The global COVID-19 pandemic has put a hard pause on many aspects of our daily lives. For musicians, this has meant cancelled gigs, lost revenue, rescheduled-to-whenever recording sessions, and perhaps even utter panic on how to move forward in our careers when we can’t even leave our homes.
However, while gigging musicians have been dealt a catastrophic blow, we are certainly not down for the count, and there are ways to keep ourselves busy, entertained, educated, performance conditioned, and even somewhat paid as we shelter at home.
Here are five ways to start…
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, and without much hope, PLEASE DO NOT let yourself sink into despair. Reach out to your band mates, friends, and family. One “upside” to having our businesses on pause is that we now have the time to engage with the people who were often sidelined by our careers or busy lives. If you’re feeling low, it’s time to contact the people in your orbit who can offer perspective, a sensitive ear, and calm.
There are also many professional services available if your day-to-day happiness is taking a hit from the lifestyle pressures you are absorbing. Seek them out and call them!
Likewise, band members who become aware of a compatriot who is fraying should reach out and comfort the player. The cliché of “We Are All In This Together” should be taken seriously, and that means doing whatever you can to heal your community.
Keep Up Your Chops
David Frangioni gives lessons from his favorite exercise books.
You may be locked out of your rehearsal space and your drum kit, but that’s no reason to bail out on “muscling-up” your technique. There are tons of lessons and exercises online that you can do with a practice pad.
For example, Modern Drummer Publisher and CEO David Frangioni has published an excellent series, “15 Exercises to Improve Your Technique in 15 Days.”
Our friends at Russ Miller Drums are offering 90 days of free lesson from their Percussion Pathway online school.
Get Your Act Together
Many musicians de-emphasize marketing and promotion in deference to practicing and prepping for gigs. Seriously? Savvy and consistent marketing will help you score those gigs you want so bad — even if we all may have to wait months to get back into the clubs and on the road.
Consider spending your downtime learning all you can about social networks and digital marketing. Build a website or revitalize the website you already have. Post daily on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and explore other avenues that may benefit your career such as TikTok, Reddit, and other news-sharing sites.
There are so many tutorials you can access for doing just about any digital initiative that could bring value and eyeballs to your brand. Dig in, get busy, and start building your tools for success when the pandemic finally ebbs. Trust me, you don’t want to spend this time streaming Netflix and then start from scratch when the music business returns in force.
Home-studio geek Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson).
You could be one of the best and busiest drummers in your area, but the real money in the music industry is in songwriting and publishing. Why not grab of piece of that action for yourself? Now is the perfect time to learn how to write songs and/or put the time in to improve your compositional chops.
You can work privately at home — duh — where no one but you (and perhaps your housemates) will hear your struggles, so don’t let fear, embarrassment, or a knowledge gap prevent you from making your own music. As always, there are free classes and seminars online to help you with the basics, or learn from a pro.
You don’t even have to know chords to start your journey here. Devise a cool rhythmic groove — which is right up your alley — and simply sing along to it. Record your progress, and when you dig what you’ve got, see if one of your band mates can help you by figuring out the harmony to drive your melodies. Melody is the key to everything — pop songs, rock tunes, jazz instrumentals, etc. — so if you’ve got a cool melody line, then you’re far ahead of the game already.
But just get in there and write! Use the shelter in place situation to build yourself a nice little collection of your own songs. Not only will you be set up to expand your musical worth, but composing is a wonderful way to focus on something creative and transform isolation into something productive and fun.
Share Your Skills
Chad Smith’s “Quarantine Series” on Instagram shows the Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer playing his favorite drum intros. Half the fun is guessing the riff.
If you’re into lifting up your community while expanding your own brand, consider giving online drum lessons. There are many ways to make this happen, from deploying Zoom, Skype, and other online meeting apps. You could charge for your lessons, or simply share your knowledge for free via Facebook Live broadcasts. Scores of musicians are online doing this very thing, so if you need to do a bit of research, the data is easily attainable through your laptop or mobile device. Just search and go!
If drum lessons are a bit too much to tackle, you could always share your experiences without playing. You may know a lot about gigging, recording, booking, collaborating, writing songs, touring, getting endorsement deals, sideperson jobs, and so on that would interest an audience. Sometimes, sharing your life stories as a musician can affect a community. Just get on camera and talk.