Showmanship

justaramsfan

Junior Member
So the other day I decided to video-tape myself practicing/playing through songs on the radio...my playing was about what I expected, but I just looked so awkward and stiff??? Do people practice showmanship for drums, or does it develop naturally? And do you guys have any tips/ideas that you use to look cool on a drumset?
 

TTNW

Pioneer Member
Don't worry about looking cool.

However there is a lot to be said for practicing like you will perform.

I play a lot to recordings in my practice sessions. I used to have a very unbalanced mix in my practice room and my drums were much louder than the recording so it caused me to practice more quietly than I would eventually perform the songs I was learning. Once I corrected that (sometimes in a board mix in my practice room and mostly by having louder speakers to my recorded music output, I could play and practice much closer to the way I need to when performing.

As an aside, it was and is still beneficial for me to be able to play well at lower volumes so learning to play quietly has been a big benefit to improving my dynamics on the kit.

Practicing in front of a mirror is a good way to figure what you want to modify visually in your playing style.

Another thing to try is set up your kit with everything a little more opened up and spread out. Practice this way for a while so that you open up your body more and relax your playing style. With everything a little farther away and higher you have to adjust and it may help. It also helps because when you have to play someone else's set up you can adjust easier to a foreign set up with out feeling out of control.

Then when you go back to your "feel good" set up you might look and feel less stiff.

I hope this helps. If you don't choose to change your set up then you can also play along to some slower music that has lots of space between the beats and exaggerate your motions a bit and this will help you get past looking to stiff when you play.

Worry about looking cool after you've mastered the music, if it's still important to you.

Personally, I don't give a crap about how I look because at 6"4" 240lbs I alway seem to look like an ape behind the kit trying to channel some Dave Grohl spirit. At least that is what my wife says. :)
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
The 1st time I saw my self on video tape, I was mortified.

I thought I was looking like I was having a good time, but the tape showed that I looked like was trying hide behind my drums with a look of "I don't want to be here" on my face. And no one wants to watch a performer who doesn't want to be there.

Best advice is, since you're just at home without the pressure of a real show, is to just be conscious of your facial expressions, and body language when you play. And them film yourself again and see if that makes a difference.

And try playing in front of a mirror.

Once I became conscious of not hiding behind my kit and NOT having that awful expression on my face, it didn't take long to get to where I thought I should look like. And once you're there, then it becomes second nature.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Ha, I'm the opposite. I always feel more tense than I'd like but I seem to look surprisingly relaxed in videos. I guess the tension is mostly in my head MWUHAHAHAHA

Having said that, I still think that the more relaxed and poised you are when playing, the more relaxed and poised you'll look (and sound). Lessons might help. I doubt too many of us here would want to sacrifice any aspect of the music for showmanship.

On the plus side, Charlie Watts often looks a bit stiff and awkward and it's not done him any harm!

If all else fails, in the 70s the drummers of two Aussie pop bands - Hush and the Ted Mulry Gang - both looked incredibly unco and stiff when playing. I found them both strangely compelling. Maybe you could turn looking unco into an art form? :)
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
sizzle chains on your cymbals...connected to nipple rings

get a well-cut gray suit and a big "chairman's" office chair instead of a throne and light yourself from below.

paint your kit to look like a "whack-a-mole" game

project porn movies onto your kick's reso head

alternate between the facial expressions of Billy Idol and Ginger Lynn with total disregard for what you are playing at the time
Hilarious! Just might work, too.
 

Cymbalrider

Pioneer Member
The best advice is to let the music dictate what you do. Move with the music, this helps your playing as well and you won't have to worry about what is appropriate or when.
 

Volentry

Senior Member
For me I just believe that if you get all your basics down, like posture, and stuff like that, you will naturally look 'cool' while playing. Of course and relaxing (that's something basic too) while playing and getting comfortable helps too.

A drummer that looks uncomfortable and unsure doesn't look cool, right? Just my 2p.
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
I'd rather sound/play cool than look cool...but that's just me. lol
I'd rather do both.

I definitely try to pay attention to how I look when I play. I don't overdo it, but I work hard to avoid looking stiff or bored. Basically, I tend to always try to imagine there's a crowd looking at me, and I'm doing my best to entertain them.
 
The way I play live is:

  • Above all, play solidly and naturally. It's okay to make mistakes but when you can't "pull off" your songs live then there's no point playing them.
  • Be fluid and get your technique up to scratch. Good technique looks great on stage because you look natural.
  • Don't ever be afraid to let loose and have fun behind the kit. If you're playing a sexy groove, bop to it! If you're playing a heavy rock rhythm, head bang to it!
  • Look at the audience. Look around. Watch your fellow band members. Smile and be part of the show.
  • As an extension of the previous point, don't hide behind your kit. Show the audience that you are the drummer.
  • If you do a solo (which I usually do somewhere in the middle of our sets), don't make it too long, keep the interest up during solo, make it a spectacle. One of the best things I find in doing a solo is keeping that bass drum on a solid beat. It keeps the audience in the moment and shows that you're capable of rhythm and rhythmic groove, not just thrashing any drum you can hit.
  • When doing a solo in a set, tie the beginning and end into the previous and next songs. It keeps the energy flowing and feels like a part of the show, not just "your solo".

