Online Drum Lessons

When You Least Expect It

by Omar on September 18, 2010

in Education

Many have wondered (well, I'd like to think it was many!) how I ended up playing in the band I'm currently in, Papillín & Latin Descarga.  It basically boiled down to two things:  being available, and being ready.

Let me digress a bit.  About a year and a half ago, I was perusing in a store when I bumped into a friend of mine.  We got to talking about, among other things, music and playing in bands.  He said that he liked what he saw of me on my web site (it was relatively new at the time), and asked me if I would be interested in playing drums for his band if he ever formed one.  I said, "Sure, why not?"  And basically, that was that.  We didn't talk about it again.

Soon I moved from that area; he ended up moving as well (same state, though).  In any case, about three months ago(!) he calls me and says, "You remember when I asked you if you wanted to be the drummer of my band?  Well, you still interested?"  I said, "Sure, why not?"  But then he says, "I'm still working out the particulars, so I'll contact you in a couple of months.  Expect my call!"  I'm thinking, "Gads, is this thing ever going to happen?"

Sure enough, a little over a month went by, and I got the call.  "Can you come down this Saturday so we can practice and put together a little set list?"  'This Saturday'!  Well, you know what my response was:  "Sure, why not?"  🙂

Well now it came to it.  I was actually going to play with other musicians.  This is not something I've done very often (rarely, actually), preferring instead to play for myself, just for the joy of playing the instrument.  However, this did sound like a very interesting opportunity, and a challenging one.  I was eager to see what the assembled musicians would be like, what genres were to be played, etc.  I was excited.

I was offered the chance of practicing at my location, so that I wouldn't have to lug my drums around.  But after thinking about it a bit, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to learn what it's like to lug all that gear around, and become proficient at it.  (For a description of my gear, go to the About page of this site.)

Driving down to the practice session, it occurred to me that I really had no idea what I was getting into.  What I did know was that the intention was to play all kinds of music, mostly Latin tunes, as in merengue, bachata, salsa, etc.  What I also knew was that these styles were way beyond my comfort zone, if I had such a thing (see "Beyond the Drum Kit").  As you may have noticed from my drum covers, I'm a Rock kind of guy (mainly progressive rock).  But bachata?  I think I was in trouble!  🙂

When I arrived to the practice location, I met my friend (the bass player), and the guitarist.  I had never met the guitarist before, but he seemed nice enough and willing to work with a 'newbie'.

As I was setting up the kit, the whole time I'm thinking what songs they wanted to play.  I really had no idea!  However, I decided not to make any suggestions until I had a feel for which direction the others wanted to go.

The 'others' being the bass player and guitarist (the guitarist being the lead singer as well).  Now, I did mention that we'd be playing Latin songs, so there was no way we'd remain a three piece.  We all knew that, so basically what we were doing was establishing the foundation of players, and then add the 'finishing touches' later.  The foundation being the 'musical director' and leader of the band (the bass player), the lead singer and guitarist, and, of course, the backbone of any band:  the drummer.  🙂

Since the other two aforementioned band members lived in close proximity to each other, they would come up with the songs that they thought would be good to play, and then when I got there we would rehearse them.  This ended up being a slightly haphazard way of coming up with the songs, at least from my perspective!  Since several songs were songs that either I hadn't heard, or I had heard them but didn't remember the drumming arrangement, I was pretty much winging it through most of that first rehearsal.  But I caught on very quickly, much to their delight, and they found that I was the type of drummer that they were looking for.

Since I had attended Walfredo Reyes, Jr.'s drum clinic not too long before, I put it in my mind that I also somehow wanted to successfully mesh percussion into my drum kit.  Little did I know that I was actually going to need it soon after that clinic!  However, playing the dual role of drum kit player/percussionist was too much for me to handle, so I made sure that I let the others know that we needed to get a dedicated percussionist, which they agreed to.

As they picked songs to play, I made sure that they wrote them all down so I could download the mp3's and further get familiar with them.  This could backfire a little, though.  Sometimes the other players may have a preferred way of playing the song, different from the original.  I actually had a little 'spat' with the guitarist on one the songs.  It was during our second rehearsal.  By this point I heard the original recordings of the songs a bunch of times, so I knew what I was talking about.  The bass player agreed with me in the end, but I acquiesced.  The guitarist preferred to play the song a certain way, and I simply made the adjustment.  Since musically I understood what he wanted to do, I left it at that.

We practiced a couple more times after that, but by this time we had our percussionist.  I'm no Walfredo Reyes, Jr., so I was happy!  It was also somewhat liberating since I didn't have to worry about percussion as much.  I feel that if you think you're not good enough to take something on, suck it up, be humble, and let the others know.  In time, if you practice what you're deficient in, you won't need to relinquish the duty.  And that can be very rewarding.

And then, of course, was our first show.  We were only going to play four to six songs, because we just wanted to get a feel for playing together in front of a crowd.  The audience consisted of some friends, and a bunch of their friends, so it ended up being several dozen at the party.  Unfortunately, we had major audio problems, which forced us to cut the set list to no more than four songs.  But I'm glad it happened this way since now we know what the issues were, and how to avoid them.  At least the audience was very appreciative of the show, and we did get a good performance out of it.  It wasn't perfect, but we wouldn't have known what to work on if we hadn't recorded it.

As far as the video recording for that show goes, I brought a pretty generic digital camcorder.  I tried to find the best position where I could get the optimum audio (meaning as close as possible), and let the video quality take care of itself.  Unfortunately, the only spot that I could set the camera without anyone running it over was all the way at the back of the hall.  I ended up zooming in to ‘fit’ our playing within view, but it’s not something I like doing.  If I’m using the camera’s built-in microphone, I like being as close as possible to the action without zooming.  Otherwise the audio will sound a little ‘boomy’ or ‘echo-y’, such as resulted in the video.  But I wanted to get something down even if it wasn’t the ideal recording.

In summation, there were a few things I did to be ready to perform with the band:

  1. Practice regularly!  This can be anything you need to work on, be it rudimental, timing, groove (the two latter items not necessarily the same thing), drum covers, etc.
  2. Record yourself - audio, video – but preferably both.  This has at minimum a two-fold purpose:  so you can see/hear your flaws so as to know what to work on, and so you can post your performances online for others to see.  If you're shopping yourself around to play in a band, it would be easy for them to see you if you have online footage.  Of course, they have to like you and you have to mesh as a unit, so that may only happen if you get invited to a jam session.
  3. Let others know you want to join a band.  There are many ways to do this.  Word of mouth (meaning your mouth mostly) is an important one.  Check for ads that are looking for drummers. Have a business card with your contact information on it (and give it out!).*

Well, that was my experience.  We'll see how far we'll take this endeavor, and if there are other performances worth posting, you know where to look!  In any case, if at a minimum you take the above steps, and if you really want to play in a band, you just may get the call - when you least expect it.

Do you have any personal experiences or performance tips you'd like to share?  Then post your comments below for all to see!
*For a whole slew of additional tips on how to get a gig, I recommend buying Mike Michalkow's "Drumming System". Disc 15, "Live Gig & Studio Drumming" has invaluable information in this regard. This disc alone makes the whole program worth the price, but, of course, you get a lot more!

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