The benefits of recording yourself drumming are immense. I am constantly recording my gigs, practice sessions and rehearsals and I learn from it every time, one way or another. If you are not already doing this on a regular basis, I strongly urge you to begin doing so now. Recording yourself is possibly the most important learning tool that many drummers and other musicians somehow overlook.
Do you have a way to record yourself? Well, if you don’t, I will wait right here while you go to Musician’s Friend or some other online music store and buy yourself a ZOOM or some other handy dandy digital recording device. They aren’t that expensive. You can buy a ZOOM H1 for about $100. And it will pay dividends for the rest of your drumming career. Go ahead. Go buy it now. I’ll wait.
The reason I am being so aggressive about this is that recording your playing is a critical step to jump starting your development as a player. Recording yourself is truly the only way to know what is really going on in your playing. All the great musicians record themselves. This isn’t only for drummers. Eric Clapton wrote about taping himself in his autobiography. Clapton would figure out solos of his favorite guitarists and then tape himself attempting the solo along with the original recording of the song. Then he’d listen back, figure out what was missing, and try again. And so on. Until he sounded like Albert King or whoever he was dissecting at that point in his development.
Dave Weckl talked about taping himself in one of his first videos from the late eighties (it was either “Back To Basics” or “The Next Step,” I forget which). In the video, he demonstrates a groove he was playing at a gig–that is what he thought it sounded like. The groove is a paradiddle-style 16th note funk beat with a lot of ghosted notes on the snare. Weckl describes how when he listened back to the recording, he realized that it didn’t sound the way he had intended at all. In the video, he then demonstrates how it really sounded–the ghosted notes were way too loud. Recording himself allowed him to realize that he didn’t really have that groove together the way he wanted and to then–of course–solve the problem.
Imagine if Weckl didn’t go through that process. He would have continued to play this complex groove badly night after night at gigs. Consider this–do you actually sound the way you think you do? What if you are playing stuff on gigs that sounds wrong, but you don’t even know it? I can promise you that if that is the case, you are risking stalling your drumming career. Unless you are in a band with your buddies and you are all comfortable enough with each other to gently and constructively critique each other’s playing, you might just get fired. Are you starting to see how important this is now?
Here are some of the things I record with my ZOOM in order to improve my playing:
- gigs and rehearsals
- my practice sessions,licks, technique, grooves
- other gigs of drummers I like so I can figure out what they’re doing if it inspires me
Here is one last story that reveals another benefit of recording yourself. I want to show you another spin on this, an angle that is more positive and gets into the psychology of playing. Have you ever had a gig or rehearsal where you thought you just sucked? You got all inside your head while you were onstage playing a particular song and started sweating, thinking, “man, I really suck on this song. What the hell am I doing? How can I even call myself a drummer?!” Well guess what, I have done that too. And recently at a gig, after thinking these kind of thoughts, I listened back to the recording of that song. I realized that my playing was fine! It was all in my head. So, this recording yourself thing will not only tell you what you have to work on, but sometimes, just sometimes, it will bring you a sigh of relief and a little reassurance that you are a pretty good drummer after all. And that is a good thing.
I love the drums and hope you do too.
Don't miss LEVEL5's next show: 9:30pm on Wed, 2/21/17 at NYC's legendary club, The Bitter End.
"The Sybil EP," the debut from Mark Feldman's LEVEL5, is due for release in 2018, and features Oz Noy and Will Lee.
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