How To Become A Professional Drummer And Keep Getting Hired Back

So you have a drum set, a filled stick bag, and a dream to be a professional drummer.  What’s the next step?  And when you get that first paid gig on the drums, how do you make sure you get hired back on the drums?  These questions are on the minds of every drummer that has ever wanted to play drums for a living.

Fortunately, with the technology available to us today there are more options to live your dream job on the drums.  Technology and gear aren’t the only things you need to make it in the music business though.  In this article I will offer some suggestions to make a living as a professional drummer.

Like any other instrument, the drums are best learned from a teacher.  This lesson applies to any person that has picked up a pair of drumsticks regardless of their playing abilities.  The direct hands-on approach from an experienced teacher will launch you on your instrument.  And having a good teacher isn’t just for beginners.  There is always something that a drummer can learn whether it be different styles or different microphone setups in the studio.

I encourage drummers to always strive to learn more; specifically from someone you consider to be equal or better than you.  It should be a very humble experience that will give you more insight to reach your next goal on the drums.

There are three other “teachers” that drummers should always learn from as well.  I consider those teachers to be drum rudiments, a metronome or “click track,” and recordings of music.  These are the most important teachers that every drummer should always work with and listen to.

Drum rudiments may seem more appropriate to you on marching drums, but I can assure you that rudiments can be applied all over the drum set.  You will find drum rudiments in “how to” books, from quality drum teachers, and all over the Internet…  even a few videos in “Play Drums By Ear“… I’m just sayin’! 🙂

I encourage you to start practicing rudiments on one drum or drum pad at a very slow pace and be as precise as possible.  Then when you get comfortable at that slow tempo, bump up the speed only 5 beats per minute.  You will find even this to be more challenging, and so on as you increase to faster speeds.  Then once you are comfortable on one surface, start breaking up the rudiments between different drums and cymbals on the drum set.  You will often find very cool grooves and licks with rudiments on the drum set.  This will be a whole new perspective to playing the set.

Next, a metronome is essential.  Solid timing needs to be the backbone of every professional drummer.  There should never be a reason for a band to stop or even “hiccup” as a collective because the drummer messed up the time.  That’s an easy way not to get called back for a gig.  So make sure you always practice with a metronome and I encourage you to pick up a pair of headphones to practice to a click track.  Every recording session requires a professional drummer to be comfortable playing along to a click track without skipping a beat.

Lastly, recordings of music are great tools for every drummer.  Many professional drummers have been influenced by past drummers and are playing cover songs.  A cover song is quite literally a song written by someone other than you or the band you play with.  Often times the band and audience want to hear the song as close to the recording as possible, so listening to a variety of recordings will prepare you for most professional gigs you may encounter.

Recordings are also a great opportunity to study other styles of drumming besides what you might be used to.  Every professional drummer should have a supply of different drumming styles to use for every type of opportunity that may present itself.

Money In The PocketThere are a variety of ways to become a professional drummer, essentially a drummer that is paid to play the drums.  One is to form a band and focus on creating music together to make it into the music industry.  It’s important that everyone in the band gets along and share goals to make a living playing music.

Another option is to use social networks to broadcast yourself and your talents to the world, effectively making your computer work for you.  Social networks become your opportunity to network with other musicians and share your recorded music.

A third option is to become active in the local music community by signing up for every musical competition, recording session, audition and gig available to you.  Remember that your first impression is the best skill you use in the music industry.

If you get yourself out there enough, it increases your chances of getting noticed.  Make sure to always be a professional, whatever you are preparing for.  Do as much homework as you possibly can before you walk into your audition, studio session, or gig so you can be as fully prepared as possible.

Now that you are prepared to launch yourself into the music industry, it is important to do everything you can to get a call back after that gig is done.  There are a few tips to make sure you become the drummer that no band can live without.  As I said before, the first impression is vital so start it off right and don’t be late.  Always plan to arrive even an hour before the gig to make sure you have enough time to set up your drums and have a proper sound check at the gig.

Keep your playing simple.  So many drummers strive to be flashy in the beginning to set themselves apart from all the rest of the mundane backbeats on the bandstand.  What those drummers don’t realize though, is that those backbeats are the ones getting hired to play the paid gigs.  Focus on the groove and do your best not to step on any toes in the band.

A solid groove is exactly what the band and the audience are looking for.  Keep in mind that every gig situation is different, but a good rule of thumb for a pro drummer is to provide the most solid beat and always leave them wanting more.

Another good way to get hired back is to have a great attitude.  Be nice and try to build relationships with everyone on the band stand, as they are the ones that will ultimately give you the thumbs up or down to get hired back.  Also, bring this attitude into your playing as well.  Be attentive to the rest of the band and what they are looking for out of the drums.  It may not be something you agree with, but ultimately they are writing your check.

