After far too long a time I have landed the gig I want. Well paid, playing with great musos, challenging material and doing profile performances. These jobs are out there but they are not usually advertised in the paper or on classified sites.
This is just my opinion on what young drummers should do in order to help establish themselves as professional players. Feel free to disagree, and I’d encourage you to suggest any alternative strategies to young players. No need to read on if you already have the gig you want.
So, you have been playing a few years and chops are sounding pretty cool in your bedroom/garage/shed. Teacher says your technique looks good and grooves to a metronome are in the bag. The following 8 points add up to a strategy that will assist with the transition from garage to profile gig. It certainly did in my case:
1. Join a covers group. This gets number 1 as you will have to learn many aspects of playing drums which often get overlooked. Working on your time feel, kit sound, interacting with other musicians and pacing yourself for a whole evening’s worth of drumming is a lesson in its own right. Learn the songs thoroughly and play the proper parts. No need to quit your originals band, which will benefit from all the covers work. Not to mention it pays well.
2. Professional conduct in all situations is a must. It sounds beyond obvious but I’ve been a ring in on well paid jobs where the artist has said “Wow Phil, you turned up on time, set up on time, weren’t arrogant and rude, interacted with the rest of the band on and off stage and didn’t whinge about the food.” There are plenty of unprofessional musos out there already, no need for any more.
3. Learn and become proficient in all styles. A lot of drummers only listen to and play 1 or 2 styles such as metal, rock, jazz or funk. This has been said before but there is a huge opportunity for drummers in other styles. Listen to and learn all other styles such as pop, country, latin, blues, folk etc. Some of these styles are not usually performed in stadiums so you’ll need to contain your volume.
4. Jam with any and all artists. As well as rehearsals with your regular group, jam with players who perform a variety of styles. This will do wonders for your musicianship and give you an opportunity to “field test” those grooves from all the different styles you’ve been working on. These styles will have an influence on each other in your own playing. Your regular group shouldn’t mind. Let them know you are keen to branch out as a player which will benefit them in the long run.
5. Consider all opportunities to perform. Sit in with a band performing one of those less “usual” styles should their regular drummer no be able to do the gig. Use the internet to see who may be planning to perform near where you live and contact them ahead of time. As well as expanding your drumming vocabulary and repertoire it will be an opportunity to meet other musicians. Vital for networking and you get some new friends to boot. It is easier to land a gig when there isn’t 1000 other drummers also keen for that style.
6. Consider performing for the experience. This is a can of worms, and we have all heard the analogy of plumbers unblocking pipes in a venue on New Year’s Eve “for the experience”. PLEASE NOTE I AM NOT SUGGESTING ANYTHING AKIN TO MUSICAL EXPLOITATION HERE AND DEFINITELY DON'T PLAY FOR FREE WHEN YOU KNOW SOMEONE ELSE IS GETTING RICH. However if you have the time for it consider local performances for free, or interstate performances where your expenses are covered. Consider gigs at a charity event a donation of your time to a worthy cause. As well as the experience once again you’ll get your own name out there as someone who does the job as a professional.
7. Seriously consider recording for free should the opportunity arise. Drum on someone else’s tracks for free and you have yourself a professionally recorded demo! Prior to the studio session it is worth having the conversation with the artist regarding your circulation of a snippet of their recording for your own promotional purposes. With their permission circulate the recording of your playing, promoting both yourself and the artist. Well worth the cost of a tank of fuel if that’s what it takes.
8. Be your own manager (and everyone else’s)! This is kind of an advanced tip for those who are already on the road. Things are more likely to happen if you make them happen. Be organised, practical and thorough. Be well connected not only with other musos but venue owners, bar managers, soundies and agents. This is also about getting your name out there, but not just as a drummer. Be the person that someone rings with their idea of musical entertainment, and you turn it into reality. No one likes organising everything so organise everything yourself. That way when the phone rings about organising a performance at an event then you’re already on drums!
To sum it all up, profile drumming opportunities are all credibility based. You need the reputation as a professional before that phone rings with the gig you want.
Experience, versatility and credibility. Good luck and keep on drumming!
Phil Measham is a professional session drummer based in Canberra, Australia.
Phil has been drumming for 25 years, is formally trained and is currently performing with Smooth Ops, Canberra's number 1 corporate entertainment act.
Phil has previously performed live with many profile national and international artists, such as:
• Paul Costa - Australian number 1 artist
• Aly Cook - Best New Zealand female country artist 2012
• Neillyrich – Australian charting artist
• Ben Ransom – Australian charting artist
• Anni Piper – Australian and US blues artist
• Col Finlay - Australian number 1 artist
• Sean Patrick McGraw - Nashville
• Bobby Marquez - Texas
• Geordie Leitch - Rose Tattoo
Phil Measham uses Soultone cymbals exclusively, and is featured on drums in the following Youtube clips:
• Film Clip of “Kick It Up” by Mark Shay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b51L1A8nJ-I
• Sneaking a few polyrhythm chops in at Lizottes in Sydney: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx7sG37LIjU
• It is alleged that I make rather silly faces while playing.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJDb1dIWn8Q&feature=youtu.be
Special thanks to Vanashana Photography and Justin Hoffman Photography.
12" Splash "Custom"
17" China "Vintage"
17" Crash "Vintage"
7" Splash "Gospel"
20" Ride "Gospel"
14" Hi Hats "Custom Brilliant"
12" Mini China "Custom Brilliant"
9" Bronze Bell