How to be a more reliable drummer when you’re on stage with your band? Here are five ways to instantly improve the way you play live.
1) Play at the same volume as you did the sound check
A bad habit of us drummers is to do the sound check in one way and then play at a much higher volume during the concert.
This is a problem for two reasons: one, because the sound engineer did the listening levels based on what you did in the sound check. So he’ll have to review everything in real time and it doesn’t mean that it will improve, but rather you’ll make it difficult for him.
Second reason, if you’re playing in a small place where you can’t make so much noise, don’t play slowly to make the sound engineer, the complaining owner or the members of your band happy if you hit like a hammer in the evening. Doing so will cover the other musicians and outside the listening will be a disaster.
Another important tip: when the sound engineer at the end of the check asks you to try the whole set, he plays simple grooves to help him distinguish the sounds, avoiding the solos elaborated with a thousand notes.
2) Don’t overdo it
When we’re on stage it’s certainly not the time to try new fills, new stickings, new rhythmic figures. I’m of the opinion that the less the drummer makes a mistake, the better, so if you don’t have absolute confidence in what you want to try, you’d better shoot straight.
It’s not like you have to play with the handbrake on or do “Charlie Watts” all night long, but surely pay attention to these things and the risks you run.
3) Listen to the sound of your band
Some drummers just need to hear the sound of the metronome to have a sufficient reference, but obviously this does not benefit the interaction with other musicians. If you have a good listening experience, you can play better and make the others play better too.
It’s important to hear well even when you need to make real time variations in the structure of the song, so hearing only yourself or the metronome is not good. You lose a few more minutes to have a monitor that satisfies you.
4) Stay focused
Every time you play live, imagine recording a live with your band, a live that can’t be retouched, can’t be edited later, so what you play is exactly what ends up on the CD.
In this way your attention threshold will surely be higher. Use this mental approach, think in advance about what’s going to happen in the track and make your playing tidy.
5) Record your own live shows
If you have the possibility to register always, even if you do not have a recorder of the highest quality. Listening later serves to expose your performance and better understand what your limits are.
I did it and I understood many things about my playing, obviously negative. For example, I realized that I had a bad balance between cymbals and drums, i.e. I hit too hard on cymbals.
Or another thing I realized was that playing certain times that I thought were absolutely simple, such as a dance time with the bass drum in four, I heard that every now and then I had flams (not perfectly in unison) between the bass drum and the snare drum.