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PODCAST INTERVIEW LIST

posted by Demian December 29, 2016 0 comments

Bellow you’ll find a direct link to every interview/conversation I’ve done for The Music Mentor Podcast. Just click on the names!

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WE TALKIN' ABOUT PRACTICE

posted by Demian December 15, 2016 0 comments

In 2009 I was in the midst of rehearsing for an European tour. In between sessions with the artist I thought it would be a good idea to jam with the bassist and try to get our feel right. My buddy Dave and I went into a room and proceeded to play the songs. One song in particular had a rather tough section with a lot of hits over time, breaks and lots of articulation. We played the song 2 times and we nailed that section. It sounded perfect.

Naturally I thought we had it down and I said to him: “great, let’s move on!”  Dave looked at me and just nodded his head and replied: “No, no, no…we gotta keep working on that” I was shocked because we had just played it close to perfection. I didn’t know what he meant until he said some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard: “Amateurs play it until they get it right. Pros play it until they can’t get it wrong.”

Mind. Blown. It was clear to me then that I had choice but to practice more efficiently.

When we think about the word practice we can’t help but to also think about: focus, concentration, discipline, drive and such words. However, as cheesy as this sounds, one of the most important word we could associate with practice is fun. Yes, I said it… we must have fun. It’s the whole reason why 98% of us picked up the instrument. Regardless of our level we, in a perfect world, will be having fun while we practice. You and I know that isn’t always the case and at some point in our lives it’s the total opposite but we have to try to make our practices enjoyable, not only to have a good time while we do it but to elevate the chances of us wanting to do it all over again. Enjoyment can translate into repetition which can lead into focus and allow us to reach a depth we didn’t even foresee. Or you can ignore all that and just play music because it feels good, end of story.

PLAY WHAT YOU KNOW

Once I get to my practice space I usually start off by playing a piece of music I know pretty well. It can be a song that I love, a beat that gets my blood pumping, a conga pattern, etc. I just pick something that requires little to no thinking and is mostly about feeling. The reason why I consciously choose to do that is that I feel as if both the instrument and the music give me positive reinforcement on the spot and I get in a good mood.

In the past I’ve sat down down behind the kit and started playing something very difficult or physically challenging without warming up either my mind or my body and I don’t sound good, I don’t feel good and it bums me out to the point where I get in a weird mood and the vibe of my rehearsal shifts.

This doesn’t mean that sometimes we go there with “nothing to lose” and just try to create on the spot or dare to play a song that’s been kicking our butts and we play it well and then life is perfect. I’m sharing with you what works for me most of the time.

CATCH 22

In order for me to practice more and for longer periods of time I needed to sound good BUT in order to sound good, I needed to practice a lot. This situation was both frustrating and helpful. I say frustrating because at the time that’s what it was: frustration. I wasn’t sounding like the records I was trying to imitate and I had no idea why. I tried and tried and tried but it wasn’t about what I was playing as much as it was about how. I also felt it was helpful because now as an educator I can use my experience to help young musicians overcome the inevitable bumps in the road.

Carelessness is one of the best attributes young musicians can have. At one point we were fearless. We weren’t afraid to fail and would practice for much longer than our parents or neighbors would’ve ever wanted. This side of us is essential and can’t be forgotten.

GEAR

I know this is a broad topic of discussion and you’ll probably say things such as: “Give Colaiuta a can of beans and he’ll make it sound good” Ok that’s just weird but anyway, you get my point. Haha! Yes, the real sound is in our fingers, our hands and so on but I’ve seen it first hand in my students: the vast majority tend to practice much more when they have good instruments. I have a student who has an incredible ear but his parents refuse to buy him a good enough guitar. He hates playing his because it won’t stay in tune and it absolutely drives him mad. Whenever I go he uses mine and his face lights up and he wants our lessons to last all week long.

Drummers will tell you how horrible it is to practice if your hi hat clutch isn’t working well. It’s more painful than anything I can describe. Gear doesn’t equal musicality but for some, good gear definitely helps getting there.

PRACTICE SPACE

The place where you practice has to be treated as the special place it is. You will spend countless hours there. You’ll leave behind blood, sweat, tears and cuss words too so the more pleasant it is the better. I don’t only mean clean and organized because not everyone functions like that. What I mean is creating a vibe and an atmosphere that will encourage you to be there the longest amount of time possible.

I know musicians that can practice the same way and create incredible music in a jail cell or in Abbey Road Studio 2. I personally need to like where I play, the lighting has to be decent, temperature and so on.  I need water or my beloved Arnold Palmer. When using my phone as playback I make sure it’s reachable and not on the ground when I have to fish for it every single time I need to start the song over or switch tunes, etc.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

The most crucial advice I could ever give on this topic is that in my opinion the quality of our practice is much more important than the quantity of it. In most cases It’s much more effective to practice for 10 minutes in an extremely focused manner than 2 hours when unengaged and not concentrated. Being in the moment, engaged, looking where we’re supposed to, breathing properly, actively trying to remember things, reading well and a million other things is crucial and that sort of concentration will allow massive progress in way less time than you think.

I’d even go as far as thinking that this applies to muscle memory too. Repeating your scales while you watch a 90 minute soccer game can absolutely help but I am of those that think that 15 min not watching TV and really paying attention to what you’re doing is more effective. There are exceptions to every rule and I also think that these things come with experience. You’ll start understanding what things need true attention and which don’t.