If you get to a point where the gig isn’t worth the trouble, then that’s your decision for another day.  Make sure to play with dynamics.  Listen to the rest of the band and take cues from them for appropriate loud and soft portions of the songs.  The sooner you figure out that the audience is often there to listen to the vocals and maybe listen to the solos, the more you will get hired back on a gig.

Lastly, make sure that playing the drums on a gig isn’t only about the money.  You should be enthusiastic that you get paid to play the drums regardless, so enjoy your time playing at every gig you come across.  If you use every gig, good or bad, as a lesson on drumming in the music business, I guarantee you will be professional in no time.  You will begin to understand where you want to focus your drumming and hopefully work with people you will enjoy working with.

That’s all for now in how to become a professional drummer and keep getting called back.  I hope these tips will help you get into your dream job of play the drums full time.



Leave A Reply (24 comments so far)

  1. Martin

    Thanks Chris,

    This information is fantastic and a real inspiration for up and coming drummers looking at playing with a band/bands.

    Just wondering if you have any insite about teaching drums.


  2. Hey Martin,
    With regard to teaching, if you are starting from scratch I would say to introduce yourself to some of the local school music teachers. Offer to come in and tune their drums and maybe work with their drummers once a month or so just to get your name out their. They will take all the help they can get, especially with all the budget cuts. Ask if you can put a flyer up in their room with your contact info on it.

    Advertisements such as in Craig’s List can sometimes be beneficial as well.

    Gigging always helps a ton because people can see that you “know what you are talking about”.

    In the end, just get your name out there. The most productive advertising for you will be word of mouth. The more people who know about you, the more people will be talking about you. A parent will be much more likely to contact you about teaching his or her child if someone they know tells them about you.

    Hope this is what you were looking for. Talk to you soon.


  3. Gail

    At this particular juncture, as a hobby, would be a good starting point. Great article!





  6. You got it Kevin! Glad you are benefiting from all the info. Keep me posted on your progress. Talk to you soon.


  7. Thanks Kevin! I will do my best ! lol 🙂

  8. Thanks Gail! Often trying it out as a hobby will give you a feel for it and help you decide exactly how far you want to dive in.

  9. maxthedrummer

    well said, Chris!

  10. Thank you sir!


  11. T. Jackson

    Hey Chris, I am a vocalist with an interest in playing drums. The advise you offered is very sound advise for any musician.Thanks

  12. T.,
    Thanks so much. When I wrote this I really took the approach of all the things I wish someone would have taught me when I was starting out. Great to hear from you. Let me know if you have any questions.

  13. vicky

    thanks chris
    great info especially for me only just started to play
    your videos are really helpful as you play slower than others and you also give great tips for first time drummers

  14. You got it Vicky! Playing everything slow is easy after many years of teaching… it is the talking that tends to want to run away from me! lol! I have been told all my life that I talk really fast, so it takes quite a concerted effort to slow it down to a teaching pace so everyone can understand what I am saying. Thanks again for the kind words and keep me posted on your progress.

  15. CHRIS! DUDE! I love your stuff! Thank you so much for all this advice! This is really gonna help me out! Now my only problem is actually finding some gigs. haha. Hey Chris, if you ever find the time to, would you mind checking out some of my covers on my Youtube channel? Maybe you could give me some pointers or something? Thank you so much for your time.

    – Michael –

  16. Hey there Michael…

    Thanks for all the kind words! I checked out your channel and just watched a bit of the first video. All-in-all you are off to a great start. A couple of bits of advice I would give you are…

    1) DON’T BEND YOUR LEFT WRIST INTO YOUR HIP- When you do this you lose a ton of stick control and a TON of power in your stroke. Focus on keeping the wrist away from your hip and playing palms down. This will help remedy both control and power.

    2) DON’T LEAN BACK- When you go to the dbl. pedal the same thing happens. You lose control and power. Sit on the edge of your throne and lean into it.

    Hope this helps. Keep me posted on your progress and I will talk to you soon.

  17. Jay Huthmaker

    Great articale for drummers at all levels.

  18. James LeBlanc

    I’m ready for my next lesson.

  19. What a great site. Thank you for giving us who can’t afford all the money to buy athe complete program a chance to learn. I am saving big time to buy the whole program.

  20. bill

    good information…… every drummer needs this basic info…..

  21. Ladi tunnez

    Hey man it would be a honor to be apart of u … Music is all that I live fir . Without my set I wud,have got into so many other things but I THINK.GOD FOR THE DRUMZ …. PLEASE I WANNA BE A PRO GIRL DRUMMER SO BAD . IF ANYONE CAN PUT ME IN THE RIGHT HANDS I WONT LET U DOWN …. URZ TRULY …… Tonijah .gibbs

  22. mide badmus

    Nyc one

  23. Nathan

    Thank you. That was perfect, it gave me inspiration on really getting myself out there.

  24. Jared

    Great article. I really like the part about being professional means just playing a solid groove really well. It reminds me of a killer book I got on amazon. Ya’ll should check it out.. It’s called “How To Be A Professional Drummer”. Don’t know who the author is, but it’s great.