Big Stages vs. Little Stages – Maintaining Your Technique



      Lessons Learned       1    


One of the most valuable things I’ve learned having played on stages of all sizes over the years from small clubs to hockey arenas, is that your environment should never affect your technique. When we play in smaller, more confined environments, it feels more natural to lay back, relax and play comfortably, getting out all of the rolls, ghost notes and cymbal dynamics that we need to because we’re not hitting our drums as aggressively. It’s just a more relaxed atmosphere in a smaller space. The drums aren’t mic’d and the closest audience member is no more than six or seven feet from the stage. So we can get all of our cool and tasty licks out and KNOW that the audience will hear all of them along with all of the little notes in between.

But our mentality can change once we get in a much larger space. I know it used to for me! Once we get onto a much larger stage with more space, bigger PA, big wedge monitors everywhere; things can change. Our drumming can become less refined and a little more aggressive, barbaric even! I don’t know about y’all but this was my case. I shied away from playing the little technical stuff, almost subconsciously because I thought I had to hit harder just to be heard. This mentality SERIOUSLY affected my playing. I sounded much more ‘stiff’ and ‘choppy’ on the larger stages, especially when the floor monitor beside the kit was cranked! I’d try to play rolls and ghost notes and all that technical stuff and none of it sounded good, if I could actually hear it at all. I was all of a sudden pummeling my cymbals, thankfully having not broken any of them, but at the same time really surprised that I didn’t! I realized that my needless overcompensation was only hurting my performance.

Let the PA do the work!

Great advice, eh? I mean ain’t that what it’s there for? It took me a while to get there but once I did, everything was right with the world again! I had to realize that regardless of what it sounded like behind the kit – that’s not what the audience was hearing. There was no need for me to have to play any different than I do when I’m practising in my drum room at home. Seriously. I’m a bit of a nerd so I actually got myself a bracelet made to remind me of this whenever I hit the stage. I had the initials ‘R&TYOS’ engraved on it. Nothing special. It was a simple stainless steel bracelet that cost me about $40. The initials stood for ‘Relax and Trust Your Own Strength’. Whenever I started to get excited on the kit, the bracelet would remind me to chill and just play. Don’t worry about how hard you’re hitting. PA systems are LOUD, man. And they’re going to pick up everything you do. So NEVER compromise your technique. If you’re not loud enough for the audience, let the SOUND GUY do his job and turn you up. Because in a large stage setting, whether indoors or outdoors, your drums are only as loud as the PA system that’s pushing them. You physically cracking your snare or your cymbals harder won’t do ANYTHING for the volume level hitting the audience. So relax. Play. And enjoy the performance.

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1 comment


    Oct 14, 2011 3:15 am

    Cool, nice article! I too have been guilty of bashing on a bigger stage, and my body usually pays for it after the gig and the next day. LAME! Thanks for the advice. I may not get a bracelet, but I have learned from this. Max

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