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Drum Groove Breakdown: The Purdie 7

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQpQQ_j_qWg[/embedyt]

 

Your favorite drummers are actually pieces of YOU that want to come forward into the world. Speak your voice loud and proud! This is what drumming is all about. ‘Don’t Compete, Create’! Great drummers steal from the best, so we want to stand on the shoulders of giants and learn as much as we can. Trying to imitate one or two drummers would make you an imitation, and nobody can be you better than YOU. This is a groove from the great Bernard Purdie that I changed to a groove in 7. Check it out, make it your own, and show me what you can do with this seed of self expression!

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Drum Groove Deconstruction: Cavalia Groove in 7

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqQ25ya9NhE[/embedyt]

Here is a drum video lesson I’m releasing from the vaults! This is a challenging and fun groove to play with a lot of energy, flowing motion, and in 7 which is really fun to play. Check it out, make the idea your own, and show me what you can do with this concept!

‘The 4% Edge’ For Drumming & Life

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtrTv8BAH0E[/embedyt]

 

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book ‘The Rhythm Of Practice’, a guide on how to get to the most our of your daily practice, with tools and tactics to create your best self and live your vision. 


The delicate balance of putting yourself in challenging situations by following the path of most resistance is tricky. We are building our skills every day, but to get to what seems impossible today, we are going forward a little at a time, in harmony with the skills we have right now. The goldilocks zone is presenting yourself with just enough challenge to demand all your focus by pushing you into flow state by stepping up and rising to the challenge. To much challenge to too little skill and you are overwhelmed, creating anxiety. Too little challenge to too much skill is too easy, creating boredom. Pushing yourself just 4% above your current skill has been found to be the magic number. It seems small, but small improvements over time will compound over days, month, and years to take you to what seems impossible today.  

Become an engineer of designing uncomfortable situations for yourself to be in, but not so much that you’re completely flooded. 4% is not that much! Struggle is a crucial element of flow, but seeking out just the right amount and when, is an art. Awareness is the key to finding the razor’s edge fine line of balance, that will always be changing in the different seasons of your practice as you progress. Not enough challenge makes you bored, and too much challenge gives you anxiety, and flow exists right in the sweet spot between the two. Playing exactly what you already know presents 0% challenge, so when we say ‘the 4% rule’, we are trying to add just enough disquiet and unease to rise to the challenge and kickstart the flow process. Make it your mission to explore this sweet spot between comfortable security and restless uncertainty. 

 

This means inviting frequent and regular frustration and failure. Just enough of a fear of failure, but not too much or too little. The sweetspot in between is just enough discomfort to get into flow. You are pushed just enough out of your comfort zone. There is a matching of challenge and skill. I love drumming, but if you asked me to play the latest Cirque Du Soleil show the challenge would far surpass my current skill, and there would be no flow in it at all for me. But the players in the show, having learned the show 4% at a time building one challenge after another and playing it hundreds of times, drop into flow regularly when performing. They couldn’t perform at that high a level WITHOUT dropping into flow states, and that would go for not only their musicians, but all the performers in this world class show. 


Try this experiment. Take a piece of paper, crumple it up in a ball, and throw it as hard as you possible can. It won’t go very far no matter how much force you apply, because if it’s lightness. Now take a bowling ball and also throw it as hard as you can, and it also won’t go very far because of it’s heaviness. Now take a baseball and throw it. The baseballs mass is in the ‘goldilocks zone’ sweet spot of being not too heavy but not too light, and so the amount of force you apply will have a lot more impact on the final result. PRACTICE SHOULD BE ADDICTIVE. Don’t make practice an affliction, make it an addiction. When we practice, we’re regularly facing things we DON’T KNOW, and having big goals brings too much on the anxiety scale, which makes practicing a painful chore and cause us to quit. Part of finding the right zone in the right amount of challenge that works for you, is that it will feel GOOD. When you feel you’re going too far into the anxiety zone, cut your practice short and walk away. This is hard on our egos because it feels like the thing you are practicing has beaten you. It may feel counter productive to walk away from your practice, but in the long run you are getting far more out of your practice. Consistency leads to mastery, and you’ll want to do it every day if you can keep it fun! Let’s live CONSISTENCY over INTENSITY. I don’t know about you, but I want to be still practicing when I’m 110 years young! There is a cost to going to your redline max too often. Going to your maximum intensity means you will have to take a break by definition. If you didn’t go full intensity to your max, then you won’t need to take a break in the first place. If you don’t need to take a break, you didn’t really go to your maximum intensity. Too much chaos, novelty, and unpredictability can put the brain into a mode where it is detecting possible threats, and can keep you from dropping into flow. This is too much challenge and the brain needs to stay heightened to protect itself. The prefrontal cortex is staying too active, and too much thinking is a flow blocker. Continue to build awareness in your practice with measurement and reflection, because your goldilocks sweetspot of how much challenge and intensity to add to your practice, will always be changing, even daily! 