Technology is so advanced these days that we have unlimited tools at our fingertips to enhance our practice. With very little to no money we can record ourselves and hear back where we went wrong. We can dissect every hit and sort out if we’re behind the beat or head of it. We can get apps that allow us to slow down songs, change tempos, transpose keys and much more. It’s a great time to be a student.

PRACTICE DAYS, REVISITED

Not every practice session should be about learning new things or trying to add weapons to our arsenal. In fact one of the most valuable lessons we can ever learn is revisiting those things we already learned and tweaking them, going deeper and deeper and reaching that point of perfection.

Playing what we know is good but playing what we know better, is even better.

At the end of the day we need to know that whether we practice 8 hours or 8 minutes, whether we are super focused or couldn’t care less… whatever it is we do it’s up to us. It’s our responsibility and we need to hold ourselves accountable for the quality and the quantity of time spent.  

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GET IN THE RING!!

posted by Demian December 8, 2016 0 comments

As the title suggests, sometimes this business feels like we are about to enter a boxing match and have to be the last man/woman standing. Some cities are bigger than others and there are bigger music scenes than others as well. The more people there are, the more competition there is, in theory. Even in a small city with a small scene, there are still potentially lots of people that we need to compete with and all this can be very frustrating and intimidating. Unless you shift your way of thinking.

The way I like to see competition is to basically think there isn’t any. That’s about the simplest way I can explain it. Is there competition? Of course there is, but I am of the thought that if I analyze my competition in detail or if I think about it too much my head would literally explode. To illustrate: I am currently a working musician in the city of Los Angeles. Among the countless drummers and percussionists  I am “competing” against are: Vinnie Colaiuta, Glen Sobel, Brian Tichy, Jimmy D’Anda, Tony Royster Jr, JR Robinson, Abe Laboriel Jr, Jeff Bowders, Luis Conte… You know what I mean?! These are all fantastic drummers and musicians… some are legends… LEGENDS. How could I think about competing with them?

They are who they are and I am me (eat your heart out Jean-Paul Sartre).

COMPETITION WITH OURSELVES

I absolutely hate to be that guy but I have to and say, you guessed it, that the only true competition is with ourselves. Embrace that you are unique and that regardless of who the other people are trying to get the same gigs, you do some things that they don’t and vice versa. We need to nurture what we do and what makes us “us” and by being flexible, adopting new things and adapting to them as well, we will continue to grow and add to ourselves.

Making the shift and thinking there isn’t competition isn’t about self belief or confidence. This is about using  the term “competition” as a way of comparing yourself to other musicians or as a way to look inward with the objective of finding out what they have that we lack in a negative sense. I feel that this is counterproductive and almost pointless. We can spend our valuable time in a more efficient way and if we are going to compare ourselves with others, let’s try to use it as inspiration.

What about those other players do we like? What can we borrow from them? It might not have to do with music itself but about their personality, their punctuality or perhaps their sense of humor.

You get what you put out in this business. One person can be better than you in a particular style but are you working harder? Are you being the most professional you can be? Are you practicing more than anyone? Are you waking up earlier to get more work done? Are you replying to the emails on time? Are you preparing the material better than the person who wrote the song? Do you have all your gear sorted out?

Every little detail matters and every day is an opportunity for us to add to our arsenal not only musically but lots of different things. These elements will ultimately help you and lift your confidence and allow you to if nothing else, minimize the thought of competition and worry less.

Keep in mind thought, that here’s a very fine line between being confident and arrogant. There’s nothing wrong with being confident in your ability and I encourage that 100% but there’s a potential danger of saying to yourself and believing you are much better than other people to the point where you start questioning why they got the gig and not you.

You have your sound, your vibe, your musicality and your personality. Maybe they need work but they all belong to you.

SUBS

Another instance in which we might feel competition creeping in is when we need to send out or find a sub for a gig. Your first instinct might be to think about sending someone who isn’t perhaps as good as you, as experienced or professional. You know,  so they don’t steal your gig right? Why would you send someone who might be liked better than you?

Well… I’m here to recommend you do the complete opposite. My suggestion is that you always send someone that is better than you or at the very least as professional and just as good. Why? It’s very simple actually: because it shows you care about the gig.

By sending someone who is great you are showing the artist, the music director, the label or whomever that you respect and care about the gig so much that you would be willing to put your neck and job on the line for them. It’ll speak volumes about your ethics and will elevate your reputation.

Try to keep tabs on how your friends are playing, their style and strong points. Go check out shows and find new musicians that could potentially be a good fit for your projects in case something comes up and you need a sub.

Stretch beyond your friends too, maybe send out someone that you’ve seen or heard and haven’t become close with, but I strongly recommend learning more about that person and call/email friends that know them to get the real story. FB mutual friends are KEY!!

If you think that sending someone who isn’t professional to any gig is a good move please  understand that this isn’t the best idea and you’ll burn bridges very quickly. It shows a lack of interest, a total disrespect for the artist and their music too, not to mention that they probably won’t call you back after the sub either.

Don’t be afraid about losing the gig. If you are unsure about it, maybe you aren’t giving as much to it as possible. Try to do such a good job that even if you get Steve Gadd to sub for you, the band will want YOU back. Again, a lot of this has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with personality. Maybe the girl/guy you send is better but they aren’t as funny as you… that could be enough to keep a place in a band.

SINGING / BAND COMPETITIONS

Music and competition are oxymorons. I feel that when we take part in a battle of the bands, a drum-off or American Idol, we are surrendering some part of the artistic process and we are letting a few people tell us if we are good, if we have potential or if we have “it.”

