Incorporate mindfulness into your practice as a percussionist to transform feelings of frustration into self-composure, relaxation and enjoyment of your music.
Mindfulness offers an extraordinary wealth of benefits from encouraging self-confidence to reducing stress. Widely used as a tool by professional athletes to improve concentration, self-compassion, and overall well-being, mindfulness can also be incorporated into a drummer’s life.
With the following three techniques, you can increase your mental capacity for staying relaxed and focused and even enhance all areas of your playing.
Take Deep Breaths
Mindfulness is open, warm, and non-judgmental by nature. The purpose of taking a few deep breaths is to regain some clarity and a fresh beginner’s mind before returning to the experience of drumming.
This short breathing exercise is a great way to begin any drumming performance, either as a solo musician or within a drumline. The exercise requires you and your fellow drummers to take deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Bring a curious and attentive mind to the sensations of the breath and notice any subtle differences and changing experiences of the body as it inhales and exhales.
If thoughts arise, gently allow them to come and go as if they are cars driving by, and then redirect your focus back to the breath.
Incorporating the breathing exercise as a part of the warmup or practice routine can help instill a sense of relaxation and purpose throughout a performance.
The act of being mindful focuses our attention much like a spotlight guides our sightline. We can avert our attention toward many kinds of potential objects, and the experiences are always changing.
During a performance, pay close attention to all of the sounds, timbres, rhythms, and dynamics of the drums that you can hear without judging or analyzing the performance from a critical perspective.
Practicing mindful listening can promote feelings of calm and reassurance for musicians by shifting the spotlight of focus onto the music and sounds in the present moment rather than paying attention to the mental chatter of the mind. In this way we can channel a real sense of curiosity toward performances and increase our satisfaction and enjoyment.
Be Aware of Your Body
Drumming is a physically demanding activity that employs a full range of motion from arm and leg muscles.
Invite yourself and other drummers within an ensemble to pay attention to the individual areas of contact between the body and the drums as you play and all of the muscles that are involved in movements while performing.
The mind is so often distracted in day-to-day life that we don’t often realize how little attention we pay to the activities we perform, especially ones that require large amounts of muscle memory.
By focusing on the present sensations, we are able to experience playing music in a new and unexplored way to reclaim the intrinsic joy that music provides. If the mind becomes distracted, simply refocus back to the sensations.
As drummers we might be familiar with experiencing stress from long and difficult days of rehearsals and being overanalytical of our performances. Sometimes we might even begin to feel overwhelmed, and the thinking mind can rapidly create negative cycles.
Doing these mindfulness exercises can help to refocus and refresh our perspective. By choosing to place our focus on the breath, sounds, and sensations, we can gain clarity in order to respond to a situation with patience and compassion.
About the Author
Gideon Waxman is a London-based drummer and music educator. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Westminster and is qualified to teach mindfulness-based stress reduction programs. You can find more of his advice at Drum Helper, which is a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.