13 Tips For The Touring Musician

This article originally appeared in Music Insider Magazine – November 2012
www.musicinsidermagazine.com


I have split my time between being both a touring and recording musician since 1997. I find that both of these activities “feed” and support each other. Playing in the studio usually leads to cool live playing situations and playing with quality live musicians seems to open doors to recording projects. Many musicians draw a line in the sand and choose one or the other. I like doing both! In my experience traveling on planes, buses, train and automobiles; I have acquired some bits of wisdom that I am happy to share with you.

Here we go!

Know The Parts
Most touring musicians are hired to re create parts that were recorded by studio musicians. Your job is to know those parts inside and out. My advice is to play those parts every night, note for note with purpose, perfection, and passion. This is THE most important part of being a road musician. You have to play your parts and the show perfectly every night! Your lead singer, and band mates will appreciate the consistency! The management team and the fans will notice this as well. Secure your spot in the over crowded and competitive music world by playing flawlessly night after night.

Be Consistent.
Be reliable. Show up on time (or be early). Show Up Sober. Show Up Happy. Show Up ready to work. Ask yourself these questions: Can people rely on you? Do you have a great attitude and demeanor? The people that can answer “yes” to these questions hold on to gigs and keep getting recommended for other great gigs. Please don’t forget to be open, giving, and flexible. Take direction well and have a great attitude. People will notice that you exhibit these fantastic qualities and will spread the word. Now you have the world as your no cost marketing team.

Be Kind
Kindness goes a LONG way in any field and in any business. I am always kind to baggage handlers, hotel personnel, bus drivers, stewardesses, road crew members, techs, stage hands, caterers…everyone. All of these people’s efforts factors into the overall success of your organization. Everyone has individual skill sets and life paths. Who’s to say that your job is more important than theirs? Don’t be arrogant. Be kind, be helpful, be approachable, and be friendly. Spread joy and love. People will always remember this about you over any kind of musical talent. It’s a fact.

Dress The Part
Every band and every style of music seems to have a corresponding fashion style. A big band jazz group usually requires a tuxedo or tucked in shirt, tie and jacket combo. Hard rock may call for a dash of leather, studded belts and jean vests. Dress appropriately for your musical genre. I like to mix and match stuff. I’ve also gone through many phases over the years. Lately, I gravitate towards slim jeans, Converse low top shoes, a funky tee, a vest and a wallet chain. I mix and match brands and colors, but that’s my overall vibe. I own it and it works for me and the group I play in. Don’t be afraid to coordinate with your band. In our group, one guy may do the leather jacket, one guy does the vest open, one closed, one cat does the long sleeves, while another does short sleeves…mix it up to create that LOOK for your band. It’s important and you are kidding yourself if you think it’s not.

Prepare for Problems:
Have at least two of everything. Have backups of backups (especially anything electronic like drum machines, samplers, trigger pads or computers). Have a great relationship with all of your endorsing companies. You (or your tech) need to be able to pick up the phone and have a spare or replacement part shipped out to you immediately. For drummers, try having backups of these items:

Cymbals
Snare Drums
Sticks
Heads
Hardware
Cymbal felts
Duct tape
Lug locks
Tools

Can’t We All Get Along?
Be a team player. There is no “I” in team. The band behind Jason Aldean knows each other inside and out. We are aware what makes each of us “tick” musically and personally. We get along. Sure, we may fight like brothers sometimes, but we are committed to one thing… making the show kick ass night after night! Get along with your band mates and everyone on your tour from the road manager to the stage manager to the head chef. GO TEAM!

Get Off The Bus
The road can make you pretty weary. They don’t call it “road worn” for nothing. Get off the bus, take a walk, and see the local surroundings (museums, art galleries, record shops, clothing stores, gyms). I like to go for runs and stop at the local Starbucks to make phone calls. I take fun pictures of my surroundings and send them to my wife. This is a fun hobby we have that helps keep us “together” while we are constantly separated. Get some fresh air! Smell the roses.

Have A Hobby
I don’t have any time or interest in building ships in a bottle, but I do like to decompress a bit from the stresses of touring with an awesome koumbucha tea and a movie with my band mates. I like to read books on spirituality, music, motivation business, as well as biographies and the occasional thriller. I also do lots of writing for magazines (like this one you are reading). These things are great distractions and are healthy.

Make Friends
The most appealing part of travel is making friends all over the world. I have friends in almost every major city. We catch up, have coffee or do lunch. Sometimes friends will stop by sound check or one of my events. It’s a blast! I like to teach drum lessons and give my motivational drum events at colleges, high schools, music stores, drum shops and corporate events everywhere. (Check out www.crashcourseforsuccess.com). I meet lots of people and make many new friends. It’s an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity and I don’t take it for granted. Do yourself a favor and make some friends in your travels. Your life will be richer!

