Building a Career as a Drummer – Options, Tips and Common Mistakes
Taking up drumming as a full-time job can be an interesting experience. However, it’s not easy. It takes work and time to establish oneself in the music business, but with perseverance and hard effort, you will undoubtedly receive your rewards.
There are many questions in mind when building a career as a drummer, like how to land gigs and tours, how to plan sessions and get noticed, or if you should move to the main music industry cities. Although different people can take a different approach to this topic, there are, however, tips and options, as well as common mistakes that people make which you should avoid.
In this article, I attempt to tackle the basics to help a drummer kick start their lifelong musical journey.
At a Glance
- While making original music is the goal for most, you can also play in cover bands, do weddings or corporate events, play local shows or theater shows, teach (private lessons or online), or even write about the art of drumming.
- It takes a lot of commitment and patience to get to a professional level so don’t think it’s going to happen overnight.
- Make sure to start slow, set up a routine, take lessons (recommended), learn the fundamentals, learn all kinds of drumming styles, and remember that regular practice is key!
- Whenever you have the chance, attend musical events, conferences, and local gigs. This is a great way to make contacts and hand out recording demos. Bonus tip – make sure to record quality demos.
- Some mistakes to avoid are neglecting your practice sessions, not setting long-term career objectives, limiting yourself to certain styles and genres, not being on top of new trends and tech, not being professional, but most importantly – not protecting your hearing!
What are Your Options?
It is important to understand how to approach the music business and how to make money as a drummer. There are several options available that can be used as a base to build your career around. It is of course great to land a dream gig or go on a tour, and a part of you should always strive for it. Still, these are some useful tips to help you advance in your drumming career that I’ll go through below.
Being part of a band that creates original music is often the most sought-after career for drummers. Creating your own original music is unlike anything else in the world. The feeling of creating something from nothing and getting paid for it is something that everyone strives towards.
Drumming is an art and a constructional and creative hobby. You can make good money teaching the drums depending on the experience, skills, poise, and confidence you have. If you’ve had gigs or been a part of bands in the past, it will work well in your favor. You can even do it part-time and still be able to enjoy gigs and performances at night.
Covers Bands, Weddings, Corporate Events
It is surprisingly easy to play at parties, corporate gigs, weddings, and events. People look for quality and skills more than experience when it comes to booking a band or a solo artist for personal events. It is great to practice songs that can help you land these gigs and get referrals.
You can play for shows, musicals, Broadway, and Cirque Du Soliel. It offers a steady income and lifestyle and you get to really enjoy it. Try to read music as it helps you get better quickly. It is also worth mentioning the popularity of film and theatre music. It has become increasingly more significant than it once was, not to mention that it is also very well paid.
This can also be counted as a form of teaching. You can build up a professional, paid drumming website or start with a YouTube channel with regular online lessons and information about drumming. The internet is a great tool for progressing in your career and getting recognition in the long run. You will find many artists doing the same quite successfully.
Taking up Local Shows
Performing at local shows or even touring at low to medium stages can help you get on your feet. These are also good opportunities to get your name out there, sell CDs and merchandise, and build a dedicated fan base! When you solidify a good fan base on your local scene, it can propel you to fetch further heights, as you will have some who will push and motivate you all the way to the top.
You won’t actually be playing the drums at this job, but of course, you will need the necessary knowledge and experience to be able to write about it, and it will keep you connected to the art of drumming. You can reach out to struggling drummers and beginners via informative articles, blogs, or books.
Tips to Improve Your Chances of Having a Successful Career as a Drummer
It takes commitment and patience to get to a professional level. There are many ways to fine-tune and tweak your skills, taking them to the next level. Here are some great tips to help you in the long run.
Take Private Lessons
Even if you have good skills, there is always room for improvement. You can learn new techniques or polish the ones you already have and learn about professional drumming. Thanks to the internet, many online websites can help you with this too. One of the best ones out there is Drumeo.
Develop a Music Memory
Make your basics strong and solid. Learn your basic beat drum patterns (paradiddles) and don’t take them lightly. One way to do this is to play with your eyes closed. In this way, your legs, arms, hands, and feet become more responsive and adaptive to drumming.
