The Biggest Beginner Mistakes I Made
March 6, 2018
Even the best of us are bound to make mistakes from time to time. Hopefully, we learn something from it and move forward with more knowledge, experience, ready to change whatever needs to be changed. I’m here to shed light on some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a beginner, so you don’t end up committing the same sins.

Mistake 1: Comparing Myself to Others

I had this habit of constantly comparing myself to others, but not to my friends, or other drummers I would see playing around town, no, I would compare myself to my idols, the guys that were at the top of the game for decades. Somehow, in my 9-year-old mind, that was a completely acceptable thing to do. It sounds absurd now, but I remember it making sense to me back then, I couldn’t understand how those guys could be so far ahead of me. It was very demotivating because I had this idea that at some point, after a lot of practice, things would equalize and anyone would be able to play anything.

My case may be extreme, but the lesson here is that no matter how much you practice, there will always be someone ahead of you. It may be productive to take a peek around every now and then to see what’s going on, but if you take it too seriously, it will damage your progress. 

Mistake 2: Practicing Blindly

My mistake number 1 led me to mistake number 2. I wanted to improve, and I knew I had a lot to learn, so the obvious way to do it was to practice as much as I could. Nothing wrong with that logic, except that I had no idea what to do. The internet wasn’t a thing, so I used to borrow books from friends and practice whatever I could read from those books.

I was practicing blindly. When you practice a bunch of exercises with no rhyme or reason, you may become better at performing these exercises, but it won’t serve you very well if you can’t put it in a musical context. No musician practices to become really good at playing exercises, we practice because we want to play music better, so it’s important to understand what benefits you are seeking through practice, and how your exercise selection will help you get those benefits.

Mistake 3: Not Seeking My Own Identity Early Enough

Like most of us, I had my favorite drummers and bands growing up, so it was natural for me to end up being influenced by those. All of that is a natural process, we start by emulating our favorite musicians, and at some point, we discover our own musical identity and work really hard to develop it. I feel that this process happened to me a little later than it should, which ended up costing me a few years of musical development.

I was having fun while playing, not thinking too hard about it, I also started playing gigs very early on, which put a level of pressure on me that lasted for many years. All of those elements made it impossible for me to take a step back and analyze my own musical development. I was almost 20 years old when I first had a chance to take a solid break from gigging and dedicate enough time to learning the type of drummer I was becoming, and decide if I was ok with that or needed to change directions.

Mistake 4: Too Much, Too Fast

Growing up I had this incredible hunger for becoming the best drummer I could be, and that mindset led me down some unproductive paths. Since I was eager to learn, I was taking information from anywhere, books, magazines, teachers, friends, other drummers. I had a torrent of information coming in and no idea how to filter it. My solution was to try everything, which turned out to be a really bad solution.

It may sound like a good idea to give everything a try, but when it comes to this type of skill development, it’s not the most productive thing to do, since everything takes a significant amount of time to learn. I would practice 50 different things at once, spend about 5 minutes on each, and at the end of a few months, I was still mediocre at all of it. I didn’t know how to pace myself, didn’t know how to plan my routines and didn’t know how to prioritize.

As years passed, I started to look back at those times and try to understand what pushed me towards that approach. I believe it was a fear of missing out on something potentially great. I wanted to be able to play anything, and I believed that practicing a lot of exercises would get me there, the more the better. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but thanks to that I’ve learned how to work on the things that I need to work on, and use that focus to achieve better results.
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