I love music, I love learning about it, I love digging into the craft, studying, challenging myself, practicing and performing as much as I can… I’m pretty certifiably obsessed.
I’m proud of it, honestly. I kind of relish the weird comments or disbelief that I try to do as much drumming as possible. It’s part of my identity, both internally and externally.
Plenty of people don’t have that, though… A relationship with music/an instrument that helps define them. Or maybe they did, and lost it somewhere along the road.
For those of us even a little serious about musicmaking, finding and honing our creative voices, I think we have to love what we do. We should be thinking about it waiting in line or sitting on the bus…
Infatuation with your instrument and the music it makes is (or at least should be) part of the process.
Balance is important of course, but I’m looking right at those folks who play… Who want to play… But always seem to find other things to occupy their attention.
If you don’t find yourself in my camp of “I want to do this ALL THE TIME” – how can you get there?
Or, a bit more practically, how can you stoke the fires of musical passion to make time to practice (which we all know is important), to put forth more effort than you currently are – because you want to.
How do you fall back in love with your instrument?
My story goes something like this:
Around five or six years ago, my approach to drumming and music changed. I’d always enjoyed it. I’ve been at the percussion thing since 6th grade, playing kit since about 15 years old…
But I wasn’t that serious about it. Sure, I did marching band, was a good student in general, and that lead to being a section leader, caring about my parts, and all of that other stuff – but it wasn’t in my bones.
I didn’t rush home from school every day to practice, didn’t spend countless hours on the kit or dissecting music…
I jammed with friends and eventually played in some bands, but I was intimidated away from the school jazz band (there were some killer drummers that I couldn’t hold a candle to). I didn’t stick with private lessons beyond one or two sessions… I didn’t study music in college.
In all reality, I felt like I’d missed the train – that I was an okay player (at best), but even a glimpse of “greatness” was out of reach… And more importantly, that drumming was just a casual part of my life.
Then, at about 26 years old, shortly after my dad passed away, a switch flipped in my mind.
I decided that playing drums on stage, writing music with my friends, meeting people, and traveling around to perform were my favorite things to do… That the physical and mental challenges (and thereby, potential for growth) were incredible and exciting…
But I was still the same player I’d been for years, and to me, that wasn’t good enough. I might not become a world-renowned player, but improving my skills was/is an obvious part of making music a larger and larger part of my life.
It was time to get to work, and by mentally recommitting, I found so much more depth than I thought possible.
I fell back in love, and continue to do so in perpetuity. It burns in my belly and pushes me forward day after day after day… And I want the same for you.
So… Here’s what I’ve learned about keeping the passion burning – or if you’ve lost it somewhere along the way, how to get it back.
This is the single most important part.
Humans are by and large products of their environments. We make childhood friends with the kids in our neighborhood mostly because we spend time around them… We make work friends because we’re with them every day… We’re often closest to the family members we see the most…
Hell, this is marriage advice 101: make time for each other, go on dates, allow the connection to build and rebuild by sheer proximity and passage of time (and you know, some healthy communication).
The same is true of your instrument. You HAVE to spend time with it. Not just at the gig or in the rehearsal space, but whenever you can. You can MAKE time, even if it’s spotty or brief.
If you can’t be loud, play a practice pad or your guitar without an amp…
Read about it. Watch videos. Put instruments and related imagery around your house so you see it constantly… Go to shows, talk to musicians… Actively put your instrument into your daily life. Let yourself be around it enough to develop a deep relationship.
If you spend the time, the connection will build.
The Long Road
It takes a long time to “get good.”
No matter what style or instrument you’re playing, there’s a universe of detail to absorb. There are always things to improve. The more you can embrace this, the more you’ll see what a beautiful, fulfilling, lifelong relationship it can be.
Don’t be intimidated by the path, just start down it.
You’ll discover all the incredible details, the little nuances, the granular things you love most along the way.
Remember The Beginning
Something gave you the music bug. One way or another, you found your way to an instrument, and fought through the early stages of beginnerhood…
There are two huge examples of this for me.
I can remember 8th grade concert band, playing a piece called Celtic Ritual, and for the first time as a group of novice musicians, the song was actually coming together.
It was cool… And WE were making it.
A few years later, when I had a little bit of kit experience, me and two friends limped our way through Smells Like Teen Spirit in my parents’ basement.
Those moments changed everything.
It was the foundation for just how cool, how truly satisfying it is to conjure sounds out of the air, how powerful it is to not just listen to music, but to create it.
Look back into your memory banks and find those moments. What made you persevere through the steep learning curve?
Even beyond your time as a novice (and if you still are, keep at it!), look at all of the greatest moments of your musical life: the best gigs, the most enjoyable jam sessions, the big breakthroughs, the songs or performances you’re most proud of…
Take all of that stuff, and use it as fuel for the fire.
Watch Yourself Grow
This is true of literally anything. The more time you spend doing something – especially with some kind of focused intent – the better you get at it. If you put in the effort, the rewards begin to show themselves…
There’s no better encouragement for skill farming than enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Call it the snowball effect if you like. You get a little “better,” push through a plateau, gain some facility, and find yourself doing things you couldn’t do before…
And every step of the way, you’ll see A: how deep the rabbit hole goes, and B: that you are perfectly capable of learning new things.
For me, momentum is a huge motivator. The more you learn, the more you want to learn… And it keeps me coming back for more.
Fun & Exploration
Last, but not even remotely least… Forget learning songs or developing technique for a moment. Don’t worry about your band or the musicians you look up to. Don’t worry about a goal, or the long road, or anything else…
Play your instrument for joy.
Try new things, play with new people, experiment with gear, tinker, make weird sounds… HAVE FUN.
All of this serves to get you into some mode of wonder. Instead of it being a chore, a business goal, or anything of the sort, it’s back to the essence of musicmaking: exploring sounds, being creative, expressing yourself.
All the “work” can come after – the first priority is enjoying the time you spend with your instrument. Let loose, don’t worry, and allow yourself to fall back in love without any self-imposed (or external) pressure. It’s worth it, I promise.
Let me know if this helps…