Some thoughts on returning to the stage after lockdown.
2020 certainly hit us for six didn’t it?
I may not have got COVID-19 (thankfully) but I certainly got a case of the ‘I’m feeling sorry for myself’ whilst being cooped up at home. Oddly and perhaps sadly, the only solace I got was in the knowledge that all the other drummers out there weren’t working either. In fact, no musicians were. It was just a drought that everyone had to endure. However, now gigs are starting to trickle back in, and I’m not sure I’m ready.
At the beginning of lockdown numero uno, the first thing I did was… panic. Although, the toilet paper remained safe as I decided instead to purchase an audio interface – an Audient iD44 for those playing at home – some drumheads and yes, some pasta. I had the sudden urge to finally get stuck into recording and learning this craft from home. The aim was to try and keep on top of my chops so that when lockdown ended, you know, after a few weeks (yikes, how off that was) I’d be less rusty.
Cut to the end of lockdown 2.0 a million days later and I’m proud to say that I learned some vital recording skills. However, the isolation videos on Facebook or Instagram and collaborations with musician mates was really so, like, first lockdown, so instead of actually kicking my own butt into gear and doing some meaningful and regular practice, I went back to teaching and didn’t do as much as I’d planned to. Sigh.
First gig back is coming. I can barely lift the hardware case into the car let alone smash out four dance sets and this got me thinking about what sorts of things I could do to get the chops up and get organised ahead of gigs returning to avoid the simple stuff going wrong.
If you’re like me, the gigging drum gear is all over the place. The good kit is where the practice kit used to be. Sticks are all over the room, old skins on the floor and every snare drum you own out of cases and ready to ‘record’ with. Now’s the time to do the clean-up and have a kit ready that is good to go out the door. Not to be silly, but I’d be honestly making a list (seriously, my last gig was March) and making sure everything is there. If your cases are in the garage, there might even be stuff living around them!
Check the old stick bag too – brushes, mallets, sticks, earplugs, moon gel. Reassess the hardware case too. Is there anything that can maybe come out? Unless you’ve been pumping weights in isolation, that case is going to be heavy! Don’t forget to make sure the kick pedal, the floor tom legs and the hi-hat clutch are in there too! You might also need gaffa tape so pack that.
Check the heads on the kit you’re taking out, particularly if said drumkit has been in cases for months. They’ll likely be fine but always worth a check. If you’re an hybrid/electronics kind of drummer, be sure to check this is all ready to go – in ear monitors, iPad, mixer, powerboard and extension lead etc. Oh, and if you’ve ever needed a trolley, it’s now, so don’t forget it!
This is a harder one. Getting back to full match fitness for the types of gigs you were doing pre-COVID will just take time. However, there are some things you can do to help work your way back to your pro level that you always were!
Basics. Get back to some good old-fashioned warming up. Take a pad to the gig and although you’ll feel like you’re preparing for a clinic, it’s cool, your hands will thank you. Do some sustained singles, doubles and paradiddle. You don’t even need to try and play them fast. Just remind the hands what they’re going to be doing before you count in the first tune.
If you’re even more organised and you’re practicing at home prior to the gig (along with learning songs) check my column from last month about practicing rudiments over foot patterns. These really get the blood flowing and they’re really great at practicing warm up type patterns over a groove in a very applicable way. Basics really return you back to square one.
Stretching too, might seem cheesy but it’s a good thing. Check out some basic stretches you can do with or without the sticks. Some gentle but deliberate movement might just promote more relaxed hands when the time comes to count in. I’ve found stretching useful as I get on in the years!
Click, click, click, click
Give yourself a break. The first gig might be a little tough. You’ll be loving playing with other musicians again, but things might go wrong. You’ll forget stuff – songs and grooves you’ve played a thousand times but hey, blame COVID right? It’s okay to ease back into it.
Speaking of which, taking three gigs in the first weekend might also take its toll. Remember you have to drive to these gigs! I haven’t done a long trip in a while so getting a little extra sleep might be worthy thing. Geez, look at me getting all parental on you!
Get inspired again. Check out some great players or even go out to see a gig. Your brain will thank you for it. Lock down was good at taking away our motivations so rekindling this through some sick tunes, videos and live performances – mask or not – is a great thing.
Finally, have fun. Gigging is different for all of us but remember why you got into it in the first place and enjoy the fact you’re back on the drums. If you’re still counting the days till the first gig, the above points still apply. Have fun and make some music. 2021 is waiting for you!
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