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To Do or Not to Do

Article by Jayson Brinkworth // April 02 2009
To Do or Not to Do

I don’t know about all of you, but I am a fan of making lists. Whether it is in respect to daily tasks, groceries, teaching to do’s or what have you, I just love having a list. Yet, as I think about it, I am not sure it is the list that I love as much as it is the process of checking things off when they are done (I know, therapy is needed). As much as it is important to have these to-do lists, I find it’s also helpful to make lists of things not to do. This concept is akin to how a drummer can be more expressive on the kit with fewer notes (Remember Les Ismore?).

There are lots of drummers who write lists on their snare head before a gig--such things as “play controlled,” “watch the dynamics,” “groove,” and many other items of importance. The following is comprised of areas that I personally deal with all of the time. You may have different headings. Under each one I have listed do’s and don’ts that I view as important. Try making your own personal lists and see if you learn more from writing the do or do not column.


  • Work on areas that are not in your comfort zone.
  • Work on the basics often.
  • Work with a metronome or time source.
  • Have a plan in mind with goals to work towards.
  • Work on dynamic balance in your playing.
  • Record yourself.


  • Practice things you already know. (although buffing and polishing is a good idea)
  • Practice too loud.
  • Focus on just one area of your playing.
  • Practice without focus and concentration.
  • Get frustrated.


  • Be on time.
  • Know the material.
  • Have the proper equipment for the job.
  • Give 110% of your ability to the music.
  • Have fun. You are playing drums, remember?


  • Play too loud.
  • Think the show is all about you.
  • Play your Chambers’ licks on a country gig.
  • Drink too much, this should be a no brainer.
  • Ignore the task at hand: the music.


  • Choose gear that fits the music you are playing.
  • Shop around.
  • Research and ask questions.
  • Know the sound you are going for before purchasing.
  • Understand how different types of wood or metal affect the sound of the instrument.


  • Buy gear because it is the “new thing.”
  • Buy a kit with a 24” kick to fit into your Honda Civic.
  • Over spend on gear.
  • Think having good gear outweighs your knowledge of tuning and head selection.
  • Overcompensate your short comings as a player in purchasing all of the latest and greatest gear.


  • Take up another instrument to understand music theory and to hear drums in a different perspective.
  • Try singing. You might be better than you thought, and it will get you thinking about breathing.
  • If you play another instrument, try writing songs. Drummers make great writers and producers.
  • Really listen to the musical tones your drums and cymbals produce.
  • Know how to read music and chart out songs. We can only memorize so much.


  • Underestimate the power and musicality of the drums.
  • Forget that a bad drummer equals a bad band.
  • Forget that playing music is about more giving than receiving— not in notes, but in effort and passion.
  • Let other musicians brush you off as “just the drummer.” We need to work harder to prove them wrong.
  • Be the drummer who only has a small window of dynamic control. Our power is in the dynamics.


  • Learn about the music business and how you fit in.
  • Understand that there are so many areas of the business other than playing.
  • Know the income tax specifics for a self employed musician.
  • Be organized and easy to get ahold of by phone/email. Be professional in dealing with people in the industry.
  • Have a website or some way to market yourself.
  • Have your own business cards with contact information.
  • Keep an updated promo package of work you are doing.


  • Think that people in the industry know who you are just because you play.
  • Be afraid to market yourself. You are your own public relations department.
  • Think that just because you play well, great gigs will come your way. You have to work hard and earn these opportunities.
  • Think that you will get endorsements from companies because you play well. This is a whole other side of the business that is always misunderstood.
  • Concentrate on just one area of the industry. You can create opportunities by having an open mind and being diverse.
  • Also remember, knowledge is power.


  • Always have an open mind.
  • Keep criticism in perspective, but listen to your peers and other musicians you respect.
  • Listen to all styles of music. Even if it is not your thing at least give it a try.
  • Be positive and a team player. As I said there is way more giving than taking on stage.
  • Help carry gear, offer to drive on long trips or just be there to lend a hand.
  • Be ready for last minute changes and adversity. It is life, after all. Do not panic. Just dig as deep as you can into your soul and do your best.


  • Let your ego get out of hand. We have to play with an edge and attitude, but we have to know when to shut it off. I know players who have lost work because of this and had no idea why.
  • Think you are more important than the music or any other player on stage.
  • Bad mouth other musicians. This news travels fast and you will find that everyone loses your phone number quite quickly.
  • Brag when things are going well and bitch when they are not. Keep this in balance. Other players don’t need to feel like they are your counsellor.
  • Let compliments go to your head. It is nice to be appreciated but just accept graciously and keep playing at your best.



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About the Author
Jayson  Brinkworth

Jayson Brinkworth is an accomplished drummer, percussionist, vocalist, educator and writer based out of Canada. He is co-owner of the Saskatchewan music school Music In The House, as well as the founder of both the Regina Drum Festival and The Stickman Drum Experience.

Jayson proudly endorses Yamaha drums, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Evans heads, Impact cases, Kickport, Flix, Future Sonics and Mountain Rhythm. Visit Jayson online at www.jaysonbrinkworth.com.

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