There are so many videos and blog posts out there telling you how to record drums or yourself. Not many of them tell you what to listen for when you want to improve your playing. In this post I’m giving you tips on what to focus on when listening to one of your performances. These tips will help you get more out of your recordings and will help you become your own teacher.
Get To Know Your Style
You know how when you hear a recording of yourself talking, you start wondering why people are even friends with you? Well, the same thing happens the first few times you listen to your performances. There are different reasons as to why this happens. One important reason is that we have a completely wrong idea of what we actually sound like. You might have always thought of your playing style as loud and laid back, but by listening to a recording it turns out, you’re not. Now you can make a conscious decision on what you want to sound like. Get to know your very own style, so that you can shape it into what you want it to be. Also, remember that you don’t have to settle on one style only. Be open to adjusting your style as time goes on, that will help you stay one of a kind.
It takes a lot of experience to count off a song in the right tempo when under pressure, keeping it while playing is a whole different story. While playing our tempo is influenced by our technical abilities and other musicians. When listening back to a recording ask yourself if you counted off the right tempo and if you also played that tempo from the very first downbeat on.
Use the tap function on your metronome and take reference points (i.e. Intro, 2nd Verse, last Chorus), compare the tempos to each other and find out where your tempo wasn’t on point. Listen to shorter parts as well. It could be that a fill threw you off or you started listening to the horn section and you adjusted to their phrasing. These techniques will help you determine when and where you need to pay closer attention to your tempo. It will greatly improve your sense of time and it will help keeping the band tight.
I’m not the first one telling you and I’m not the least one telling you; dynamics are important. Listen to your drumming and ask yourself if the dynamics within the song make sense. Did you play louder in the chorus and softer in the verse? Did you start the crescendo with a pianissimo or with a mezzoforte? As the drummer in the band we’re the conductor. It is the dynamics of the drums that determine how loud the other instruments are playing. Make conscious decisions when going into new parts.
Don’t forget the dynamics within the drum set itself. When listening to your recording, focus on the dynamic relations between the instruments of the drum set. Where is your bass drum compared to the snare? Is your lowest tom loud enough when playing a fill? The dynamic relation between the instruments is something that greatly determines what you sound like. Each music genre requires different dynamic levels. Being able to adjust the dynamics of each individual instrument on the set is crucial to being a versatile drummer and musician.
Consistency is something we too often overlook. It is the difference between listening to a song and saying that it sounds good and listening to a song and nodding your head along to the music. Listen to your recording and check if you’re being consistent in different areas such as; dynamics, instrumentation, intensity, tempo etc. Listen to the first verse and compare it to the second verse. What are the differences, should there be any? Do they make any musical sense? Compare all the repeated parts and ask yourself if there should be any differences at all, and if, which ones? Committing to a groove, sound and feel helps the audience understand what’s going on and helps them appreciate the music more.
Get comfortable listening to your performances. It is a crucial step to becoming your own teacher and shaping your artistic being to what you want it to be. My playing improved greatly when I started to record myself.
Another important reason as to why you should record yourself is to hear improvements. Those improvements will catalyze your motivation and you’ll become a better drummer and musician in no time.
I hope you enjoyed these ideas and I’m looking forward to sharing more great advice with you next week.