6 Tips For The Gigging Drummer
I'm in the middle of a couple of gig-intensive weeks, so I figured I'd take this opportunity to share some of my best advice for having successful gigs, staying on the right foot with the band, and making sure you get called back to play more. Let's dive in!
1. Know the material.
This is obviously VERY important. I always try to fully immerse myself into the music when learning it for a gig. I'll listen to it on repeat when driving, walking, taking a shower, cooking, doing dishes, you name it, day in and day out to make sure I know the music by heart. A lot of times I will also write simple charts for the songs - not necessarily because I'll need them on stage, but because the process of writing the charts helps me memorize the songs. How many bars each section is, where the breaks and stops are, what grooves are tricky or otherwise important to remember, etc.. If you're on a very tight deadline to learn the material (think 40 songs in 3 days), this is extra useful to do, as you'll then be able to look at the charts while playing to help you remember everything.
2. Be on time.
"Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable."
Don't make the band wait on you - make sure you're always ahead of schedule to give yourself time to set up your kit, relax and prepare before a show. Being on time is a big sign of respect, and something which can honestly make or break whether or not you get called back for more gigs. You also never know what might happen on your way to the gig, so don't plan your day according to a best-case scenario. Leave a little room for delays!
3. Be prepared for anything.
I always bring a bag of spare parts to any gig I play, especially when I'm going to be playing on someone else's kit and I don't know what shape it's in. I bring wing nuts, sleeves and washers for cymbals stands, bass drum pedal springs, hihat clutches, drum keys (you can never have too many!), spare heads, bandaids and other first-aid equipment, and I always bring a set of double pedals to a gig even if I won't be using the second pedal. If the main pedal breaks, I have a backup to help me get through the gig.
Something tends to happen at almost every gig... There are so many things that could go wrong, something is bound to sooner or later! For example, before one of the gigs last week I noticed there was a screw missing for one of my bass drum beaters. So I took a couple of cable ties and a bit of duct tape, and secured it in place to allow me to play the necessary double bass parts. ALWAYS BRING DUCT TAPE! It's going to save you more than once.
If there are ANY uncertainties about the songs, the logistics, your pay, or anything else, ASK THE BAND. This has saved me more times than I can count. Don't be a nuisance, but make sure you know the drill. You never know when a question can save you from an embarassing or otherwise inconvenient situation.
5. Go above and beyond.
This is, in my opinion, one of the most important attributes you want to have when doing gigs. Be as helpful as you possibly can, and put the band in front of yourself. Help with every step of loading in and loading out. Bring water and drinks to the stage. Compliment the band members after a good show, or even after a shitty one. Volunteer to drive so the other guys can drink. Stuff like this is likely going to leave a more lasting impression with the band than your drumming will. Always go the extra mile!
6. Ask for feedback.
After a (hopefully successful) gig, ask the band what you could have done better. Maybe you know you messed up during a part of a song - make a point to say that you're aware of your mistake, and tell them what you will do differently next time. Communication is super important, not just before the gig but also after. And of course, make sure you actually follow through on the feedback you get. Don't let it go into one ear and out of the other. Go back to the practice room, start over and do it better next time.
Hope you enjoyed these tips, and best of luck with all your future gigs!
Have any questions? Don't hesitate to contact me here.
See you soon,
- Siros Vaziri