by Roy Burns

All young musicians have heroes or people they admire. Musicians learn from and often emulate their heroes. This is an important part of the learning process, especially in the early stages. 

Heroes serve as a role model. They become the standard by which we evaluate our own development. They are a source of ideas and inspiration. We often want to be like them. We tend to absorb many of their attitudes. We learn from their style and sometimes even imitate their actions. This can be a negative or positive process.If our heroes are immature, musically or personally, they set a bad example. To emulate such personalities can lead us into problems, especially in the long run.

Immature players often get away with bad behavior because they are successful. Showing up late, hung over, or unprepared to rehearse are typical examples. Forgetting music, wearing the wrong outfit, getting drunk on the job and being uncooperative are signs of a lack of consideration and immaturity. Players of this type seem to think they play so well they can do anything they want, even if it hurts others.

Word gets around quick in the music business and even though such personalities survive, they usually are not too happy. Their careers suffer because they tend to create problems. More mature players will try to avoid working with them whenever possible.

On the other hand, if our heroes are mature, musically and personally, they set an example that is positive. To follow this example will often help us to avoid conflicts with others. This is very important because most bands that have problems usually break up because of personality conflicts rather than musical ones.

Musicians who are on time and ready to rehearse become the guys you can count on. People can hire them without worrying. They have developed a professional reputation. They are fun to work with, and considerate of the people they work with.

It is difficult to play well if you do not like the people involved. If you like the other musicians, personally as well as musically, it is much easier to play your best. If you are mature and dependable you make it easier for people to relate to you both personally and musically.

Our heroes can sometimes unintentionally trap us into a life long struggle to be like them. It’s not their fault if we put them on a pedestal and think of them as godlike or perfect. To think of them as supermen can prevent us from finding our own way of playing and living.

For this reason, all heroes must eventually be given up. Although they help us in the beginning, we cannot let them stand in the way of our development. At some point, you must become your own person, creating your own way of doing things.

This is not to say that we stop respecting our heroes. We just stop worshipping them. The pedestal we put them on exists only in our minds.

Continue to respect your heroes and those you’ve learned from. Then use what you have learned and take it further. Add your own feeling to it and develop it. Make it into something new, unique and your own.

Respect is important because it gives us perspective. It helps to keep our ego in check. If you do not respect anyone it is difficult to learn to respect yourself. If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will either.

If you have no respect for anyone or anything you tend to stop listening, and stop learning. Respect keeps us balanced and open-minded. An open-mind is essential for learning and developing.

We all know people who are a real drag to be around because they are always acting like their hero. They effect the same manner of speech, dress and attitude as the person they admire. They even expect to be treated as though they are really great and yet they are only acting great. The key word here is acting. No act can ever be better than the real you.

Acting in a pleasant or positive way is better than acting in an unpleasant way, but it is still acting. Pretending to be friendly or successful when you are not, is often based on a desire for acceptance. Even if the act is good, people see through it sooner or later. Better just to relax, be yourself and do the best you can.

We have all played with people who act as though they are really hot players. Usually, people who behave in this manner are not hot. As soon as they begin to play everyone knows for sure one way or the other. People who are insecure often try to cover up their feelings by coming on strong and acting arrogant. They can be a real drag to the other players.

For young drummers, sooner or later you will hit a situation that is over your head musically. The music may be different or more difficult than you are used to. The other players may be more experienced. If this happens, just admit to yourself that you weren’t quite ready for it. Don’t make a string of excuses or put down the music. Just pay attention and do your best.

If your attitude is sincere, real pros will recognize what you are going through. They’ll often help you or give you some tips that will be of benefit in future situations. If you act as though you already know everything, they may make things tougher for you just to teach you a lesson. Even this is a learning experience, but its a painful way to learn.

Occasionally you may meet a few people who play extremely well who feel very inadequate. No matter how much attention and praise they receive, they still feel inferior. This is sometimes the result of trying to be perfect. It also can be the result of thinking of heroes as perfect. Heroes make mistakes too, just like the rest of us. No one is perfect. No matter how great your heroes seem to be, they are all human. There’s no need to feel inferior if you make a mistake; no need to feel superior if someone else makes a mistake. A balanced attitude is best.

Respect your heroes but don’t make supermen out of them. Respect others who are sincere even if they aren’t superstars. Continue to learn from everyone, heroes or not, and keep improving. Maintain a balanced attitude and others will respect you. And most important of all, you will respect yourself.

Copyright 1981 Roy Burns