Eat Right
You truly are what you eat. This subject could warrant an entire article in itself. A good rule of thumb here is “everything in moderation”. Limit sugars and refined carbohydrates (bread, pastas, tortillas), avoid heavy sauces and cream toppings, and avoid fatty meats high in saturated fats. I say ‘no’ to soda and ‘yes’ to water. I love coffee and tea. I always try to eat balanced and clean. Think: Tuna on whole wheat, salad with a chicken breast and a light vinaigrette, sushi with brown rice, lean beef with spinach or broccoli, an egg white omelet, greek yogurt with local honey and blueberries, or grilled salmon with sweet potato and veggies. Always choose ‘grilled’ over ‘fried’. Eat smaller meals every 3 to 4 hours. Eating heavy bogs me down. I pull long hours and I have to have energy to play drums in a very physical style. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your diet and tweak things until you find your perfect eating philosophy. Focus on how the food and combination of foods makes you feel. Remember: ‘Eat light, eat often’!

Get Some Exercise
Get out there and move! Exercise burns calories, keeps your muscles toned, helps with endurance and helps rid your body of toxins. Exercise reduces your chances for acquiring a disease and extends your life span. I have found that I have to regularly ‘mimic’ the amount of energy that I expend while playing the drums and the cardiovascular intensity I exert when I play a live show. This is essentially a “chop” that goes away very quickly. If I don’t play show for 30 days and I don’t exercise regularly, I will immediately notice a difference when I come back to playing live shows. You have to exercise! I prefer a mixture weight training, cardio (street runs, treadmill, stair climber, elliptical trainer) and fitness “boot camps”. Keep experimenting, find something you like and stick with it. Your body will thank you!

Don’t Over Do It
Musicians are always surrounded by a limitless supply of booze and drugs. If you want it, it’s easy to find and it’s usually free of charge. I don’t do drugs. I never have. DON’T DO DRUGS! Opening that box can take you down a dark path that you may never find your way out of. I do like to relax and drink socially. Please realize that it can get out of hand quickly. Know when to say ‘when’. Alcohol is something that can very easily keep you from reaching your maximum potential in the music business. Enjoy it responsibly and make sure it never interferes with your gig, your relationships and your quality of life!

Save Some Cash:
The music business is like a roller coaster… Lots of ups AND downs and very unpredictable. Tours come and go. Artists like to take time off or even cancel tours. Make sure you set aside a bit of cash to get you through these unavoidable moments. You just need a bit to get you through to the next tour or project. Save some cash!

“Redmond’s Rules Of The Road”

Always warm up and stretch before a show
Always take bottled water from the back stage area for your hotel and bunk.
Always have protein bars, nuts and any healthy snacks for future use. Dump them in your backpack and go!
ALWAYS know where your luggage is and always have it with you.
Have tags and your contact information on every piece of your luggage. I use plastic tags, strips of bright colored tape (neon pink or green), AND the airline tag.
Never pass up a hot shower. Who knows when your next one will be?
Always be kind to everyone. Especially the runner. The “runner” is the person the venue hires to drive people back and forth from airports and hotels, pickup food, make gym runs and take band members on personal errands (post office, anniversary present shopping, and of course this one…”Can you take me to buy a couple of pairs of underwear? All of mine are dirty and we have another week on this tour!”)
Don’t eat too heavy before a gig. Save it for after. You don’t want to look or feel bloated when you are trying to put on a sexy performance. Ha!
Use text messages, email, Skype and Apple’s “Facetime” app to keep in touch with loved ones, family, friends and other musical colleagues. These are an indispensable and mostly FREE ways of keeping in touch and nurturing those precious relationships.
Have a ‘system’ for storing your most important items in your backpack. I have everything ‘compartmentalized’, so when I go thru airport security, I know where everything has to end up after I take it all out and put it in those annoying plastic bins. Constantly perform an inventory: Keys, drivers license, passport, phone, wallet, watch, computer, Ipad, passport, flight itinerary, house keys, Ilock for Pro Tools, chargers…all of it. Know where it is at all times. It’s very easy for things to get misplaced and left behind fast. Have a system.
Always write down the name of your hotel or take a hotel business card from the front desk. If you are jetlagged or get turned around in a foreign city, at least you have the name and address of the hotel.
Always have a little cash on you. It’s such a cashless society now. I find myself without cash most of the time. When you want to tip that baggage handler or cabbie, it’s way easier to have cash.
Take pictures! Life is short! I have snapped pictures every step of the way with my journey in the Jason Aldean band. We all look back at these experiential snapshots and laugh. We’ve had such a great time. Pictures are the proof that it happened! Don’t miss your opportunity to archive the times of your life. It’s even better when you share it with the world.
Shoot Video! You will look back and smile at all of it.
Share your journey with your fans via social media. Facebook and Twitter are very effective and FREE ways to promote your band or YOU as a creative brand. Coca Cola and Pepsi are brands. YOU are a brand. You just have to not be afraid of letting people know you exist. There is only ONE you! Share your experiences. Be transparent. Be friendly. Be YOU. Build your brand. Post photos, videos and insights into your life. It’s powerful! “Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken”-Oscar Wilde

I’m always happy to answer questions via email. In addition to session drumming, you can contact me about production work, songwriting, drum lessons (via Skype or in person), drum clinics motivational speaking engagements, guest artist appearances with high school/collegiate ensembles or playing drums on your next recording via the internet. Thanks so much!

