How to Become a Professional Drummer

Daily Podcast for Drummers

Looking for a clear, proven path for how to become a professional drummer? Great! Because today, I’m going to outline that exact path for you…

Hey there. How are you? I am so well. I’m so excited that you’ve come back here again to hang out with me, and I’m super pumped because today is the day that I have been teasing for a long time, and I’ve been saying, “I’m about to announce something, and I can’t tell you what it is.” I’ve been saying, “If you’ve been asking about the backing tracks that I use on Instagram …” people have been asking where they can get them, I’ve been saying, “Hey, if you just wait until May 1st I’ll tell you how to get those for free.” So, I’ve just been saying a lot of, “Wait. Wait. Wait until May 1st,” and May 1st is finally here, and so I’m so excited to tell you about what I’ve got going on, but I don’t want this to just be an announcement. I want to actually share some really serious info with you, and so I think today I’m going to make this announcement, but then I’m also going to share with you what I’m going to say is really the one secret to becoming a professional drummer, and I mean that.

This is not some gimmick or some goofy, cheap catch phrase. This is legitimately the basic path and the secret to becoming a professional drummer, but first I want to tell you about how you can get those backing tracks for free. What you need to do is head over to Now, is a new website that I’m launching. It’s not live yet, but if you go there to right now you’ll be able to click a link and take a survey for me that will just help me kind of shape the final pieces of while I’m finishing it up. So, what it is is you go to, click on the link, and I believe there’s eight or so questions — maybe 10 questions at most — that just ask you, basically, like what challenges you face in becoming a professional drummer. Asks you a few questions about some ideas I had about different courses and things I might come out with.

You answer those questions and then put in your name and email, and I will email you two volumes of drumless backing tracks, but that’s not it because also just by doing that you’ll be signing up, and I’ll actually send you another new backing track every month from now on. It’s just my way of saying thank you for contributing and helping me put together Pro-Drum Academy. That’s how you get the free tracks, and that’s what I’m announcing today, but what I want to do is I want to tell you a little bit more about Pro-Drum Academy. Before I actually tell you about it –like I said, this is not an advertisement — I actually want to give you some real info.
Maybe I’ll do a podcast episode themed around each of these really soon, but there’s a idea that I’ve been working on, and I’ve done a bunch of these drum intensives over the past few months, and I’ve been really paying attention to each drummer and what he or she needs and kind of the specific challenges that they’re facing in becoming professionals. I’ve also been talking to so many of you via email and on social media, so I really appreciate all those messages, and comments, things like that. I’ve realized something about our drumming, and how most people pursue drums or playing drums professionally. I want to describe it to you, and if you’ve listened to me at all you know I’m a big fan of metaphors, or maybe parables might be a better word.

I’m going to tell you a story that kind of aligns with what I’m talking about, and then we’ll get to what Pro-Drum Academy is. I’ve read a lot … and this is not a specific story. It’s more of a general history, historical fact kind of thing, but imagine, if you will, a time when native tribes were covering the land. It can be wherever you live even if it’s … anywhere it is, but there’s a lot of tribes that migrated and found their way to streams, and so they relied on fishing streams, rivers, things like that. They relied on fishing to support their community, so to have something to eat, and so I imagine people going out, and they starting out with their … maybe trying to catch fish with their hands or with spears. Doing those kind of things.

I imagine — oh, I don’t imagine, I know — at some point tribes started understanding that these fish were swimming downstream, and so they could actually put … I’ve seen … they look almost like ice cream cones, but they’re made out of wood like wicker. So, they’re making these baskets basically that catch fish as they swim down the stream. They kind of funnel them all into one basket, or nets, or things like that. That got developed but, of course, everyone didn’t have the idea at the same time, but different people got there, and they got that idea eventually, and started being able to so much more effectively and efficiently fish and support their entire community.

