost always wins. The only exceptions I've seen are where the drummer's name carries some cache to the group's success, or of course when it's the drummer's group. Still, I don't think I could name more than 5 or 6 such instances, and I hesitate to do so anyway. :)

Bermuda
 
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