‘The 4% Edge’ For Drumming & Life

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book ‘The Rhythm Of Practice’, a guide on how to get to the most our of your daily practice, with tools and tactics to create your best self and live your vision.

The delicate balance of putting yourself in challenging situations by following the path of most resistance is tricky. We are building our skills every day, but to get to what seems impossible today, we are going forward a little at a time, in harmony with the skills we have right now. The goldilocks zone is presenting yourself with just enough challenge to demand all your focus by pushing you into flow state by stepping up and rising to the challenge. To much challenge to too little skill and you are overwhelmed, creating anxiety. Too little challenge to too much skill is too easy, creating boredom. Pushing yourself just 4% above your current skill has been found to be the magic number. It seems small, but small improvements over time will compound over days, month, and years to take you to what seems impossible today.

Become an engineer of designing uncomfortable situations for yourself to be in, but not so much that you’re completely flooded. 4% is not that much! Struggle is a crucial element of flow, but seeking out just the right amount and when, is an art. Awareness is the key to finding the razor’s edge fine line of balance, that will always be changing in the different seasons of your practice as you progress. Not enough challenge makes you bored, and too much challenge gives you anxiety, and flow exists right in the sweet spot between the two. Playing exactly what you already know presents 0% challenge, so when we say ‘the 4% rule’, we are trying to add just enough disquiet and unease to rise to the challenge and kickstart the flow process. Make it your mission to explore this sweet spot between comfortable security and restless uncertainty.

This means inviting frequent and regular frustration and failure. Just enough of a fear of failure, but not too much or too little. The sweetspot in between is just enough discomfort to get into flow. You are pushed just enough out of your comfort zone. There is a matching of challenge and skill. I love drumming, but if you asked me to play the latest Cirque Du Soleil show the challenge would far surpass my current skill, and there would be no flow in it at all for me. But the players in the show, having learned the show 4% at a time building one challenge after another and playing it hundreds of times, drop into flow regularly when performing. They couldn’t perform at that high a level WITHOUT dropping into flow states, and that would go for not only their musicians, but all the performers in this world class show.

Try this experiment. Take a piece of paper, crumple it up in a ball, and throw it as hard as you possible can. It won’t go very far no matter how much force you apply, because if it’s lightness. Now take a bowling ball and also throw it as hard as you can, and it also won’t go very far because of it’s heaviness. Now take a baseball and throw it. The baseballs mass is in the ‘goldilocks zone’ sweet spot of being not too heavy but not too light, and so the amount of force you apply will have a lot more impact on the final result. PRACTICE SHOULD BE ADDICTIVE. Don’t make practice an affliction, make it an addiction. When we practice, we’re regularly facing things we DON’T KNOW, and having big goals brings too much on the anxiety scale, which makes practicing a painful chore and cause us to quit. Part of finding the right zone in the right amount of challenge that works for you, is that it will feel GOOD. When you feel you’re going too far into the anxiety zone, cut your practice short and walk away. This is hard on our egos because it feels like the thing you are practicing has beaten you. It may feel counter productive to walk away from your practice, but in the long run you are getting far more out of your practice. Consistency leads to mastery, and you’ll want to do it every day if you can keep it fun! Let’s live CONSISTENCY over INTENSITY. I don’t know about you, but I want to be still practicing when I’m 110 years young! There is a cost to going to your redline max too often. Going to your maximum intensity means you will have to take a break by definition. If you didn’t go full intensity to your max, then you won’t need to take a break in the first place. If you don’t need to take a break, you didn’t really go to your maximum intensity. Too much chaos, novelty, and unpredictability can put the brain into a mode where it is detecting possible threats, and can keep you from dropping into flow. This is too much challenge and the brain needs to stay heightened to protect itself. The prefrontal cortex is staying too active, and too much thinking is a flow blocker. Continue to build awareness in your practice with measurement and reflection, because your goldilocks sweetspot of how much challenge and intensity to add to your practice, will always be changing, even daily!

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My SOUL CRUSHING GIG on drums, and how I came back

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK0VBJ3K-0M[/embedyt]

Here is a sneak peak from my upcoming book ‘LTR METHOD: Your Best Self Through Drumming’:

If you think there are consequences and risk, then it’s real, even if you’ve completely made it up. If there are no real consequences, I have to create them. Affirmations and visualization may or may not work, but I use those methods anyway to help me. Declaring my goals and vision to the world creates a pressure I invented. If it works to get the project done and helps push me to do the work daily, then I will gladly use this illusion. If it’s real or not but it creates some risk and consequences, does it matter? You can create all kinds of made of ways to bring a little pressure onto yourself, pushing you to perform at your peak. I have a friend that on performance game days where he needs to perform at a high level, he wears red socks. Is there any scientific evidence on the correlation of red rocks to performing at a high level? Not that I know of, but it works for him! Physics tells us the observer changes the thing being observed, so this power belongs to you. Your brain doesn’t know the difference of real risk and invested risk. When I went sky diving I had a very low risk of the chute not opening, but my brain definitely didn’t know that. Let me tell you, when I jumped out of that plane, I felt the risk and consequences! You don’t have to jump out of a plane, but it’s empowering to realize how your brain creates reality and how to manipulate this. 