BOOK RICH

Remember: Play from the heart, it will set you apart!

Many Cheers,
Rich

An Insiders Guide to Session Drumming

This article originally appeared in Music Insider Magazine – October 2012
www.musicinsidermagazine.com


As a 15-year veteran of the Nashville music scene, I’ve been fortunate enough to record 10 #1 hits with country rocker JASON ALDEAN, a #1 hit with the pop country duo THOMPSON SQUARE, as well as hits by STEEL MAGNOLIA, DOC WALKER, RUSHLOW, and many others. I get emails all the time from fresh-faced collegiate music school graduates seeking advice on how to break into “The Recording Scene” and become full time session drummers.

Let’s face it; the music business has changed drastically in the last 15 years. Less music is being sold and as a result, less music is being recorded. However, the number of drummers looking to break into recording work continues to grow. So, there are more players and less and less opportunities for work. In other words, the music business has continued to become more competitive than ever.

The best business plan for today’s drummer is to live the dual life of being a touring drummer and a recording drummer. This mindset gives you the greatest chance to find yourself behind a set of drums everyday. Unless you are in a Grammy award- winning band with a global fan base, you will need to play everyday to make even a decent living. In my experience, playing live leads to session work and session work leads to live gigs and tours. Embrace it all and go to where the work is.

I am here today to share some of my experience and insights to help you create opportunities for yourself and to be prepared when opportunities come your way.

Be Versatile:
Versatility is the most important skill set a drummer can have in the studio. You may be asked to switch gears from jazz, big band, heavy metal, easy listening, fusion, pop or country in a short period of time or even one song! Having a working knowledge of the commonalities and differences between these styles is paramount. Music is a language and all styles have their own dialects. Study the artists that popularized these styles and the language and rhythms of the drummers that worked in that style.

When I moved to Nashville, I went to a used record shop and loaded up on the ‘greatest hits’ packages of artists like Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams. I wanted to truly understand what made this music ‘tick’. You have to learn the rules so you can break them. I studied drummers like Buddy Harmon, Larry Londin, Tommy Wells, Jerry Kroon and Eddie Bayers. I eventually went on to become friends with some of these gentlemen. That never hurts either. Ha! For overall studio legends study Earl Palmer, Hal Blaine, Steve Gadd, John Robinson and Jeff Porcarao. For the rock style study Charlie Watts, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell, Carmine Appice and John Bonham. For the jazz style study Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Max Roach, Tony Williams, and Buddy Rich. The list goes on and on.

Actively seek out live playing experiences with different types of musicians and bands. The more ‘real’ world experience you have with styles, the more ‘deep’ and ‘authentic’ your take on them will be. By listening to many styles of music, you create a well of knowledge that will Help you in any musical situation. Many times, producers, artists and songwriters will “reference” other songs, bands, artists and “vibes’ to help communicate how they want their music to sound. Know your styles.

Have A Positive Attitude:
Attitude is THE one thing that can make or break a person. More often than not, it is the first thing that people will remember about you. You can be the greatest at your craft in the world, but if you serve it up with a bad attitude, and no one will want to work with you. Be flexible, be open, be giving and make the experience about everyone else. Give more than you receive. Make others comfortable. Offer up an incredible experience that is drenched in positivity, and nothing can stop you from succeeding. People will line up to work with those that have a great attitude. It’s been said so many times, but it’s the truth… “Attitude is everything”.

Be Flexible:
Can you take direction and not be offended? A session drummer is in the business of making a client happy. You are there to serve. The client may have suggestions on everything from song structure, to style, tempo, “color” choices, musical attitudes, articulations, loops, percussion overdubs, snare drum and cymbal choices…anything. Make the client happy and do it with a smile on your face. Life really is collection of experiences. Give everyone in the room an unforgettable and enjoyable ‘experience’ and they will end up telling all of their friends and colleagues about you and what you do. The music business operates on a ‘word of mouth’ basis. Be flexible, open and giving and people will be talking…about you.

Make It Groove:
A drummer’s time feel is most under a microscope in the recording studio. A recording is essentially, a snap shot of a performance or a ‘record’ of a performance caught in time. Literally. Although it is everyone in the rhythm section’s job to help create a magical time flow, the job ultimately starts and ends with the drummer. The drummer has to play great time with a flowing and inspirational groove, which leads to that ‘healing feeling’ that only music can create. Play great time, make it groove and watch everyone feel awesome about the song, the session and themselves. That’s powerful stuff! You can have that kind of effect on people with the savvy use of rhythm and drums.

