Danny Cox

Drummer, Drumset Tutor,

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How can one achieve their full potential in the face of strict limitations?

Hello TED users,

My question comes from a personal angle, but I'm sure there are many others faced with similar problems.

I make a living as a drummer. I also teach my instrument. I have played for 15 years now, but for half of this time (since I left home) I have had nowhere to practise my craft. Of course this practise is incredibly noisy, which is the root of the problem, but why I am unable to do it is not my question- rather I am seeking opinions on how I might still achieve my full potential in spite of my limitations.

I am often misunderstood on this matter. I generally receive two responses when I reach out. The first is 'book some studio time.' Unfortunately, this is prohibitively costly in terms of both time and money, with it taking an hour to set up and an hour to pack down a drum kit and studio time costing anywhere between £5-20 per hour. Considering that to truly master a craft one needs endless hours, this is no long-term solution. The second response I receive is 'use digital drums'. Digital drums, while certainly less noisy, are not my instrument. Anyone who has played them will understand that they are a far cry from the real thing and so this suggestion is somewhat like asking a writer to produce a novel using only words beginning with letters A-M.

Of course two solutions that few people mention due to their obviousness are 'move to the country' and 'soundproof a room'. Both of these options are again prohibitively expensive and with musicians not exactly on the highest pay-grade both of these things are sadly far-off.

As a result of these circumstances I feel my whole life is off-center. I deeply crave self-improvement in my chosen field but every day I feel like an artist with no canvas.

I am unsure if anything can be done to improve my personal situation, but I know that TED attracts intelligent minds and perhaps by discussing this issue in a broader context some revelation may be stumbled upon.

Thank you.

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    Oct 23 2012: It is the limitations that define the limits of your potential. Deal with the limitations.
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    Oct 19 2012: remove said limitations
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    Oct 18 2012: Do you play in a band, a session musician, or is it solely teaching?

    If in a band, could the practice venue be divided out between the homes/garages of the other band members, so it won't be noisy every week in the same house?

    It may sound daft, but maybe sell yourself to drum shops local to Bristol as a demonstrator for new drums? I know that when my son went to a drum shop, there was a really capable guy demonstrating a nice shiny Pearl Kit in a soundproofed room, which I'm certain helped sell it to him!
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    Gail .

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    Oct 18 2012: In the States, we have storage places. They are in the outskirts of towns - industrial or light industrial zoned. Perhaps rental of a storage unit would not be cost prohibitive. Some even have heat and air conditioning, though they are more money. If you rented during the tolerable seasons and used digital drums doing the intolerable seasons, the combination would give you what you are looking for.

    If you want climate control and it's out of your means, surely you know other drummers who face the same connundrum. Can you split the rent and share the time?
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    Oct 18 2012: Danny, Most places have a union for about everything. Is there a musicians union in the UK? Are you a member? If not do you know someone who is?

    What I am suggesting is networking? Find someone who is starting a band and they provide the space not you. Find a band who needs a drummer ... same solution. Find some other drummers and ask if you could be put on a list to sub for them when they need off ... same solution. Sign in at the union HQ and let them find you a job and maybe a practice place. Go to pubs and tell the band playing there you drum and see if they know of an opening. Use your web contacts. Use facebook.

    My quick take is that you are trying to solve this yourself ... don't ... network ... use the tools of the trade .... maybe some TED members may make a contact for you but your best bet is within the industry. Leave your name at recording studios for amatures that need a band to do self recordings. Open your mind to all the possibilities.

    Finally. I know you have stated drumming is your passion .... but most of us do other things to support our passions. Supplement your income with other work and save to solve your problem.

    I cannot carry a tune in a basket but appreciate those who can.

    Best of luck. Bob.
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    Oct 17 2012: According to my five minutes of research, it costs about $2000 - $3000 dollars to soundproof a 12 foot by 20 foot room. The more do-it-yourself you can be, the less expensive it will be.

    If you believe you will be drumming for twenty years, that is like investing $100 to $150 per year.