In a perfect world all those things and that validation comes from within but I want you to know I am not judging anyone and every single circumstance is different.

OTHER PEOPLE’S SUCCESS

To finish, I’d like to leave you with one of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way: By letting go of the notion that competition is your enemy and it’s responsible for you not being where you’d want to be, you’ll get to a point which is one of the best places to reach. Said place is when you find true joy and happiness for other people’s success. The amount of gratitude and humility that takes to be genuinely happy for others is as important as the elements needed to reach our goals. Be happy for other’s achievements and you will bring that energy into your life as well.

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Uninspired? It happens to all of us...

posted by Demian November 24, 2016 0 comments

I am not a perpetually inspired musician which is key to why I am one. I love the journey of finding new ways to be inspired and I’m always excited by the challenge of overcoming those dips and finding exactly WHY I am lacking in inspiration.

I’ve gone through countless moments when my inspiration has dipped. Simply put: I’ve felt completely and utterly helpless. Days, weeks and sometimes months have gone by when I have felt lost, uninspired and started questioning an absurd amount of things about my musicianship, career decisions and even gear. I get like that sometimes and I assume this happens to you as well, since I know for a fact that it happens to many of my colleagues, regardless of their level.

What happens to me is that, as alarming as it sounds, I feel like I’m falling out of love with music. It’s not actually happening, but it feels that way. Sometimes I go to practice and nothing is working. Everything bothers me… from the sound of a drum, my seat height… you name it. The absurd thing is that a day before I tuned the drums, and I know my seat height is perfect. The lack of inspiration makes me doubt things I shouldn’t.

Then there’s the mental part. I question how I’m sounding, not in an inquisitive way but a negative way. I might not be  as confident as I’d like to be and so on and so forth. The key though, is to eventually have these negative thoughts be as few and short lived as possible. I have grown to limit these and I will be sharing with you some things that have helped me along the way.

There are many things that can have an impact on our inspiration, since after all we are more than just musicians. We are human beings with complicated lives, with thoughts and feels and situations around us that directly impact how we feel and by consequence how we feel in a musical sense.

Music is my love and passion but I made a conscious choice to make it my career and my livelihood so I have to put in the work no matter what. And by the way, if you want to be a musician for real you need to make that decision as well.

Regardless of the amount of inspiration, how I’m feeling about my playing etc… I simply HAVE to go do it. There’s no alternative. Otherwise I feel like I am an average musician and I don’t want to be that. I want to be a pro, and know that there’s only one way to go about it which has to do with intention and commitment.  It’s annoying sometimes but you CAN make it work and you WILL find a way to push through those low moments… you’ll find  what I call “self made inspiration.”

TALK WITH FRIENDS

You are not alone. Other musicians and artists go through dips and they also overcome them. Text them, call them or tweet them! Try to find out how they overcame them and those things might work for you.

PLAY OTHER INSTRUMENTS

Something that works wonders for me and helps me fall in love with music over and over is approaching it with a different instrument. As a percussionist, for example, I might be having a tough time with congas and I know I’m not giving up or taking the easy way out and I’m just not being friends with them at that moment lol. I will change it up and practice maybe bongos. This first approach allows me to work within a genre or vocabulary and I can work on things such as improv, motivic development, dynamics and articulation but simply on a different instrument, keeping the concepts the same or similar.

I also enjoy playing bass or guitar on the songs that I’m working on as a drummer, that way I internalize them on another level and work on things like song structure and ear training and allowing the song to become second nature thus “only” leaving the drums as the part that needs work.

TRY DIFFERENT GENRES

This is probably the easiest way for me to feel inspired again. I enjoy switching it up and going over numerous styles of music. However, it’s important to keep in mind that if you switch genres try to have purpose behind that switch. What I mean by that is not just change for the sake of changing as it relates to being bored with the challenge at hand. I mean choose something that is going to be beneficial for whatever song, groove or concept you were originally working on. IN other words, let’s say you’re working on an odd time rock song… maybe choose a world-music tune with the same time signature and play over that, that way you’re still working on something beneficial to the original idea. Or don’t. If you want to just switch because you want to I encourage that too but try to keep an eye on the time spent and don’t lose focus

LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE ALBUMS

This is pretty self explanatory. Go listen to the albums that got you into music in the first place.

FIGURE OUT SONGS YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO

We all have those elusive songs that we always wanted to learn but haven’t for whatever reason. Maybe we were intimidated by them or we didn’t won a 12 string guitar or an synth, etc. Try playing them and you’ll see how happy that’ll make you.

Go to shows, listen to new music, check out a new movie or show on netflix. Anything to get you inspired but NOT  too distracted or derailed.

Last but not least: READ A GOOD BOOK!!!

I’ll leave you with a little book recommendation: The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield or look it up on amazon etc.

 

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THE AUDIENCE IS LISTENING...

posted by Demian November 17, 2016 0 comments

One of the most amazing things about writing this blog or creating a podcast is that I will never know exactly who reads or hears me. Of course there are stats and ways to track engagement but the fact that I will never know a lot of you out there is a very cool thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t want to meet anyone, what I mean is that it’s great not knowing  who is out there. You could be a student, a twitter followers, a family member, a neighbor or one of my favorite athletes of all time.

Sometimes when we perform there are people in the crowd that we know and expect there, since we put them on the guest list. You might know the other bands on the bill or you have played that venue before and you are familiar with certain faces. There are also lots of expected strangers there aka the crowd and then there are the unexpected guests or audience members that are one of the greatests gifts that I think music and the arts have given me and my colleagues… What I mean by this is that sometimes fellow artists that we look up to or some of our idols, actors, celebrities happen to be in the crowd and it’s freaking great. You never expected it.

When I first started playing I always imagined what it would be like to play with my idols. That was the driving force in my music. I wasn’t driven by technique or by trying to be the best that I could be on the drumset. That imagined feeling of what it would be like sharing the stage with artists that influence me was enough for me to practice hours on end.

Slowly, when I was able to set myself in the professional musician path,  I began to realize that one of the many positive bi-products of chasing a particular dream or goal (regardless of how big the gig was) was seeing people in the crowd that took me by surprise and since it’s not something I ever visualized it just blew me away.

One of the greatest things I have ever done was tour with Richie Kotzen. In case you don’t know who he is, Richie is one of the greatest guitar players that ever lived (you can listen to my podcast with him here

). He’s a guitarist’s guitarist and his crowds always drew not only fans but also elite musicians, people I grew up listening to the same way I heard his records. Seeing those people out there while I was playing for them was absolutely insane.

I remember doing a gig in London at the famous Camden Underworld and you know, I’m just playing drums, doing my thing and I look around as drummers do. I look to my right and I was almost paralyzed with disbelief. I told myself: “that can’t be him standing just a feet away from me, can it?” Turns out it was him… none other than Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden. If you would’ve told a 14 year old Demian that a few years later he’d be playing a show and one of the guitar players from one of the most important bands of all time would be there headbanging to music he’s playing he’d would’ve slapped you.

Obviously Adrian didn’t come to the show to see ME play, I am well aware of that. Same goes with the other crowd members but there’s something interesting that happens in your brain when you are part of a project and you’re performing and making art and you are communicating with everyone out there, famous or not, and you feel that they are there to see you too. Don’t forget they are also communicating with YOU, famous or not haha. It can empower you or feed your ego but for a split second there’s nothing wrong with using that situation as an empowering feeling and tool.

Every single audience member matters and you can’t underestimate that we could have a deep impact on their lives but there’s nothing like playing for people that have had a big impact on OUR lives and careers.  

I have to admit that one of the things that keeps me on my toes is the unknown person in the crowd. The fact I never ever know who is out there listening, watching, connecting with what we do is a very inspirational thing. The communication between the “creator” and the spectator is the very definition of art for a  lot of people and as performers some of us think that it’s not about who we are playing with but who we are playing for that’s important.

There’s no way for me to give back all the inspiration, excitement, energy and optimism some of the artists and athletes have given me but performing for them and channeling gratitude and let that pour through your craft is a small way of returning the favor or paying tribute.

By the same token use this as motivation to be prepared and give your best every single time. The same way that playing well in front of your idols can serve as a total kick in the behind and make you feel terrible if you mailed it in and realized your favorite singer was in the crowd. You’ll never forgive yourself! But don’t let that intimidate you, use it to inspire you!

Embrace the unknown!

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Investment Vs Sacrifice

posted by Demian November 10, 2016 0 comments

Many people consider “sacrifice” as the cornerstone of their lives, let alone their art. Everything they do is related to making sacrifices, depriving themselves for doing X, Y or Z. They need to feel like they are losing something in order to feel validation or to feel they are making progress.  Other people see it all as an investment.

Although I feel that both ways of looking at things are valid and I certainly understand and respect the first way of thinking, I can say that I definitely  belong to the latter group. I believe that everything we do, everything we have done throughout our career, everything we see my peers doing for their careers and their families, I feel they are investments and not a sacrifices. That’s what I choose to believe.

Sacrifice… ugh… I’ve never really liked that word to be honest. It brings with it a sense of loss, lack and missing something. It implies you need to lose something to gain something else. Mind you, it’s all about perspective of course. Objectively speaking I’m sure people would think that without a shadow of a doubt I’ve made sacrifices, but I actively choose to see it as something else. I need my sanity, I need my optimism and to keep both of these things intact, and others too, I need to believe that I’m investing in my career. Life is hard and the tough times are tough times on their own and we don’t need to empower them or make them tougher by assuming we are sacrificing stuff all the time. I want to be happy and confident and enjoy what I do as much as possible. Moreover I want to enjoy how I do it and why I do it.

Let’s apply this concept to a relationship: There’s this notion in society that you must sacrifice things in order to fit that person in your life, for you to fit in theirs or make life changing, painful adjustments in order to please them (I’m exaggerating because it’s fun). I think that’s a deceiving perspective. In theory a relationship of any kind should be an added value to your life and you should add value to the other person in the relationship. Adding adding adding, that’s the key, not loss loss loss. One hundred percent from you plus one hundred percent from them, adding to an exponential result. According to the “sacrifice” mindset, the percentages would be closer to 50/50 or something less than ideal.

On the flip side of the coin, it is my belief that when we think of an investment we think almost immediately of getting something in return. Isn’t  that the whole point of making it? Short, medium or long term, it’s relative but we believe something will occur in return.

By the way, if you decide to apply this perspective and welcome this way of thinking remember that your investment takes the same amount of energy and your work is as valid as to those that feel they are sacrificing things. Don’t let people that are all about sacrifice fool you into thinking that they are trying harder than you. Some people NEED to see whatever it is they do as a sacrifice to motivate themselves and I absolutely respect that. I just get in a much better mood and I am able to remain positive by choosing to see things differently.

An example of this duality can be related to the amount of time us musicians spend practicing our craft/performing/recording and how it takes us away from social engagements, not going a friend’s wedding, missing birthdays, dinner parties, date nights, etc.

Do we lose out on great times? Experiences that are unique and would mean the world to us? Absolutely! However lot of the times, the people that are doing things that we’d like to do, having all the fun, spending money because they have normal jobs and can afford it lol,  while you practice scales or learn music, those people might not be tapping into their potential not investing their time on something very particular that would potentially help them achieve their wildest dreams. They put in work on having fun and not necessarily on the (cue Rihanna) work work work work, work work.

We need to look in the mirror, fasten our seatbelts and tell ourselves (maybe when nobody is listening cuz that’s just plain embarrassing): “This is what I have to do right now,” “this is what I choose to do,” and “this is what I believe I need to do so that later on I get paid back tenfold, twofold, break even or maybe even lose but I’ll learn from that experience.”

This allows you to perceive most situations as a  win-win.Why? Because you deserve it due to the work you’ve put in, due to your ethics and your professionalism.

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Stage Fright & Visualization

posted by Demian November 3, 2016 0 comments

Many of us have dealt with either or both, some have overcome it, and some are still trying to understand it all.

According to Google (hey! At least I didn’t look it up on twitter…) 75% of the US population have a fear of public speaking. The same flawless and reliable source mentioned that 90% have stage fright and/or suffer some sort of social anxiety. Since I don’t know which number is correct, and they both seem pretty accurate to me, I came to the conclusion that a lot of people would prefer a lengthy jail time than to speak in front of people.The data, if I can call it that, basically proves that it’s more than normal to have stage fright. Being nervous and even terrified before a speech, school presentation or gig is perfectly understandable and common, so if you can, embrace that thought and try to find some sort of comfort.

The most common source of these petrifying feelings are questions such as: “What If I mess up?” or “What are people going to think of me?”

These questions are very valid ones and are also extremely deep. Answering them with honesty and humility can be a daunting task and doing so might seem as tough as the feelings themselves. We always want to do well, we always want to make the people we care about proud of us and we certainly want to achieve something we are required and paid to do but, if we mess up royally, what’s gonna happen?! It’s so unpredictable and we have no idea how we are going to react whenever the mistake happens.

However “messing up” can mean many things. For example: if you play guitar, messing up can mean hitting a wrong note, a string breaking, your strap falling, etc etc etc.  You can’t predict which one will happen and you certainly cannot predict how it will happen, least of all how you will react. In other words, things are out of your control and that can be a scary thought. I’ve had discussions about these with some athlete friends of mine and they completely welcome the unpredictability of the situation and it’s actually what fuels them, so not everyone is the same.

So, how can we reduce stage fright?

UNDERSTANDING

Understanding or trying to understand what it is we feel is absolutely key if we want to overcome it. Not everyone that feels stage fright is actually “afraid.” The emotion/feelings might be anxiety, nerves, excitement, adrenaline rush, the culmination of lots of hard work, a special person in the crowd we want to impress and so on. I believe that most of the time it’s these things that take ahold of our minds and bodies and not actual fear. There’s nothing to be scared of. Nothing is going to happen. It’s not the last show we do, we’re not gonna die. The range of emotions we feel before a show is so complex. Nerves are normal and in fact if we aren’t nervous before a show, gig, speech, presentation, there might be something off. Nerves are exciting and are part of what we do as artists.

PREPARATION

Maybe the nerves are related to lack of knowledge. There’s no better way of feeling confident than knowing the material well and feeling like we absolutely dominate it. It’s the difference between knowing a song well from practicing 20 times and knowing it inside out from practicing it 100 times. Did we prepare well enough? Did we go over every little transition? Beat? Fill? Riff? Intro? Outro? Bridge? Harmonies? Nerves can teach us about ourselves. We have to be honest and know we did our best to get to that point time allowing of course. Do we have proof of this preparation? Charts? Notes? Slides? Whatever you needed.  Resources help, there’s no way around it.

VISUALIZATION

Right before shows I would get nauseous and I would be overwhelmed by  insecurity and doubt. You could say that it was due to lack of preparation, knowledge of the material and no understanding of what I felt. You could also say I was nervous and that’s it, end of story. I’d feel like I forgot not only what to play but how to play it and when. It was terrible. I felt this way most of my life, even if I did a great job of hiding it but when I got to college I was exposed many times and I knew I had to do something about it.

I didn’t actively seek out to solve it but life has a way of working out and one of my teachers, Mike Mangini, changed my life forever.  I learned about “visual motor behavior rehearsal” (also known as Motor Imagery) that I was able to overcome it.  

In an attempt to demystify what that is I’ll explain it by saying that it’s a visualization technique, first employed by Olympic teams in the 80’s, with the goal of optimizing results, building confidence and reducing anxiety by vividly imagining carrying out an activity with, and this is the key: positive outcomes. In theory, doing this will “trick” your body and brain into believing you have done the activity hence reducing fear since “you’ve done it before and were successful at it.”

