Being Serious by Roy Burns

I’ve received a number of letters from young drummers stating, "I can’t find any musicians to play with who are serious." One young drummer I know was asked to join a band. He said, "I went to rehearsal and we worked on three songs. Then they broke open the beer and that was pretty much the end of the rehearsal." His other comment was, "These guys just aren’t serious."

Another situation had me thinking about the idea of seriousness recently: One of my students has a friend who is twenty years of age and is a fairly talented drummer. However, I’ve heard this young drummer say, "I would take lessons but I’m so good already that I just can’t imagine what anyone could show me." This young man isn’t serious about his drumming. What he is serious about is his ego. The unfortunate part of this scenario is that his attitude will prevent him from reaching his full potential. I should add that this young man has never played in a professional situation of any kind. It would seem that the time for him to get serious about his drumming is now!

Another example of not being truly serious is the young drummer who says something like, "I want to be a top professional drummer-but I just hat e to practice." Well, it’s going to be difficult to develop your drumming ability without practicing. Wishing doesn’t get is done. You must make a serious effort to grow and improve, or else your results will be a disappointment.

Part of being serious bout your drumming career is keeping your word-which is another way of saying that you must keep your agreements. For example, if rehearsal is a 2:00, it means having your equipment set up and ready to play at 1:55. It doesn’t mean showing up late and making the rest of the group wait while you set up your kit.

Ask yourself this question: "Am I really serious about drumming, or do I just like the idea of being a drummer?" If you just like the idea of playing, then play and have fun. However, if you want a career in drumming, the sooner you get serious the better.

If you have decided to be serious, make a list of the things you will need to do to be successful. Note those things you have already done or are in the process of doing. Then make a list of weaknesses that need improvement. If you can’t think of any weaknesses, you’re either the greatest drummer who’s ever lived or you just aren’t being serious. Even if you were the greatest, I’m sure you could think of something to improve, if your self-evaluation was sincere.

Part of being serious is being concerned with important matters. List all the things you do regarding your drummer that may not be important. For example, do you spend a lot of time criticizing famous drummers, at least those who play a style of music other than your particular favorite? Do you spend a lot of time criticizing other drummer in your town? If you do these things, realize that they are unimportant. Remember, being critical of others does nothing to improve your playing.

Do you spend time making excuses to yourself or to others? For example, do you always have a reason for being late? Do you make excuses to yourself for not practicing regularly? Do you keep putting things off?

Make out a weekly schedule. Write down what you do each day and how much time you spend one each activity. Next, ask yourself which activities are important. Then, add up the time you spend on unimportant activities and you’ll realize how much time you may be wasting.

If you’re going to achieve anything in life, you must get serious. Do you want to play baseball or practice the drums? Do you want to go to the beach or to rehearsal? Do you want to be honest about where you really are as a drummer or would you rather just go along and dream about making it?

Dreams are important. However, it takes a serious effort to make them a reality. If you are serious about your drumming, make a concentrated effort to find other serious musicians to play with. It’s not always easy but it is definitely worth the wait.

Last but not least, let me pint out that getting serious doesn’t have to mean not having fun. Although all great players are serious about their work, they have fun, too. But they know when to get serious. When I was young, I was at a rehearsal with a very good band. I was happy and I was making a few jokes, The band leader leaned over to me and said, "Roy, in this band we try to make our conversation fit the situation." He was right. It was time to stop fooling around and get serious. Maybe it’s time for you to get serious, too.