    Worth it to you or not? How many extra gigs or lessons a year would it take to cover that cost? Is there any way of saving $150 per year from your other expenses?
    What if you soundproof the room and rent it out occasionally to another drummer with your same problem?
    People do tend to have to forego something to give their dreams a chance.
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      Oct 18 2012: Thanks Fritzie, I have of course looked into this as well. The biggest problem here is that I would need larger accommodation to be able to dedicate a room for soundproofing, not to mention a willing landlord (I am way off being able to purchase my own property in the UK).

      A very attractive solution is the new portable isolation booths, which are essentially an erect-it-yourself soundproof booth. These however cost around £6,000. Of course I've considered a loan but naturally there is some fear involved here. Perhaps it's just time to throw caution.
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        Oct 18 2012: Is it practical to go into this investment with a partner?
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          Oct 18 2012: Sadly, no. I know all of the serious drummers in my area and although many of us work professionally and teach to earn our keep we couldn't possibly raise this kind of money. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying never- things are better for me now than ever as I've worked to build my business for seven years, but those seven years have been without serious practise and I may be looking at seven more before I can really bring together that kind of capital.

          I wouldn't ever like to think I'll miss the boat but we all have limited time on Earth... I am very happy in my life but one dream I fear I will never realise is to reach my true potential on drum kit. Over the past couple of years I've come to terms with this but when I take a step back and look at my situation it does seem kind of sad. But then I consider the real sadness in the world and I can't help but feel lucky that I'm playing drums at all!
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    Gail .

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    Oct 17 2012: Are you a member of a church? So many sunday School rooms/sanctuaries sit empty during the week. Perhaps you can work out an exchange -- free lessons, odd jobs, etc., in exchange for practice time - and you remove your instrument before the room is needed.

    What other businesses / organizations can be approached this way? Social halls perhaps - where you offer your services for free at dances - or you put together a group that plays for free in exchange for practice time?
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      Oct 18 2012: I'm not a member of a church, no. I have given my services freely in the past to various organisations, though none have been able to offer even temporary practise space, not that they weren't willing- it is just very difficult to accommodate a drum kit!
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    Gail .

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    Oct 17 2012: This may sound off-the-wall, but it's a tested an proven technique used by all professional and olympic athletes, as well as musicians who have discovered its value. (Count me in).

    I loved piano as a child, but being one of many children, I was not allowed to spend much time at it because it was so noisy in a small house. One day, I discovered a piece that I had forgotten was assigned, and my practice time before the next day's piano lesson was used up. So I took the music and visualized myself playing it. The next day, it was my best piece.

    I have since learned that other pianists use this technique that I always use when working through odd & difficult phrases (such as a Chopin Nocturn that requires 23 notes with the right hand at the same time that 6 notes are being played with the left). Now, when I want to learn a piece, I know that I do much better in far less time if I learn it BEFORE ever approaching the piano.

    There is a famous study begun at U of Chicago where volunteers were split into 3 groups: Those who practiced making hoops every day, those who only visualized but never actually tried, and those who neither visualized or tried. Day one, all were tested on their ability to make the shot. At the end of 30 days, they were retested. Those who visualized improved as much as those who practiced (and some studies show more improvement).

    A Vietnam POW who loved golf visualized playing every day - the whole 18 holes. At the end of the war, his game had improved, even though he had lost 80 lbs and was not in good health by the end of confinement.

    This technique works for many other things. Its the technique that all deliberate manifestors use. Perhaps not what you were looking for, but if you use it, you will be amazed. After proving to yourself that it works, try using it to find a place to practice.
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      Oct 17 2012: This is a very interesting post, and it details something I have done subconsciously ever since I began playing drums. I do believe in its power and I think this is the one reason that I have been able to continue moving forward on my instrument even without a proper practise space. Of course it is not the real thing, but it does work. Anyone else who finds this thread of interest should definitely try this method if they haven't done so already.
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        Gail .