Play With Clicks And Loops:
A click track is an electronic or percussive signal generated by a drum machine, metronome or DAW (Digital Audio Workstation like Pro Tools). It is a very efficient and effective way for a group of musicians to create that ‘magical’ time feel in short period of time. It is also incredibly useful for digital editing. With digital editing, multiple takes of performances can be effortlessly spliced together to create the ‘holy grail’ of performances.

The majority of modern music is recorded with a click track. These days, it becomes an artistic decision to not use one. The click usually does not end up in the final mix, so a skilled session drummer must learn to play perfectly “on” the click or to swim around it. Manipulating where you place your beat can create different time feels.

A loop is a rhythmic phrase, usually percussive in nature that will make it to the final mix. Due to this fact, the drummer must play very tight, if not perfectly with the loop. The ability to effortlessly play with clicks and loops is one of the most important skill sets for a session drummer. Record yourself often!

It’s also always smart to carry your own loops on a laptop, drum machine or Ipad, in case you work in a studio that doesn’t generate click. Always be prepared.

Read And Write Charts:
Session drummers are expected to record perfect takes of songs almost immediately after hearing a song for the first time. Since there is no time to memorize the arrangement, charts are used to get the musicians to the finish line faster. There are several types of charts: Chord charts, transcriptions, phrase charts and Nashville number system charts.

Chord charts outline the form and harmonic structure of a song using letters like C#, G and D. Very common shorthand.
-Transcriptions lay out an arrangement in a very specific note for note fashion. These are common on classical dates, symphonic dates, jingles and movie scores. Everything from specific tom fills, to cymbal crashes, and even the hi- hat opening and closing is notated. I developed good reading chops in this style by playing in many classical and big band environments. You may also be asked to replace another drummer’s performance or programmed part note for note. You have to be able to write out (quickly) what you hear the drummer or programmer doing. Sometimes the drums are the last piece to be recorded. When this happens, I will write out what the bass player played, so I can lock up my right foot with what he (or she) has already played.
-Phrase charts are an outline of the major phrases and structure of the song. This is a rough outline that the drummer can then use to ‘paint a picture’ in the moment. I also use this method to create “cheat charts” for live gigs. Every drummer has their own way of doing this and it is usually born out of necessity.
-The Nashville Number System is a way of outlining the harmonic structure of a song by using numbers that correspond to chords. For example: In the key of C, (‘1’ would be C Major, ‘4’ would be F Major and ‘5’ would be G Major). It’s a very efficient method of charting and communicating a song form quickly.

Tune It:
Everyone in the industry has a different philosophy on tuning. Perhaps it is more art than science. Remember, there is no right and wrong, just what’s right for the music you are playing, the taste of the producer/artist/engineer and the room you are recording in. Again, be flexible. Remember, it may sound great to you on the tracking floor, but may not be translating to the folks behind the glass. They are hearing “the truth”. Be open to their input and suggestions. I always trust my engineer (if he’s good. Ha!)

Play with a great tone:
Tone is the quality of the sound a musician produces on his or her instrument. The better your tone, the better your chance of getting called frequently by many clients. People have to enjoy the sound you get on your instrument. It should be pleasing to the ear, appropriate for the type of music you are playing and be consistent. Consistency in your tone and touch on the instrument is paramount. Give the engineers a strong signal that is balanced in dynamics from stroke to stroke. Tone is a radical thing, because you can take it with you anywhere you go. A great drummer can play on any drum set and have a personal or signature ‘sound’. It may take a while to develop or find that sound but it is well worth the journey.

Have a vast sonic palette:
Start with one versatile and special sounding set of drums. Try a 22” kick drum, 2 toms, and a snare drum that you can tune high, mid and low. You want to be able to cover lots of bases at first. Also have versatile cymbals that sound great under microphones. As you expand your color options, you can add 18”, 20”, 24” and 26” kicks to your arsenal, along with multiple snare drums ranging from 3.5” to 8” deep and made of steel, brass, chrome, copper, bronze and of course, wood. You can accomplish lots with an acrolite style snare drum. This drum is so versatile, that you can go from Fleetwood Mac thump to Bonham mid range swagger to Stewart Copeland inspired reggae with just a few turns of a drum key. Experiment with tunings, dampening (moon gels, tape, tissue paper, notebook paper) and other sound modifiers. KNOW YOUR DRUMS! Be able to change their sound and attitude quickly. Experiment with head choices and know how these choices will affect the sound of the instrument. Try playing a bass drum ‘open’ with no muffling, a bit of muffling, and lots of muffling. Try beaters made of wood, plastic, felt and wool. Practice leaving the bass drum beater in the head or pulling it out of the head after each stroke. All of these choices will affect the sound, feel and vibe of a track. Be sure to have wire and plastic brushes, hot rods and blastix, as well as a variety of mallets.