The way we feel about reality influences our behaviour, not reality itself. Reality is overrated! As long as it works it works, even if you don’t know why. I remember playing one of the worst gigs of my life in a rural bar, somewhere in the middle of a long tour Canada. The bar was a dive, it was underground and dark. As I looked out in the audience, I saw a girl and a guy making out with their backs facing us, and no one else. They didn’t care that we were there, and that was the entire audience. Being far away from home, giving all we had to take our music out in the world, these kinds of gigs can be absolutely soul crushing. I felt the life drain out of me. Why am I here, why am I bothering? I have a high standard I demand of myself, and to get there I had to imagine a scenario. First I thought, what if there’s someone in the shadows watching the show that I can’t see? This is a test of a real band, if they can perform at a high level with a bad crowd, or lack of one. This actually happened to The Police on their first tour. They played shows with about 3 or 4 disinterested people watching, but they played like their lives depended on it, with passion and fury. At one of these shows a record executive was in the back shadows watching them give 110% when they didn’t have to, and witnessing this energy and passion set them up wth their first record deal, and the rest is history. So when I was at my soul crushing gig, I imagined someone in the shadows that I couldn’t see. What if Tom Petty was hanging out in the back checking out the band? The next thing I imagined, was getting hit by a speeding truck as I left the show to go to the hotel. This may sound dark and depressing, but it lit a fire under me. If I really knew this was the last time I would ever play music on this earth, you better believe I would take care, play with every ounce of energy and emotion. I snapped out of the low place I had been, this ended up saving the show because I had changed ‘real’ life to an illusion that got us to where we needed to be, and paradoxically materialized a good performance out of me. You can control your perspective of things a lot more than you can control the real world. If you think pressure, consequence, and risk are real, then they’re real. Use your illusions. 

Use Your Illusion

If you think there are consequences and risk, then it’s real, even if you’ve completely made it up. If there are no real consequences, I have to create them. Affirmations and visualization may or may not work, but I use those methods anyway to help me. Declaring my goals and vision to the world creates a pressure I invented. If it works to get the project done and helps push me to do the work daily, then I will gladly use this illusion. If it’s real or not but it creates some risk and consequences, does it matter? You can create all kinds of made of ways to bring a little pressure onto yourself, pushing you to perform at your peak. I have a friend that on performance game days where he needs to perform at a high level, he wears red socks. Is there any scientific evidence on the correlation of red rocks to performing at a high level? Not that I know of, but it works for him! Physics tells us the observer changes the thing being observed, so this power belongs to you. Your brain doesn’t know the difference of real risk and invested risk. When I went sky diving I had a very low risk of the chute not opening, but my brain definitely didn’t know that. Let me tell you, when I jumped out of that plane, I felt the risk and consequences! You don’t have to jump out of a plane, but it’s empowering to realize how your brain creates reality and how to manipulate this.

The way we feel about reality influences our behaviour, not reality itself. Reality is overrated! As long as it works it works, even if you don’t know why. I remember playing one of the worst gigs of my life in a rural bar, somewhere in the middle of a long tour Canada. The bar was a dive, it was underground and dark. As I looked out in the audience, I saw a girl and a guy making out with their backs facing us, and no one else. They didn’t care that we were there, and that was the entire audience. Being far away from home, giving all we had to take our music out in the world, these kinds of gigs can be absolutely soul crushing. I felt the life drain out of me. Why am I here, why am I bothering? I have a high standard I demand of myself, and to get there I had to imagine a scenario. First I thought, what if there’s someone in the shadows watching the show that I can’t see? This is a test of a real band, if they can perform at a high level with a bad crowd, or lack of one. This actually happened to The Police on their first tour. They played shows with about 3 or 4 disinterested people watching, but they played like their lives depended on it, with passion and fury. At one of these shows a record executive was in the back shadows watching them give 110% when they didn’t have to, and witnessing this energy and passion set them up wth their first record deal, and the rest is history. So when I was at my soul crushing gig, I imagined someone in the shadows that I couldn’t see. What if Tom Petty was hanging out in the back checking out the band? The next thing I imagined, was getting hit by a speeding truck as I left the show to go to the hotel. This may sound dark and depressing, but it lit a fire under me. If I really knew this was the last time I would ever play music on this earth, you better believe I would take care, play with every ounce of energy and emotion. I snapped out of the low place I had been, this ended up saving the show because I had changed ‘real’ life to an illusion that got us to where we needed to be, and paradoxically materialized a good performance out of me. You can control your perspective of things a lot more than you can control the real world. If you think pressure, consequence, and risk are real, then they’re real. Use your illusions.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book ‘The Rhythm Of Practice’, a guide on how to get to the most our of your daily practice, with tools and tactics to create your best self and live your vision.

chrislesso.com

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What I Learned From One Of My Biggest Failures

How did you fail today? This is a great question to ask daily. This may seem negative at first, but harvesting your failures is where your greatest lessons lay in waiting for you. Wear them as badges of honour! This takes courage and humility, and is not for the faint of heart, but this is where greatness lives.

