We’ve all been awed by those blazingly-fast drummers who effortlessly weave tones and timbre across their drum kit while their sticks are nothing more than a blur in motion.
Yeah so, I’ve never really been one of those drummers. 😏
Sure, I can pull off a few cool licks here and there – and sometimes I drop a stick or have a muscle cramp up on me and I do something unique and unexpected as a result. That’s totally by chance, so I’m not claiming any talent there!
But I’m never going to be the dude behind the kit in the next shred fest or Guitar Center drum-off.
I’ve always felt my greatest skill as a drummer is to listen to my band, understand the dynamics of the song and, above everything else, keep us on time and as tight as possible. If I’m playing at my best, I create a “pocket” for the rest of the band to rest in so they can play at their best.
Somewhere over the past few months, I’ve lost my pocket. I don’t think I dropped it anywhere, but with two monkeys for children … stuff has been known to fall out of the car unnoticed when we’re rushing to and fro.
All jokes aside, it’s gotten to the level where I’m in my head more than a little bit. Is it something off with the sticks I’m using? Are my tones throwing me off? Am I monitoring the wrong things while playing? Am I just no good?
In this weird season where I’m in a funk (and not the good kind of funk that makes you bob your head), I’ve been coming back to the same few ideas about myself and the way I know I need to move forward to come out of this.
Remember why I’m drumming in the first place
We’re all uniquely wired. Groove, rhythm and syncopation are tied to my DNA – surely 23 and Me would confirm that, right?
But it’s Imposter Syndrome that creeps out of the shadows of a flubbed fill or rough rehearsal. It’s those negative words that sneak in and try to pin me down and make me feel useless. Man, I’ve been there before and have let them have me believing it too.
But these days, I’m trying to constantly remind myself that my ability and opportunity are all ordained by my Creator. I wouldn’t make even a thud or a thump without His blessings in my life. So, when I sit with a pair of sticks in my hand, I have to fix my gaze on the One who put me where I am, with the skill I possess and the privilege I have to lead others in praising Him.
I make noise, rough or remarkable, to glorify the One who lets me make noise in the first place. When I put it in that perspective, my heart literally wells up with joy to know that, despite my mistakes, I still get to show up and do it all over again. My worth is not in how I or anyone else feel about my drumming, but in how the Lord receives the intentions and devotion of my offering and that He is given the glory.
Focus on what I can control
There’s not an hour that goes by that I’m not thinking about music and drumming. I’m always hearing rhythm, always finding musicality in the world around me. (Right now, I hear a dishwasher that sounds like it’s playing a swing beat.)
It’s leaning into the rhythm and music around me, honing my craft and carving out time to practice and refine what I do. If I were being honest with myself, I don’t set up drums in my house, so practicing to the fullest extent just doesn’t happen right now. But there’s always a pillow or a practice pad. I can control how I prepare.
I can also control my attitude when things don’t go the way I’d anticipate or desire. I can let myself sink into a woe-is-me place and wait for the tide to turn itself. Or I can do the things I know I need to do to get the results I want. Attitude, perception and mindset go a long way to getting where you want to be. It’s about reminding myself I can, rather than being frustrated that I didn’t.
Remembering where I’ve been before
I’ve played music with some incredible artists and musicians along the way. People who have devoted decades to their talents – and it shows in their skill and their confidence.
But even the greatest musical phenomes have their off days. It’s those lows that really make us appreciate and long for the highs.
And it’s also a good reminder that I’ve had those highs before. Pocket drumming isn’t new for me – I’ve been able to do what I do for a long time now because people know I’m steady, reliable and know how to get the band where we need to be.
If I’ve done it before, I can do it again.
On drumming through the dog days
So COVID hasn’t been the most inspiring, most musically-fulfilling season of my life, but in every slump, we must take the opportunity to learn and grow.
For now, I choose to remind myself I’ve played as long as I have, not by accident, but because I’ve been made to do so and because other players know what I bring to the table. With some practice, constant gut checks and a healthy dose of persistence, I’ll see this thing through to the other side.