This article focuses on the third portion of my CRASH concept (“commitment, relationships, attitude, skill, hunger”) for attracting success to your drumming career—and that’s attitude.
Attitude is everything in life. It will make or break just about anyone on any career track, but especially musicians. Music is about communicating on a deep, almost telepathic or even spiritual level. I don’t know anyone who wants to communicate, even superficially, with a person who oozes negativity. As a drummer, you can spend years developing flawless technique, speed, and power yet never share the stage with other musicians because you have a horrible attitude. Conversely, if you make it to the big stage, a bad attitude can take away that privilege just as fast.
Did you know that it takes almost twice as much energy to generate a negative thought as it does to create a positive one? Why work so hard? Develop the habit of staying positive, and let your team-player spirit shine through. People will be attracted to your energy, and you’ll be able to pursue your purpose in life every day.
I was attracted to the idea of positive thinking at a young age. My mother collected books by authors like Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar, Leo Buscaglia, and Tony Robbins, who’ve written about the power of the mind and how our thoughts can become reality. She encouraged me to absorb this material, and absorb I did—like a sponge. I’m so grateful to her for that encouragement. (Thanks, Mom!) “Change your mind, change your life” is a fantastic thought process that I’ve brought to my drumming career, with great results.
I believe people from all walks of life are subliminally attracted to those who have a great attitude. You can set yourself apart from the pack by wielding a winning attitude like a sword. There are many drummers across the globe who share skill sets. They may all have great gear, be able to read music, have knowledge of song structures, and be versatile enough to cover many styles, program loops, play comfortably with a click, and overdub percussion. These are expected skill sets for the city I live in—Nashville—and the music scene I work in. Not all drummers, however, have that winning attitude that people want to surround themselves with time and time again. The ones who have it work all the time.
ATTITUDE IN ACTION
Here’s an example of how having a positive attitude can help your career. A top-notch-producer friend called me a few years back to record drums with a band. My friend wanted to get complete takes, like they did in the old Motown days. There would be less sonic scrubbing and no “we’ll fix it in the mix” with this project. He wanted the full rhythm section to get keeper performances, and he knew that not all drummers would have the patience for this type of approach. He knew from hiring me in the past that I would be able to keep the energy level up and maintain a positive mental attitude for one or fifteen takes. So there you go: I got hired because of my team spirit and winning attitude.
My job is to serve the music, lift up the songs, drive the band, and inspire the artist to perform at his or her best. I’m willing to do anything to make that happen—show up early, stay late, take direction, offer suggestions…. It’s important to be open and always play from the heart (“Play from the heart— it will set you apart.”) And I do it all with a smile on my face. Hopefully my employers notice this and will want to call me again. Focus on giving more than receiving, and the phone will ring off the hook.
Remember, your playing may get you in the door, but it’s your attitude that will keep you there. Your attitude is the thing most people will remember about you, more than any of your other traits. A great attitude means you must be open to suggestions. You have to be willing to change time signatures, forms, beats, subdivisions, grooves, fills, colors, and textures on the fly. This rule applies whether you’re working for an artist or band, live or in the studio. If the producer wants you to use mallets on the toms, play a rivet cymbal with brushes, or tap a light backbeat on the underside of a snare drum, do it! Don’t make the mistake of being negative or closed off to suggestions.
I’ve witnessed situations where a paid musician is difficult to work with. The whole gig becomes uncomfortable, and that musician is never called again. Over time, that person might develop an unfavorable reputation. Reputation is vitally important, so why jeopardize that? I’ve been at recording sessions where the morale has slipped and the negativity has hung so thick in the air that you could cut it with a knife. When that happens, you can ease the tension with a joke or by expressing how excited you are to be there and be part of the project. A positive attitude is contagious.
In this fast-paced world, you have to run just to stand still. This means you need to consistently go above and beyond expectations and deliver the goods with a smile on your face. Many people talk about vibes. How many times have you heard “The vibe in that room is way off” or “Man, that dude has a really dark vibe”? It happens all the time. All people can sense and feel when someone is thinking negative thoughts. It’s called intuition. It’s been proven that negative thought patterns actually manifest themselves in a molecular way. That’s why it’s so important to stay positive.
Here’s another example of attitude in action. I work with my 3 Kings rhythm section at the same studio in Nashville 90 percent of the time. Recently the studio manager pulled us aside and told us he loved having us around because there’s always positive energy in the building when we work there. We let our attitudes show. As a result, we attract other like-minded people to the studio, who end up booking more sessions. That’s a great scenario for a studio owner!
We couldn’t have a conversation about attitude without discussing some of the kick-butt drummers. I immediately think of Gene Krupa, John Bonham, Tony Williams, Carmine Appice, Kenny Aronoff, Tommy Lee, Alex Van Halen, and Dave Grohl, among many others. We’re not talking about ego or arrogance here. I’m referring to an utter confidence in their playing and their approach that lights a fire of inspiration in the musicians who play with them.
There’s tremendous power in playing with attitude. Drumming is the way I express myself spiritually and physically. It’s the physical manifestation of who I am as a person. I notice that as soon as I get near my expression zone—a drumset—I assume a certain attitude. I know that I was put here to play drums. I own every second of it, from the click of my sticks for the first count-off to the very last cymbal blow. I’m performing from the first moment I step on stage, and I’m performing with attitude. I strive to always maintain that confidence, while being open to musical and verbal suggestions from my fellow musicians. Attitude rocks, so let yours shine. See you next time!
Rich Redmond is a Nashville-based touring/recording drummer with the multiplatinum country rocker Jason Aldean. He has also worked with Kelly Clarkson, Bryan Adams, Jewel, Ludacris, Lit, Joe Perry, Miranda Lambert, Steel Magnolia, Thompson Square, Rushlow, and others. For more info, visit richredmond.com.