Your best self lies on the other side of the hard work it will take to pick yourself up, and keep pushing past your failures. This is extremely painful, but if it were easy everyone would be doing it! Running from failure can only lead to regret, and this is a far worse pain, a poison felt slower over a much longer period of time. One of the best activities you can engage in, is to interview and spend time with some senior citizens in your life, either in your family, or by volunteering. When you see the scope of an entire lifetime, it becomes clear how valuable failures really are. Spend some time going over your life adding up your biggest failures, and you’ll see that’s where most of your best lessons and most profound steps forward in your life exist.

Hurry up and fail! The more you rack up the better. This is a sign you are going for it, getting after it, and pushing yourself. I want to hear about them, and what you’ve learned! Share your lessons with anyone you can, to inspire others on their path. Failure is a sign of life. The only people that aren’t failing are in the graveyard. Failing forward is where your best self lives, so get up, brush your self off, and take one more step forward!

chrislesso.com

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What I Learned From One Of My Biggest Failures

 

How did you fail today? This is a great question to ask daily. This may seem negative at first, but harvesting your failures is where your greatest lessons lay in waiting for you. Wear them as badges of honour! This takes courage and humility, and is not for the faint of heart, but this is where greatness lives.

Your best self lies on the other side of the hard work it will take to pick yourself up, and keep pushing past your failures. This is extremely painful, but if it were easy everyone would be doing it! Running from failure can only lead to regret, and this is a far worse pain, a poison felt slower over a much longer period of time. One of the best activities you can engage in, is to interview and spend time with some senior citizens in your life, either in your family, or by volunteering. When you see the scope of an entire lifetime, it becomes clear how valuable failures really are. Spend some time going over your life adding up your biggest failures, and you’ll see that’s where most of your best lessons and most profound steps forward in your life exist.

Hurry up and fail! The more you rack up the better. This is a sign you are going for it, getting after it, and pushing yourself. I want to hear about them, and what you’ve learned! Share your lessons with anyone you can, to inspire others on their path. Failure is a sign of life. The only people that aren’t failing are in the graveyard. Failing forward is where your best self lives, so get up, brush your self off, and take one more step forward!

Chris Lesso and LTR

YOUR BEST SELF through DRUMMING

Chris Lesso is an expert on optimizing the power of drumming to improve focus, confidence, and self expression. LTR (Life Through Rhythm) is an attitude and way of life, using drumming as a force to reach our fullest potential, and live the art of possibility every day.

Chris began his journey early, drumming and playing piano at the age of 7, and has never looked back. He has studied with world renowned educators Dom Famularo, Jim Chapin, Jim Blackley, and in India with Swapan Chaudhuri. He has traveled the world performing with some of the best in the business, including Wild T & The Spirit, Cavalia Odysseo, and many others.

Combining a fascination of history with pushing the edges of future evolution, Chris leads his own band modus factor, featuring world renowned musicians Brownman Ali (Jay Z, Dave Matthews Band), and Ian DeSouza (Juno Award winning Sisters Euclid). Described as ‘electro ambient bedlam’, modus factor uses improvisation and daring reinvention to create an energized sound all its own, drawing on textures from jazz, electronic, and world music.

A born teacher, Chris takes his LTR (Life Through Rhythm) philosophy around the world to empower musicians, schools, and businesses looking for an edge in using drumming to increase personal empowerment, and elevate synergy within teams, using the power of flow states to rise above the competition.

Chris is endorsed by Sonor Drums, Vic Firth Sticks, Sabian Cymbals, Remo Heads, and Prologix Pads.

‘Wrong & Strong’ There Are No Mistakes!

[embedyt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GffQzwjwuNI?ecver=2[/embedyt]

“Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” Miles Davis

Wrong and strong! Play your mistakes loud and proud. This is an attitude, and an approach to your instrument and life. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change, and this is the wrong and strong approach. If you play a so called ‘mistake’ and give it an instant label as a bad thing, then it already IS a bad thing, and doesn’t get a chance to be anything other than that. We cringe from it, feel bad about it, regret it. Usually it’s written right on our faces and everyone knows. What a confidence killer! This means the ‘right’ note is always the goal, shooting for perfection. The wrong and strong attitude is using ANY event to our advantage, creating something out of the moment, and training ourselves to reorient on our course without loosing our connection to FLOW. There are no mistakes really, only ‘events’. Real time creativity is using this as a fuel to be intuitive in the moment, and use whatever happens as part of the overall delivery. This is expressing ourselves with courage and humility, two virtues found in all great art.

