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Whether you’ve been playing the drums for three months or thirty years, you’re never completely immune from the discouraging thoughts that creep up when you’re having a bad day.

Maybe the “I suck” gloom has plagued you for years. Maybe you can’t get your limbs to work in tandem. Maybe you had a rough gig one time, or you can’t play the patterns you want. It’s also tempting to compare your playing to every other drummer out there.

The only thing that actually sucks here is wallowing in that fear of failure and letting it cripple or discourage you. You aren’t alone, and there are ways to change this mindset.

Feeling like you suck

Whether you’re having an off day – or you have an unwarranted suspicion that your friends are lying to you about your abilities – it’s easy to get down on yourself. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself:

Track your progress: One tangible way to build confidence is to track your progress. It’s easier to see improvement spelled out for you when you don’t ‘feel’ like you’re getting better. Put together a calendar, keep it beside your drums, and give yourself weekly or daily goals.

Compare your old material: You can also combat a general “I suck” feeling by looking back on old recordings or videos. When progress is happening slowly, you’re less likely to notice, and you might feel like you haven’t come very far when in fact you’ve come a long way. If you realize that you’re always improving, you’ll know that it won’t be impossible to take your playing to the next level. Start recording yourself now if you haven’t done it before.

Compare your best material: If you’re just having a bad day and can’t seem to play at the level you usually do, find a video or recording of yourself playing really well. Remember: you’re capable of great things, and today just happens to be an off day.

Feeling like you’re a fraud

This is more likely to affect working drummers, or drummers who have experienced some sort of success or recognition. You have an intense feeling that you don’t deserve these things, and worry that one day people will discover that you’re a ‘fraud’. You feel like you are where you are only because of luck, not because of ability. You might have extremely high standards for yourself, and it’s possible that most – or all – of your playing will never meet the level of expectations you’ve set. You might feel stressed when you aren’t accomplishing something. The common term for this is ‘Impostor Syndrome’.

Like those who are extrinsically motivated, people who experience ‘impostor’ feelings tend to be “shaped by an overriding concern with others’ impressions.” You might think others have the same expectations you have of yourself.

Talk to someone you look up to: One way to gain confidence is to talk to people whose drumming you admire. You’ll probably find out that you aren’t the only one who sometimes feels self-conscious about your abilities or merits.

Keep practicing: If you don’t believe you’re a capable or deserving player, you can at least control how much you practice. If you don’t believe your abilities have granted you your opportunities, you may be more likely to work hard on your skills to prove yourself. And that definitely can’t hurt.

Feeling like you can’t accurately gauge your level

Are you worried you aren’t as good as you think you are? There are a few ways to combat this:

Get an unbiased opinion: It’s worth getting some outside opinions, whether it’s a drum teacher or a player whose skills you think are top notch. If you really care about improving, you’ll have to put aside your ego and pride and be open to constructive criticism. Even the best drummers have strengths and weaknesses, so rather than taking negative feedback to heart, frame it as a challenge you’re ready to face head on.

Test yourself against the ‘standards’:
If you’re trying to play at too high a level before you’re ready, you’re going to get frustrated. You should always push yourself, but make sure you’ve solidified the skills you need to take the next step.

Read this article on how to be a confident drummer and check out these videos to help you gauge how you’re doing:

Challenge your beliefs about yourself

The best thing you can do is to not give up. Don’t let your doubts get you down. Know that there are ways to take action and change your mindset. Try to shift your thinking the next time you’re worried that you’re the worst drummer in the world. Because you aren’t!

Samantha Landa

Samantha Landa is a Canadian metal drummer and writer. She currently plays with Conquer Divide, The Anti-Queens and Dead Asylum and has toured with metal bands Nervosa and Introtyl. Sam has been featured by outlets such as Sick Drummer Magazine and DRUM! Magazine, and proudly endorses Mapex Drums, Sabian Cymbals and Los Cabos Drumsticks.

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