There are 4 basic steps:

  1. Meditate and clear your mind. Dedicate as much time to this as possible and know that for example, if the set you’re gonna play is 45min long, then set that time a side at the very least. I’d suggest at least twice so you can do this multiple times. You could print pictures of the venue and look at them while you listen to the music and imagine yourself playing well and nailing every part.
  2. Imagine every detail possible. Leading up to it, getting dressing, driving to soundcheck, parking, loading the gear, familiarizing yourself with the venue, the stage, the crew. Imagine the backstage area, who is there, the walk up to the stage. What clothes are you wearing, the smell of the place, feeling of the floor beneath your feet. The crowd, the lights, putting the guitar over your head or grabbing the drumsticks, etc etc etc… you know how it feels, you’ve been there. Now go there again but from the comfort of your room, couch or bed.
  3. Feel how you would feel! You have imagined the body response, but now feel the excitement, the cool nerves, the positive anxiety. Welcome those butterflies in your stomach, feel the jolts of energy, shake it off… Imagine your heart rate rising, your breathing getting faster and heavier. Imagine all that, get used to it, feel it.
  4. Picture a successful outcome. This is the key… you must visualize yourself getting parts right, feeling the feelings of joy and success and accomplishment on many levels. Build your confidence.

If you choose NOT to apply any of these things, which I totally understand and respect, I suggest at the very least to stay away from negative thoughts. Try as much as you can to think positive things for as long as you can especially right before you go on. Know your material, be prepared (not only as it relates to the material but also any gear you might need), stay hydrated and so on. Every little thing you do towards calming yourself down will have a positive impact.

Remember, the whole point is to have fun and enjoy what we’re doing and if we’re too busy worrying we won’t be able to truly enjoy the moment and value it as much.

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WHO ENDORSES WHO?

posted by Demian October 27, 2016 0 comments

I had dreamed about being endorsed by my favorite drum companies basically the same day I started playing the instrument. Little did I know how much work it would take to get those endorsements. Understanding the relationship between the brands/companies and ourselves as musicians along with the roles that we both play in that two way street (remember this at all times!), is crucial.

Most of us develop some sort of loyalty to or love for a specific brand at a young age. Maybe it’s because we get our first instrument and we just absolutely love everything about it. Perhaps we idolize a musician and they play X brand of guitars, basses, etc. In some degrees this obsession with a brand is the beginning us finding “our” sound and voice, since we want to sound like those people we admired when we were young, or still admire.

So, what is an endorsement?!

To put it simply: it’s the relationship between a brand and an artist and how said connection benefits BOTH parties involved.

As musicians starting up in the scene, most of us can’t afford all the gear we want or need. It can be pretty tough, frustrating and embarrassing. To put it bluntly we want free gear or at the very least get a major hookup. That’s what WE need from the companies… their gear and again, super cheap or free.

However, the companies need stuff from US. Never, ever forget that… that’s precisely why I titled this entry the way I did and why I pose that question. Think about it and you’ll quickly get to conclusion that it might not be who you think it was all this time.

Different companies have different policies, philosophies, and different ways of establishing those artist relations. Some companies have their roster of artists divided into tiers or levels, separated by letters (A, B, C, and D). Think of the celebrity rating you hear about (A list celebrity and so on).

The top of the food chain aka the A level (yes, regardless of talent or proficiency) get free gear, sometimes get paid by the companies or they get super insane discounts. Why? Because they also give BACK to the company. They have lots and lots of visibility which is the most important thing for a lot of companies, with other elements such as talent and ability coming second or third.

I must add something. Don’t make the silly mistake of judging people that are endorsed and think you should be there “instead” of them. Don’t waste your time wondering why they have those things and you don’t. The reality is that none of us ever know the true extend of how hard those people worked.

Its 2016 and the economy is not what it once was. The bottom line is that until we become a household name we NEED TO PAY! We are not entitled to anything just because we are good at our instruments. Having talent, dedication or whatever it is we possess does not  equate to us magically deserving products that lots and lots of people have worked their butts off to create and develop, for FREE. How absurd does that sound?

Maybe it’s not the free or cheap gear that we want. Perhaps we want the prestige and credibility that comes with out name being associated to that brand. Notice a pattern here: “we want want we want we want” But make no mistake, the companies and Artist Relations Reps have seen it all and they know who is who. They can tell what we want from them and most of the time it is us, with our poorly written emails and awkward conversations at NAMM, that expose our desperation.

Companies need people, as many as possible, to see their logos so that people buy their products but they also want someone unique. Unique can mean many things and I am no-one to judge anyone or say you shouldn’t do this or that. The companies however, have a fantastic grasp on the game.

Social media is massive (how’s that for an obvious statement) and I totally understand all these hashtags on the youtube and instagram videos. Some people aren’t endorsed by brand X but they still use their name and hashtag it. That might be cool, since you’ll draw attention who knows? you can get visibility. Is that what you want? Followers? People that subscribe to your channel and comment on your videos? Just asking… knowing what your goal is can help you get these companies interested.  Someone at brand X searches for said hashtag and finds your video, follows you, sends you an email and offers you free stuff, right?

Just a friendly reminder that if you are using these hashtags, you are giving away FREE promotion to those companies. You are getting nothing and they are investing nothing. This is not bad, all I’m saying is that I suggest you truly knowing what the company is about since you are basically putting your name on the line saying I agree with these people, what they do what they do and why they do it.

We are more than a brand, and I don’t mean you the artists as a commodity, I mean ONE brand that you endorse.

How do you get endorsed? I have not idea. I know what worked for me and I sure as hell know what did NOT work for me, and I’m about to share some of those with you.

When you email a company don’t,  under any circumstances, ever tell them that you want free stuff. If you word it properly you can ask what their discount for artists is or they are interested in adding someone with your profile to their artist roster. Asking for stuff free right off the bat might be bad news. Also, I suggest not building yourself up too much and don’t make it all about  “me me me me me” you know why? Because nobody cares about self grandeur.

