How Playing An Instrument Benefits Your Brain

I write about this topic semi-regularly. I didn’t anticipate the health benefits when I started playing the drums but here I am 22 years later and the they are obvious. Check out this cool video by TED-Ed to see what other beneficial results have been discovered.

Being A Drummer in 2015

You may have heard people say the music industry is suffering, or worse… That it’s dead. Certain areas of the business have taken a hit in the last decade but the live performance side of the business is THRIVING and full of opportunity. Lucky for us, playing the drums is very much a part of the live side of the business. Musicians and bands play everywhere from concert venues to music festivals, bars, country clubs, casinos, art exhibits, private events, corporate parties, street festivals, and more. The challenge is that there are so many good drummers and competition for work can get kind of thick. While the recording business hasn’t been very kind to drummers lately, there are still opportunities there as well. The key is getting ahead of the competition and learning how to be the drummer people want to hire and you have a much better shot at landing live and recording gigs.

This is why drum lessons at The Jon Ardito Drum School are not just focused on drumming, but also how to put those skills to use for professional gains including networking, building your individual brand, and pursuing musical career opportunities. I feel a responsibility to set expectations for my students as well as upcoming musicians because it’s different being a drummer in 2015 than it was in 1975.

So what is a “good drummer” in 2015? To me, it’s a lot more than someone who can play. Read any job description out there. They all have a long list of responsibilities. Very rarely is the job title itself the only thing you will be doing. Drumming is no different. The ones truly up for the task have a full package to offer. Sounding good is part of it but I believe a “good drummer” is someone who also has the following:

Knowledge of the business: As I said, the business has changed. I can’t even have a conversation with an “old head” about the music business because it is so drastically different from when bands were bringing in money by selling albums and when pop music didn’t all sound like regurgitated garbage. I won’t be a broken record to make a case for the changes technology has caused, but I will echo the learnings every businessperson has endured in the new music industry. Today’s landscape is different. If you have the most amazing chops in the city, that might be enough to get you the gigs you want. Knowing the landscape, understanding the business, and adapting to the new way of doing things will enhance your chances for success. The challenge is that it is a very experimental process. Musicians didn’t quit when the record industry tanked. Actually, the DIY paths actually created MORE musicians since we now have access to resources that weren’t as available in the old days. And yes, I’m referring to technology. So be prepared to compete in a saturated space with a challenging revenue model, but keep a peripheral view of nontraditional avenues that may help you.

A sales-minded approach: In addition to knowing the business, you need to get comfortable as your own sales team. When a real-estate gets someone to buy a house, they make a sale. When you book a gig, you make a sale too. Musicians frequently struggle with the sales aspect of their careers but our goals are the same as every salesperson out there. Develop a plan, know the right people, network, and learn from other successful musicians. To my previous point, there are those who will get a chance simply by being a great player. Some just know the right people. Others are rewarded by being at the right place at the right time… But most people in this world have to sell there skills to some degree.

A passion-driven attitude: Simply put, following your passion will get you further than chasing the dollars. If you are a musician because you want to be rich, you are in the wrong business. Many many musicians make very little money but love what they do so much that it trumps their need for nice shoes and fancy cars. Assess your financial needs and come to terms with the fact that your desire to be a musician requires a lot of hustle that may never lead to a fat paycheck.

An ethic people want to work with: Nobody wants to work with an asshole. If you have a good personality, attitude, and show others that you are on top of the “non-musical” responsibilities, people will want to play with you. Don’t have an ego, show up on time, know the material, make sure your equipment works, and don’t create conflicts. This goes a long way but isn’t always easy. You will have to put in many non-billable hours, work with difficult creative types, take direction from others, and maybe even play music you don’t necessarily enjoy. Rise above the emotions and do your job… With a smile on your face, and occasionally bringing donuts!

A multi-faceted skill set: I have friends that are now Instagram celebrities because they tapped into social media to build a fan base. I know drummers who book more gigs because they can also perform live with Abelton. I know musicians that became so good at marketing themselves, that they actually learned their talents were a better asset on the marketing side of the business. As for my story… It’s still being written but I noticed a passion and skill for teaching, along with an interest in the special events business. So I still play at local clubs but I make a living teaching and booking talent. The point is to consider all avenues. I’m one of those jerks that needs nice shoes and a fancy car so quite simply, the hustle was difficult for me. I did some research and noticed areas that have a better chance of producing the income I desire, so I adjusted my plan. I face challenges all entrepreneurs face but I feel a little better about my ability to bring in money while staying connected to music every day of my life… and I’ve never played the drums more on a week to week basis.

