We live in some weird times. Smartphones, YouTube, the upheaval of the music industry, vitriol-spewing trolls, more information than we can possibly digest, bombarding us from every angle, every minute of the day…
This is life on the internet.
These relatively new (and harsh) realities are having an effect on the way we do business, the way we consume media, and even the way we feel about ourselves (or others). If you’ve spent any time digging around online, I’m sure you feel it too.
There’s no turning back at this point though. No one’s going to burn their routers or cast their smartphones into the sea. We simply have to find a way to make do… A way to not get lost in the great overwhelm that is being a person with internet access in the 21st century.
So, because I have struggled (and still struggle) with a bunch of things I’m going to cover here, this is both a reminder to myself AND a bit of a PSA.
If we’re going to navigate these murky waters (and stay afloat), it’s going to take some resolve – and some determination to not fall victim to the sharks just below the surface.
And this stuff goes for drummers of all stripes: educators, beginners, old pros, weekend warriors, the guys and gals with the huge stadium gigs, and certainly people like me (and maybe you) – experienced but growing, somewhere in the middle of “the timeline” and trying to figure out what it means to carve out an identity on this instrument… Be it creatively, professionally, technically…
There’s some generational focus here too. Plenty of the Old Guard may suggest that we just ignore it – and that’s certainly an option – but for those of us that grew up with the internet (call us Millennials if you must), it’s part of our daily lives. It’s part of our work, the way we communicate with friends, and so on… We could certainly deal with it less, but that’s not our only option.
We’ve all got our doubts and our points of confusion, our bad habits and attitudes. All of this is amplified by the deluge of of 24-hour info that is the interwebz. Instead of damning the whole thing, here are a few ways to deal with it:
1. Don’t Get Lost in Comparison
It used to be (before my time), that to see the greatest drummers in the world, you had to order a Modern Drummer VHS tape or go see a show in person – if it was close enough, if you could afford it. There were a few instructional videos too, and if there happened to be a local legend in your area, you could take lessons in person…
But all of that is pretty tangible. It requires some effort to acquire, and even more importantly, it’s a rarity. You might have ONE tape full of legends to obsess over for a while, one show to relive (unless you happened to live in a music mecca), and so on. Nowadays, you can’t get away from it! If you’re an interested enough drummer to follow social media channels or surf through YouTube, you know damn well that there’s a new video of mindblowing drumming every single day. Multiple times a day.
The upside is that we get to take in so much incredible, inspiring drumming – and that each and every one of us has the opportunity to share our art with the world (I’ll get to that in a bit). The downside is, well, it’s pretty easy to feel like a chump when you see a new amazing drummer everywhere you turn.
The natural, self-deprecator in us immediately sizes up this “competition,” and usually the results aren’t so hot. We focus on the stuff we can’t do, how many views the video has, the cool gear they’ve got that we don’t, the cool gig they’ve got that we don’t… Everything that reminds how “not them” we are…
And that worms its way into our brains and tells we aren’t good enough, that we can’t be good enough, and blah blah blah. That negativity beast rears its ugly head.
STOP! That’s a trap. It’s not the whole story. A video clip doesn’t show you the hours of work, the money and time spent on education, the background… It also doesn’t show you any of the other aspects of that person’s life – the things they struggle with, the problems they face.
First off, it’s not a contest, and second, no two people are the same. That video you saw that made you want to crawl in a hole and die, that made you want to throw your drum kit out the window – that person’s life is not – and COULD NOT BE – like yours. They’re just doing their thing, working at it like we all are, and the sum total of their experiences created the snapshot you saw. That’s all. We’re all different, so worry about your own journey, not how unlike someone else’s it might be.
2. Get Inspired
Those very same Instagram licks from relatively “unknown” drummers – all the way to crushing examples of prowess that come from PASIC and Meinl Festival and all the others – all of it should serve to entertain, inspire, and educate you. THAT is what all the content is for. It’s not there to make you feel bad.
It’s all about attitude. It’s the difference between watching a clip and thinking “I’ll never be able to do that,” and watching the same clip and thinking, “Whoa, I’ve got work to do!”
And there is certainly plenty of work to do (^ case in point).
When you see someone’s backstage photo at their amazing gig, jealousy gets you nowhere – but motivation does. If that’s what you want, and the image you see stokes that flame, start thinking about what it takes to get there – and not some negative projection aimed at the person who has the gig.
The same goes for the legends and your peers. When you see someone kicking ass, get excited about how you could do the same. Don’t get mad at them for pursuing the craft. It’s that simple (easier said than done, I know – but keep it mind when that bad attitude flares up).
