#120: Who is the Best Musician in the Room?

How to be a better drummer by finding the best musician in the room.

Want to instantly make your come across as tighter and having more feel- without really changing much of anything in your actual playing? Here’s one way I’ve figured out how to do that (and it pretty much works every time).



This has been a long week for me. I realized, it hit me today that last week I only … This is supposed to be a daily podcast, but I only did one episode last week, so I apologize for that. Thanks for your patience with me. I’ve been doing some things in the back end of all the content that I create for you as a drummer. I’ve been doing a lot of things in the back end to try to make it where I could free up some more time to focus on the things that it seems like most of you want to know about and hear about, and hopefully provide that for you. Provide more of what you like and less of what you don’t, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

I’m back at it this week, though. We’re going to have a full week of podcasts this week, so I hope you’re looking forward to that. And then one funny story, really quick, if you haven’t seen as of this recording, my most recent Instagram video, the drumming video of me playing, go check that out because it’s really funny. I actually have a bass shaker kind of thing. It’s called the Transducer. It’s not like the normal kind of … They have those things called butt kickers that you put underneath your drum seat. It’s not like that. It’s a little different. But anyway, it does the same idea basically.

But anyway, I kind of overloaded it. You have to read the caption underneath the Instagram video for the full story, but I kind of overloaded this thing and was pretty sure while I was recording that video that my throne was going to catch on fire. I was sure there was going to be smoke pouring out, all kinds of calamity happening, but thankfully nothing happened. Everything was fine. I actually haven’t checked to see if the thing is actually broken or not, but the best part is that I didn’t stop the take. I kept playing and so, now you get to enjoy my confusion and concern while playing the drumbeat on video, forever. That’s my fun story for the day.

So today I want to talk about something, and I don’t remember exactly where this thought came to mind, but I definitely, I’ve mentioned this before, as a kid was way into magic tricks, like doing magic tricks and card tricks, things like that. And one of the things you learn really early on is that they always say, “Practice your magic tricks in front of a mirror” because you always want to be aware of what the audience is seeing and you start learning early about how to direct people’s attention in a certain place or a certain … Look away from your hands. Look somewhere else while you’re doing something sneaky with your hands to make the trick work or whatever. But I’m always constantly aware of what the audience is perceiving, and as a drummer as well, that awareness is kind of transferred over into other areas in my life as I’ve gotten older.

So I’m always thinking, all right, I definitely … It’s hard to have perspective on your own drumming sometimes. I always feel like I’m not quite playing as good as maybe I want to play, and that never goes away from me. I always in the moment feel like I need to be doing better. I’m not quite as accurate as I want to be. Things are always a little sloppier than I wish they were. But then, sometimes I watch things back or listen back to things I’ve recorded when I feel that way, and I’ll realize after, the fact that actually it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The outside perception of it is not nearly as rough as what it felt like when I was doing it.

And so, I kind of always have to play confidently knowing that the audience is perceiving something different than what I am necessarily doing. With that in mind, having that awareness and that ability to think about your own playing through the lens of what someone else is hearing or seeing, allows you to do some really cool things, and one of those things is, there’s a few little tricks I’ve learned over the years to … If I’m not feeling that I’m not playing really well or even if I think that maybe I’m kind of out … I’m trying to think the right word. That I’m out, not outgunned, but like I’m outmanned as far as the other musicians in the band are way better than I am. How do I blend in and how do I make it look like I belong with all these awesome players? I found a few tricks.

This trick today I want to share with you is something that is more of a concept, but it’s something you can do, and if you do this it will instantly make you seem like you were a better drummer than you were a few minutes ago. And this works no matter how good you are. This is not insinuating or meaning that you’re a bad drummer. Like I said, I don’t think I’m a bad drummer, but I still use this trick all the time. And that’s this.

When I’m in a band situation or studio situation where I’ve got other musicians with me, I will look around the room … and this really only works obviously if you’ve heard the other guys play and you’ve played with them a little bit, but immediately once I get started going, I’m looking and I’m paying attention, and I am trying to identify who the best musician is in the room. Now, as a drummer, a lot of us have been raised or have been trained to think that we are the best drummer or we are the best musician in the room, but that’s not always the case. But it might be. It might be true. You might be the best musician in the room.

Objectively look around and think, “All right, who is the best one here, technically or feelwise or who is executing at the highest level this music or this performance?” So, I identify that person and then I immediately and intentionally take a back seat to them. I decide, “You know what? I’m going to follow them. They are my lead.” Now, as a drummer of course it’s our job to be the leader of the band, but people are going to look to you to do that no matter what. So if you in your own mind take a backseat how you’re playing to someone else who might be really, really great or just better than we are, you actually can make yourself immediately seem like you’re way better, because you’re automatically locking in with that person. You’re letting the best parts of everyone shine, and you’re not dictating as much necessarily about how everything goes.

Like I said, in some situations you might look around and actually realize that it actually is you. You are the best musician in the room or the best musician playing today, and you can take the lead and run with that, and not in an arrogant way, but in a way that confidently leads the other musicians in a way that you end up with a great result.

That’s my tip for you today, is look around the room and identify the best musician and then follow that person. That makes you better immediately, and makes the rest of the band sound better. That’s really the job. I think most people … And this is a good tip if you want to be a professional drummer, most musicians and producers, they of course look at the end result of what was made and deciding if they want to hire you again, but a lot of people make that decision of whether or not they want to work with you long before they hear the end result. They have an emotional feeling about working with you that you give them. Just like anything, people make decisions really based on emotion and then they will find tangible things to justify their emotional, irrational decision.

Keep that in mind as a drummer. If you’re looking to be a professional, people are going to decide whether or not they want to work with you based on how you make them feel when you work with them, and then later will use the result, the music, something else, as the reason why to justify their own decision that they’ve already made.

What’s really cool about that is, on the other hand, if you can make them feel really great about working with you, like I said, they will hunt, and pick, and choose reasons to work with you again. A lot of times the only tangible thing they have from working with you is the recording they have of you or the performance, whatever it is. In a way, they’re going to be judging that performance based on the emotion they felt about playing with you. Again, if the producer or the band leader, whoever feels really great about working with you, it’s going to make them automatically want your performance to be better and make them perceive your performance to you better.

That’s a great tip for getting called back for more gigs, is focusing on how you work with other people and also, like I said, find the best guy in the room and follow him. Make everyone feel like they’re great musicians. You can go a long way by being encouraging, as well. I hope that helps you today. I can’t wait to talk to you again tomorrow about more awesome drum stuff. Bye for now.


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