Bridging the gap between Stage and Practice


Senior Member
This is a problem that just arose recently, and I really can't figure out what is happening. I play in a punk rock band, so my drumming is typically really straight forward. I always focus on groove with fills and flare being the last thing I think about. Recently the front man suggested I be a little less "modest" with the drums.

I've always been good with average fills, and I like to do different things, like playing halftime shuffles where it fits, or maybe do some break beats on the hi hat, but when I try to play them live it's like there's a mental block for most of the things I practice, and the things I can play are made ten times more difficult because I can't fight the habit of being tense when I'm playing in front of a crowd.


"Uncle Larry"
I would say to video yourself at a gig. Try and see what the front person is referring to. If you could get their input on the video, then you can determine if the suggestion is warranted or not. Sometimes front people don't understand drummers. Sometimes they are invaluable, because they are in a position to hear the net effect better than the drummer is. It depends on the front person. You need to be able to see and hear yourself while not playing. I'm sure with that perspective, anything you do that needs improvement will be easily seen.

So yea, video.


Platinum Member
Sometimes, musical styles clash a bit and "taste" is a funny thing.

I was in a band at one point, and the singer became a big fan of stuff like Mars Volta. He started asking for me to play more and more. He basically wasn't happy unless I was playing crazy stuff, 16ths or more most of the time. That's just not how I play. I don't think it sounds good, especially not with the music we were playing.

So you can either make him happy, you can be happy, or you can work together to find a middle-ground.


Silver Member
If you're playing in a punk cover band then your templates should be the original parts.

If this is an original punk band then you can be guided by certain styles but the end result should be your call. Not saying you should be arrogant about it but there needs to be some conversation about how a 'band member' can choose what he plays vs. a paid sideman. If you're more Clash than Blink-182 or Mars Volta then that's you

If I'm getting paid I usually defer to who is the leader or writing the check. I'm a for-hire player and I'm delivering a service.

If there's no bread involved, it's my dime so to speak and I feel I should have freedom (within reason) to do what I want.

If the latter is your case then it's time to politely explain that to other band members and see if that's a deal breaker.

That's how I see it.



Platinum Member
It sounds to me the question is not so much about "should I play this stuff?" but rather "how do I play this comfortably?"

The only answer is practice and experience. There are lots of things I can play in practice that I could not pull off in a gig tonight. Nerves is part of the reason, and the other part is making these techniques flow in the context of the song. Make sure you are practicing things in that manner, over and over, until it is ingrained. You may have to start off adding and working on exact fills one at a time, rather than improvising. Then, as you become comfortable in practice, try adding it live.

That's where nerves come in, and for me, the only thing that has ever beat nerves is to just keep doing it until you are comfortable and there are no stressful "can I do this?" thoughts, even subconsciously. Repetition under performance conditions is the only solution.

The good news is, the more you add these fills to your vocabulary, the more you will be able to use them in new conversations (songs).

Keep at it, make sure you are musically comfortable with the choice of fills (what Larry was getting at, I believe) and get out there and rock.


Silver Member
Re: Bridging the gap between Stage and Practice Pt. 2

I apologize that in my last post I only addressed part of the OP's post.

In regards to getting practice material to stage I have several thoughts.

The first one is relentless work on the ideas and techniques. I'm working on several things now. Every so often the result of practicing the material will surface in some way. It won't be exactly what I'm practicing but it will be related and will just kind of spill out.

My feeling about grooves and fills coming with me to the gig is that if I want it exact, I have to roll it through many scenarios for it to be used musically and confidently:

1) Practicing slowly. A lot
2) Practicing at many different tempos with a metronome, especially uncomfortable tempos. That can be just a few bpm slower or faster but can also be much faster. John Riley talks about the concept of headroom at approx :46 here. Although his Master Drummer DVD is primarily about jazz, the concept can translate to any music style and technique. Really worthwhile concept to check out. BTW: I own this DVD and it's great!
3) Practicing ideas, concepts, grooves, etc with prerecorded material. This can be 'play along' like Tommy Igoe's Groove Essentials or even tunes with drums already on it. I recommend both. That's what I'm doing right now with some Brazilian and brush work.
4) Like Larry said, videoing or even just recording audio can help a lot.
5) Practicing variations then using the variations with the prerecorded material just mentioned.

We have to slay the dragons that face us in the practice room. Then after we tame the beast, we bring it on a leash to the gig and make it obey every command.......OK enough silly analogies. :)


Jonny Sumo

Senior Member
Imagine the crowd are naked dude...takes away their advantage! sounds like you just want to get it right and maybe are nervous of fluffing a fill or rhythm trying to be 'flash'; everyone makes mistakes dude, I wondered if your front guy was trying to encourage you a little? if he's heard you do different stuff at practice and just wants you to shine a little bit??
Fly a little dude, you'll drop back into the backbeat, ya know the stuff inside out don't ya??chill a little, its supposed to be fun too. Good luck man..


Silver Member
1) check out Hal Galper's concepts ["the instrument is an illusion" on youtube or]. essentially all the logical based stuff in the practice room absolutely must be turned off on Stage. completely. your mind must be blank, zoned out & into the music. Play "dumb" & have all the tunes memorized. Vinnie summarizes this nicely: "'s called flow. Our ability to control things and analyze things is in direct opposition to a mantra that I have: Thought is the enemy of flow. People ask me, “What do you think about when you’re playing?” The answer is basically nothing. Thought happens in a completely different way out of flow. It’s contemplative and analytical and problem solving. In flow, it’s completely different. It’s like a real-time program running in the background that doesn't interfere with what’s going on. The ability to adapt in a given moment is beyond the scope of another type of focused thought process.” -- Vinnie Colaiuta (from Modern Drummer, Jan 2012)

2) depends on the relationship / skill level of the front man: maybe the front man is a cool guy or been around awhile, maybe has a point. a certain level of playing IMHO you (your style / playing / tech / everything) is NOT a democracy...its is a dictatorship that you control & (in general) is not open to casual suggestions. no one needs these vague suggestions from an accountant at a music gig.

3) check John Freese's playing w/ the Vandals. i try to play all punk like this. just having fun & badassery. a sense of playfulness like good jazz improv.


Staff member
I play in a punk rock band.

I like to do different things, like playing halftime shuffles where it fits
Am I out of touch with the progression of punk since the late 70's? Half time shuffles in a punk band - seriously?

Anyhow, everything you describe is nerves based, even if you don't feel nervous. We all suffer a deficit (no matter how slight) between ability in practice & getting it out clean on stage. Adrenalin can work both for & against you. Harness it well, & you can turn the tables to excel live. I find the easiest way to pull out the best performance in myself, is to play considerably below my technical ability limits. That way, I can relax, & get into enjoying the gig, rather than tensing up waiting for that difficult bit.

i suspect the stuff you're referring to is near the limits of your own ability. If that is the case, leave those bits at home until they're second nature. I have an acid test for stuff I allow on stage. If I can hold a conversation whilst playing it, it's good to go :)

Remember, most of us practice something until we get it right. The real pro's practice until they never get it wrong :)

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I have been going through the same thing.

If a certain song has you playing a beat or fill at your maximum pace then you'll need to practice it 10-20bpm faster at home with the metronome so that you have head room to play it comfortably.

Also I think you need to be bold and set the tone earlier on in the show.. stick your neck out, take a risk and show yourself what you can do, let yourself making a mistake is part of breaking free.

Lots of great points here already.