The Compositional Drummer

The Compositional Drummer

Information for the career minded drummer and musician

The Setting Sun

Uh Oh...There’s the Plateau


A colleague of mine once shared the story of the setting sun. He said “You know, you never see the sun setting but you do notice the darkness.”... We were at a gig just chatting before the performance and he was sharing about the perils of plateauing in our craft. 


Plateauing or leveling off or whatever you want to call it can make or break your creativity. It can cause you to put your instrument down for unnecessary long periods of time, not practice, doubt yourself and just all together give up.  Let’s face it, We all go through a drought but during those tough times when the well runs dry what are you doing about it? Or should I ask, What are you not doing? 


The one thing about the musician is we are creatures of habit. Much of what we do includes loads of repetition. Think about it. Practicing scales, sight-reading, ear training, memorizing material, going over sections of a composition over and over rewriting parts, rearranging parts… It all screams repetition.  The danger in all of this is that you are digesting the same information day in and day out,  you get into a rut, discouragement sets in, along with self doubt. Aaaaannnd You’re DONE!   A funk like that can last weeks upon end unless you take hold of the situation, recognize the problem and do something about it. The problem is we want instantaneous results without the sacrifice of time and effort. But results OFTEN come on the heels of effort and LOADS of... sacrifice.


So back to the metaphor, my friends point was every little bit that we do (The slow setting Sun) in pursuit of perfecting our craft has a long lasting effect… (The Darkness) It was at that point I fully understood the illustration. What’s that they say about slow and steady winning the race in a marathon. While in music school I often heard instructors say, “I’d rather you practice 12 minutes every day than spend one day practicing for an hour.”  It’s so true, if we are committed to what we are doing, (in terms of creating music), then adversity and growing pains are inevitable. 


So what to do when the plateau is on the horizon?  Recognize it and change the course early, mix it up, find a new collaborator, find new musicians to play with, take in a concert. listen to music you don’t normally listen to, try a new approach to your writing, try voicing chords differently. Whatever it takes.  It is at this point of recognition that you are slowly adding ability and facility to what you do.  Does it mean that you won’t hit the proverbial plateau again?  Nope! It just means you have a better and more productive way of handling the problem and like that setting sun, the effects of your growth will be heard in the music you produce and perform once you hit your stride again.  So, don’t be discouraged you are not alone.  In the next segment we will discuss more ways to make great music. 


In the comments below share your experiences C-YA!


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