On The Beat with Gabor Gabs Dornyei: Delivering Under Pressure

Gabor Gabs Dornyei

Hi there Modern Drummer readers, it’s always a pleasure to check in and stay in contact with you all. I’d like to thank my “Brother in Drums” Billy Amendola, and everyone at MD, for providing me with this opportunity.

I started playing the drums when I was ten years old, and last year I turned forty. Time has flown by quickly, but after many world tours and platinum albums my enthusiasm and hunger for knowledge on the drums has remained the same. After all these years I enjoy every second behind our marvelous instrument like it was the first time playing it.

When the great Don Lombardi re-invited me for a live global streaming on DrumChannel titled “Gabs’ 30 Years Drumming,” I knew that it was a brilliant opportunity to reach out to everyone all around the world and spread the word about the approach and concept of “Gabs’ open handed, musical drumming.” Advertisement

A full live global streaming can be really nerve-racking because you only get one chance to get things right. Unlike an album or studio recording session, absolutely everything has to be a first take. There’s no possibility to restart and/or rerecord something; if there’s a hiccup or mistake you’ll have to live with it for the rest of your life. Also, you never know who’s watching from which part of the world. You better not think about it while playing as it’s not going to help! This can put a lot of pressure on the player, but hey, these are the things that you learn to deal with during long world tours, recording sessions for Walt Disney, and playing with eighty-piece classical orchestras for more than thirty years. You learn to deliver under pressure!

To be rested, relaxed, and mentally ready is just as important as knowing your parts, fills, and patterns. It’s fifty-percent of your success and business. You can repeat your grooves and ideas during your practice session as many times as you like, so playing-wise you can be confident and one major task is out of the way, which is extremely important. But the hard bit is to prep to perform under high pressure in prestigious and important situations.

Have you ever thought about why soccer players miss penalties from only eleven meters? Are they unprepared? Definitely not, although they might be a little tired as they’ve been training for years every single day. Unfortunately on the spot, because of the stress, their nerves take over and they cannot aim and control their limbs anymore. It’s a very human thing to do and in my experience it’s vital to avoid it when it comes to playing music, otherwise every limb goes out of time. Advertisement

The method that worked for me and really helped in such situations is preparation, preparation, and a little more preparation. As much as I enjoy the drum practice sessions at my Gabbey Road Studio in London, UK, the important thing is to have the necessary gear with me. For example, my playing would not be the same without my shortened hi-hat stand rod because I have an additional Zildjian ride on my left-hand side. I actually have a “go-to gear list” saved in my mobile phone’s notes, full of super important accessories. That reminds me of the gear and list of things that I can’t do without. (It’s happened before and led to disaster.) So now I’m prepared to leave for the airport because everything from my list is in my suitcase, and I have one less thing to worry about. You cannot be over prepared, because no matter how ready and pumped you are, something unexpected will happen during the performance, recording, or show that will test your wit and improvisational skills—guaranteed!

Of course, you have to be 110% prepared and confident in what you’re doing in playing the music. Your grooves, fills, and chops have to be worked out or confidently improvised on a slightly higher level. There’s one more thing that I’d like to suggest. Try to stay relaxed and organized on the day of the big filming/performance, etc. from the morning on. If you manage to allocate the correct amount of time for the things you have to do before the red light comes on, you can save yourself the trouble of running around nervously all day long, then trying to calm down one minute before the performance. Not being prepared can ruin your performance and all the work you previously put into it. Try to be organized—know where your performance clothes, in-ears, water, dressing room, and gear are and have everything you might need during the gig. You then have done absolutely everything in your power to be as good as you can, and that is the very maximum you can do!

I was super happy with the musical and inspiring sounds of the Remo Ambassadors on the White Marine Pearl Reference Music City Custom kit, my GD Signature Tycoon Percussion drum pack, and the mind blowing new Zildjian 2018 Model K Sweet cymbals, carried in the best British-made Hardcases. Advertisement

I hope you’ve made something out of this lesson. The live stream went really well and we’ve also successfully recorded an entire new DC course titled “Gabs’ Open Hands-Open Mind.” Check that out if you’re seeking new inspiration.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave a comment and stay in touch at my brand new website

Watch Gabs in action here: