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Disconnection Notice

Article by Sean Mitchell // February 02 2009
Disconnection Notice

Dear Mr. Mitchell, You may have overlooked your payment. Kindly forward your payment today. Please note: if payment has not been received, or you have not contacted us with payment arrangements by the specified date, your service will be disconnected.

~Your friendly neighborhood Electric Company

The above has been a common occurrence for me in the past with my monthly electric bill. A few years back, I was working as a bartender earning a less than meager income, and playing drums less than once every three months. Metaphorically speaking, my hydro bill was a reflection of something I feel happened well before I missed my first payment.

When I received my bill I wasn’t shocked that I was behind. When I read that notice, one word glared up at me from the page: disconnection. Not because I was afraid they would actually pull the plug on me, but because I felt the reasons I had landed myself in hot water with the folks at hydro stemmed from my own disconnection—with music. I truly believe that we are given opportunities to learn the biggest lessons we need at the time we need them. We just have to recognize them.

If we wish to be a greater money-earner we are most definitely not given a mass quantity of greenbacks, loonies, singles or euros. No, we are given the opportunity to learn how to become a person who can earn a more substantial income. This often means growth, and growth inevitably means going outside your sandbox. Major discomfort zone. Cue Beethoven’s 5th (Dun dun dun duuuun).

In terms of practice, my friend Mitch once said to me, “Even 15 minutes of frustration is better than an hour of maintenance.” What this means is that, as a drummer, when you practice something you absolutely cannot grasp for 15 minutes (cursing, swearing and all), you are being more effective in your practice routine than if you spent an hour hammering out the grooves you have played a million times. Nothing innovative comes from maintenance. At the end of the day, no matter how much you say it, two plus two will always be four.

No matter what your situation—be it fulltime pro, part-time hobbyist, weekend warrior or elite session guru—at some point life can get in the way and surreptitiously disconnect you from your creative self. You have been there before: no time for practice, business needs to get done, kids have to eat, spouse needs some quality time, etc. But the honest truth is this: by forsaking your musical gift (in order to make time for the other things in life that seem pertinent), you are effectively disconnecting from yourself.

Even if you don’t earn an income from music, it should be a priority--and a big one! Why? Because it is part of you. Our gifts (music, sports, drawing) were not accidental. We were led to these gifts through our paths in life and, as musicians, we inevitably found one of our life outlets in music.

Far too often we see the business or responsibility side of life as being more important. But isn’t it funny, no matter how much time management you apply to your daily life, there is never enough time. Yet, this is a complete cop out. Of course there is enough time. We are all given the same amount. From Einstein to Bozzio and Beethoven to Mother Teresa, we are all given the same amount of hours in a day.

The trick is not how to manage time, but how to manage activities. Take, for example, one of my heroes, former UFC heavy weight champion Randy Couture. Now I am very far from being a fighter, but I have always been inspired by Randy’s fortitude in life and in the ring. Here is a guy 46 years young who steps into the ring with guys literally half his age. Aside from an unbending faith in himself, Randy knows how to manage his activities. He trains harder and more frequent three months prior to the date of his fight, and during his off time it’s maintenance, exploring new concepts, business and family time.

In my own life I don’t generally get a ton of time to practice. I have about three to four hours of practice opportunity in a day. I also run, lift weights, do yoga, publish The Black Page, rehearse with my band, arrange gigs for my band, spend time with my girlfriend, do dishes, do laundry, and, well, you get the picture. The thing is, I don’t always get the full four-hour session in on any given day. I may only get two hours. However, once I am on tour things will change, and I will have ample time to play and practice. In the mean time, there must be some sacrifices made in order to reach my touring goal. But amongst all the hustle and bustle of my day, my playing does not suffer. That is just not an option. I may only get two hours because I have to deal with agents, but I make those two hours count!

I am a drummer. It is not something I do, it is part of me, and it is how I express myself musically. I only “do” it because I can. To shut that down, for the sake of quality time somewhere else in my life, is like taping a poet’s mouth shut. Rather, I manage my activities to include all those things that actually better me as a person—so as to make the “quality” in quality time more valuable.

As much as daily life happens, if your goal happens to be like mine, in that you derive your income from music, logic will dictate that you need to fan those flames harder than most. And, yes, sacrifices will be made. The degree of income earned will most definitely dictate how much time you need to devote.

First off, don’t set yourself up for failure. If you know your day looks hectic, get up a half hour earlier to get your butt behind the kit, or do something in that half hour that can free you up for practice later in the day. Don’t want to bug the neighbors? Grab your practice pad. Don’t have a practice pad? Use a phone book or the sole of your shoe.

What do you practice in a half hour? Anything that frustrates you and makes you go beyond your comfort zone. The secret to effective practice is to be outside your comfort zone and into the personal growth area. One effective exercise is to practice anything utilizing your non-dominant side. If you are a righty: left foot on the kick, right foot and left hand on the hats, and right hand on the snare. Pop in your metronome and away you go. Reverse, for you south paws. If not, flip to page 20 of this issue. Our own Ryan Carver always has something awaiting the adventurous mind. Put on a song you have never really listened to and learn from it. Listen to a drummer you have never heard before and steal their chops.

Practice is so simple when you break it down to its basic element. It’s not what you’re doing that is creating the problem; it’s what you are not doing. What you are doing is all you know to this point. You have learned and are applying the concept. If that isn’t working, it is the act of learning, unlearning or relearning those techniques that you are not currently utilizing. That is practice and it doesn’t need to consume your life. At any rate when you have a moment in time, a lot of effective short practice sessions is a world apart from a four-hour marathon of maintenance. A lot of a little is better than a little of a lot. Get back behind the kit in increments--even 15 minutes at a time over the course of the day--again staying well away from your comfort zone.

Another method, which you will find truly easy and is guaranteed to make you 100% more successful (and bring in mass amounts of prosperity), has been kept secret for hundreds of years by the world’s most successful people. But I am willing to share it with you here today: TURN OFF THE TV!!

“But this is the real world, Sean, and I have kids, a 9 to 5 job, a spouse, and responsibility.”

Those are all good points and I will let you use that as an excuse only once. I know more than one drummer who derives their income from music, has kids, and still has time to take care of business and take care of the music. Keep in mind, the longer you spend away from the kit (for whatever reason), the quicker you will become unplugged from your musical outlet. Like muscle atrophy, the less you use those creative muscles, the weaker they become, and, in effect, the weaker and more ineffective you become in all areas of your life. Even five minutes a day is proven to increase creative juices and the desire to re-connect. Further, those outlets improve you as a person and make you better at what you do in your other earthly roles. They make you a better parent, spouse, employee etc. Alternatively, these things in your life make you a better drummer as well.

The thing is that drums (being your earthly musical voice), and music (being the language you speak) helps you connect to who you truly are. Beyond the weekend yard work, beyond the dinner parties with friends, beyond work, beyond your band, beyond your kids, music is here to give you the opportunity to speak in that universal language we all understand. I do guarantee that the truly supportive in your life don’t find pleasure and power in denying you the right to get your groove on. They find fulfillment in helping you discover your own opportunities. But it is completely up to you to stay connected to your dreams and goals, whatever they may be.

As Dom Famularo once wisely stated, “I believe so much in my vision that I will make this happen. And if it cannot happen the way that I initially see it, I’m going to find other ways to make it happen. So I might have to change my strategy a little, but I never change my vision.” It doesn’t really matter what it is-- could be playtime with your kids, coffee with your siblings, sketching a building across the street while sitting in your car, or analyzing Bonham’s right foot-- when we are at our best we are plugged into what we love most. Do yourself a favor: if you love it, do it.



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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.

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