BALANCING THE DAILY GRIND

A musician’s life is full of freedom and possibilities.
Sleep all day, play bar gigs late into the night? Sure, we’ve got that! Up early to send the kiddos off to school, then record all day? You got it. Weekend warrior? Go get some. Live on a bus and travel show to show? Pack your bag. Teach 20 students then shed a bit? Go to town.

What do you do with your days? How do you choose to spend your time?
There are 168 hours in a week. If you choose to sleep 8 hour blocks, thats 112 hours of up time to do what you love.

Generally, my weeks look like this: 7-8 hours sleep per night, stretch, shed, nightly shows Wednesday – Saturday. Sunday is to relax / recover and time with family. Monday and Tuesday are either gigs or a shed fest. Along with those I rotate my Combustible Audio project, drumming e-book writing, app development for Beat Note, recording, charting new material, and cutting my teeth writing on this blog.

My typical show days looks like this:
Wake up routine.
Look at the day’s goals and scheduling. (Check traffic, new songs I need to learn for the show, planning, logistics)
Check-in (phone calls, messaging, gig details, etc).
Stretch & shed with breaks.
Gear / logistic prep for show.
Go do the gig.
Get home safely to my wife.
Sleep routine.

I also incorporate my 3-4 side hustles around my gig in a balanced way, by focusing on 1-2 side projects a day.

Now, I shed every day, developing my skill sets and expanding my tool bag. Doesn’t everybody? Wait… don’t you?
No? Then that says a lot about your personality and investment in being a better musician. Get to work!
If the answer is yes, then we are eye to eye. I’m competitive by nature and always hungry for more. In fact, it will take me longer than most to become proficient and attain beginning mastery level of most skills, so I’ll grind as much as possible until I get the job done even if it means cutting some sleep. It’s not magic or God-given talent… it’s hard fucking work that separates my personal bar of excellence from most others. Sound a bit conceited? Perhaps. My healthy ego knows I am willing to work harder than anyone and choose to do so solely for my own benefit. I’m simply committed to the process and striving for excellence alongside my team. I let my actions speak way louder than my words and keep my ego, and more importantly my pride, in check.

When it comes to shedding, I find 5 minutes per day is more beneficial than 30 minutes 1 day a week. Since you’ve chosen the life and path of a musician, investing in yourself daily in some form, (ie practice, yoga, meditation, reading, listening) is one the highest priorities and a huge part of the long term pursuit. Invest in yourself and reap the benefits!

Don’t feel like it? Lazy. Just do it anyway.
No time? Lazy. Excuses. Make time. Get up earlier, stay up later.
Unmotivated? Do it anyway.
Too many other responsibilities? Excuses. DO IT ANYWAY.
Most times, showing up is half the battle and once you get started it’s hard to stop.

Not sure what to work on?
Now there’s a great question…
You have to develop the skill of being honest with yourself. Whatever you can do well should not show up in your practice room. Sure, reward time is beneficial too. Throw down your favorite lick a few times, feel your confidence, then move the fuck on.
When I talk about shedding, it means it’s time to get to fucking work. Nose to the grindstone, and focus up on developing your skill set. By spending even a short amount of focused time, striving for perfect reps on your deficiencies, you will slowly begin to see exponential growth. It’s a marathon after all, not a sprint. Chip away. Slowly develop your skill set and dive deeper into the craft. After all, there are an endless amount of technical, physical, philosophical, conceptual, etc., points to hone in on in terms of drumming. I’ll slowly cover my thoughts on these through this blog.

For a surface level overview, here’s my general recipe for a solid daily practice routine:
Stretching/calisthenics 5-60 minutes
Hands 5-30 minutes
Feet 5-30 minutes
Motion 5-30 minutes
Charting/transcription 5-30 minutes
Reading 5-30 minutes
Specific goals 5-30 minutes
Miscellaneous 5-30 minutes

I tend to rotate through these pending my allotted daily time/needs. Monday and Wednesday might be feet day, Tuesday & Thursday hands and charting, etc. When time allows, I use the entire 4.5 hour block per day, only 40-60 minutes for days that I’m slammed.

Classic tip:
Hard work trumps talent when talent won’t put in the hard work.

So work harder than everyone around you and reap the benefits of growth. Focus on earning your way to mastery, as opposed to expecting results and accolades. No one is guaranteed accolades, so by creating your own goals and achieving them you set yourself up for success. This approach also works well for landing endorsements, as well as for life in general. To sum up, no one owes you shit, so go earn it.

Now, let’s discuss who’s in the practice room with you.
All those voices that come up reminding you of things you have to do, the kids needing something, your spouse checking in, social media, the phone ringing for the next thing on your To Do list…
Life happens.
It’s important to carve a block of time out and set a boundary. I find the best times are early mornings while everyone is asleep, the gap in the day when your house is quiet, or possibly after everyone goes to bed. There’s time somewhere in there. Find it, and maximize it. No distractions, save occasional emergencies.

And what about the voices in your head?
I suck, I’m bored, I’m unmotivated, I’m not seeing the progress I want, I’ll just play this lick I know for fun instead, etc… Everyone wrestles with insecurity and procrastination. That’s a wonderful part of being human! Learn to clear your mind before you step into a session and leave your obstructive ego at the door. I’m talking blank slate with only 1 singular focus, progress. How ever small it may be, it’s a worth while investment in you.

Nay sayers and critics abound in our business and in life.
Good and bad criticism is one in the same. Don’t rely on others to build you up or give them a chance to tear you down. Turn the volume down on these. By becoming your own champion and worst critic, anyone else’s opinion will have significantly less impact. Besides, those who are big talkers, whether it be boasting or pointing out your weaknesses, tend to be more concerned with how they are perceived than putting in the work. Don’t allow them to take space in your process. Rather, use their feedback as fuel to strengthen your self critique.

You know your self and goals better than anyone ever could. This is no easy feat. It is always important to stay grounded and strive for balance as you continually evolve. I prefer to subscribe to creating a healthy and balanced optical delusion of consciousness.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security“ -Einstein
Staying connected to the world around us is just as much an important aspect to our daily balance as showering. It will feed your musical endeavors, keep you grounded, and let your mind recharge. Personally, I’m an introvert, an omega, and thus prefer solidarity by nature. Even I can feel the benefit of travel, long walks, and deep conversations over a cup of coffee. When I feel my world tightening up, I simply change the channel and try something new. What grounds you?

Always be honest with yourself. The goal is to build yourself up and subsequently your circle, so positive self-reinforcement is crucial. Every time you find a weakness, you can celebrate! Congratulations, you just answered one of the most important questions… what to focus on next. It’s not a deficiency, it’s an opportunity. Seize it, delve deep, and own that mf.

Be humble. Put in the work, stay connected, enjoy the process, and just do your thing.

Happy drumming.
Z

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