Being the drummer of a live performance act requires a certain blend of passion, discipline, and intuitive creativity. It’s the drummer’s job to hold down the songs’ pulse and momentum during shows, and unfortunately, their mistakes are more usually noticeable than other players. There are a few routines and habits that drummers can adopt to ensure that their performances are not just airtight but memorable. In this article, we’ll provide tips you can utilize to improve your live drumming performances.
1.Home is a metronome.
The first tip on this list seems like the most obvious one but is often overlooked by younger players and sometimes misused by more experienced ones. The metronome should be the very foundation on which you build your drumming chops. A metronome does more than help you keep a steady tempo. Metronomes can be used to establish the pocket of a song or the essential groove. Even certain four to the floor patterns require your snare or kick to be slightly off click, and without a metronome to use as a reference, you can easily deviate timing.
Every time you can, practice with a metronome. AS the rhythmic backbone of a band, there is no higher priority for you. Trying to find the metronome sound that works makes your ears feel the most comfortable. Many drummers like to use percussive sounds like woodblocks as samples for their clock track as it sounds more natural. Others prefer to use synthetic blips or other subtle tones to overwhelm whatever other music they are playing along with. There are many compact, affordable metronomes available at most music stores, as well as metronome apps you can store and utilize on your phone or pc.
2. Listen and Look
As a musician, your ears and eyes are more important than your hands or feet, or voice. The best musicians and composers are generally the more perceptive ones. Your ability to listen and absorb music will directly reflect your playing capabilities. When learning a set of songs, try to spend a healthy chunk of time listening to the various elements in the arrangement, not just the drums. You can even mimic the parts you’re focusing on with your hands, which is a nice way of staying in tune with how your body responds to music in real-time. This subtle routine can be likened to athletes that run their drills mentally before doing any physical activity. Your brain develops coordination with your ears just as it does the rest of your body. Train your ears to listen to a song with intent, and you’ll find that your body follows suit in a more organic fashion.
Just like the ears, the eyes need to find their place in the band. Many drummers develop a strange habit of looking down on their kit while playing to maintain focus.
This positioning prevents the band from sending you any cues or information and creates a mental divide between you and the other musicians. Look up, look out, and your drumming will feel more present. Facing forward and playing outward also has an aesthetic effect on the crowd, who will feel more involved in your playing thanks to your body language.
3. Sharpen your cue
During a song, most drummers split their attention between the arrangement and their articulations. While some drummers can learn and memorize full arrangements easily, others may need some assistance. Thankfully there are a few ways to make sure that you don’t miss any cues during performances, which will be especially helpful if you have to remember extensive sets of complex material.
Many drummers make use of charts or cue sheets placed on a stand around the hi-hat region of the drum kit. This is a time-tested method to keep your arrangements on point, and since the drummer generally sits at the back of the stage, your stand with notes won’t dilute the appearance of the performance. Other drummers like to pre-record cues into their click tracks for monitoring during live performances. However, this can also be distracting and won’t allow the band to improvise any arrangements. Try to find another musician on stage to develop a cue relationship always to have some form of reference of a song’s arrangement on access in real-time. Having peace of mind over your arrangements will make you a more comfortable player and allow you to be more present and enjoy the performance.
4. Body Language
Unlike other instruments, drumming involves a specific level of cardio and muscle fitness, especially for touring musicians that play extended sets night after night. There may be drummers that don’t exercise and can still play a good set, but they’ll more than likely struggle with long studio hours of repetitive, consistent playing and might lose steam after a few days on the road. Playing an impactful live show is like jumping onto a moving train, and you’ll want to feel confident with your body when sitting down to play in front of a crowd of strangers.
Whether you’re on the road or playing part-time, it’s encouraged to find some way to exercise your body and look after the limbs you use as a drummer. Cardio and flexibility are equally important, and you should get into a routine of stretching and warming up before your performances. A little bit will go a long way, and a better fitness level will directly boost your confidence and stamina as a live drummer.
5. Set Yourself Up
Consider your live setup to be an office or workshop. If everything is in its proper place, it’s much easier for you to perform your fluidity and focus tasks. Learn which drum calibrations work best for you when playing live, and request that the venue set the drumkits to your specs if possible. These specs could be anything from drum make and model to mic and drum placements. Also, try to ensure that your surrounding environment is comfortable and that you can see and hear your accompanying positions easily. Establish which form of monitoring is best for you, whether through headphones or floor monitors and have your monitor mix levels ready for the monitoring engineer to give feedback. Be sure to have backup sticks and equipment on-hand in case of any breakages while playing. As a drummer, you and the keyboardist are generally the only stationary players in the band. Hence, it’s trickier for you to navigate any variables that come your way during a set. With that in mind, try to prepare your kit and set it up as best you can so that your live performances look and feel effortless.
The irony of a live performance is that they consist of about ninety-five percent preparation and five percent execution (although the five percent is extremely crucial and determines the overall show quality). The tips provided above can be convenient to those drummers trying to find consistency in their playing or want to optimize their live game seriously. Thanks for reading our article on how to improve your live drumming performance.