This article originally appeared on TuneCore.
Performing live is a lot of fun! But it can also be stressful if you are not prepared, as things can often go wrong when you least expect.
Besides having all your equipment in check, your mindset on stage might be holding you back from reaching your full potential as a drummer.
Here are my top tips to help you maximize your enjoyment whilst playing the drums live and ensure you are playing at your peak performance!
1. Play with confidence
You might underestimate how much of the energy a musician gives on stage is transferred to other members of their band throughout a live performance. Playing with increased confidence will not only improve your playing but also the band as a whole!
The fact of the matter is, the band looks to the drummer for direction and guidance throughout a performance. The drummer is the dependable rock within the band and keeps the musical heart beating.
Playing with confidence will enhance both your sound and stage presence. Crowds will always respond positively to a band that performs with lots of energy and enthusiasm, and they will therefore be more receptive to the whole performance!
2. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes
This sounds conflicting, but it’s in the state of a ‘relaxed concentration’ that we engage our peak performance.
From experience, the harder I try to avoid any mistakes the more I make. It creates a lot of tension and rigidness within the mind that allows a judgmental voice to arise and cast doubt on a performance.
Trying too hard has a detrimental effect, especially for drummers, which is demanding mentally and physically. Drumming ‘in the zone’ encompasses fluidity, accuracy and coordination.
Professional sportsmen such as boxers or tennis players are completely relaxed competing in their sport, whilst staying in the zone mentally. They don’t need to remember how to block a punch or where to hit the ball correctly.
This innermost confidence exists without you even needing to find it. It is instinctive, and does not belong to the thinking self.
3. Absorb the music and enjoy all the sensations
Our minds tend to wander a lot. The mind is a storytelling machine and it often manages to find a way to distract you from meaningful moments in life.
The drums are an incredible focus for the mind! And the whole-body experience of drumming provides a wide host of sensations. You might only be on stage for half an hour, so you will want to truly enjoy what it really feels like to be playing the drums in the moment.
Immersing yourself in the present, taking in all the sounds, sights and sensations will further fuel your creativity and enjoyment!
4. Make sure your equipment is set up correctly
There’s nothing more painful than witnessing a drummer’s stands slowly dismantle and fall apart on stage, or seeing a drummer’s fear after dropping a drumstick without any spares to hand. These mishaps do happen, and can be easily prevented!
Make sure to use memory locks on all of your stands and tighten down wingnuts as hard as they can go. Attach your drumstick bag to your floor tom to give you easy access to spare drumsticks just in case you happen to drop any.
I strongly recommend using a precision drum tuner to make sure your snare drum sounds great for every show. They are amazing tools that save a lot of time and effort, allowing you to replicate drum sounds in a matter of minutes.
I have had a bass drum pedal spring break during a performance before. Luckily it was in the last song of our set. I would recommend you regularly replace your pedal springs at least once a year, and pack spares for a tour.
5. Be efficient setting up and packing down
Being considerate of other drummers performing on stage is a necessary part of playing shows. Changeovers can be stressful, and efficiency with setting up and tearing down your equipment will benefit everyone.
Being efficient will allow you take advantage of all the time at your disposal required to set up your equipment on stage. This time will better prepare you in case of any unexpected technical issues with either yourselves or the venue.
Playing shows offers a great opportunity to forge new friendships and meet like-minded musicians who share the same passion as you. Being considerate of other bands will make a good first impression and is a good start for establishing new connections.
6. Play what you know, well
I’m a firm believer that the drummer provides a supporting role for a band. Drummers are the understated heroes behind the scenes. The stage isn’t the place to claim your spot on the pedestal as the most important member.
It can be tempting to get carried away in the moment and try something more extravagant on stage, but it’s certainly not the time or place to try out an insane odd-time fill you’ve been working on and haven’t quite nailed yet.
It’s far more important to be the commanding voice of a group, laying down solid grooves to be the foundation of the music, allowing for the other members to build upon and execute a complete live performance.
Gideon Waxman is a London-based drummer with over 13 years' experience, and is the drummer of metal act Familiar Spirit. You can find more of his tips at Drum Helper – a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.