Tips from the brother of a drummer for becoming a drummer.
I once read a quote, possibly attributed to the late John Lennon, that behind every good drummer was an even better mother. Over the years, my younger brother has evolved into an accomplished percussionist, as have his parents who withstood the bashing and clanging that comes from every basement-confined fledgling drummer. My hilarious and devilishly handsome sibling also inherited the sensibilities and wit of his parents. One might say a musician of any stripe needs both to keep up their chops, stay healthy, and find true bliss with the instrument they have known more intimately than their own relatives. He has recently poured his experiences into an excellent blog, Fitch Drums, which is a must-read for any youngster who aspires to thrash his or her way into percussionist heaven.
Drummers are, from my own observations, a unique lot. They have the only seat on stage, and they keep it with a good eye for detail, an ear for rhythm, and a functional brain to coordinate the whole set. The percussionist is the lifeguard in the band, someone who can physically watch each member and help keep the whole gig from falling apart.
I’ve watched him and other drummers over the years, and I must say that you need plenty of sage counsel to enter the ranks. As a non-percussionist who only air drums, I would be happy to supplement my brother with the following advice for newcomers:
- Buy a stick bag, stuff it with extra drumsticks, and hang it off your kit. You will lose sticks, breaking them or launching them in mid-solo, and unless you want to try your luck completing the set with only one Vater, it would be handy to have spares on hand.
- Bring a roll of duct tape to every performance. If you kick a hole in your floor tom or smash through a snare head, you’ll understand the immediate need for some quick patchwork.
- Drummers are like sherpas: they lug around a lot of gear. Drummers are also amateur logisticians. They require dedicated transportation and the enlistment of their bandmates to haul the kit in and out of practice spaces and venues. Fabric cases with shoulder straps and handles are beneficial not so much for the owner, but any friend or relative who is unfamiliar with helping to move said kit from Point A to Point B without pulling a tendon.
- Get in early and find a parking spot close to the venue. Anyone who helps you haul in your kit will be thankful.
- Stretch before each practice and performance. Look up stretching exercises online. Drummers, much like typists, risk serious damage to their extremities without proper stretching exercises for their hands and forearms.
- Buy a good multitool. The Leatherman has been my brother’s tool of choice for many years.
- In the name of all that is holy, bring a change of clothes and a pack of alcohol wipes. You will perspire on stage. You will become the Niagara Falls of sweat. If you want to keep the friends who came out to see you, clean up after the show.
- Load the car after your set but stay to watch the other bands. My brother has always enjoyed the rest of the night making new connections with fans and peers, and it is even better showmanship to support your counterparts who succeed you on stage.
- Beer and liquor are of course the staples of most rock venues, but they can lead to dehydration. Stick to water. As a plus, bottled water is less likely to spill all over your Yamaha than say, a full pint of Sam Adams.
- If you still live at home, check in with your parents when you return from the gig, or just send a text to say that you’re getting on the road. The pride they keep in their talented child is not as important as seeing you home safe and sound.