The Compositional Drummer

The Compositional Drummer

Information for the career minded drummer and musician

Life's Most Valuable Lesson

Failing… Life's most valuable lesson


Well folks, I'm back after a long time away Happy Holiday to you all. To say that the last six months have been a whirlwind would be an understatement. Anything that could have happened, has (including losing a steady gig that I loved), but I won't focus on the negative. You might be saying, really Warren, because your blog title says otherwise While that might be true a lot of positives can and should be learned from failing and I’ll tell you why.


During the summer, as I was being slapped around by life, I figured, let me not get distracted. So, I put together a plan of action. That plan would include rebuilding my teaching roster, getting to the studio to record some new compositions that I've written, looking for production, arranging  and playing opportunities, you know, the stuff musicians do to survive. I would like to say, for the most part, the plan worked but there was one component, that failed and it failed miserably. (my studio recording). The performances were, for the most part, good. However, there would be circumstances that would take place both within and beyond my control.


I'm way past the finger pointing age and I don't believe in playing the blame game. As a leader, I shoulder the blame primarily because I chose to turn a blind eye to a few things. Now mind you, this is not my first recording. I've been at it for a while and should have known better but without further adieu… Here's what I've learned


- Synergy: Players can have all of the chops in the world but the inability to interject "feel" into the music being played renders your “chops” useless. It only takes one player to change the creative atmosphere and because the creative process is interactive when a player switches on autopilot the feel, groove or message in the music is compromised. Lack of feel and the inability to cooperate musically is like making love to a person that's not actively participating in ‘‘the moment". In an ensemble situation your ability to express yourself through your facility, musicianship accompanied by your signature sound is the component that will make the whole greater that the sum of individual parts.. Your playing has to go beyond the written page and onto a whole other level where the other players "feel" you and become moved by your musical voice on the instrument… It’s always about the music so if you zone out or clock watch while eyeball rolling you jeopardize the synergy.


- Personality: Getting a paycheck to play is great. But if you want to be asked back on a gig… I’ll say it again… IF YOU WANT TO BE ASKED BACK... For God Sake, don't be a drag to be around, have a some measure of personality. Barring your eccentricities, sit down, get to know the people you are playing with and the one who hired you. I’m not saying become best friends but, loosen up GEEZ... I was on a high profile gig once hired a couple of days before the hit to sub for another drummer. Afterwards, I made it a point to personally thank the artist whom I provided my talent to and who was, at that moment, my employer.  Now, he may or may not remember me today but it is good customer service just to say those two magical words that mama taught… You know, Thank You;-)


- Double Check The Technical Team: It's always a good idea to check up on the technical aspects of the "take" between takes. You don’t have to know anything about the equipment used but let your ears guide you. If something sounds wrong, or off; question it.  Unfortunately, I didn't have my producer in the booth for this recording. I know, I know, Kill me later. Anyway, we rattled off 22 takes of all the material. At the end of the record date several technical disasters and mishaps were uncovered. So lesson learned, stuff can and will go wrong from a technical standpoint... Don't be in a rush for the sake of accommodating someone’s schedule. It’s your record. If you are signing the checks, DOUBLE CHECK


- Dealing with Disappointment: Like I said before things can and will go wrong. Am I disappointed with the way things turned out? Ummm Yeah!, I got some great demos, that’s about the size of it. What’s  the best thing I can do?  GET OVER IT! nothing more, It happened, money was lost, I gotta move on. Staying stuck, complaining about should've, could've is not therapeutic. It's downright stressful, counterproductive and not healthy. I’m certain I’ll have better luck next time.


You see,  even at this point in my career, I'm still learning. I'm not afraid of failing and you shouldn't be either. That doesn’t mean that I advocate arbitrary “throwing caution to the wind” while planning any big event or recording project. My point is that sometimes the best laid plans just… Fail;-(.  So look at the positives. At the very least, from that failure you would’ve learned what worked and what didn’t.    This recording turned out to be one veeeerrry expensive demo. Actually, it’s the most expensive demo I've ever recorded. But at least I now have great audio to accompany the charts for the re-recording. Which is going to be smashing:-)


Finally, going through this ordeal reminded me of a story I was once told. It went like this. A bird spent all of the spring building the best nest he could by choosing the strongest twigs and finest nesting material.  A late summer day storm would come, causing the bird to flee his nest in search of safer surroundings. Once the storm passed the bird returned to find his nest completely destroyed. After spending a brief moment staring in disbelief at the destruction visited upon his home he began gathering twigs and other nesting material and started building a new nest that would be much better and stronger than the former.


You see… there’s nothing wrong with failing, embrace it as the gateway to success


That's my story. Please share yours with me in the comments below




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