If you’re going to play a mistake, play it so the person at the back of the audience can hear it! Be bold. A boxer learns to take an unexpected punch and incorporate it into the dance of the moment. Flow like water, adapting and surrendering. There is a great power here, where anything that occurs can be used as fuel for the fire of your own personal self expression by tapping into something greater than ourselves. A funny thing happens while living the wrong and strong attitude. The mistakes (or ‘unexpected events’) can turn out to be better than what was originally intended to happen! If you’re open to what is happening naturally, a wealth of rich variations suddenly is revealed to you to use and create with. When you play a so called ‘wrong’ note and play it with revealed confidence, a counterintuitive thing starts to happen; it actually starts to sound ‘right’, like it was supposed to be there all along. Listen to the music of Thelonious Monk to hear this happening in real time. On paper, sometimes what he’s playing would be taught as a ‘wrong’ note, but he makes it sound so strong, confident and very ‘right’, and the secret is in the ATTITUDE and DELIVERY. Own your expression, and live wrong and strong!

The Samurai Zen Cat

[embedyt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrfVk1PamMs?ecver=2[/embedyt]

This is from a old Samurai Zen story (you can read the entire story in the book ‘Samurai Wisdom’ by Pascal Fauliot), where a Samurai is trying to get rid of a very smart rat in his house with better and stronger hunter cats, when at the end the unlikely cat to ever catch a rat ended up getting him without any effort at all. There are some great lessons here, where you can identify with different parts of the story for a different perspective. Which character in the story resonates with you, and why? At different times in your life, this will always be changing as you learn and grow.

What I got from this story, was to trust in the process. Take the approach of ‘try easy’ and not force it so hard all the time, constantly searching for the never ending ‘faster, better, stronger’, when it turns out you could be far more powerful without that effort in the first place, winning the battle without fighting. This is about turning a weakness into a strength, using simplicity to your advantage, ‘hitting them with nothing’. Simplicity and effortlessness in nature is powerful. I remember hiking through Monument Valley in Utah where there are breathtaking giant rock formations that were forged over millions of years effortlessly by the natural processes of the earth. In the beginning of the story the Samurai is trying to win by going the ‘faster, better, stronger’ route. This can create a cycle of ‘the harder you try, the less result you get’. You may have heard the story of the martial arts student with a drive to master the skill quickly. He said to his teacher earnestly, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it.” The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.” Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?” The teacher thought for a moment, “20 years.”

You could also learn from the rat, who became over confident and lost his edge when there were no predator cats around to push him to be his best. When he saw the fat lazy cat he let his guard down, rested on his laurels, and became lazy himself, which led to his end. We can also learn from the Samurai himself to trust in the process. Or maybe we could learn from the monk, to help others to see the strength in the natural processes around us.

In the drumming world, ‘faster, better, stronger’ is everywhere, which you’ll see on Youtube in 5 minutes. But sometimes the true Jedi’s of our craft are not so obvious. Listen to the song ‘Gravity’ by John Mayer, where Steve Jordan is drumming. The way he bends time to push and pull the song without rushing or dragging, gently creating some tension during the guitar solo and laying back during the verses, is truly a ‘Zen Cat’ moment. Or the way John Bonham’s hihat ‘pushes, but lays back’ in When The Levee Breaks. John Bonham is another Zen Cat.

Don’t be distracted by the flashy ones all around you making noise, but instead look for the true masters right in front of you, accomplishing everything with no-thing. Take this lesson in your life, and win the battle without ever fighting.

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Deliberate Listening

Listening is becoming a lost art. I am no expert, but I realize it is a muscle, and it has to be flexed daily. How many people around you do you know that REALLY listen? It’s becoming rare. Have coffee with a friend, and their phone is on the table waiting to be paid attention to like a puppy. There has never been a time in human history when this has been more of a challenge. Just being AWARE of this in your life is an advantage.

For me, the double edged sword of wanting to get a lot done and wanting to experience a lot, can mean a lot of of half listening and multitasking. That last word doesn’t actually exist, it translates to mean ‘doing many things badly’. Not listening deeply means a life of always dipping your toe in the waters, never going deep, and is the way to mediocrity.

SLTN: ‘Say Less Than Necessary’. If you’re always talking, you’re not listening and learning. Everyone has a deep need to be HEARD, but to continually talk talk talk and fall in love with what you’re saying, is the ego taking charge. When you listen, you are always stronger through growing. One mouth, two ears; use them proportionately.

Deliberate listening in your life takes effort, but it has massive payoffs. You’re training your brain to settle and focus. In communication this will give you an edge over others. What area of life you you NOT need communication in? In listening to music, it takes effort to create a zone of total uninterrupted distraction free time around you, to really get inside what you’re hearing. There are so many enriching layers in music from the masters, it will make you cry it’s so moving. It’s sitting down and only doing that ONE THING, and making a ritual out of it. True listening is about SERVICE, tuning in with that which is greater than yourself, and that is real power. Think of great listeners you know that can sink into their surroundings going deep into each moment, and model yourself after them.

