The 80 Percent Rule

Drummer Daily - Podcast for Drummers

Why you should only ever HAVE to play up to 80 percent of your actual abilities.

Hey, you guys. Thanks for listening to another episode of this glorious short daily podcast. Today, this episode is coming out a little bit later than I usually put them out each day because I’ve spent a couple hours outside today painting our deck. We have this stuff that we’re painting with that you have to wait to where it hasn’t rained in 48 hours. Also, once you paint, you need to make sure that it doesn’t rain for another 24 hours after that. Here in Tennessee, in a summer like this, that is nearly impossible to achieve. Basically, 3 days straight without rain. Of course, we finally hit a time, I think today, where that’s going to be possible. It was 95 degrees outside. My wife and I have been outside sweating and painting a deck for a while today. It was not fun. We got about half way done. A few weeks ago, I thought we had to half paint a deck and that wasn’t cool.

Anyway, all I had to say, this episode is a little later. Today, I want to talk to you what I would like to call, the 80% rule. Before I tell you about that, I want to tell you about my drum teacher in high school, my drumline teacher. Her name was Ms. [Vans 01:34]. Think about, if you could combine the coolest mom ever with the drill sergeant, that’s what she was. She’s all about a tough love. She cared more about us as a drumline and as individual drummers. She cared more about us being great than she did about us having fun. I think I’m really appreciative for that because years later now, you can have fun a lot of different ways. The greatness that she instilled in us to strive for was something that has affected me to this day. That’s something that I keep with me. Like I said, fun normally doesn’t last very long and doesn’t affect you for the rest of your life. Even just the experience of striving for greatness, whether or not you achieve it, that’s something that you carry with you.

Anyway, I learned this idea from Ms. Vance. In drumline, we would have these warm ups. Of course, these grueling warm ups we had to play and these really tough … They weren’t really cadences because they weren’t meant to entertain other people. They were more of just technical exercises. I guess they still were warm ups. They were technical exercises that we had to play. A lot of these things were really hard to play. They were much harder than the actual music we had to play. It was always funny to me and it came up from time to time that we were these warm ups and practicing these things that were so hard. When it came time to play whatever music was in the marching band, Reno and the orchestra, or whatever it was that we were doing at that time, what we actually had to play was so simple and easy compared to what we were having to play these exercises and warm ups.

How she replied to that when she taught us was that as a drummer … I believe this is true of any musician. We’re all drummers. I’m talking about drummers. When you get to a situation where you’re performing, leading, worship a church or whatever the thing is you’re doing; the actual show, the gig, the deal, when you get there and you’re not practicing anymore, whatever you are playing, the thing, the deal, the music, or whatever the thing is, you should only have to play up to about 80% of your ability. You should never have to in a live, legit setting have to max out your ability and stretch and be straining and barely making what you can do, barely making what’s required of you, really making it there, barely reaching the mark. I know that some people think, “Oh, it sounds very inspiring.” You always dream about like, “Oh, I want to go to a gig. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I strive for it. I did it. It was an achievement.”

My thing is this, no one else cares about how hard it is for you when they listen to it. Why not strive for and achieve something great when you practice. Because you’re the only one who really cares about the greatness you’re achieving anyway and how hard it was for you. Strive for your greatness in your practice. When you get into a public setting or when other people are listening to you play or when you get to your gig or whatever, whatever you are playing then only requires about 80% of your ability. The reason why that’s important is, because then, you can make it look easy and you can be comfortable. One of our biggest jobs as drummers is to make sure the other musicians are comfortable with what’s going on. They don’t just call drummers the backbone of the band because they sit in the back of the stage. They don’t call us the backbone just because we use to hold the beat down. It’s an interpersonal thing. It’s a way you carry yourself. You can be counted on. You can be depended on and you’re going to be the one who’s going to hold things together for everyone else.

Most of the time, the drum shouldn’t be the focal point of the band. The cool thing is that a great drummer can make an amazing band. My favorite thing as a drummer is when other musicians can come to me and say, “Hey, man, I really enjoyed playing with you because you weren’t distracting and you made me feel comfortable in what I was doing.” I think that the only way we can actually do that is, if we’re never having to play to the absolute max of our ability when it comes down to the time for the gig. That’s not to say that there’s not going to be times like, things come up and you just don’t have enough time. You can’t squeeze in enough practice like, something surprises you and how hard it is and it happens tomorrow. You’re like, “All right. I got to just stretch and get this done.” I’m not saying that that can happen and you shouldn’t go for that stuff when it happens. I’m just saying that you need to be preparing yourself to be able to play better than you’ll ever be asked to play.

That’s all I got for you today. If you’re listening to this in real time or close to real time, I hope you have a great weekend. I know this is a daily podcast. I didn’t think to mention it last week when we hit Friday. It’s a daily podcast. It’s every weekday. I got to take some time off too. I think Saturday and Sunday is a good time to do it. I hope you guys enjoyed the podcast this week. I do want to ask you one favor. If you’re listening to this and you really appreciate what’s going on or you’re enjoying what’s going on, it would really help me out a lot if you go onto iTunes. Even if you’re not listening on iTunes, you can go onto iTunes, search for this podcast. If you’re not already there, search for Daily Drummer or search for my name and find my podcast and leave a review. Not just stars. It really would mean a lot to me if you could also write something, even if it’s 1 sentence or 2 sentences. That, really, will boost my visibility for this podcast and it will help me continue to make this podcast ongoing.

I’ve been blown away by how many people are already listening. It’s been really cool for me to get that instant gratification and see how many downloads we’re getting. I actually met some people this week in person here in Nashville who listen. That was really cool to me. Hey there guys. Thanks for listening. Also, if you could leave me a review, that would just be the coolest thing in the world. All right. Talk to you guys later. Bye.

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