If you are looking to take your drum performance to next level, score better gigs, and raise the bar, there are many things you need to work on, and a lot of them aren’t even related to playing. If you are asking how to become a professional drummer, you should also be asking how to become a professional individual.
So, quite a bit of factors to consider, and although there is always that magic factor you can only work on by yourself, there are also a few fairly objective criteria based on which you can improve your chops ad professionalism. Here we go now!
Be on time – in absolutely every way
You know what every drummer thinks he has full control of? Tempo and timing. You know what the majority of drummers are struggling with the most, often without even knowing it? Tempo and timing. You absolutely must get your timing right. If you want to be a genuine professional drummer, you will need to know to hold the groove in your pocket with absolutely any tempo.
If you are assigned a specific tempo, you better know how to work that exact tempo – not a beat per minute more, not a beat per minute less – that tempo.
The second aspect of the “be on time” concept reflects on you not being late. Musicians tend to be a tad messy and unorganized. If you want that in your private life, sure, but as a pro, you need to be there on time. Rehearsals, shows, recordings – all of ’em.
Tempo, chops, metronome – practice, practice, practice
This one kinda goes without saying, but to reach the pro level, you will need to master not only the tempo, but a variety of styles, techniques, and approaches. Keep an open-mind at all times, don’t be a stranger to a metronome, and stick to the good ole motto – practice, practice, practice.
Don’t overdo it
The important thing in music, whether you are a guitarist, a drummer, a producer, or a bass player, is to know when to stop. There are so many tools, tricks, and tidbits at our disposal these days, that filtering and knowing to single out the best option without overloading the song is a crucial factor.
In the world of drumming, this is how it works – tempo first! If you can’t keep the tempo, don’t do fills. If you can’t retain the groove, just keep the basic beat. And even if you have mastered the fills, keep things tasty. Especially if you are a hired gun, or a pro drummer – you have been hired to keep the beat for the performer and improve the song with your skills, not turn the tune into your personal drum show.
Know your role
This is a continuation to the point made in the previous paragraph. Most of musicians start their journey in garage bands, and it is not a rare occurrence that musicians keep this mentality of playing with a gang of high-school friends, everyone having an equal share, and everyone doing their thing.
Well, in the world of professional musicianship, you are hired to do a job. And although it is always a plus to know how to surprise everyone with a set of clever fills, and although it is your job to come up with a proper groove and beat, you will need to learn to take orders. You employer has a certain vision, and it is your job to make that vision a reality. If you see eye to eye, awesome, if not, well, you are a hired gun, and you better play the way you have been assigned to play. Needless to say, you can always quit if the employer is taking things too far.
Conclusion – How to become a professional drummer
We have steadily reached the end of our brief journey here, kind sir. The steps we have listed here are absolutely inevitable if you want to take your performance to the next stage. Stick to them at all times, and then feel free to throw in some special skills and personal traits that you might have. As always, we are only here to shows you which path to take, the way you will thread that path is absolutely up to you. Now get working, Mr. Drummer!