A New Year, A New You?
Reviewing and Renewing Your Goals, Part 2
by Russ Miller
The word “imitation” can have negative connotations. We often think of it as copying someone or not being original. But the actual definition is to follow or endeavor to follow, as a model or example. Following a model or example is a much more positive slant on the idea of imitating something or someone.
We gain knowledge in many ways. Someone can freely give us information, we can research facts on our own, or we can observe the actions of others. Observing others gives us a chance to make a determination about whether or not what we are seeing is something we would like to do. It helps to make a list of things that you see other players do that you’d like to apply to your own drumming or career path.
I search for things that will inspire growth. Sometimes all that takes is hearing something fresh and unique being executed at a high level. When you find something that inspires you, be sure to look deeper beneath the surface. If you discover a great lick you’d like to work into your playing, don’t just copy it. Analyze the underlying concept of the lick, develop a system to assimilate it, and then practice toward incorporating the lick into your playing.
Keep a watchful eye out for things that inspire you, and use those inspirations to help you create new short- and long-term goals. Sometimes when I see drummers use their gear in a fresh way, whether it’s stacking cymbals, incorporating electronics, or applying some unusual tuning techniques, I’ll experiment with those ideas on my own kit for a few weeks. Those explorations have led me to some really cool discoveries. Be open and let your favorite drummers be a model or example for you to gain new ideas.
Now let’s talk about experience. In theory, how you play and approach the drums should be changing all the time due to your unique experiences. Hopefully you don’t sound the same today as you did ten years ago. The great thing about experience is that no one can take it from you, and no one can have the same exact experiences as you. Even if some things have felt negative or difficult to deal with, learn from them so you know what not to do next time. Ask yourself the following questions:
How has my playing changed this past year?
What adjustments can I make in my playing and practicing that will help assimilate the inspiration I’ve recently found from others?
Remember that you can also gain knowledge from the guidance of someone else. That is why having a great teacher or mentor is important. All you need to do is search for someone who can do something that you can’t, and ask him or her for some lessons or career advice. Remember how I wanted to improve my touch on the drumset? I searched out jazz great Peter Erskine, who has an impeccable sound. Just make sure you’re drawing information from the most qualified source you can find. There are great teachers all around the world who don’t have huge discographies but do have amazing technical abilities that they can share with you. Conversely, there are tons of amazing players with world-class musical experiences who know nothing about technique, yet maybe can provide great advice on how to further your career.
I hope this two-part series has inspired you to reflect on, renew, or even restart your drumming career in the new year. We’re all on this journey together. See you next month!
Russ Miller has recorded and/or performed with Ray Charles, Cher, Nelly Furtado, and the Psychedelic Furs and has played on soundtracks for The Boondock Saints, Rugrats Go Wild, and Resident Evil: Apocalypse, among others. For more information, visit russmiller.com.