I have a love/hate relationship with my YouTube drum covers.
On the one hand, for me they've been invaluable in terms of teaching me to play better. Certainly drum lessons have their value, and any drum instruction from any source is sure to benefit you at varying levels. But to me, the visual YOU is certainly going to show you in all its glory how good (or maybe, more likely, how bad), you really are. I think this is a paramount tool in correcting mistakes and tendencies that you most likely would miss otherwise.
On the other hand, once you post your video for all to see, it's open season. The so-called 'trolls'* come out of hiding, just waiting to leave a comment whose sole purpose is to berate, humiliate, and outright ridicule.
The above has caused some video posters to lash out right back at those comments, turning into somewhat of a verbal war. Sometimes the video gets taken down completely because the poster of the video just can't take it anymore.
Admittedly, some of these videos are pretty bad, be it the playing, the sound, the video, or any combination of these. I'm not saying that this gives commenters the right to downright insult the creator of the video, but the latter does open themselves up to that kind of thing, especially if they're not aware of how bad their playing is!
I'll use myself as a case in point. I've never taken a formal drum lesson, and most of what I knew up until a few years ago was through astute observation, listening, and air drumming. When I finally got the drum set, I felt that I could now apply what I 'knew'. In my head, I knew how to play. Soon after a drum cover contest was going on where I could finally show everyone what I knew. The result was a cover of Rush's instrumental "Malignant Narcissism" (the accompanying article was called “Education of The Paradiddler”).
When I posted this video, I thought it was pretty good! I even thought I could win the contest. But a few things happened that opened my eyes to, well, reality. First, I didn't win. Second, I gave the video a more objective observation, and saw that in fact it was not very good, on more than one level. Not only was the video not synced very well to the audio, but also the playing was just not that good. The latter I noticed more over time as I got better.
Mercifully, I got very little criticism from viewers, and actually some praise for trying. In any case, I was ready for an onslaught of negativity, since I actually invited it. And therein lies one of the keys of posting your drum covers.
Many of us have this passion for the drums, hence why we play them and record ourselves, both for our viewing pleasure or education, and possibly for others to see. We also may take ourselves a little too seriously, and when we post our covers we expect seriousness from the viewers as well (meaning, ‘you better like it, ‘cause it’s good!’). But that doesn’t always happen. You may have well-meaning commenters wanting to give some constructive criticism, but there are certainly others who say the nastiest things. Many times the poster of the video will fire right back with the same intensity (and unfortunately, the same vulgarity), and what results is an unfortunate battle of obscenities and insults, with no aim at actually giving the drummer something positive to work on.
Unfortunately, the trolls will always be out there. They’re sort of online bullies, thinking that because they’re behind a computer screen, nobody knows who or where they are, so they can say whatever they want without any repercussions. They’re actually cowardly, because we all know they would never speak like that to your face. They rarely if ever have anything worth paying attention to. Many times their behavior is driven by jealousy,# because they’ll rip your drum cover to shreds, but they have no drum covers of their own posted on their YouTube channel. It would be very safe to assume that they can dish it out (from the veil of their computer screen), but they certainly can’t take it.
Fortunately for you, the drum cover poster, you don’t have to pay attention to them! And that, many times, is what many forget. When you post any video on YouTube, you first have the option of disabling comments in the first place! If you feel that you can’t take it from these wannabe’s (let’s call ‘em), just don’t allow anyone to comment on your video – problem solved (somewhat). Ok, no feedback from the public, good or bad. You can then opt to send your YouTube friends your video, and have them critique it. You can even disable the voting. Basically, you’re in control, not the trolls.
But, what I recommend instead, right from the beginning, even before you post your drum cover, is to have the correct point of view, the proper frame of mind. If you want people to give you constructive criticism (and kudos, of course!), then you’ll want to open up your video to comments and voting. Go ahead and say so in your description. Have a humble and open mind, and ask people to give you advice on what you can do to improve your playing. If you do this right off the bat, you may disarm some of these trolls, and you’ll actually get some good advice, from well-intentioned folk.
Even if you open up your video for comments, you don’t have to accept them all. If you think the commenter is out to entice you to a verbal spat, you can always remove the comment and think nothing else of it. If the same user keeps at it with his trolling ways, you can block the user altogether – problem solved. There’s no need to ever engage people who have no interest in you except to beat you down. This leaves it open for those who actually have something constructive to say about your playing that you can actually use.
So it’s ok to receive criticism, if it’s something you can use. I get my fair share, but I know it’s coming. I need drumming advice as much as anyone, so my postings are wide open. I’ve had to delete some comments because they were downright vulgar, but they’re gone – I don’t worry about them anymore, and I don’t waste time answering them.
Of course, there’s the issue of copyright, whether it’s legal or not to post a drum cover in the first place. That I may deal with in a future article, because I know it gives many drum cover posters fits (including yours truly).
So do I really have a love/hate relationship with my drum covers? Well, after all’s said and done, it’s definitely more love than hate, because I’ve put them in proper perspective. My reason for posting them is somewhat from a selfish place – I want people to give me kudos, but I also welcome comments showing me where I can improve. I take it all to heart (and back to the kit), and hopefully if you see the progression of my drum covers, you’ll notice that I’ve gotten better because of watching myself play, plus the constructive criticism of the viewer.
But there’s another reason I post these covers – to inspire you. The old adage ‘if I can do it, you can do it’ certainly applies here. I hope that my progress has inspired some in some way, be it my playing or the quality of the videos. I’m never satisfied with where I am drumming-wise, so I expect myself to play better every time. I’ve also let go of most of my fear of being in front of a camera, knowing that many might see me, and (oh no!) even criticize me. That’s ok! Based on the above, I can deal with it. And now, you can too.
*'Troll' in this article is defined as the following: an internet user who sends inflammatory or provocative messages designed to elicit negative responses or start a flame-war (as a fisherman trolls for an unsuspecting fish) – source: Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears.Fourth Edition. Copyright 2007. Published by McGraw Hill
#See the article “Cheering Them On”, published by TheParadiddler.com