Editorial by: Tim Robinson
I had this thought yesterday and it sort of grew as I was driving, as I do a lot, and thought ok, let’s turn this into a piece that relates solely to drumming. I generally don't outline these things, unless it's in my own head, and just sort of write what I feel should be written.
The "sea of -tions" I refer to in the title of this little piece are these:
I had thought to include "resignation" in that group but resignation has a certain negative connotation to it and what I try to avoid is negatives in life. As much as possible.
So I'd like to talk about these -tions in some detail as to how the relate to drumming. Most of what you'll read here is solely opinion - my own, and should be taken as such.
Everyone aspires to something in their life, whether it be to be a doctor, lawyer, or in our cases professional musicians. Anyone and everyone with a love of music aspires to greatness. Some reach that pinnacle, most do not. It's a rough road to walk and even when you achieve your aspirations in the music industry it's an even tougher position to maintain. Staying on top isn't easy.
What's important here is to never give up on those aspirations, those dreams. Letting go of something you love dearly is costly. Even if you know in your heart of hearts that you will never be the next Danny Carey, Neil Peart, Steve Gadd, whoever it is that inspires (that's coming, patience!) you personally, it's important to never let go of what you aspire too. Even if you never reach that dream, even if you never quite make it to the top, you will always have the satisfaction of knowing that you gave it your best shot, you kept going, and gave it your all. Anything less is selling yourself, as a musician, and a person in general, short. Anything more, well, that will take you places, even if their roads and paths you never thought you would walk.
There's an important part of aspiring to greatness. That being that you should always aspire to be the best drummer that you can be. Do not aspire to be "like" someone else. That path doesn't lead to success it leads to a never ending cycle of self-disappointment. If you read the interview I did with Dom Famularo a few years ago, you'll know that part of our exchange covered this in part. I had mentioned to Dom that, after seeing Danny Carey play with Volto, I had felt discouraged in a way, but still kept plugging away. Dom really opened up my eyes with regards to this, not so much in the words and context of the discussion, but in between the lines. That was to never try and "be" someone else or attempt to emulate that person in order to succeed. You can always aspire to the level of success that person may have achieved but you can only be the best musician that YOU are, the best person you can be. Never stop learning, never stop growing, but do those things in the direction that defines you, as a person, a drummer, and a musician.
This leads me to motivation.
Motivation in any aspect of life is key to any amount of success. If your aspiration is to be in the next greatest band that rocks this world then you have to have the motivation to do what it takes to get there. That isn't saying you also need the talent and have a voice that people want to hear in order to achieve that goal. And those things may not necessarily all be in place when you start down the path you choose to walk.
Motivation to learn and grow. This is probably one of the most fundamental things I can think of that will help any musician in achieving the things they aspire to. Musicianship is a never ending cycle of learning and growth. We have to learn and expand our abilities. It isn't optional. It's a must. If you are only motivated to learn so much and grow within those confines then you limit yourself. Potential is limitless unless you have limited motivation. Then you box yourself in.
Motivation to push yourself forward and do whatever it takes to succeed in life. One of the best examples I can think of for this is threaded all through the interview we did with Ryan Hoyle a few years ago. I have met a lot of drummers over the last few years, all of which are motivated beyond belief because they (as we all do) love the instrument we play, but I have rarely met a drummer as completely motivated to succeed as Ryan. Personally, of the interviews we've done, I walked away from that one with more to think about than any other. And this from a guy fully 10 years younger than I am. Read the interview, then check out his site and his work and you'll see what I mean.
Which is a great lead in to the next -tion in this little editorial piece: Inspiration
There are many things in music that we find inspiring. Another person’s motivation, i.e. Ryan, or another person’s exuberance for the craft, ala Dom, any given piece of music (of which I can name hundreds), a certain groove, shuffle, even a simple fill.
As drummers it's important that while we might be inspired by other drummers, how they play, how they work, what they do, we must never let that inspiration cloud our "self". This really isn't an easy subject to articulate in that it’s hard to tell someone how to take an inspiration and let it lift them up vs. having that inspiration lead them into emulation.
Emulating someone is a great form of flattery - however I think it's limiting in growth as a musician. Let that musician’s dedication to the craft inspire you to take your creativity and musical abilities to heights that only you as a drummer and a person can attain. Let that persons motivation to succeed inspire your motivation, fan the flames, and push you to move in the directions that will bring you to where you want to be.
Personally, the conversations that I have with drummers, of every level of success, are some of the truly inspiring aspects of what I do. From conversations to guys out there working it for a living to those, like myself, who, while not doing it for a living, play to live.
Being dedicated is such a fundamental part of any path to success in life. You simply cannot get by without behind dedicated to the course you have chosen. Musicians are no exception to this rule. A drummer who isn't dedicated to the instrument is never going to leave his basement or garage.
I have met many professional drummers, in all aspects of the drumming world, whose dedication to the art, craft, manufacture, of drumming is so fundamentally inspirational and motivational, as to push myself to newer, greater heights. You can divide your dedication of course, life can, and more oft than not, does, require you to be dedicated to other things. And at times where you place your dedication is a choice that you consciously make.
I chose earlier in life to dedicate myself wholly to family and friends and lay my aspirations for a successful career in music aside. As it turns out I ended up merging those paths further on in life. While even to this day I am not solely dedicated to drumming and music although both are fundamental parts of whom I am and are part of my everyday experiences. I've learned to incorporate that dedication into the aspects of my life that requires dedication in other directions. I am dedicated to always learning more, improving, and hopefully doing my part in the world of drumming to help people along their path, to guide, teach as I can, and provide what information I can to those that are willing to read it.
This was one that I didn't think of until writing this but it is so vitally important as someone progresses through their musical career as to be worth at least mention.
Success is a wonderful thing. Everyone has different views as to what success is in the music business, and how that pertains to their drumming careers. But that success should never shine brighter than what got you to where you are - the musicians you've learned from, the people who sacrificed, even in the slightest way, for you to be able to get to your personal level of success, and more importantly, the fans out there listening, dancing, and buying your music.
Be considerate of those people. Take the time to talk to fans, whether you're a club act on your local music scene or selling out arenas. I've met many drummers out there at all levels, clubs to arena. Most are some of the most down to earth people you'd ever meet. Some are egos with legs, and not just the hugely successful drummers.
I have met dance band drummers who absolutely look down on anyone who talks to them that even mentions they play drums. I have met big names that give lip service to consideration but you can read their faces that it's the last place they want to be, standing there, talking to some enthusiastic fan. I've seen this, experienced it, and I always walk away shaking my head in wonder.
Be considerate of the people putting you on the pedestal you stand on, ultimately without a following, anyone is just another drummer in a sea swimming with talent.
So, aspire to your dreams, be dedicated to your craft and motivated in your pursuit of your goals. Be inspired by and inspire those around you. Be considerate of those that have helped you, guided you, and put you on your road to success. Be the best person and drummer that you can be and you will travel far down whatever road in life you choose to walk.
Tim Robinson, December 8, 2011