Hey, all! First, I want to take this time to thank the guys at Modern Drummer for having me in mind at all to write something for such an amazing publication. It’s a true honor, and there’s tons of guys out there that deserve it way more than I.
Everything I want to discuss in this blog is based on my own personal experience and is designed for the benefit of players who want to explore their live playing further. So I’ll say it once, but I will definitely say it again and again: There’s no right or wrong way–everyone is different.
So with that in mind, I’d like to start out by talking about the difference between playing live vs. playing in a more comfortable setting–and what I’ve found to be helpful when I’m in an uncomfortable playing situation. (Note: All of these elements alone will help, but if you put them together, that’s when you’ll be at your best, performance-wise.)
The style of music I’m currently performing on tour ten months a year demands tons of endurance and energy. So relax, and remember that the show isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Pace yourself. This is especially important for the first show of a tour, if you haven’t been on the road for a few weeks or months. It’s extremely easy to get tired-out if you come into the show full force after not having played live for a few weeks.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been off tour and jumped into a show full force, thinking I would fly through with no problem. But my hands, forearms, or shins can lock up due to lack of maintaining the strength I achieve after being on the road for a few days, playing hard. Having a daily “routine” was the answer for me. That routine consists of a warm-up section, a “how I would play live” section, and then a section where I play anything new that I feel needs work or development.
When you’re at home or in a practice space where you’re set up for weeks or months at a time, it’s often a smaller room, which means that you don’t have to play as hard to get the volume needed for heavier music. Plus you have ample time to get used to your setup, whereas in a hectic live setting, you’re often rushed and don’t have the time for minor adjustments needed for your personal satisfaction. Also, every room is different, and we naturally try to compensate for lost volume when performing in a larger room (possibly with bad sound) by playing harder. In turn we spend way more energy, and our muscles tensing becomes a strong possibility, which can ruin a performance.
Warm up effectively; don’t just go through the motions. Do your exercises with purpose, listening to every detail of every stroke, and make the sound and your technique as perfect as you can. Pretend that any time you pick up sticks to hit a pad or drums, you’re playing for dudes who are the best of the best. Have a comfortable setup, so that when you sit behind your drums before a performance, you’re confident that you’re gonna own shit. It’s far more entertaining watching a confident, relaxed drummer than one who is struggling through a performance for any reason.
And remember that attitude is everything. If you come to the stage frustrated about something, or if you had a shitty day and you let that effect your mood, chances are it will change your performance in a negative way. Come to the stage excited about what you do. If you’re having a bad day, try to forget about it and focus on what you’re playing–from the time you set up to the time you’re finished–and have a great time up there.
So stay aware of things you could improve and change for the performance setting. Also, be aware of the differences between playing live and playing in a comfortable setting, whether that be at home or at a friend’s house, practice space, etc. I believe that knowing all of these things can only work to your benefit in the long run. Good luck, everyone!
For more on Branden Morgan and Misery Signals, go to www.myspace.com/miserysignals