Probably for most of us, as long as we have access to a set of drums... we don’t care where they are! A basement, garage, shed, chicken coop, wherever —as long as we can play, we’re happy.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with that; the drums themselves should be the priority when we’re practicing. However, I do believe the environment that we practice in can actually help us make the most of our time.
Why is it sometimes when we practice we can get into the “zone” and really make some significant progress and other times we struggle with working on one idea for 30 seconds?
Yep, you guessed it—FOCUS.
We all struggle with it. Especially in today’s hyper-connective-information-saturated culture, it’s amazing we get anything done at all! Which is why we need to be on the offensive and not the defensive.
Being on the offensive means doing things that prevent the temptation from happening at all; don’t just try to not look at your phone (defensive)—put your phone in another room (offensive).
Being on the offensive also means taking steps to help encourage productivity, focus and direction. This is where we can use our environment to become one of our strongest allies.
Recently, I came across this photo of my bedroom (where I would practice) from when I was 18 years old. The chart in the middle (Bowders Wall Chart) was a 3 year countdown calendar for when I was going to go study at Musicians Institute (PIT). I wanted to be as prepared as possible to go there, so I would make notes on this wall chart about certain subjects I needed to work on, concepts I wanted to develop and just some basic benchmark goals that I felt I needed to achieve in the next 3 years.
Amongst all of the other handmade reminders I had plastered all over my walls, on the upper right there is one that says “RACER X auditions?”. Racer X was a rock band with amazing musicians, most notably Scott Travis on drums and Paul Gilbert on guitar. I was a big fan and felt that they set the standard for heavy progressive music at that time. I saw this as a benchmark so, when I would practice I would ask myself “If Racer X had an audition today would I be prepared?”.
Well, 9 years later I get a call from Paul Gilbert to record some demos for his new album (and basically audition). The session went great and I continued to work with Paul for the next 7 years. We recorded multiple albums and toured the World many times over—of course always playing the legendary Racer X instrumental song “Scarified” (which I was practicing when I was 18). This video is from the G3 tour which ironically was kind of a Racer X reunion with Bruce Bouilet (second guitarist of Racer X) joining us for that run.
I’m not saying that having a “fake audition” reminder in my practice room was the guiding factor in my trajectory to working with an artist I admired. What I am saying is that when I would practice, these “reminders” helped me focus and help define “why” I was putting in the time. That is one way of how the power of using your environment can contribute to your progress, growth and success.
Like all of us, our practice environments change whether in location or esthetic. But what I want to encourage you with is to be on the offensive and create an environment where everything that you see when you are practicing is pushing you to become your best.
Seeing a broken down bike or a dirty vacuum in the corner probably won’t be too motivating. Rather, be in a clean environment and surround yourself with images and ideas that help elevate your purpose: an inspiring piece of art, a favorite quote, a count-down calendar, a poster of your favorite drummer/artist/performer or even a “fake” audition flyer—do whatever it takes for you to make the most of your time with this awesome instrument and continue to make progress each time you enter the room.
This is what I see when I practice now. It’s not as cluttered as my bedroom was at 18 years old, but it still helps me maintain my focus and reminds me of my “why”. (Thanks, Jocko Willink)
Alright, I know this isn’t a typical drum lesson per se, but I know that to become your best at anything requires attention to detail in every area of your life. Although sometimes overlooked, environment plays a major part.
So now, go make your drum room your best ally for focus, growth and success!