Fuel your drumming technique instead of failing it
By Tim Kane
I recently played a packed Halloween club gig in which I ate no real food of sustenance most of the day, employed no floor monitor or in-ear device, forgot to bring bottled water, drank too much free beer, allowed the sound guy to cram his PA speakers on either side of me so I had no way out, failed to fight for my rights when our lead guitarist set his large amp up directly in front of my kick drum, and skipped the pre-gig band warm-up. Suffice to say, I violated almost every rule when it comes to fueling your drumming technique.
So where did I go wrong? First of all, I should have known better than to not understand the gig logistics prior to actually showing up with my gear. Come to find out, this particular club didn’t even have a stage area. I helped the bar manager move tables and chairs to open up room. If I had taken just a little more time before the gig to analyze how many tables would actually have to be moved in order to comfortably accommodate a 5-piece band, many challenges that particular evening would have been erased. My bad.
Moreover, the band I was filling-in for on drums did no sound check prior to the first set. We just started playing. If one were held, I would have requested a monitor and more room to maneuver. As drummers, we have just as much right to ask for certain amenities at gigs as our fellow musicians do. My bad.
Getting muscle cramps like I did during the gig is never cool, either. Dehydration and lack of food to power your muscles are the primary causes of cramps. Given bottled water is usually hard to come by in bars, I should have brought five bottles and placed them behind my drum kit. I also should have arrived much earlier at the gig and ordered dinner there. If not, a couple of high-energy bars stuck in your stick bag will do the trick. My bad.
As for floor monitoring and getting proper levels, all I heard that evening was mush from other bandmates (and they actually played well). And with the lead guitarist’s amp placed directly in front of my kick drum, I am sure the audience had trouble hearing me, too. The band ended playing tight against two walls in an L-shape. It was one of the most maniacal stage set-ups I have ever experienced. I should have asked that question well before the gig and also allowed time for readjustment after the sound check that was never conducted. Again, my bad.
This all takes me back to bagging out on the pre-gig band practice (I was teaching drum lessons at the time and should have just rescheduled those students). That dress rehearsal would have been an ideal time to talk about the gig dynamic, my needs, stage set-up, sound levels, and overall expectations. You should have that group discussion well before the gig.
All of this combined into the perfect storm of a third set meltdown for me personally with near exhaustion and frustration. In the end, lack of advance preparation killed my drumming technique at that gig and I have no one else to blame but myself.
– Tim Kane is a freelance drummer, instructor and writer living in Massachusetts. http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com