Before then, everyone just thought that fishing was just a matter of luck, and a little bit of skill at actually maybe holding the spear and how you throw the spear, but most of it was just being in the right place at the right time. These people discovered that if you created this basket that it wasn’t so much about the right place at the right time. You put the time in to create the basket, and you go find the right place to put the basket, and you leave it out in the water, and the fish will reliably get caught. It might work a little faster for some people and slower for others, but these people discovered a process that worked.
I just imagine, you know, Joe Tribesman here who figured out how to do this, and he puts his basket out in the morning, leaves it out all day or whatever, comes back the next day to check his basket, and he has all this fish, and so he dumps all the fish out of the basket into his sling or his bag — however he’s carrying all these fish. I just imagine him walking … maybe he has to walk through another tribe, or walks by another tribe on the way back to his tribe or whatever — another group of people, and these other people haven’t developed the baskets yet.

They haven’t developed the way to do it like this tribe has, and so they see this guy every day walking back from the creek with this basket full of fish — just overflowing — and they are like, “Man, that guy is the greatest fisher that ever lived. He must hold that spear just perfectly. He must know how to reach down with his hand and just grab fish out of the water, and he also is the luckiest guy in the world because we know that fishing is a matter of luck, and we’ve never caught that many fish, so he just must be really lucky, but also really skilled at fishing the way that we do.”

We all know that’s not true, though, because we know that the guy found a different way. That’s kind of the metaphor that I thought of, or the parable I feel like for how most people pursue becoming a professional drummer. Now, of course, I’m a professional drummer but I personally probably know 10 or so drummers who make their living from playing drums, and I know … I’m not kidding — I live in Nashville so it’s not any stretch — I probably know 100 people who make a full-time living off of playing music, or singing, or something — you know, creating music as a musician. Lots of guitar players, bass players, key players, other instruments. But I know a lot of people, and I know them well. I know their stories well, and all of them, all of them have taken care of what I’m calling the pro musicians quadrant which is there are four aspects to becoming a professional musician and staying a professional musician.
That quadrant — this idea of these four different aspects of being a drummer — those I feel like make up the basket that these tribes developed.

It is a more reliable and consistent way to get an end result that other people perceive to be just luck and a lot of skill in one specific area. The four areas — the four pieces of this quadrant — are your playing which is, of course, the skill of playing the drums. Now, I want to stop here real quick. I’m not going to go into too much detail in each of these today, but the playing quadrant — the first part of the four pieces of the quadrant — that is actually the thing that most drummers who want to be professionals focus on. They actually focus on their playing.

They want to get better and better and better and better and better at drumming, and more chops, more complicated things. They focus so much on their playing, and not the other three pieces, and I will tell you that if you want to just be the best drummer — just playing as far as quantifiable skill goes — you do have to be lucky still to become a professional drummer. Very lucky, in fact, and I want to take it another step further with this metaphor that the idea of playing drums and how well you play the drums, that is actually what I would relate back to when I said that most people who fished at first were using spears or their hands to catch fish. That would be like the skill of playing drums. The skill of spearfishing is the same as the skill of playing drums, so when other people from the outside looked in and they saw this guy coming back with lots of fish, or they see a guy being a professional drummer they think he must be really good at playing his instrument. He must be really good at spearfishing.

While he probably is pretty good at that thing, that is not the reason why he has so many fish. That is not the reason why a professional drummer is a professional drummer. It’s the other three things in addition to the playing. So, what’s the second part of the quadrant? Well, the second part is your as a drummer. What I mean by sound is both how you tune your drums, what cymbals you play, how you play them — like how you strike those drums or cymbals — but also … but the tuning is a big part of it — how you tune drums. Then, also, nowadays especially, how you are able to record and mix it yourself as a drummer. Understanding miking techniques, recording techniques, how to get the best sound in those situations is another part of your sound. That’s part two: your sound. So, part one is your playing; part two is your sound.