As you surf through the internet, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If it’s educational, learn something from it. If it’s impressive or over your head, keep that in perspective when those jealous thoughts crop up, and consider how far you can go with time and hard work. If it’s downright entertainment, just relax and enjoy the show!
3. Fight The Wanderlust
There are hundreds of hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. Even the tiny sliver that makes up the drumming portion of those clips has to be a baffling figure. Drumeo alone has over half a million subscribers, and they are just one giant of the online drum lesson world… There are channels upon channels of videos to teach you grooves and licks and different styles… Just on YouTube.
And that’s awesome! All over the internet, you can find educational material on just about any topic you want… But it comes at a cost.
There’s always MORE… In the sidebar of YouTube or tiny scroll away on your social media of choice, a haphazard search term in any browser… Pages upon pages of books on Amazon, PDFs as far as the eye can see. Even if you choose a central place for your drumming interest and attention – from an individual like say JP Bouvet’s site, or a more collective approach like DrumChannel – there’s still an incredible amount of content.
Again, this isn’t an inherently bad thing – but it does lend itself to distraction. Instead of tattering the pages of a single method book, memorizing and internalizing every exercise, we have the option to learn anything and everything half-ass. It’s way too easy to find a lick or an exercise, mess around with it enough to get it under your limbs (however long that may take), and move on to the next shiny thing.
I think it’s good to get a wide range of opinion, to explore teaching styles until you find what works for you, to get a broad take on things…
But the conventional wisdom of mastery has to be considered. If you’re the jack of all trades, scooping up semi-learned versions of every lesson you can find, what are you actually gaining? What kind of musician are you building?
So as much as you can (as much as I can), try to run some ideas through the ringer. Take the time to internalize and “master” the things you practice – if that’s what you’re looking to the internet to achieve. I hear it from various teachers again and again… Probably from surfing through way too many lesson videos.
4. Just Be Nice
By and large, drummers are cool people. The “community” or “industry” is full of friendly stories, wisdom passed on, connections forged around the world… And for the most part, the online drumming world follows right along.
There’s still that mean streak of the internet though, where trolls and negative, angry people say ugly things – and that doesn’t really do anyone any good.
Neither does fighting with them.
This part’s easy – if you don’t like something, just move on. For all of those reasons listed above, there’s plenty else for you to enjoy. There’s no reason to be shitty to people just trying to play the drums.
5. Actually Connect
Take it a step beyond not being mean – be actively friendly. There are a ton of great folks out there, with stories to share and experiences you can learn from. There are friends to be made that share your passion for this instrument in all different circles, so why not make the most of it? It’s for you and for everyone else.
Social media is great for this, and because you can search hashtags and groups and pages, it shouldn’t be too tough to find drummers – and from there, just find the people you like to talk to.
It also doesn’t hurt to seek out and engage with the material “average joe” drummers share – instead of just watching and following the big dogs. A: think about how it makes you feel when another person likes or compliments something you share… Pay it forward. B: it’s a more accurate barometer for the real world of drumming, and not just the mega-skill and super-success that can make us all feel self conscious.
You might get an interesting chat out of it or you might get zilch. There’s nothing to lose in reaching out. You might make a drum friend for life.
This falls right in line with the previous item. Put stuff out there! That’s what I’m doing with this blog, with Instagram, whatever… The people you know want to see what you’re up to (and if they don’t, they don’t have to look :p), and you never know who you might encourage or inspire with a video, a post, a song you wrote.
If the internet is the great deluge anyway, and people are already flooding social media channels with all kinds of inane (and interesting) things, there’s no real harm in putting your drumming out to the world. You can take it as seriously or as casually as you want to, but try it out. If you’re feeling timid, keep those security settings tight and only share with people who won’t be too hard on you.
You could find a coworker or acquaintance who wants to start a band but didn’t know you played… You could gain new students, get a key piece of constructive criticism, book new gigs… If nothing else, it serves as a record of progress, a way to look back at growth over years to come.
Not everyone needs a website or an active social media presence. Your drumming goals are yours and yours alone, but still, there’s nothing standing in your way from sharing your creativity with anyone and everyone who might want to see it.
Part of the upside to information overload (and probably a cause), is that it has never been easier send your own signal – be that your band, your advice, your DIY creations, your take on cover songs… We’re all learning, and we’ve all likely got something to teach.
We’re still adapting to this instant, connected society we’ve built, but our actions can – even in some small way – steer this complex noise in the direction we want.
The more we use it to grow and learn, the better off we all are. The more we leverage connectivity to form real relationships, the less “surface level” it becomes. The more positive we are in each of our online interactions, the more pleasant the internet (or at least our little corner of it) becomes.
It’s never going to be perfect, but the right attitude can save us from us from plenty of pitfalls.