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.
- Beginner Drummers Discussion Forum - February 14, 2022
- The Gift - December 30, 2021
- The Rock Drumming Six: A Simple and Solid Drum Fill Idea - December 25, 2021
Jeff Consi says
Hey Mark. Great, inspiring article. I too have been doing the same on and off for a while now, although I started slacking a bit the past few months. This article has definitely got me motivated. Thanks. JC
Hey Jeff –thanks so much for the kind words! I really appreciate it.
Ray P says
So interesting that you posted this today. I have been playing the Jeff Porcaro beat from “Rosanna” lately, and I just finally recorded it last night and when I played it back I almost cried…I still have a long way to go to make the ghost notes quiet enough and still make the backbeats feel solid…only can tell this from a recording and playback.
Richard Vos says
Hey Mark, an old blog of yours I found through Facebook , but still and always true I guess. Thanks for the inspiration, I will do more recording from today, I promiss myself. One question though: what is your routine here? There is not enough time to play back all of the recordings. Do you skip through the recording, or just listen to some parts intentionally, for how long and when, right after rehearsal/practice/gig? And so on. Because I have learned about deliberate practice and not wasting time I want to try and be efficient with listening back to recording as well. Thanks for all your good work! Cheers, Richard (the Netherlands, Europe)
Mark Feldman says
Hi Richard –
Thanks for reading.
That’s a good question. Yes, listen selectively. It’s good to record a lot of stuff and then choose what you listen to with a specific purpose. I will usually listen to everything from a performance, but I don’t record all of my practice sessions–that would be overkill. I usually only record practice or a specific portion of a practice session in order to see where I am with something I’ve been working on. When practicing, you’ll usually know if “you don’t have it” yet. But once you think that you DO have it, then record and listen to see if you’re right.
Hope this helps!
Thanks Mark, that is clear! I will try it that way, really appreciate it! Will support your website and lessons.
Mark I have to say that you have finally transgendered the space between great drummer and great teacher to true inspiration. Thank you so much for that article.
Mark Feldman says
Ha ha!!!! Ray…that’s a good one. I’m assuming that’s auto-correct at it’s worst! But thank you for the kind words. Makes me feel great.
Richard Vos says
Ha, ha, that is funny! Even for a non-native English speaker!