3 Characteristics That Separate Professional Drummers From The Rest

3 Characteristics That Separate Professional Drummers From The Rest by Daniel Jones

Whenever I’m getting ready to play a set, and I’ve prepared for hours and hours, and I feel VERY ready to crush this set in the name of the LAMB, and I envision many people being in awe of Christ because of my playing (ummmm…?)…

This usually means, if something doesn’t go my way when I get to the church/conference, I’m prone to having an internal freakout. 

These freakouts manifest in different ways. An attitude towards my leaders or team, self-deprecating inner dialogue, not bringing my best…to name a few. When this happens, it puts me in a bad headspace. And sadly, I stay there for a while. I lose sight of the main goal: being with Christ Jesus. That goal is robbed because of my bad attitude. What a bummer. 

Thank God for His grace! This doesn’t have to be the end narrative. 

How does this happen? Why does this take place in me? 

Sadly, the answer isn’t found in my stick bag or my gear (Oh, how I wish!). The question is rarely “why” I go there, and more so “what” is the position of my heart as I walk into these spaces preparing to raise heaven. The question of “what” leads to the subject of this post.

In my experience, 3 things every drummer needs are not found in snares, kits, cymbals, or sticks. The things we need are matters of the heart: our character. You can have the best gear and be a crappy person. But if you’re a good person with Godly, Holy Spirit-filled character, that will spill onto your playing. 

Here are 3 characteristics I’ve found that I need not only every time I get ready to play but in everyday life as an apprentice of Jesus.  

#1 HUMILITY: THE EGO HAS GOT TO GO

If I’m being honest, this is the only aspect that we need to talk about. 

Most issues in my life come from wanting to show that I’m this larger than life, super cool, trendy, and entitled know it all. So I’ll say and do things to make myself look AMAZING in front of everyone. 

For example: play a cool and complicated fill that doesn’t fit, boast about my spiritual life (that’s a no-no, my friends), use complicated verbiage in my prayers to appear more spiritual than Jeff (not a real person, but I always choose Jeff as my stand-in human), overly post things about myself on social media. I could go on. I have done this and will sometimes slip back into it.  

The Bible calls that kind of character the old nature. 

In my language, I use the word ego. When we accept the gift of Jesus, we are invited into the true way of living. The old has passed; the new is here! But the old nature, the ego, loves to stick around. 

Through the powerful work of Jesus, that ego doesn’t get to drive the car. So when your leader asks you to clean up your playing (me), tells you to play softer (also, me), changes songs last second (yep..), and you feel that churning in your stomach and want to scream and throw a fit; that, my friend is the ego trying to drive the car. It has no right to that seat. 

In your true (new) nature, you have the invitation to fall into humility. To listen to your leader regardless if they are right or wrong. To humble yourself to them and that space. 

That is honoring the Lord. That is true worship. That is living as an apprentice of Jesus. 

Through the power of the Spirit of God, let that ego go. 

#2 TEACHABILITY: THERE’S ALWAYS MORE TO LEARN. BE AVAILABLE.

Once you submit to the wonders of humility, you will become teachable. 

In music, there is always someone better than you. ALWAYS. Congratulations on being the best drummer in your church! That is a great accomplishment. There is someone better than you out there. That shouldn’t cause anxiety and fear, it should make you grateful for the opportunity that has been gifted to you. It also should make you hungry to learn all you can for as long as you can.

Everyone and everything is a teacher!

A song that went wrong, a tough conversation, a drum shred session…all of this is an invitation to learn. Lean in. Don’t be shy to find other drummers better than you. Don’t be shy to take critique from people on your team. Always ask your leader how you can improve. 

Listen well. Being taught in school shows us to not talk when the teacher is giving instructions. Life is not different. Listen! Be slow to speak. Pause. Take in what is being said and sift through it. 

These things I use to keep my heart soft. To remain teachable. Sometimes I don’t want to lean in. Sometimes I don’t. But the invitation is there all the same. 

Being teachable not only will make you a better drummer but a better person. Humility leads to teachability. Always be available. 

#3 SELFLESSNESS (BEING A SERVANT): THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU

Selflessness and humility go hand and hand. If you’re humble, you’re usually selfless. If you’re selfless, you’re most likely humble. One is not too far behind from the other. THIS IS GOOD NEWS! 

When one has accepted the invitation into humility and teachability, selflessness becomes a state of being: you don’t have to try to be selfless, you just are. It flows out of you like water flows out of Niagara Falls.

When you are selfless in a worship/band setting, you realize what the main goal is: to exalt the King of kings and Lord of lords as a team through song. This leaves little room to be selfish (or be in our ego).  

Selflessness in a band setting may look like playing simpler. ESPECIALLY in worship. (No flashy fills, Jeff). Or keeping a good idea to yourself in order for the team to thrive, speaking highly of your team and leaders outside the church, etc. This shows your team that you’re a team player. That you’re here not only to worship God but to also honor them. 

Selflessness honors the people around you

Imagine taking that principle into your everyday life?

 I know pretty quickly when I’m being selfish (shout out to my beautiful and PATIENT wife). My selfishness can ruin a great moment just like my ego does. I believe my selfishness is the byproduct of living in my ego. 

But once I submit to Christ…

Realign with His kingdom and character…

Something magical happens in my life. 

I’m more aware of the goodness, love, hope, and peace of the Father. It causes me to lay down whatever opinion/idea/formula I was holding too close. 

Selflessness is the byproduct of sitting at the feet of Jesus. People will recognize it and give glory to God! Which, isn’t that the goal? What an honor it is that we’ve been given the opportunity to reflect the Divine. Creator God. Yahweh. Wow. 

We drummers need our right sticks, cymbals, shells, and snares. But if our hearts aren’t aligned, if the ego is running wild, if we aren’t teachable; the gear won’t matter.  

In every area of our lives, may we remain soft in the hand of God.

May we continue to allow ourselves to be humbled, teachable, and selfless.

So that Christ may be revealed in our playing and in our lives. 

Keep practicing 

Stay humble,

Be teachable,

Live selflessly. 

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