Now, part three is something that some people are aware of a little bit, but they always approach it wrong. Part three of the quadrant is your or your networking. I would put all this in the how you get gigs, how you find out about gigs, how you get the call — all of those things. Relationships are a big thing, and most people who approach networking as a musician approach it completely wrong. They approach it like, “I want to be your best friend because I might get something out of it.” That will never work, especially in music industry heavy areas. I’m not even just talking about LA and Nashville and New York. I’m talking about even larger markets. Anywhere that has a … I’d say any mid-sized city probably has a pretty, pretty thriving music industry of some kind: recording and playing out, things like that that actually would pay. People in those markets in those areas are really sensitive to feeling like someone is being their friend just to get something from them. There’s another way of doing all of this and most people get it wrong. So, relationships is the third part.

We have playing. We have your sound. We have your relationships. The last part — which no one talks about with musicians — is your money/your business. How you operate your business being a self-employed musician, or how you operate and handle your money in a way that actually helps you thrive whether it’s just you or you have a family. Believe it or not — and I’m living proof of this and I know many others — you actually can make a great living as a professional musician even if you’re not playing for … you know, you’re not touring for Lady Gaga or whoever it is. You don’t have to have the biggest gig in the world in order to make a good living. You just have to know how to handle your business and your money in the right way, and how to operate with the mindset of a entrepreneur — not the mindset of a guy who just rolled in off the street, and has a guitar or a drum set or a drum and just says, “Hey, man, you want to pay me to play this instrument?” That’s not the way to do it.

Also, by the way, the money business aspect also addresses professionalism, and what you should do and how you should handle yourself in a recording session, or an audition, or a live gig — anything like that. How do you maintain your professional integrity, but also how do you make a great living as a drummer? So, those are the four parts. Just to recap: it’s playing, it’s your sound, it’s your relationships and your networking, and it’s your money and your business. Those are the four pieces of what I’m calling the pro musicians quadrant.

Now, I’m going to have a video that explains this more along with some graphics and some info up on, and if you go to right now you’ll probably notice that the site’s undergoing a little bit of a redesign. It’s probably not all done yet when you go there if you go there soon after this episode comes out, but it’s going to be done soon. As soon as this quadrant page is set up I will let you know about it, but those are the four parts of being a professional musician. I will tell you this: this pro musicians quadrant is so powerful that you can reliably become a professional musician if you can just get a handle on three of the four.

I know some people will say, “Hey, you know what? Like, the networking thing is really tough for me, but I feel okay about working on my playing, and my sound, and also working on learning about running my drumming/my musician career as a business, and handling my money — things like that. I’m good with working on those three things, and I think I can get pretty well off in those three areas, or at least kind of address those areas.” If that’s you, this is still a method, this is still a path that will work for you. That’s what I’m saying is that you really only need to address three of the four, so pick three of them and that’s all you really need to do well at. Of course, you want to probably go after all four. That’s what I try to do, and most pros that I know have done really well in three of them, and then they’ve done pretty well in the fourth, and there are many who’ve done really well in all four, but I just wanted to put that out there.

Here’s the thing — I want to relate this back to what I announced earlier — is going to be … I named it Academy on purpose because it is going to be a full learning experience. It’s going to be a process that I will walk you through where you can become a professional musician, and it will address all four areas of the quadrant. So, if that’s something that you’re excited about head over to, fill out that survey so you can help me make sure that I don’t miss anything when it comes out — anything you’re dying to know about — but then you also get those free drumless backing tracks, and you will also get updates. I will let you know when the sites live, but also you’ll get a free drumless track every month from now on which is a pretty sweet deal I think for about five minutes of your time today.

Head over there, check it out, and even if you don’t want the backing tracks it would really help me out if you did the survey, so go ahead and do that anyway. No harm in doing that. Let’s see, what else to do with that? Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got more stuff, more exciting things to announce soon. I’ve got so many things in the works, but I think I’ve probably gone well over my allotted time that I normally do for this podcast, so I’m going to stop right here for now and I’ll talk to you again soon. Bye for now.



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