Competence on the instrument: These are the tactical things we go over in drum lessons, the subject matter in tutorials you watch, and other functional elements directly related to your instrumental abilities. There is no substitute for amazing chops. So whether you want to improve tempo, play cooler fills, develop a better groove, or anything else, you should always be honing your skills and seek ways to become a better player. This is very rarely enough, although the extremely talented ones tend to get noticed more quickly. The cream rises to the top but it takes a lot of practice and experience to get to that level. Once you are the best player in town, you might be able to weight your responsibilities a little more heavier on your practice routine and less on some of the areas we discussed.

The Jon Ardito Drum School is devoted to preparing students with the tools and abilities they need to succeed in today’s musical climate. While the words “Drum School” are in our name, we also have an obligation to educate aspiring drummers on the field they are entering. So when a student comes to us and says “I want to be a professional drummer,” we give them the option to designate a portion of our time together towards education of the industry. This allows you to move forward in your drumming endeavors with clear expectations of the business and a plan to succeed.

#DrumStudentTabloids: Kat Byland

Kat Byland - Jon Ardito Drum School

Kat Byland is no stranger to music. While the drums are a new addition to her agenda, Kat has some experience on the violin. Needless to say, her musical journey is becoming quite versatile. It’s Kat’s interest in patterns that draws her to the drums, which is why we spend a good amount of time exploring different drum beats in Joel Rothman’s “Basic Drumming” book. Her favorite artists include the likes of Evanescence, Fall Out Boy, Hailstorm, Journey, and Linkin Park. I’ll never forget my first conversation with Kat, when she revealed her enjoyment for heavy music. It’s always nice to hear a young lady with an appetite for destruction. With drumming goals focused on playing full songs on the drums, we will certainly have some good material to explore in the upcoming weeks. We’ll just hope the neighbors don’t mind a little heavy metal in their breakfast. When Kat isn’t playing the drums she enjoys reading, basketball, gaming and paddle sports. She also seems to have developed quite a travel bug, as she plans to visit California and Hawaii in the upcoming future. Keep it up Kat!

5 Headphone Brands Drummers Should Use

Studio drummerI don’t care much for lengthy reviews with extremely technical terms. I like simple descriptions that help guide my decisions. However, I have a very particular tolerance for audio quality in the headphones I buy. Whether its based on time spent in studios, in store testing, or purchases I’ve made, the 5 brands below seem to stand out as leaders in my opinion. This isn’t to say other brands don’t also offer exceptional products. This is solely based on my experience, which doesn’t by any means include every headphone brand under the sun:

  1. AKG – Cost-efficient at every stage and versatile. This is a great headphone brand across the board. Whether you are just starting out or have been playing for years, AKG has a great selection, ranging from the K 44 Headphone at $20 to the Quincy Jones Signature series at $400. On the higher end, AKG headphones offer sparkling high-frequency sound and accurate bass response, as well as a huge, airy, three-dimensional sound.
  2. Sennheiser – Also a cost friendly option, Sennheiser offers a great value for all musicians. The beginner can expect to pay about $30 for lightweight headphones that offer rich bass response, more clarity, and less distractions from the outside world. In the $250 range, drummers can expect a product capable of handling very high sound pressure levels and delivering great quality sound.
  3. Ultrasone – A great option for the more seasoned musician who is able to spend a little more for a set of top of the line headphones. With fewer, more high quality options, Ultrasone offers excellent products in the $230 – $550 range with an emphasis on quality engineering resulting in products that offering great hearing protection, great noise cancellation qualities, and amazing sound clarity.
  4. Audio-Technica – From lightweight consumer headphones to heavy duty studio monitors, Audio-Technica is a great solution for all musical situations and a reliable option for both in home and professional studio settings. The critically acclaimed M-Series offers a comfortable listening experience, with enhanced audio and effective isolation, as well as a range of affordable products that are excellent for tracking and mixing.
  5. Shure – Shure headphones are optimized to provide exceptional sound reproduction and comfort and offer a range of features ranging from budget-friendly options to ones that flaunt sophisticated engineering. Depth in audio quality is consistent across the brand with smooth, extended highs and accurate bass. Also a great option at all price points.

#DrumStudentTabloids: Eric Stern

Eric Stern - Jon Ardito Drum School

From business to pleasure, Eric Stern immerses himself in all aspects of music. With a new music industry emerging focused on technology, digital promotion, and evolving capabilities in production, Eric took to the windy city to study Music Business Management at Columbia College Chicago. Currently on summer vacation, Eric contacted the Jon Ardito Drum School to build his chops and explore the creative side of music. With a predilection towards Indie Rock, Eric looks to build a sound reminiscent of drummers such as Erin Tate (Minus The Bear) and David Lovering (Pixies). Our main focuses are to build a larger vocabulary of beats and improve Eric’s execution of drum fills to work well in the contexts which he plays.

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