GO DEEP! There is a rich world right here for you to experience, and the deliberate listening skill will serve you greatly as you go forward on your path.

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RLG: ‘Be Real, Listen, Have Gratitude’

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LfejYgFUCE[/embedyt]

‘When The Pressure Is On, Use RLG’

You’re walking towards the stage… you are nervous, sweating, unsure of yourself, doubting yourself, trying to remember… why am I putting myself through this ordeal again??

Sound familiar? We have all experienced this, and if it’s not in music playing drums live as I do, then it is going on to ‘life’s stage’, whatever that is for you. A life dedicated to safety is actually MORE risky, because you risk REGRET, which you can’t undo and definitely don’t want to live with every day (I’ve met too many seniors that live with regrets they can’t undo, thinking ‘if only…’) So if we’re going to take on some danger, discomfort, and fear (the only way to GROW), here is an acronym that’s helped me center on those final footsteps before stepping on the stage: RLG.

Acronyms are powerful because they compress massive meaning and emotional context into a few letters. Let’s go through this one.

R = BE REAL. No one can be you, and you can’t be anyone else. This puts our focus in the right place, to create and not compete. To TRY to live up to another’s standard, or what you SHOULD be is a setup for bad stress that we can never achieve anyway. Be Real… you are your own artist of life. What do you have to say in THIS MOMENT?

L = LISTEN. This is about contributing to and complimenting the whole, taking the focus off of ourselves and onto those around us to we can SERVE. This is what music and drums are all about… the great drummers have always been in great service to the big picture. Michael Jordan still passed the ball… he became great when he made his TEAM great. It’s easy to get wrapped up in OURSELVES; we all want to sound good after all; but we have to practice the never ending discipline to gently take the focus off of ourselves and LISTEN to what is going on around us, surrendering to the present moment to serve strongly.

Here’s a thought experiment: what would you do if your 5 idols and heroes in your field (fill in the blank) walked in and got a table close to the stage to watch your gig? How would you react? Would you play different? Would you play more or less? Where would your focus be? Even though we would definitely all NOTICE and be a little freaked out, the way to make the best music is to lISTEN, place your focus on the other musicians, and best serve the music making the big picture better for you being there. This way the pressure to ‘sound good’ is gone, and you will have the strong approach of simplicity.

This ‘thought experiment’ happened to me in real life at the ‘Sonor Days’ drum festival in which I was on the bill with Steve Smith. I have studied and learned from Steve for many years, he’s one of my favourites! I have seen and heard him on record and video for years but never in real life, and there he was… I was choked up and didn’t say much, it was intense! So later in the day when my band modus factor played the festival, sure enough I glanced over during the set and at the side of the stage a few feet away was Steve Smith checking me and my band out, eating a sandwich. I remember thinking ‘whoa, that’s Steve Smith!’ and then putting my ficus back to our bass player Ian DeSouza, and what he was playing. Just like that I was back in the groove, back to complimenting the whole, instead of futilely to trying to ‘sound good’ and impress, where I would have tensed up and overplayed. There were also many great drummers in the audience which freaked me out as well, but I kept going back to the bass, the music, and serving. DON’T COMPETE, CREATE.

G = GRATITUDE. We are lucky to be able to do this! Gratitude is a practice, one that is best to work in the morning and evening, which trains our brains to see these moments in our most challenging moments. The regular state of our brains, one that helped us survive millennia ago, is our ‘negative bas’, to always see what’s wrong in any situation. We all have this, it served us well is eons past, but this is a daily practice to always come back to gratitude. No matter how ‘bad’ the gig, this is an opportunity for you to express your skill on the drums to other people. Wow!! Think how cool that is, that we live in this age with these tools where we can learn and express our craft in this way. I remember hearing a great story about the golf master Jack Nicklaus that even in the middle of the intense pressure of a competition, he would practice getting back in the moment, taking a look around at the scenery of the course and think ‘wow, I get to do this, this is pretty cool.’ STRUGGLE ENDS WHERE GRATITUDE BEGINS. Practicing gratitude can get us in the right state to be our best selves and live our truest potential as we can onto the stage of life.

So in those final steps to the stage repeat RLG a few times to yourself to get back into STATE to be your best self under the pressure of the moment. You can guarantee about stress, pressure, challenges: THEY’RE COMING, so having good habits and protocols in place will steer you in the right direction. Be patient, this is a never ending PROCESS where we are overcoming our own biology to live our potential. We will never ARRIVE, but always strive. Our focus is like the intensified sunlight through a magnifying glass moving to wherever it is directed, and RLG moves this focus to the arena that will empower us to be our best selves, and to inspire others with what we offer the world.

Now take the leap, and get on that stage!

