Imagine for a moment that you were perfectly at peace with your current skill level with your musical instrument. You can play all of the things that you’ve always wanted to play. What if there were no limits to your creativity or how far you could take your playing? What if you were touring the world because you’ve invested enough in yourself and your creative passion to manifest this reality? What if music was your full-time career? What if you could achieve all this without relying on hope or luck?
Let me first tell you that all of this is possible.
You will likely have encountered people in your life – parents, siblings, friends, colleagues whose life advice is to ‘Go to school, then college, then get yourself a well-paying job.” Now, that’s not terrible advice – obviously. There are benefits to your future level of financial comfort if you do the hard work up-front and set yourself up with a niche and sellable skill.
This route isn’t the only way to work towards a comfortable future though, nor is it guaranteed. Is it your dream to have a high-paid office job – or is it what others expect of you? Is it your life’s calling?
Or are you someone who thrives in your own creativity and would rather follow your passion and gradually turn it into a career?
I knew at an early age that I’m a creative person and that a traditional 9-5 career wasn’t going to cut it. There was nothing more painful in the world to me than wasting my life, uninterested and uninspired in an office job that could mostly be automated by a computer and a banana. I did it for ten+ years though so that I had the capital to invest in my creative goals.
The key to exiting that personal hell was investing in myself. I spent time developing my creative skills, investing financially in myself and my equipment, and meeting like-minded people who might be able to help me along my path.
For me, true north was drumming. Very specific drumming too – I wasn’t interested in all styles of drumming. I wasn’t interested in becoming a session drummer. I wasn’t particularly interested in the world of famous drummers either. I especially wasn’t interested in going to an overpriced music school.
I was however obsessed with exploring and improving my own abilities as a drummer, and discovering how to do this my own way. Figuring out how to play complex rhythms and oddly timed patterns were my drug. To me, there was something new here that I hadn’t heard in a lot of other drumming and that was incredibly attractive.
It was also easy! While learning to play some of these things isn’t the easiest task in the world, the process is very enjoyable and the reward – unlocking a new skill in a relatively short amount of time, is a unique and very pleasing accomplishment.
To someone looking at me today, it may seem as though I’m lucky – as though I struck gold with TesseracT and that my current situation and drumming abilities are an inevitable byproduct of being in such a band – but that is nonsense. I got ‘lucky’ in as much as I was born into a family that supported me and encouraged my creativity – for sure. But it has taken every ounce of energy I have to push myself every single day to improve and to keep progressing my playing.
If I’m not learning, I’m standing still and I know that isn’t a good place to be. Especially long-term. You have to move, you have to put time and effort into developing yourself – otherwise, what are you doing? I only got a chance to drum for TesseracT because I’d invested heavily in myself up to that point, and continue to do so.
Let’s think about musical practice for a moment. In my view, there are three types of practice.
1: Rudimentary practice – learning the ABCs of your instrument.
2. Intentional practice – learning a specific song for a concert, for example.
3. Organic flow – allowing yourself to jam along to music, with no pre-conceived idea of what you’ll play.
Number 3 is where I personally find the most growth. Perhaps because I’ve spent enough time with ‘1’ and I’m well versed in ‘2’ – jamming is immensely rewarding, fun, and often completely overlooked by a lot of players. Drummers think that learning all of the rudiments is the most important thing and working through books of patterns by other drummers. I can tell you I have done neither of these things ever – and I’m fine!
Instead, for my practice sessions, I choose to jam! You can quickly, sometimes within seconds, realize new ideas that are on the bleeding edge of your current abilities – and you should keep a record of those ideas. From within yourself, you’ll organically identify the next thing to practice, rather than looking for external stimuli.
All it takes is for you to turn up and try – and I swear this is where I’ve grown the most as a drummer, especially over the past few years.
If you’d like to learn about this process in more detail or anything else regarding progressive drumming – please take a look at my online course – the Progressive Drumming Masterclass.