Improving solo performance

As a drummer in a pipe band, much of my time and effort is devoted to drum corps and band rehearsal.  For me, the highest motivation in playing has always been in creating a great performance within the group of a band or drum corps.  However, I learned when I was young that a valuable tool to improve any band’s performance is by the members competing in solo competition.  Solo competition events put players in an arena to focus solely on their personal strengths and weaknesses.  As each individual improves, the whole band improves.

I have spent a lot of time and effort working on my solo performance over the years.  At the highest level of solo drumming, the expectation of refinement and subtlety in the playing is very sophisticated.  I have been fortunate to receive excellent direction and guidance in my playing that has helped me become one of the 12 finalists at the World Solo Drumming Championships for the past 3 years.

At the recent Dunedin Highland Games & Festival back in April, one of the drumming judges was Mr. Gordon Parks.  Mr. Parks is a regular adjudicator at many events all over the world and often one of the judges at the World Solo Drumming Championships in Glasgow, Scotland annually.   In the days following the Dunedin Games, I had a chance to catch up with Gordon and discuss my solo performance at the Dunedin Games and get some advice on ways to refine and continue to improve my playing over the coming months as I gear up to return to the Scotland this coming October for the World Solos.

A major part of this conversation about my playing centered around the tempo of the music.  I need to be working to practice playing at a slower speed to work on improved control and dynamics.  This is certainly something I struggle with as a player because personally I enjoy a lively tempo and an exciting performance.  The disconnect is that what I perceive as exciting can come off too frantic for the listener to enjoy and appreciate.  As a performer, it’s vital to keep aware of the listener’s perspective in receiving your performance.  A good communicator must be able to effectively share their message with their audience and it will be my goal to improve in this area as a musician and performer over the coming months.

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