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Practicing Isn’t Enough: Add ACCOUNTABILITY & DISCOMFORT

[embedyt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf8OEilleY8?ecver=2[/embedyt]

We all know the power of momentum that is created by practicing DAILY. You probably know the ‘10,000 hour rule’, that to get to a high level at your craft you need to put in 10,000 hours of focused practice. But daily practice adding up to many hours doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get to mastery. Getting to mediocrity isn’t that hard, but then a plateau is hit. Why? Two other elements must be there: Accountability, and Discomfort.

‘Iron Sharpens Iron, and Man Sharpens Man’

Accountability is being held to a higher standard. Just this act of observation is powerful! This can be done in so many ways, by declaring your intention to the world, by having a teacher or mentor, or just by measuring your progress. I have an app on my phone that measures the days I practice, and I know I’m accountable to see at the end of the month what I’ve achieved. Sometimes when I practice I’ll record myself, and just KNOWING I’m being recorded is a form of accountability, even though I’m the only one that will ever hear it. It’s a little Jedi mind trick, but it works. Creating deadlines also works because you will be accountable even if just to yourself, and not just getting it done ‘whenever you feel like it’.

‘Embrace The Suck’

Humans are amazingly adaptable. Life itself adapts to extreme environments in ways science didn’t think was possible just a few years ago. When you’re uncomfortable you adapt! If you’ve ever noticed when you failed at something, after you come back to it you’re just a little better at it, even without trying. If you can’t think of an example, remember learning to ride a bike. Balancing on a few inches of rubber and gliding through the air is uncomfortable at first! Taking the training wheels off creates discomfort, failure, and forces you to ADAPT. When we practice, it’s easy to become too comfortable. Find little ways to keep yourself on edge. If you hear the little voice in your head saying ‘why do I have to do this?’, then you’re on the right track. Change the temperature of the room, play the song a different way, change your kit around (try open handed drumming!), record yourself, try extreme tempos, exaggerate the dynamics; use your imagination! Get used to living at your limits, going daily to the razor edge of your abilities. I find little ways throughout the day to keep myself in discomfort. I may park my car in a slightly farther away parking spot, or say hello to a stranger when I don’t feel like it. This eventually becomes habit, your new normal. Now you are always competing with your former self, becoming a little better each and every day, never stagnant.

Practice daily but add accountability and discomfort, and watch yourself soar to places you couldn’t have imagined before. Your ego will take a few hits when you’re not having any fun and it doesn’t feel good, but this is what it means to walk with giants.

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IAO = Improvise | Adapt | Overcome

[embedyt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfNPPi2ju5A?ecver=2[/embedyt]

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

An acronym is a super fast command to your psyche that gives with it a feeling, information, and energy. One I use a lot is this: IAO: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. The expression ‘no battle plan survives contact with the moment’ means that, although having a strategy plan is imperative, as soon as real life happens, the plan WILL change. In drumming, this is not being rigid and being able to flow with the moment. What I have learned (the hard way) by playing with my band modus factor, in which we heavily use improvisation in our music, is that the preconception of an idea I thought would be really cool, was that when I tried to force it, it was never as good as what would organically happen between us in the moment, in the most real and authentic way. By practicing surrendering to the moment, our songs would often turn out a LOT different than we thought they would, but always better than forcing any preconceived vision. Whenever I would try to out the square peg in the round hole (‘no, the song HAS to end THIS way, the way we PLANNED it’), it was never ever a good idea. Think of having a conversation with someone and trying to force a joke at the exact right moment and thinking how great it could be, but if it’s not real and aligned with the flow of the conversation in the moment, it will fall flat every time. This is where me must ‘flow like water’, to be open to all the present moment has to offer us (often deeper than we realize), and to always create from this limitless source.

IMPROVISING is your creativity.

ADAPTING is your flow with change.

OVERCOMING is victory.

 

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Why I Love SONOR DRUMS

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNAprLCXQFw[/embedyt]
Ever since I started drumming I always wanted to play Sonor. I didn’t just start off playing a set like this, I had to go step by step: first drumming on boxes, to that first practice pad and snare, to my first junky intro set. This is the path, to learn those first grooves, to hear what inspires you, what your inner voice is. But after a long wait, it was time to get my first serious set. Sonor rose above the rest for me for three reasons: DESIGN, DETAILS, and MUSICALITY.

The artistry of the design is expressed in how you FEEL when you sit behind your drums. Every time I sit down behind my kit I want to PLAY, to create, to make some noise and shake the world. Sonor drums are rich with details. They don’t seem to amount to much on their own, but put together they MATTER. Just like a great drummer, the little things add up to greatness. The best in the world sweat the small stuff, give laser like focus to the finer details. And as soon as you hit these drums, they are seriously musical. The tone and attack of my kit always brings the best out of the band, because playing MUSIC is always the goal of playing my drums.

Thank you Sonor!

