Confidence is a critical component of playing great music. When we feel truly confident about our drumming – it shines through in every beat and fill we play. Our drumming sounds better and the entire experience is far more enjoyable. We’ve all seen the difference between someone that looks shaky when playing, and someone that is simply having fun.
Confidence doesn’t just spontaneously happen – at least that’s not the way things have worked for me. Instead, I’ve found two things that seem to affect it. On the one hand, positive feedback about our playing can give us a temporary boost. This is “reactive” confidence as it is fueled by a source outside of ourselves. Put differently, we are reacting to the positive feedback by feeling more confident, but we are not in control of the source.
The second approach is generated from within. It comes from a clear understanding and appreciation of our own musical abilities. We “proactively” boost our confidence by steadily improving our abilities over time. The advantage to this approach is that we have control over generating our own confidence by putting in the time to practice and improve.
In my early teens, I played a lot of basketball. Sometimes I would spend hours out on the driveway practicing random shots and basic drills. But for some reason, when it actually came to me taking a shot in a real playing situation, the only thing going through my head was “this is probably going to miss”. I had no confidence. I expected the miss and that’s what I got.
A year or two later I ended up going to a week long basketball camp. The theme of the entire camp was improving our confidence. One of the lead instructors announced, “by the end of the week – you will all be shooting knowing that the ball will go in”. This ideal really appealed to me, but there was a big disconnect in my mind. How was something like that going to happen? I couldn’t think of a single thing that could be done to permanently change the way I thought.
The week was extremely intense. Some of the kids were actually throwing up after some of the more extreme cardio drills, and I got sick just a few days into it. We had multiple sessions each day focusing on different aspects of the game. When it came to shooting, the strategy was actually quite simple. The instructors helped us improve our fundamentals and suggested ways to remove inconsistencies. With focused practice, our accuracy dramatically improved. We slowly started to realize that if we used the proper technique and put in the time to practice – then hitting more of our shots was inevitable. Simply put, we deserved to make shots.
The unfortunate reality is that confidence can sometimes morph into arrogance. I personally believe that arrogance indicates a slow deterioration of confidence. It’s often a result of relying too heavily on past progress, and attempting to initiate positive feedback from others (a broken hybrid of proactive and reactive confidence).
Inner confidence is the solution. Knowing that you’ve put in the time to earn the result you want is powerful. The only real way to generate and maintain true confidence is with a proactive approach. At the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our own experience.
It’s not always easy to find our way. When it came to playing basketball, I didn’t even realize the pieces of the puzzle that I was missing. Sure, I was putting in the time and energy, but I wasn’t practicing the right way. As they say, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. With this in mind, it’s important to seek out advice from people that have already done what we want to do. This starts with acknowledging the fact that we have a lot to learn.
As a drummer, you can hang out with other drummers, take private lessons, or use step-by-step video lessons. The exact path isn’t critical, but it’s important to embrace the idea that there is always more to learn. With this in mind, you will always know what to do when you want to improve your drumming confidence.
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