It pains me when I see other live bands that are actually playing well and doing a great performance that don't engage the audience and most of don't look like they're having fun.

For me, Muse is a huge inspiration in the way I play live. They don't talk a great deal, but they have a heap of fun on stage, are solid and wild in their performance and put on a fantastic show. They're not afraid to have a bit of a jam, throw in some short spectacles, but most of all, they do it naturally and solidly.

Wherever possible, put on a show, leave the "gigs" at the RSL :)

Oh and one last thought:
If you make a mistake, keep on playing, laugh it away and soldier on. Chances are no-one will even notice or care. There's nothing worse than a band that says "We haven't played this in a while, so it's probably gonna suck" or vocalises to the audience their weaknesses.
 
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brentcn

Platinum Member
Oh man, I saw a video of myself a few years back, it looked like I was having a prostate exam! My mouth was clenched and tight, no smiling, on the verge of tears, it seemed.

It's hard, if not impossible, to get hired when you don't look comfortable and/or happy to be there.

So I forced my self to smile through a couple practice sessions, using the Vegas showgirl trick: vasoline on the teeth! You'll have permagrin until you wipe it off! A funny thing happened: I started having more fun while practicing. Probably a psychological result of smiling so damn much, I guess! Anyways, from that point forward I made it my goal to always be showing teeth. Not a stupid, huge grin, but a relaxed smile, or, when playing something difficult or impassioned, that smile turns into a little sneer. Any emotion is better than none!

There is one local drummer who always looks so freakin' cool when he plays. He's a tall, skinny, groovy-looking black dude who wears a funky hat. But the cool thing is that when he's playing a funk or R&B groove, his head nods to the beat, backwards, while he's playing. I actually had to practice that to get it, but now it feels good to do.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I've always thought that there is daylight between "looking cool" and "looking contrived".

My number one rule for myself has always been.....DON'T POSE!! For me personally, the more I try to look cool....the more of a wanker I actually appear. Funnily enough, I think I look far more natural when I'm actually being natural....even if I'm not smiling at the time (which I can be guilty of NOT doing when I'm playing, so I'm told)....but I'm always enjoying myself regardless of my facial expression....I think people can see that TBH.

But if I "try too hard", then I just come off looking like a "try-hard".....if I try to be natural, then that's how I appear. Give me "natural" any day.
 
It's all about feeling natural and confident behind your instrument on stage. Members of a band that fall back into a corner and don't move or show any form of enjoyment in what they're doing only serve to detract from the show. You're there for the audience, the people listening, not doing rehearsal.

I don't pose per se, but I make an effort, in a way, to have a great time on stage and in front of the audience. If the band is having fun then the people in the audience will feed off that.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I've always thought that there is daylight between "looking cool" and "looking contrived".

My number one rule for myself has always been.....DON'T POSE!! For me personally, the more I try to look cool....the more of a wanker I actually appear. Funnily enough, I think I look far more natural when I'm actually being natural....even if I'm not smiling at the time (which I can be guilty of NOT doing when I'm playing, so I'm told)....but I'm always enjoying myself regardless of my facial expression....I think people can see that TBH.

But if I "try too hard", then I just come off looking like a "try-hard".....if I try to be natural, then that's how I appear. Give me "natural" any day.
That is my MO as well. I always try to put some ass into it where it matters and keep it solid and entertaining for myself. As long as I do those things, and not try and "act" the part in any way, it'll come off as sincere and genuine. For my money, that's all the "showmanship" you need.
 
All the showmanship I'm able to perform is to 1) relax 2) look around the room and 3) smile.
Sounds good to me.

The band I'm in, we like to "rock out" a bit so we throw our bodies into it too. We don't do it when it's going to mess up our performance though.

I think the biggest thing here is to know your skill level.
 

zakhopper316

Silver Member
its important to know your parts like the back of your hand, and play them while spinning and jumping running ect. when you can play your part while doing whatever you want is when you will look larger then life, when you will look like a rockstar.
 

Flavio Gasperini

Junior Member
I always loved drummers with showmanship. I mean, that's not the purpouse of drumming,but it really does have and effect on the audience!.

Stick Twirlling is something I usually do on simple grooves and fills,or any parts that I really feel that I can do it without interfering in the feel and sensibility of the song.
Throwing my sticks and catching them quickly is really another fun thing to do,cymbal catches,or stand up while I'm doing a fill,that's fun and exciting to me.

I think when you really know the material,you can try these little tricks that surely would make the audience smile and have fun together with you,specially if you're in a rock group.

But if doing those things makes you run with the song, and change the dynamics,so forget about it. Concentrate on your drumming first!.
Take care.
 
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