Perspective is a funny thing – it has a way of (narrowly) defining how we see the world, and preventing us from seeing the wider picture. We can only ever really understand things through our own experience… even hearing lessons from others and trying to put ourselves in their shoes is only an approximation…
Yeah… uhhhh… what’s he talkin’ about? Isn’t this supposed to be about drums or something?
Stick with me, all of this perspective stuff is important.
As far as I can tell, it’s the biggest factor that influences how any of us might feel about our own playing.
One perspective might lead someone to feel totally inept. They’ll look at the vast world of drummers – famous ones, local shredders, all the stuff they can’t do… and get bogged down with self doubt.
Another perspective might do just the opposite and lend itself to confidence – even cockiness – because of the praise of others, standing in a local community, honors, etc. It might make people feel like they’re the best there is, and that there isn’t really anything more they can (or should) do to improve.
Both of those, no matter how beginner or advanced a drummer might be, are only a shred of the bigger picture…
Mike Johnston really turned me on to the idea of the drumming “timeline” that we’re all on, and that each and every one of us has a different journey, different strengths and weaknesses, and maybe most noteworthy, different ideas about where we want that timeline to go…
So, back to this idea of perspective: for our own individual timelines, it takes enough self evaluation (and some honest admission of weakness) to know what you have to work on – but I think it’s also hugely important to keep some “non-skill” type things in mind too.
Getting gigs and making music isn’t necessarily tied to how “good” you are, because there’s a whole myriad of other factors involved. The challenges any of us are prepared to face, and living up to the opportunities we encounter, are all tied to the sum total of our experience – not just our experience playing the drums.
Organization, networking, money management, mental health, people skills – all of these are related to the “music industry,” and just like the drumming timeline, we all have different levels of ability in any and all of those departments.
…Which takes us back to those two extremes of opinion about our own drumming – awful or awesome – and just like it takes some honesty to recognize which is which, we have to be able see when the other areas could stand some work too. Or, for the things we can’t really practice, recognize when we simply don’t have the experience… yet.
Thinking you “know it all” is even more foolhardy than thinking you can “play it all.”
For every person out there, even the most experienced players among us, there are things to learn, but that’s not the point. The point is being able to keep all of those areas, those little categories of ability, in some kind of order.
Know what you’re good at and lean on it. Know what you’re bad at and get to work.
Get a little bit of perspective on yourself, and do it as objectively as possible. I’m not the greatest, and i’m not terrible either, i’m just learning as I go. You and me and everyone else, we’re all somewhere in the middle, and it’s that notion that allows for collaboration, education, and growth – for drumming and beyond.