Before you even write that email I suggest you take a few deep breaths and ask yourself (don’t forget to answer!) what do I bring to that company?? How will that company benefit from adding me to their artist roster?

These are tough questions because we love ourselves, we think we are unique and bring something interesting to everyone we meet. We need to be objective and honest. Are we being seen by a lot of people and the RIGHT people? You don’t have to be touring the world, maybe you just have a lot of students; that’s something that companies look for as well.

Sometimes companies are overwhelmed with talent and they just want a nice person in their roster. Someone with principles, that’s going to be a solid girl/guy.

When we are endorsed and even prior to the endorsement we have a responsibility to behave. The companies are going to check out all of your social media and see what you’re about, what you’re saying, how, what your interaction with fans are, etc. Make sure that you are remember that you’re in a business where reputation precedes you and companies want to know who they’re bringing in as part of their FAMILY.

What kind of person would you bring to yours?

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The “A” Word (Auditions)

posted by Demian May 21, 2016 0 comments

I have to admit that every major gig or every “life changing” tour, has not come to fruition via an audition I got called back from. I’m one of the lucky few that can say that I’ve gotten those opportunities through word of mouth or some sort of first hand recommendation from someone in close proximity to the project or the music director. I have never gotten a gig through an audition, sounds crazy but it’s true. I’ve never been on the other end of the phone call when someone says: “Hey Demian, after hearing you and other 8 drummers play, we are happy to let you know that you have been chosen for band X” Nope, never.

Now, you might think that is a way of me to claim some sort of special ability or a gift or that my reputation is enough for me to get a gig… none of that. I’m not the “guy who doesn’t do auditions”, I’m just someone who not only dislikes auditions for the most part, but I don’t think they are one of my strong points as a  musician. Not in terms of preparation or talent necessarily but more from a principle standpoint, all of which I will explain shortly.

First off, I will say that auditions or auditioning has to equate to preparation. Its crucial for us to always prepare, OVER prepare and be the best that we can be if we are to stand a chance. When I was in college I had the chance to see countless drum clinics, world famous guest speakers, legendary guitar players, etc but one of the biggest lessons I ever learned was from a teacher by the name of Walter Beasley who, in one of his clinics, said 5 words that turned out to be one of my life’s mottos: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. These 5 P’s encompass in the most simple and deep way everything that music and life as a professional musician is about.

That’s about the biggest lesson I can teach any of my kids. I don’t care if years from now they don’t remember a drum fill I taught them, or what a double paradiddle is, but if they can remember those 5 words I will feel like I did my job.

For a lot of people the audition process is mostly about WHO is the audition for and who is the person/people you are auditioning for aka the people that you have to “impress.” Whenever I think about this I’m reminded about how anti-art that feels. We are artists, we are who we are, we play how we play, why do I need to impress anyone?! I don’t need to! I’ve been guilty of those thoughts and I totally understand people feeling that way but the fact of matter is that we are trying to get a job, we’re trying to propel our careers and we need people’s opinion or validation to achieve things that we want to. It’s a fact, whether we want to admit it or not, it’s just the nature of the beast, but like with a lot of things in life, it’s all about perspective and how we look at things. You can love the process, hate absolutely everything about it or not care about it, it’s up to you.

Here in LA, a very common type of audition is the “cattle call auditions” Basically it’s when an artist needs a musician, say a drummer, and either the MD (music director) or the manager/label, organizes the audition and has a large number of people interest. Tons of drummers show up or get called to a specific time slot, in which they’ll play the same songs back to back to back and so on, and hopefully you’ll get called back to either audition again maybe this time with the artist playing or what not. That audition is your chance to get the job and showcase your talent, your art and all that good stuff.

This process has always been a very interesting one for me. You get a chance to see so many musicians and hear what they do and HOW they do it. It gives you chance to think about things differently, to decide to play things in a way that maybe you now think it’s better after hearing a person before you. It can also freak you out! Maybe the first 5 people did the song in a “gospel chop” way and you decided to do more of a John Bonham thing but the girl right before you does it!! Now what? It isn’t original now, is it? What do you do?! It’s crazy… can be horrible or it can be fun. I encourage to try to LEARN and enjoy whatever you can from these experiences.  That’s the name of the game.

We have to do our very best to LEARN at all times from every single thing we live along the way. As artists, in touch with our feeling we have to try to understand not only what we feel but WHY we feel it and without a doubt one of the ways to always learn is through being grateful about whatever it is we are living and know there’s something to be learned that will make us better musicians, more professional and hopefully more integral people.

One of the most interesting things about auditioning is that we never know what things can come out of that situation. We often make the correct assumption that we are going there for that specific gig and sometimes we forget that maybe that MD has another project in mind which we would be perfect for. Maybe he or she knew that we weren’t the right player but had heard about us and wanted to hear us play first hand. You never know… That’s why we have to always give our best, show up on time, prepared, look the part (while still being yourself).  Be authentic but know what the gig calls for. And just a friendly reminded you are doing all those things for YOURSELF, not for anyone else. We need to be prepared for US, not for the MD.

Throughout my time in the business I have also been on the other side of this dynamic and I’ve had to audition many people for different projects, potential teachers at a school and/or find a specific musician when a label hires me to do so. I’m looking for something specific and most of the time its personality related.

Be you, be yourself!

