Home Useful - Useful So you wanna be a pro?
So you wanna be a pro?

What's the key Guru?

You have to do your homework. Whether you are a beginner, a weekend warrior, or a 5 night a week local musician trying to reach the next level, or a major city pro looking for that next gig, you must learn the mechanics and language of drumming. You must not procrastinate about learning to read, write, and count drumnotation; You must learn all the essential rudiments and all the other stickings and styles. This is all the stuff that you keep putting off and choose the low grade pain of frustration instead. This is why question marks fly through your brain while you are playing.

Not knowing this stuff causes you to make more mistakes and to play yourself into a corner. This is what partially causes those "ruts" that you get into. The main reason that you need to know the academics of drumming is that your chances of making it as a successful pro drummer are diminished without that knowledge. You might say, "well I've never had to read on a gig before" or "I don't need rudiments or stickings. I'm a natural drummer", or "the kind of music I play, I don't need to know all that stuff". Well, guess what? You don't know what kind of music you'll be playing in the future, a reading gig will come along when you have a bill that needs to be paid, and if you rely on your natural talent to get by you will reach a point of no advancement in your playing.

A professional drummer constantly studies in one way or another to be able to be proficient in any area of drumming. you can't work if you don't have the tools to work with.

What should I do?

Well if you're really serious, you need a teacher. If you are too proud to go to a helpful teacher, you need to get over it. When you go to the teacher, shut up and listen. Practice exactly the way the teacher tells you. Read drum music every day. Buy new books all the time. If you can't read the music transcriptions in Modern Drummer, why do you buy it? To look at the pictures?

Isn't that expensive?

If you can't afford a teacher at least buy a beginning book that explains how to read music. (I am in the process of writing a book about reading music for drummers who already know how to play). Go to the music store or drum shop and find another drummer in the store and ask him to explain it to you for five minutes. Seek Knowledge.

Every drummer needs to have at least this basic library of drumming books;

  • Stick Control by Stone
  • Syncopation by Reed
  • Advanced Technique by Chapin
  • The 40 standard rudiments
  • Accents and rebounds by Stone
  • Podemski's Standard Snare Drum Method
  • Drum Method by Haskell Harr
  • Modern Reading text in 4/4 by Louis Bellson
  • The Rudimental Cookbook by Edward Freytag

    These are typical basic fundamental books. Other teachers might recommend alternatives.
    Buy Videos, but not the ones by your favorite drummers. Buy the ones about rudiments and styles.Any of you can email me if you have more specific questions.

How it Works. - Money.

What kind of money does a professional drummer make? General answer; $30,000 to $150,000 a year in a major market. There are the guys that make a lot more than that and less than that, but I think it is a good realistic estimate of highs and lows for your average good to great working stiff pro drummer (and there are a lot more of us than you see in the endorsement ads in MD).

I won't go into specifics here, but guys who have a good number of radio artist recording and publishing accounts are on the upper end of that. The low end would represent someone who is doing 150 dates a year with a brand new recording artist out of Nashville at 200 dollars a show. Personally, I ask for 500 dollars a show. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I play for less, sometimes I play for more. Depends on who is paying.

Studio work ranges from 25 to 50 bucks a song non-union work at a songwriters home studio, to 500 dollars (double scale) for a three hour session with a top producer and a record label artist. sometimes I ask a "day rate" of 500 to 1000 dollars a day if it's a smaller independent company. I've done "cut the album in one day" gospel sessions for as little as $400 bucks a day.

I get 35 bucks an hour for teaching, transcribing, charting and other busy work. If I don't have anything booked and someone calls me with a last minute gig or session, I'll play it even if it's low pay. It invariably leads to other work. I rarely play for free.

professional drummer advice payment earnings read music practise knowledge understand instrument understand genre

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