The action or practice of engaging in two or more sports or types of exercise in order to improve fitness or performance in one’s main sport.

"The Good Stuff"

One day when chatting with Paul Johnson,  a great drumming friend/co-worker at Disneyland, he asked me if learning to play the banjo had helped my drumming, and if so, in what ways?  At the time, I hadn’t really thought about it much, and although I had many musicians telling me that my musicianship as a drummer had improved significantly, I told Paul that I did feel it helped, but I couldn’t quantify or articulate exactly how. Paul’s answer had his typical zen/mentor insight: “and that’s the good stuff.”   While I will suggest some of my favorite cross-training endeavors and how they will help you in the subsequent tabs of this section of Drum Fillosophy 101, know that sometimes you won’t necessarily know all of the benefits you are getting from cross-training – “and that’s the good stuff.”

"The Inner Game"

The Inner Game

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of proactively working on your mental game. Experts in every field concur that the key ingredient for achieving extraordinary, transcendent levels of performance requires a rock solid mental foundation. Shaolin monks are often credited with some of the earliest mind training techniques over 2500 years ago, but it wasn’t until 1948 when Eugen Herrigel wrote Zen in the Art of Archery that a real focus on the mental aspect of performance started becoming mainstream in western world disciplines. It inspired many other “Zen in/and the Art of” you name it books, and was likely the inspiration for the many The Inner Game of Tennis spinoffs. While a lot can be gained by reading various mental training philosophies, I have found the most value in mental training philosophies that emphasizes meditation. I certainly would have written off the idea of meditation in my youth as some weird B.S., so I certainly wouldn’t blame you for any skepticism. Nowadays, the cuckoo stigma of the word “meditation” is somewhat mitigated by calling it by other names – “mindfulness” is all the rage now – but yeah, it’s meditation. I won’t go into detail here about the various benefits to be gained through regular meditation practice, but I will just provide a list of a few the books I have found the most beneficial in honing my inner game of drumming (audio books are the better option in some cases because they provide guided meditations).

Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner (The only music centric mental training book on this list)

The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford

Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

The Warrior Athlete by Dan Millman

Waking Up by Sam Harris (a book, but also the name of his guided meditation app)

Learn a New Axe

Learn a New Axe

While I mentioned in “The Good Stuff” tab how learning the banjo had provided some intangible benefits to my musical growth, there are some other very tangible benefits to be gained by learning other instruments. While there can be a point of learning too many instruments and fulfilling the adage “jack of all traits, master of none,” below is a list of some suggested instruments (Axe’s) to try and some of the possible benefits to be gained.

  • Hand drums Congas, bongos djembe are a few of the most common hand drums I would suggest, particularly because you can easily add them to your drum kit.   Spending time with authentic patterns for each of these hand drums can give you inspiration to enhance your drum set Latin grooves, or you can apply some of the techniques and/or patterns directly to your drum set with your hands to good effect.
  • Hand percussionThere have been many times in my life when I thought I knew how to play a shaker, cowbell or a tambourine/pandero, only to have my eyes opened by a master of one of these instruments with ideas and techniques that were previously unfathomable. I have seen many drummers incorporate the aforementioned hand percussion into there kit playing, and would recommend doing some youtube searches for any hand percussion instruments that particularly interest you. One of my favorites is the bones (also known as rhythms bones).
  • A Chordal Instrument – While some basic piano skills is incredibly important, I personally don’t enjoy spending a lot of time sitting at the piano, so I have expanded this suggestion to include any instrument that can play chords – i.e. guitar, vibes, organ, banjo. Daily practice on a chordal instrument is great for advancing your understanding of harmony, which will improve your abilities to hear song forms (so you don’t get lost!), and provide a foundation for songwriting if you are an aspiring composer.
  • Any Instrument In Your Band – Anytime you can learn an instrument that is used in your preferred musical ensemble, you will raise your awareness of not only it’s roll in the ensemble, but also a better understanding of your roll as a drummer – especially if you get opportunities to practice that secondary roll while someone else plays the drums!