Practice with easy songs, don’t burn yourself out, and don’t push yourself too hard right at the start. Be patient with yourself and give it time with steady efforts. When you take things slow and learn more efficiently, you will see that it will, in turn, speed up the whole process towards a more successful learning experience.
Set a Schedule
Sticking to a regular schedule won’t make you slack on practicing and it will improve your skills. Practice in all your free time, make a schedule, and follow it strictly. Try to set at least 20 minutes apart for one practicing session a day.
Focus on drumming styles
It’s great to learn all the drumming styles out there, but learn to keep the focus on the ones you know best and master them. Be it punk, reggae, jazz, or rock, master one at a time as it can help in marketing your skillset.
Practice as a Team
Get in touch with other drummers and musicians and learn from their talents and mistakes. You can also get involved in a community drumming group or just get together with friends who enjoy music and practice with them. It’s always good to hear other opinions and tips from people that you know have gone through the same process.
Attend musical events, conferences, and local gigs. Try to make contacts and hand out recording demos if you have any. Talk to professionals and music companies and build a connection.
Recordings and Videos
Having some quality audio and video recordings of your playing can prove your abilities to others when you are seeking opportunities.
Mistakes to Avoid
Some mistakes have tripped up many professional drummers during their musical journeys. While you can’t completely avoid all of them, it’s better to learn from other people’s experiences and avoid the big ones while making wise decisions to progress your career. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for.
Neglecting Proper Training
Give yourself ample time, practice, and have proper professional training with good instructors, and don’t take your skills for granted. This is one of the first things to keep in mind. Nothing will be worth it if you skip the most important part, which is to always learn new things and always keep practicing.
Not Setting Career Objectives
Plan the long-term career objectives in advance. If you don’t stay ahead of time and plan for the next step, you might end up in a direction you didn’t want to take. Knowing what you want and putting all your efforts and planning towards achieving it is the ultimate route to a fulfilling career.
Not Exploring Different Genres
Don’t set limits on yourself or close yourself off to the various genres of music. It is a great quality to be versatile with your talent. It will make you more accessible and help you perform in most gigs without being picky.
Not Protecting Your Hearing
This one might sound trivial, but it’s far from it. Noise-induced hearing loss and chronic tinnitus could put you at a major disadvantage and damage your enjoyment of performing and listening to music.
Get some decent earplugs for musicians. Wear them when practicing, performing, and even attending other concerts. It’s a simple and vital investment into yourself. You could even go one step further and check out in-ear monitors for drummers, which can be absolutely fantastic.
Failing at People Skills
You need to blend yourself and have a positive attitude. Building connections, networking, and being in touch is very important. Most often, companies and professionals want to hire a person who’s easy to work with and can take directions.
Failing to Keep up with New Trends and Technology
Always stay up to date and connected with the latest happenings of the musical world. If you are playing modern genres, using electronic components in your sets can really give you an edge. For example, adding an electronic drum pad to your setup or other components from electronic drum sets can make a big difference.
Not Being Professional Enough
Don’t let your personal life or social problems get in the way of your work and career. Draw a fine line and learn to keep the different aspects of your life separate. There certainly are unavoidable circumstances at times, but it shouldn’t be a norm in your professional life.
These are definitely not the only possible mistakes to stumble upon as a drummer, but it’s smart to know the common ones and steer clear of them. No matter what path you choose or which particular skill you prefer to stick with, give it time and practice it regularly and you will be on the path to success.
Being a drummer is an extremely fulfilling career, but it isn’t all fun and games. Some discipline is needed for this job that needs to be taken seriously. Whether you are just beginning or have won several prestigious awards, you can always learn something new about playing the drums.
There are things to keep in mind and actions to take in order to avoid certain traps. Prioritizing your goals and knowing the various categories of mistakes is a great addition to success. As long as you keep to the things above, you will be headed in the right direction. The future is never set in stone for any person, so learn from the past and create an amazing present to reach your goals in the coming future.