Say No to Red Light Fever:
A red light in the studio used to mean ‘recording in progress’. Don’t be caught like a deer in that red light! When recording starts, be confident and execute! Concentrate for those 3.5 minutes of your life and you will love the results. Also remember that things usually sound way better on the other side of the glass. Trust your instincts! Be confident and play from the heart. If people are smiling “on the floor” and behind the glass, you are probably doing something right. Own that moment. Make it yours.

Play Percussion:
A good drummer always knows how to play a bit of percussion. The ability to play fun and exciting tambourine, shaker, maraca, triangle, conga, bongo, djembe, cajon or other noisemaker overdubs can set you apart from the masses quickly. It’s also a great way to help shape what the full drum and percussion palette will sound like with just one player. It also doesn’t hurt to make twice the amount of money, right? Why bring in a percussionist, when you can do it yourself? Having this skill and mindset has also allowed me to overdub percussion on many other drummer’s tracks (Lonnie Wilson, Eddie Bayers, Greg Morrow, Chad Cromwell, Tommy Harden, etc.) with artists like John Eddie, Lila McCann, Trace Adkins, Montgomery Gentry, Marty Stuart and many others.

You can also add some zest to tracks by using products like Roland’s Hand Sonic.

This is a great tool for drummers that don’t play hand drums to add true to life, high quality samples to tracks by playing trigger pads with their hands. This unit has thousands of percussive sounds from around the globe in one portable box. You can’t beat that. Wait…

Be a Boy Scout:
Always have extra parts and tools. I always have a standard toolbox, WD-40, lug locks, cymbal felts, snare wires, spare parts, etc with me. I also always have a back up bass drum pedal and snare stand. If your primary gear breaks down, you don’t want to slow down the session with time-consuming repairs. Time is money.

Run your business:
Art and business don’t always go together, but you have to run your music career like a business or you won’t be around or long.
Remember this:
-Return calls, texts and emails promptly. Have you ever heard the phrase, “the early bird gets the worm?” It’s true.
-Have a business card.
-Have an up to date website.
-Use social media to help build your brand. It’s free, fun and will help you keep your name in the public eye. Show your personality and like-minded people will be attracted to you. Social media changed the world. Don’t be left in the dark.

Keep It Fun:
There is definitely easier ways to make money than play drums. Ha! Be sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Keep it fun and remember why you got into playing music in the first place. Keep things fresh by listening to new and exciting music and perhaps playing music you have never played before. Maintain balance in your life with love, friends, spirituality, exercise, and hobbies. I love travel, food, fashion, and film. Stay inspired, youthful and vibrant and you’ll be listening to lots of playbacks! I hope this information has resonated with you and that you find it helpful. I’m always happy to answer questions via email. In addition to session drumming, you can contact me about production work, songwriting, drum lessons (via Skype or in person), drum clinic/speaking engagements, guest artist appearances with high school/collegiate ensembles or playing drums on your next recording via the internet. Thanks!

Commitment

What does it take to be a successful working drummer? Commitment. Commitment is the first word in an acronym I have created to illustrate global concepts people can use to attract success to their lives. This CRASH acronym is: (Commitment-Relationships-Attitude-Skill-Hunger). Commitment can be defined as a ”pledge or undertaking” or “to be dedicated to something”. Any musician who has had any staying power will tell you the music business is tough as nails and that a massive amount of dedication is required to navigate it. This dedication can be applied to both your drumming skills and to the business associated with cultivating a successful music career.

In my travels, I get to see many drummers of all ages and levels of ability perform. By constantly observing, I notice many drummers lack commitment in their musical approach. How many times have you seen a drummer play with a low energy or lifeless style? Their playing lacks energy, drive, and that special ‘it’ factor. It’s as if they are staring at their watch, waiting for the gig to be over so they could rush home to warm up some ramen noodles and settle in with Three’s Company re runs. From the clicking of the sticks, the count off, to the first downbeat, there needs to be a commitment.

Commitment means giving yourself over to the music making process and the whole experience. Actually being IN the music. Don’t confuse a drummer playing with lack of commitment and a drummer trying to play soft. Equally, loud drumming can lack energy and that ‘committed’ quality. You can achieve every bit of intensity and INTENTION when you play soft. Commit to playing loud, soft, fast, slow and everything in between with conviction. Make intentional choices to drive and lift the music. More than anything, a performance starts in the mind. Are you IN the music or are you thinking about the stresses of life (bills, domestic issues, schedules)? Let the music take you away to a special place. By making that commitment, the performance and the music itself becoming more rewarding and meaningful.

I’m always thinking in these terms:
Am I balancing the dynamics between the limbs? Am I using proper tone and articulation? Am I playing great time and making things groove and feel great? Is my time even and relaxed? Am I using all of the colors available on the drum set? Am I listening to all of the musicians, especially the lead vocal? Am I playing in a way that makes it easy for the whole band to play together? These are every important questions to ask. Be sure to record your gigs on audio and video. A Flip or Zoom recorder is an excellent investment for self-improvement. You will be able to see and hear your level of commitment instantly.