 

The 2 Neglected Areas Of Your Craft: BUSINESS & CHARACTER

[embedyt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IytaF5jPBw0?ecver=2[/embedyt]

‘You don’t choose the drums, the drums choose you.’ This is how I feel about what I do, and many of us feel this way about our craft. It is an OBSESSION, we love it, it is our fun and joy, our escape from the world. Motivation is not needed, in fact sometimes the challenge in when to walk away and not ever do it! But there are two other areas that are the very foundation of the craft you love, and can easily be neglected: BUSINESS skills, and shaping your CHARACTER.

If you are only ever going to work in a room alone and you’ll never take what you do out into the world, then read no further. But even as an amateur, you will need to relate and connect with other people. Let’s define what these two areas mean: your character will determine if people want to work with you or not, and what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Your main currency is your reputation! This is about controlling the darker angels of your nature. For myself, I am impatient. If I let this take over, I will snap at someone I work with, or not have the patience to see the long game through and quit. This can create my reputation pretty fast as being someone to avoid working with, so I constantly have to watch this. This is a double edged sword because it comes from a good place of being passionate and energetic, but I have to constantly work on this DAILY.

Some people say business is about making money, and that is part of it, but to me it is about much more. Business is about taking something you love and believe in out into the world, adding value to people’s lives by making the world better place, and receiving value back for your efforts. If it truly is valuable to others and is affecting lives in a positive way, then the money will take care of itself over time, but it takes consistent awareness, focus, and skills learned over time.

When I was a teenager playing drums and forming bands, I wanted nothing to do with the ‘boring’ business, and didn’t think twice about how I was showing up in the world. But as I worked on my drumming constantly, these other two neglected areas were right under my nose. I had to learn my business to reach others to form bands, to get rehearsal spaces and book venues for shows, and advertise to get the word out. I had to learn character skills to have the fortitude to overcome the inevitable failures that came, and to be able to work with my bandmates to write songs, travel, and get along in the other 23 hours in the day that we weren’t performing.

If I’d sought out mentors and sharpened these skills sooner, I would have been a lot more prepared for the storms that came, and you can believe 100% that your challenges are coming. I had to learn some of these lessons the hard way, that to fuel the craft I loved, I had to have these other areas together equally, if not more. Take constant effort to renew, reinvent, and sharpen your business and character, and watch what you love and grow in ways over time that you can’t even imagine!

Work Your Basics To Perfection | The Long Roll 4-6-8 Exercise Ritual

[embedyt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOPqIIO5HDg?ecver=2[/embedyt]

The basics are sometimes the most overlooked part of any craft. I use the word ‘mundanity’ because this the effort, focus, and patience we need to get the 10,000 reps to program our muscle memory. The rewards of this are great: access to THE ZONE, or flow states when we drum. This means you turn into pure instinct, reacting only in the NOW without thinking, almost as if you’re watching yourself do it. This is when you have a chance to channel something greater than yourself through your drums. The only person you should compete against is your former self, and perfecting the basics is chipping away at anything that gets in the way of your self mastery.

When practicing the basics your mind will give you resistance, but what’s on the other side will astound you with abilities you didn’t know you had. I can remember my training with teacher Jim Blackley where he would make you play slow quarter notes on the ride cymbal at 40bpm, singing them out loud, for 10 minutes straight every day. At first my mind gave me heavy resistance; it was torture! ‘Why am I doing this, this is a waste of time’ etc etc. But I stuck with it, and after my mind started to settle I started to see and hear things I didn’t notice before as my awareness deepened.

The long roll is a great tool for your drumming, as it’s connected to so many aspects of our drumming expression: phrasing, timing, finger control, rebound, and this will open the door to mastering many other rudiments. Perfect your basics using simplicity as a tool, and see where this will lead you!

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Set Up Your Drumset Angles for EFFORTLESS MASTERY

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceBO0r6-w0M[/embedyt]
The drums are an extension of your body. The groove starts in YOU. We want to have our drums as our ally to get to EFFORTLESS MASTERY. This is playing with RELAXED INTENSITY, because when you’re drumming you’re like a boxer: mentally razor sharp, ready for any challenge and flowing with the ever changing moment, while staying physically loose to let the muscles operate at 100% top efficiency. This is why getting in the zone to flow states is the best place to take our drumming, where we tap into the deepest parts of ourselves to bring forth in our rhythmic expression.

Does your setup HELP or HURT you in your flow? We always want to work with nature not against, and ‘use the force’! The drumset is a big instrument, and the angles you choose can take advantage of the best ergonomics of your body, and the physics of rebound. Experiment what works best for YOU, make gradual changes as you go, and make your drums an effortless natural extension of your body. We want to get BETTER as we get older, so getting rid of any tension in your setup will ensure you will be drumming and kicking ass when you are 110 years young!

This clip was taken from the masterclass ‘Drum Technique to FLOW STATES’, watch it HERE:

http://bit.ly/DrumTechniqueToFLOW

 

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