*Note: This article marks the birth of DrumGAB and was my first attempt at writing a blog. From this article forward many amazing opportunities have been revealed to me. What began as an idea to write a blog article has truly grown to be something significant. Thank you to everybody, especially my amazing wife, Amanda, for your continued support in this journey.*
Contests are sort of a strange animal. Essentially you are being judged by a professional and their opinion will concern your pride and joy; the one thing you have spent hours trying to learn and become good at. I can recall practicing for an hour minimum every single day for 5 years from the ages of 14-19. I even used to go to school on snow days to play drums in the music room when school got cancelled. My music teacher would be marking papers and I would be in the next room driving her nuts. If Mrs. Robertson is reading this, thank you very much for putting up with that, you seriously rock. I remember rehearsing at home for high school talent shows and taking it relatively seriously. Probably more seriously than I took any of my school work come to think of it. Fast forward 11 years and I am practicing to compete in a video drum solo contest that is across Canada. That seems like a bit of a leap don'tcha tink!? It's a large audience and it's a cyber audience.....people don't have to be nice y'know. I know personally at first I said to myself, "I'm gonna' win that contest and I'll do whatever it takes to do that". To follow up on that I spent around 50 hours plugging away with practice and the rest of the two weeks I was thinking about how I would structure this thing and what kinds of features or themes I wanted to have in the solo. I would add a few ideas to the structure and then would take a lot of them away leaving 1 or 2 good ones. I lost a lot of sleep in those two weeks.
It became somewhat nerve racking towards the last day or two before recording because I wasn't sure that I had a good 'flow' yet to the solo and I had also hoped for some ideas to come through naturally but they sounded bad to me; I ran out of time. I originally had practiced the famous 'Funky Drummer' lick but in the end it wasn't quite there. I made some last minute substitutions and I feel now looking back that I made the right call. So after some last minute changes I felt that I had a good selection of ideas but I had to make sure they transitioned well into one another.
In drum solos I prefer slower musical development and these solos tend to be longer but can be very transcending in their storytelling. With this contest the limit was a cool 3 minutes and it is hard to establish something profound with only 3 minutes to work with. I ended up thinking about it in these terms:
I am a person at an all you can eat buffet. I want to be fulfilled but I only have 3 minutes to eat. I also have to eat the food in a good order so that the blending of flavors from one sample to the next compliment one another. I don't really want to go back for second helpings of the same foods either. Once I have tried them I want to move onto something new. Once the time is up I should feel satisfied and wanting to come back another time someday.
I believe this analogy really helped me conceptualize how a tasteful solo is made. The goal was to make something that was hopefully musical to most people and at the end of the day a musician should play from the perspective of the listener. I also wanted to produce my solo in a presentable format, so I employed Kyle Ashbourne from EMAC Recording Studios for sound and Michael Del Vecchio from 331arts for video. Their expertise helped capture the solo more accurately and with a great level of fidelity.
As a side note, I would suggest that if anyone needs either video or audio recording that you see these guys. They had my video done and published on YouTube in less than 24 hours and that includes time to sleep and all that other stuff humans do. Make sure that when you listen to the drum solo you use headphones to get the full experience.
Now that the solo has been recorded nearly 3 weeks ago and all of the other submissions are in as well; we wait. We all wait to hear either great news or not so great news. I suppose you may even wonder at this point if it was worth it or not to invest so much of everything into a 3 minute clip. That is a matter of perception and this is the greatest lesson of all as far as I am concerned. Taking a look at all the valuable things that happened from this experience that aren't about winning and losing. Through this competition I had a major growth in my ability to play the drum set. I had a great time making this video with my friends at EMAC and 331arts. I have befriended someone personally who is a highly skilled player and is humble enough to teach me what he knows to help me reach my personal goals. I have shared my video with companies whose products I trust with response and praise about my performance. I would say by now that yes, it was worth it and that whether I win or lose, I have gained and that's really what's important. Now of course if I do happen to win I will jump for joy like a 10 year old boy but if I lose I will not pout like one. I truly enjoyed this competition and hope to participate again in the future. Until then, back to the pad I go! Stay Happy, Happy Drumming everyone!