When David Letterman asked the late Warren Zevon if he had any advice for people as he was approaching his final days, he said, “Enjoy every sandwich”. Those words resonated with me. We only have so much time on earth and the whole life experience can be taken away at any moment. Combine that with the thought that if you are actually playing music professionally or semi-professionally, you are in rare company. About .01% of people in the world that play a musical instrument get to do it on a truly professional level. I told myself very early on in my career, that I would always play at 100%. I would always serve the music, listen, lift the other players up and make it a fun experience. In short, I was going to always ‘play my ass off’. If you subscribe to this positive and committed approach, the phone will keep ringing.

Being committed to your craft means being prepared for any opportunity that comes your way. After college, I was determined to make a name for myself in the music business. I reached out to everyone I knew in the music business to see if anyone knew about auditions in major markets. A friend turned me on to a ‘gate keeper’ for a major artist. I got my audition tape to them and they liked what they heard. I was invited to a ‘cattle call’ audition, but had to cover the costs of my flight, transportation, lodging and food. I knew this would be pricey, but I was committed and I wanted the gig! I was asked to learn 5 songs. I did, plus I charted out another fifty; the artists entire catalog! That way, if they called any other songs, I would be prepared and I could set myself apart from the rest of the pack. I did not end up getting that gig, but every person I met that day ended up turning me on to two other major auditions. I never got those jobs either, but I learned that the winning drummers all lived in Nashville. Ah ha! This was a light bulb moment. I had to be in Nashville. I reminded myself of my commitment, so I gave my band 2 weeks notice, packed up what little I owned and moved to Nashville. I knew very few people, had no gigs and very little money saved. I was armed only with my abilities, my confidence and my commitment to reach my goal. You have to have goals. A life without goals will leave you wandering aimlessly with no direction. When I arrived in Nashville, my goal was to become a top call touring and session drummer. Fifteen years later I am still working on that goal and it’s never ending. I’ve survived hard times when I had to supplement my drumming with jobs like waiting tables, construction work and substitute teaching. I could have packed up my bags a million times and quite, but I didn’t. Doors were slammed in my face over and over again, but I had two things: A dream, and a commitment to see if through.

When I made the decision to move to Nashville, the first thing I did was press up 500 copies of my demo tape “Rich Redmond: Drums and Percussion”. This highlighted my musicianship in a variety of settings: big band, small group, fusion, latin, metal pop, Motown, classical percussion, etc. Every musician, songwriter, club owner and waitress in Nashville was handed one of these. I ran out the first week! I crashed parties, shook hands and let people know I existed. I realized that I needed to be persistent. No one was going to hand it over to me on a silver platter. I was going to have to earn it.

Did I take every single gig that came along from weddings to bar mitzvahs, corporate parties, weddings, pool parties, dance halls, strip clubs, super market grand openings?…The answer is ‘yes’. I even kicked jokes for magicians! At the end of those gigs, I would ask my band mates how things were feeling and how I could improve my playing. Constructive feedback is great fuel for your commitment.

Commitment to drumming as a career requires you to believe that failure is not an option. It can never even enter your mind. One has to move to a Nashville, NYC, or LA to GET the gig. The chances of getting a gig and THEN relocating are slim to none. You HAVE to be where the gigs are. Period. This is a chance that 99% of people are unwilling to take. It’s great to want to do something, but if you have to do it, then you will make that commitment and follow through. In navigating my career for the last twenty years, I never stopped moving forward. Never stop! I realized the importance of practicing constantly, taking lessons, recording myself, video taping myself, listening to tons of music and constantly improving.

Playing the drums and making music defines me as a human being. It’s truly how I express myself. Knowing that I get to play the drums everyday gets me out of bed with a huge smile on my face. Most successful people will offer the same advice. Make a commitment, fuel it with conviction, passion and persistence and watch your dreams become a reality. Conceive, Believe, Receive.

Rich Redmond is a Nashville based touring/recording drummer with multi platinum country rocker Jason Aldean. Rich has played/produced 8 #1 hits and has helped bring a new rock infused sound to Music Row. Rich has also worked with Kelly Clarkson, Bryan Adams, Jewel, Ludacris, Lit, Joe Perry, Miranda Lambert, Steel Magnolia, Thompson Square, Rushlow and many others. Rich’s “CRASH Course” seminar focuses on utilizing the concepts of “Commitment/Relationships/Attitude/Skill/Hunger” to forge a successful career in the music business. www.richredmond.com

Relationships

This article focuses on the second portion of our CRASH concept (Commitment-Relationships-Attitude-Hunger-Skill), Relationships. Let’s look at the concept as it applies to your drumming, your on stage interactions and your overall drumming career. Here’s an interesting fact. In all of my years of drumming, I have only gotten one drumming job from an audition. Even on the particular ‘cattle call’, the drummer that had the job before me called management and the artist to put in a good word for me. The message left on management’s voicemail went something like this:

“You guys can still have your cattle call, but I promise Rich is the guy. He is a team player, he shows up prepared and on time. His drums sound great, he’s versatile, can take direction and he has a good personality.” My relationship with the previous drummer secured my position on a new gig. How about a round of applause for our friends! Every other job I have gotten has come from a recommendation. Simply put, another person sticking their neck out for me and championing me. Of course, I always feel compelled to return the favor. In all of these years of drumming and living, I felt like I have unlocked the code. Relationships with people make the world go round. Especially if they are based on mutual admiration and sincerity.