But what does that mean?! Maybe you are in your teens or even younger while you read this. Maybe you just finished high school or college and you’re really sure what that means. Hell, I didn’t know who I was until my mid 20s. How do I behave like myself? How am I myself? What does that mean!?!?! What kind of existential conundrum is this?!

The short answer to that is: don’t pretend to be someone or something we are not. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t learn things that we don’t know of stretch ourselves and push our boundaries during the audition. I mean just be you.

If there is anything I would like for you to learn from this post is to never ever underestimate an audition. Never, ever underestimate an audition. Did I mention that you should ever, EVER, never ever EVER underestimate and audition? Good.

Things happen in interesting ways. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail an audition either. Be honest and try to analyze what you could’ve done differently or better, but take a deep breath and know that some things happen for a reason and maybe a much better opportunity is around the corner that, had you gotten the gig you auditioned for, would’ve made you unavailable.

 

d.

 

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It’s Not Who You Are, It’s Who You Know (Networking)

posted by Demian May 21, 2016 0 comments

Networking… A word loved by many and dreaded by many more I think… When I say “networking” I mean the whole scope: making connections, establishing relationships and creating bonds with people to, hopefully, get work. These last two words are crucial.

In my personal experience, the word itself had an almost negative connotation because it almost implies that you need to “use” people or you will somehow use the person you’re connecting with for your own good. This concept seemed odd, insulting, fake and it went against many of my principles. As I grew older I realized it didn’t have to be that way and that I was overlooking the fact that these relationships can be truly authentic, as long as you are aware and ok with the potential end result.

The way I see it there are 3 key elements to every fruitful and longstanding relationship. But before I go ahead and explain what those are I gotta say this: meeting people is great! It might be a very easy thing for some and a very intimidating thing for others, which I understand and respect, but it’s not JUST about meeting people and/or meeting ANYBODY… We want GOOD people, people that inspire us, that are doing what we want to do and how we want to do them.

The first element is AUTHENTICITY. What I mean by that is being honest with yourself and knowing why it is that you want that specific connection and/or relationship. Whatever your reason is there is no right or wrong and I’m surely not here to pass any form of judgement. However, I do believe that you know the answer within you and I feel it’s important to recognize it and understand it. Even if the relationship fails, regardless of the reason, at the very least you developed some communication with YOURSELF and tried to understand the person in the mirror a bit better.

The second element is RESPECT. I could write a completely different blog about this since it has many, many dimensions and layers. When I say respect I not only mean being nice to people, being cordial or not being rude but also respecting people’s time and your own time as well. As you know we are all busy and people like to say that “time is money” which I partially agree with. I don’t think that time equates to money every single time because I think time is priceless and a very precious commodity. So, if we believe our time has a price or its priceless, however you choose to view it, know that it’s only fair to value other people’s time in the same way.

The third and final element is none other than PROPER COMMUNICATION. What I mean by this is prompt reply to emails, following up with phone calls, invoices, gear lists, flight booking information, passport scans, w9 forms, sending pictures, youtube links, bios, etc etc etc. I understand that reading this from me might imply that I am the best at communicating and I do all these things at the exact perfect time but believe me when I tell you that the reason I’m saying all these things is because I have made mistakes in the past and I know how crucial these things are. I’ve been lazy, I’m taken way too long to reply to an email and things like that, causing problems for me sooner or later. I don’t want you to go through any of this BUT actually seeing, feeling and living the consequences of poor communication is the best way for you to learn.

Whenever you go to a venue, a jam session, a meeting, and/or any situation where you will be making connections you can yourself  2 important questions, both of which are very deep yet simple which will lead you to balance humility, self assuredness and confidence in the process. The questions are:

 

  1. How can this _____  help me? Feel free to insert words such as: person, musician, bar owner, booking agent, brand, endorsement, manager, school, agency, music director, etc.
  2. What do I bring to her/him/them/it that is valuable?

Focusing on the 2nd, and most important question, the answer is hopefully: “Me” or you in this case. Our talent and craft is important of course but we want to be the right people for whatever they need also because of who we are and not only how well we play music. Nobody wants to tour with lame people, who insult, criticize and complain all day.

I have to admit that because I went to a music college I made a lot of connections without even realizing I was doing just that. Afterwards, I did a few things knowingly to make establish those relationships and I’m gonna share with you a couple that might seem controversial.

When I first moved to LA I played for FREE and I did it a lot. Not to take work from my peers, and I can understand that argument, but I did it because I wanted and needed to play and I also knew that more opportunities would come along with being out there playing, and it absolutely worked.

Another thing I did was try to have people find ME. I posted things on Craigslist and other sites. I learned how to negotiate pay, how to trust my instincts and communicate with people. I started understanding which people to trust and why, what their intentions were and basically allowed me to hone in a better character judgment ability. This was HUGE. Also worth noting that thanks to Craigslist I recorded 2 major label albums.

The other thing I did was almost backwards. Most people go to jam sessions or nights where other drummers hung out (in your case it can be other instruments of course). This is pretty logical since you’ll meet fellow instrumentalists, etc BUT I actually went to places where none of my peers were, or few. I went to open mic nights, singer nights, and I would see those people and offer them my services. Give that a try.
Us musicians practice… a lot. All day… scales, rudiments and so on, but don’t forget that networking and meeting people is something that we need to work on and practice. We’ll get better at it and it’ll get easier the more we do it. Social media is king but we HAVE to go out, meet people and be ourselves.

d.