A few years ago, I let go of perfection as one of my goals in my drumming, and replaced it with CLARITY. What is clarity? Expressing yourself so clearly, that the person at the very back of the room can hear and FEEL your ideas with a bright intensity. Going for clarity in your drumming brings an ATTITUDE with it, making it a MUST to express your ideas into the world. We’ve all had the experience of hearing an idea exactly as you want to play it in your mind first, or trying to mimic an awesome lick by one of your favorites, and it comes out sounding like a sack of potatoes falling down the stairs. Drums are a communication instrument, and this is about transmitting your ideas and feelings THROUGH the drums with crystal clarity, even if they’re not perfect. Can you make someone FEEL the emotion through your drumming that is listening to you play? Think of your favourite music, songs that speak to your soul, and everything it’s transmitting to you through the sound. Have you ever noticed the urgency and ATTITUDE coming off of some of your favorite players? Listen to Ginger Baker with Cream, or the first Clash album … it’s not perfect, but boy is it ever crystal clear, radiating with attitude and intensity.
The goal of perfection carries a burden with it, which is a great way to suck all the fun out of your drumming. Striving to be perfect sends a message to yourself that YOU’RE NOT ENOUGH. You don’t need ‘fixing’! Striving for clarity instead still means you’ll be sweating the details, and putting in the hard work of playing the hundreds of reps required to EARN the joy that drumming brings. With this new goal of clarity, we’re shifting our focus to genuine self expression. Perfectionism on the other hand, is usually about having to please others or compare to something. Saying what you have to say is all that matters, because this is YOUR journey.
The concept of releasing perfection and going instead for clarity can also show up in our daily practice. It used to be easy for me to put off my practicing until the next day, if it wasn’t going to be a ‘perfect’ full hour covering all my material. Now, along with clarity, I go for consistency. I SHOW UP. This means it will be messy some days, and a lot of imperfections will happen, but the burden of trying to have the ‘perfect’ practice session needing to accomplish something is gone. I’m still pushing myself to be the best version I possibly can be, but I know I AM ENOUGH. This is to be both satisfied AND striving. The frustration and disappointments that are a part of this journey are always there, but I’m having so much more FUN! Shifting the focus in my practice to getting my ideas out clearly makes me want to show up the next day. The cycle is born, and feeds itself.
The pursuit of perfection takes you out of the NOW, where all true expression lives. Going for ultimate perfection (which is really impossible) lives in the FUTURE, and worrying about the mistakes you’ve made lives in the PAST. Going for ultimate clarity in your ideas lives in the NOW. It’s ok to be YOU, so say it loud and proud! This is speaking from your heart, in the moment. This takes COURAGE. Perfectionism often times is armour to hide our true selves, an escape from being vulnerable. Any drumming that hits you in the gut, moves your heart, and speaks directly to your soul, is VULNERABLE. Releasing perfection does NOT mean we have stopped pushing ourselves to be our absolute best selves through drumming. This is not permission to be mediocre. Ironically, many drummers that go for perfection often come off sounding dull and uninspired. Why? Because the pursuit of perfection can become a shield to HIDE behind, and save yourself the pain of being vulnerable. The real way forward is to walk INTO this pain, taking on the risk of fearless self expression. This adds a 1% win everyday towards becoming a better version of YOU. Now you are only competing with yourself, or the ‘you of yesterday’. Remember the Michelangelo metaphor of ‘chipping away at the excess marble’, removing anything that is in the way of the sculpture living inside.
Practicing clarity instead of perfection will show you any ‘chinks in the armour’ in your drumming game, any weaknesses that are getting in the way of fearless self expression at all times. It could be a slower left hand, a coordination challenge, or any number of things. A chain under stress will always break at it’s weakest link, so in this way you are training yourself to embolden your drumming through bringing your weaknesses to light and turn them into fuel for your practicing. The urge is to back AWAY from these moments, because of how it makes us feel: inadequate, incapable, and dis-couraged. No one wants to sound BAD on the drums! But by running TOWARDS these moments, we can design specific exercises around any weakness that gets in the way of ultimate clarity. Using what’s called ‘part practices’, exercises designed to target areas of your drumming holding you back, you are now working on YOUR game. By running towards our weaknesses, we can use them as tools to get better. Now what you’re practicing didn’t come from a book, a song, or any other outside source, it came from your INNER game, from within you. This is noble practicing, honouring the endless ideas that come from the sea of your own creativity.
Over time after practicing this into a habit, this will become your new normal. It’s an attitude to bring to both drums and life, a way of being. When going for clarity instead of perfection, you’ll find many of your ideas may not be coming out the way you originally thought they’d sound, but may sound even BETTER. We call this WRONG AND STRONG. Miles Davis, Pablo Picasso, and Orson Welles are just some of the people in music, art, film, and beyond that use this as their tool to dare greatly and speak their truth. They all CELEBRATE their mistakes, or as Orson called them ‘happy accidents’. Make this concept a big part of your drumming expression! This will bring out more of YOU on the drums, which is the goal of the LTR METHOD and true practicing. It takes COURAGE to be yourself, not forcing ideas to come out perfectly from a page, but to ride the wave of your creation in the moment. This comes with a necessity, an urgency for bold self expression in the NOW of the moment, which is all we ever have in our drumming. Let’s use it to the fullest!