‘My nerves got worse, i had terrible bad nerves all the time. Once we started… i was fine’ – John Bonham
‘I think being nervous is a good thing’ – Jeff Porcaro
‘I’m nervous before everything’ – Jeff Porcaro
So you read my embarrassing story here?
You have one also, don’t pretend! If not, it’s coming.
I made out at the end of my last post, some high and mighty/80’s/motivational mantra like ‘this will never happen again’.
I should stress. That wasn’t the last time i messed up. Or even got nervous. Not even close. What i am saying, is that it was a game changer. I drew a line under it as a time to reflect and be conscious of what is happening and react in a professional and positive way.
The quotes i grabbed at the top from Porcaro and Bonham. Those alone may be enough for some people. ‘Oh those guys got nervous… it’s okay then!’.
It IS okay! I like to flip that nervous energy. If i feel it creeping in I like to grab it and say to myself ‘DAMN, i’m playing drums here! I LOVE this’.
Do you think you’re going to get nerves heading into a 9-5 at the office? Well, maybe if you have a presentation or the like. But that’s a different type of nervous. You are invested in drumming, and music on a different level.
You are alive. You are actually living the dream and your body and mind are engaged. Every now and then that hits home and we have a small epiphany. I do occasionally catch myself watching myself (does that make sense?). Almost like a third person. Watching this arm doing this and this leg doing that. That could sound very kooky to a non drummer or non musician. It’s a state of flow where you can step away and observe.
After my caveman drumming performance, I learnt i needed to own it. It’s me up there. I can choose to be in a good space or a negative one. Nothing else means… anything. I’m not going to battle demons no matter what happens. Light, loose, like water.
Something bad happens? Log it in the memory bank to fix later. Don’t dwell in the now ruining OTHER things.
Okay i’m gonna get down to it. How to combat nerves or anxiety for a musician.
Be honest. Do you think any of these points would help you?
#1 – Be On time
Trust me running into a gig 5 minutes before start time is no preparation. And it’s damn rude. Be on time. No matter what.
Finding a park, scrambling to find your sticks… it all creates stress, rushing, anxiety in your life and therefore your playing.
#2 – Practise how you want to play
If you dream of playing effortlessly like your favourite drummer does. Then practise it. Use a mirror. Use a camera to film yourself. How do you look? Do you look relaxed/in control?
Train your body to play relaxed.
#3 – Work On Weaknesses
Drummers are really bad at this. We blaze in the practise room and leave our weaknesses on show at gig time week after week.
Is your time together? If not, forget the chops.
In the case of my previous post. I dedicated to diligent hand practise. No matter what, i stuck to it. And i forced myself to transfer those hours of good and healthy pad practice into far better and smoother kit playing.
#4 – Meditate
Clearly not for everyone.
If nothing has worked for you. If you don’t believe in meditation (like i didn’t). If you think it’s a bunch of hippie, new age bull s**t (again like me). Then give it go.
‘Nah it’s just not me..’. How do you know? I’m a convert. It’s freaking awesome.
There is a misconception that meditation is sitting around in MC Hammer pants, humming for hours a day. That’s not what it’s about… at all.
As i said, Give it a go.
If you are skeptical i strongly recommend a guided meditation. There are many apps for this. The responsibility is taken away and you are literally told what to do.
The best analogy i have heard is that it is like stepping back from the middle of a huge battle. Think 300/Spartan style! You’re in there ducking and weaving, getting hit, looking for openings. Surrounded by chaos and relying on luck.
Then it’s as if someone pulled you right out of that battle and said ‘yo bro come and sit over here on this nearby hill for a moment’. All of a sudden you can see the battle playing out. Everything seems really obvious from above/outside the drama.
Watching from above you can make clear judgements and smart decisions. I find it very grounding.
It also serves to remind me of my priorities, not just in drumming but in life.
#5 – Realise It’s Okay To Be Nervous.
Our heroes get nervous. It really is okay. It’s an indicator that you care and want to do well. We can’t run from our passions and fears (which may be interrelated).
It’s okay to care.
#6 – React Differently When it Comes On
If i feel a pang of nerves settling in i like to smile. Not a false bravado smile. A genuine smile of happiness and contentment with what’s going on.
It’s a powerful tool for me and often the thoughts follow that happy trajectory instantly.
#7 – Be Prepared
Prepared could mean, having your charts neatly organised. It could be knowing exactly the structure of the songs you’re playing. It could be anything.
YOU know if you are prepared and ready to play drums.
I hope one or all of these tactics works for you!