I have relationships with instrumentalists of all types, songwriters, producers, artists, managers, booking agents, publishers, studio owners, club owners, etc. I know lots of people working in many sub fields of the music industry (touring, recording, merchandising, publishing, etc.) It takes all types to make the music business work. There are many cogs in the wheel and they all have to work together. Why limit yourself your social circle to one small group of people? By associating yourself in many circles, your next gig can come from anyone at anytime. It really is a small world and many of he ‘gate keepers’ know each other.

I’m always asked by struggling musicians via social media outlets to ‘keep them in mind’ for major auditions. Many of these musicians live in rural areas outside the major music markets (NYV, LA, Nashville). How could I champion someone when I don’t know anything about their playing, personality and people skills? This really is an unrealistic request. Another factor to remember is that there are hundreds of qualified musicians in the larger markets scratching and clawing for the available work, so there is never a need to look outside of those cities. The best way to guarantee success is to relocate to one of those markets and start cultivating sincere, lasting relationships.

Relationships within a band are also crucial for creating great music. Being comfortable and friendly with the people you are making music with is paramount. I am fortunate that I have been touring for over 10 years with my best friends. We know each other inside and out and many times know what is going to happen musically long before it does. We anticipate, we encourage, we listen. There is a brotherhood there and commitment to make things sound, feel and even look great. (Remember, the average person hears with their eyes. So give them a show. Think Gene Krupa). There is a relationship between my right foot on the kick drum and the bass player’s right hand. When I whack my snare drum, I want to hear the guitar locking precisely with me. Our goal is to play together as a section and make it sit fat and sexy. If we make it feel great, it will motivate and inspire the rest of the guys in the band an especially, the front man. It will always be about the front person, so to solidify that relationship, we always try to play on a high level and make things super easy for he or she to entertain. If you can make the artist and band leader happy, you will have job security!

For a drummer specifically, the relationship between the limbs and the various sound sources of the kit is important. If you think of the each sound source having a fader on a mixer, it is your job as a performer to balance those elements so they all sound like one instrument. The great Steve Gadd is the master of this. Whatever dynamic level you choose to play at, all the limbs should be balanced to create a cohesive feel and groove. Try playing the Jimmy Cobb swing feel with the cross stick on beat four. Playing the cross stick too loud will throw off the sonic relationships and it will feel ‘wrong’. The proper sonic relationship between the limbs is crucial. Be your own mix engineer on the gig.

Relationships between the limbs also bring to mind the concept of ‘space’. The space in time between two backbeats or even the kick drum and snare drum on a basic rock beat will determine how the groove feels. As drummers, we have total power in shaping the feel of a song with the space between beats. This requires a massive commitment to subdividing. If I play a quarter note based groove, I subdivide eighth notes. If I play an eighth note based groove, I subdivide sixteenth notes. I pretend there is a funky percussionist in my head ( I call him Jose), who helps me keep the spacing consistent and ‘honest’. I also use any body language elements I can to maintain those relationships. Think Ringo’s head bobbing or Shawn Pelton’s full physical commitment. These guys aren’t afraid to involve their body and the result is an out of this world feel with fantastic timing and balanced dynamic relationships.

Relationships are a catch all concept you can use to improve your drumming, get it heard by the masses and get you hired for gigs. So keep practicing, shake hands and get heard!

Attitude Is Everything

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 is Attitude.

Attitude is everything in life. It will make or break anyone on any career track, especially musicians. cheap jerseys Music is about communicating on a deep, almost telepathic or even spiritual level. As a general rule, I have never met a single person on this earth that wants to communicate on even a surface cheap jerseys online level with a person that 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. Attitude will make or break you!

Did you know it takes almost twice as much energy to generate a negative thought as it does a positive thought? 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 be able to pursue your major purpose in life everyday. I was attracted to this idea of positivity at a very young age. My mother collected books by authors who wrote about the power of the mind and how our thoughts could become things. Think Napolean Hill, Zig Zigler, Leo Buscaglia and Tony Robbins. She encouraged me to absorb these material and absorb I did…like a sponge! I’m so grateful to her for that encouragement. Thanks Mom! Don’t be afraid to read and absorb the works of these great thinkers. Their ideas are available in a body of work that you can use to vastly improve your life. ‘Change Lensky your mind, change your life’ is a fantastic thought process I have brought to my drumming career, with great results.

I believe all people from all walks of Hunger life are subliminally attracted to people with great attitudes. You can set yourself apart from the pack by wielding a winning attitude like a sword. There are many drummers across the globe that share many skill sets. They may all have great gear, can all read music, are knowledgeable of song structures, are versatile enough to play many styles, can program loops, play comfortably with clicks, and wholesale mlb jerseys even enjoy overdubbing percussion, etc. These are expected skill sets for the city I live in (Nashville) and the music scene I work in. However, not all drummers have that winning attitude that people want to surround themselves with time and time again. The ones that have it, work all of the time.

Here’s an example of attitude in action. A top notch producer friend of mine called me a few years back to record drums on a project for a band. In the spirit of a true band, my friend wanted to get complete band takes like 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 across the board together. My friend knew that not all drummers would have the patience for this. He knew from hiring me in the past, that I would be comfortable with keeping the energy level of the music up and my mental attitude positive for one take or fifteen! There you go, I got hired over the competition because of my team spirit and wining attitude.

My job is to serve the music, lift up the songs, drive the band and inspire the artist to be their best. I’m Skill willing to do anything to make that happen….show up early, stay late, take direction, give suggestions…be open, play from the heart (‘play from the heart, it will set you apart’). I do it all with a smile on my face! Hopefully, my employers will notice this and will want to call me again. All businesses thrive on repeat business. 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 one thing most people will remember about you more than any of your other traits. A great attitude means you have to open to suggestions. You have to be willing to change time signatures, forms, beats, subdivisions, grooves, fills, attitudes, colors and textures on the fly. This rule applies whether you are working for an artist or band, live wholesale jerseys or in the cheap jerseys studio. If the producer wants mallets on the toms, a rivet cymbal played with brushes or a light backbeat on the underside of the snare drum, do it. Don’t make the mistake of being negative or closed off to suggestions. You are being paid to be there! Don’t be a “Negative Nelly”!

I have witnessed many situations where a Le paid musician is difficult to work with and doesn’t like rolling with the punches. The whole situation becomes uncomfortable and that musician is never called again. Over time, that same musician may develop an unfavorable reputation. In my book, a man’s reputation is everything. Why jeopardize that? I have been at recording sessions where the morale has slipped and the negativity is hanging so thick it the air that you could cut it with a knife! You can ease tensions with a witty joke or by expressing how excited you are to be there and be part of the project. Positive attitudes are contagious. I don’t know how it’s contagious, it just is. Experiment with this. You’ll like the results.

In this fast paced new world in which we live, you have to run just to stand still. This means you need to consistently go above and beyond expectations and constantly deliver “the goods” with a small on your face. Many people talk about ‘vibes’. How many times have you heard, “Man, the vibe in that room is way off” or ”Man, that dude has a really dark vibe”? It happens all of the time. This is intuition. People are all given the gift of intuition. It’s our birth right. All people can sense and feel when someone is thinking negative thoughts. It’s been proven that negative thought patterns actually manifest themselves in a molecular way. That’s why it is so important to stay “in the green” and avoid “the red”. Stay happy, stay positive.

Here’s another example of ‘attitude in action’. I work regularly with my ‘3 Kings’ rhythm section in Nashville at the same studio 90% of the time. Recently, the studio manager pulled us aside and told us he loved having us around because there is always a positive energy in the building when we work there. We let out attitudes show, and as a result, attract other like minded people to the studio, who end up booking their sessions at the studio. That’s a great scenario for a studio owner!

As it relates specifically to drumming, we couldn’t have a conversation about attitude without discussing all of the kick butt drummers through history that have played with ‘attitude’. Without hesitation, I think of Gene Krupa, John Bonham, Tony Williams, Carmine Appice, Kenny Aronoff, Tommy Lee, Alex Van Halen, Dave Grohl and many others. We’re not talking about ego or arrogance here. I’m referring to an utter confidence in their playing and their approach to playing that lights a fire of inspiration under all the musicians they play with and even sucks the listener into their special world. Drummers that play with attitude have a charisma. Let’s face it, charismatic individuals get preferential seating at restaurants, win elections and can even convince whole countries to go to war! There is tremendous power in playing with attitude. Playing the drums is the way I express myself spiritually and physically. It’s the physical manifestation of who I am as a person. In my experience, I notice that as soon as I step near my ‘expression Mask zone’ (a drum set), I assume a certain attitude. That’s what I do and i what I was put here to do…play drums. I own every second of it, from the click of my sticks for a count off, to the first crack of my backbeat, until the very last cymbal blow! I am performing from the first moment I step on stage, to the final vibration of the crash cymbals, and to the final stick toss to a crazed and appreciate fan….I’m performing with attitude. I strive to always maintain that attitude of confidence, while being open to musical and verbal suggestions from my fellow musicians.

Attitude Rocks. Let Yours’ Shine. Charlie Sheen would be proud. #Winning.
See you next time!

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