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        Oct 17 2012: OK, so during your visualization practice, include your surroundings in the visualization, and add the joy that you feel at finally having the perfect solution. Feel it in the NOW - not in the future. It must seem real right now. Do this every day for about 20 minutes, or longer if it brings you joy. Then let it go and don't worry about it. Don't try to figure out how it will happen. Let us know when you have found the perfect solution and what that solution turned out to be.
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          Oct 17 2012: Thanks for your positivity friend, I'll be sure to check in and let you know what transpires.
  • Oct 17 2012: Danny you are reallygood guy. Look at what is yor accomplishments are!!! From a point of a person who lives in a city, i think somewhat I understand your situation. But I would recomend three things to do, if you do not do it it is your choice, but if you follow it God bless you.
    1) Go out to te nearest park, find a right place and drum as much as you want.
    2) Go near houses where tey have too much sound proof glass and drum
    3) give free concerts in hospitals, schools and for homeless. i believe you will be the source of inspiration for young and old!!!
    best wishes,
    Andrey Kurchatoff
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      Oct 17 2012: Thank you Andrey. Your first two points I believe I have touched on below with other kind contributors but your third is something to think about. I have done demonstrations in schools many times. Hospitals I am unsure would appreciate the extreme noise level. As for the homeless, maybe that is something to look into but of course these are concerts, which is very different to finding a 'spiritual home' where I can practise and develop my skills.

      I really am grateful for all the feedback here, even if I have already explored the possibilities of most of the suggestions offered. It is encouraging to see that people don't just dismiss my problem as selfish!
  • Oct 17 2012: Go somewhere where you can drum.
    And drum.
    Keep on drumming.
    No matter what.
    If you're any good by now, while you drum, you are probably capable of thinking of other things while you drum.
    Thus, this sort of state or condition is or becomes, a state of meditation or meditating.
    While you are perfecting and enlarging your technique, answers to what else you can or need to do (like $$ for survival), will come to you. Meditation isn't what you do. It is something that happens. Just like a new beat runs through while you drum, gets your attention (hey! I liked that!!), and you follow it for a while and develop it.

    Drumming is the first thing you have to solve and you can only solve it by drumming. Keep it simple. Example:
    There are two walls. Both clear and white. On the left, a thought, your thought. Drum!
    On the right wall more thoughts: How are you gonna survive? What are you gonna do? What if this never works? You have to know all the answers before you take such a step!! You need this amount of money! Where is it gonna come from? And on, and on, and on, and on, and on, until they are all written over one another so that it is almost impossible to clearly see them or read them and make any sense.
    You look at the left wall. Very clearly it says, "drum!"
    The answers will come!

    I don't know what you believe in but I firmly believe most people don't really know what they believe in. Worse, most don't really trust what they believe in.

    There is always that moment or place of decision to trust or not trust. Go for it or not.
    Where I live there is guy who drums on empty buckets that he finds and collects. He cannot afford drums, yet he is good and getting better. If I can, I will buy him some drums.

    You never know where the money is gonna come from, how it will look, when it will arrive but since you don't have it, right?? then it has to come from someone, somewhere, or somehow else. That's the truth of it. Do you believe in good?

    Don't be beat up. Be up beat!
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      Oct 17 2012: Very inspiring words! I like what you're saying here and it makes a lot of sense... But is kind of romantic when applied long-term. I've done all this- I've hired the studio in town for a week and just not thought about where the money is going to come from. What did I have at the end of the week? No money! Perhaps it sounds to someone like you that I am putting up my own barriers but believe me, they are not my own and I have looked for ways through, over, under and around and that has led me here, to seek the opinions of others. Your input is greatly appreciated.

      My grandmother allowed me to practise in her garage at one point. She lived on a main road and the garage was detached. I played only between the hours of 10am and 5pm. Only a week into my use of this space environmental health showed up and threatened to put a noise abatement order on my grandmother's property with a £5,000 fine if I continued. The complaint came to them from a neighbour 15 doors down the road.

      Believe me, I do what I can. I use the digital drums in my teaching space, I spend countless hours on my practise pad and of course this helps me improve. I am good at what I do, certainly good enough to make a living, but 'making a living' was not my childhood dream. 'Being the best drummer in the world' was my childhood dream and already I'm seven-and-a-half years behind on the necessary practise!
      • Oct 18 2012: Hi Danny.
        Sadly I have to admit or agree that we/you/I put up our own barriers.
        I can admit that now to myself. Not saying you are doing that but we all have what are known or called "deep-seated convictions". Beliefs based on whatever, and held so deeply inside ourselves that they are deep-seated and have become (whether we like it or not), the caissons of our belief foundation.

        They are convictions and in the word conviction is the word "convict", thus we are prisoners to our own beliefs. Happens to many. The most difficult aspect of them is being able to find, see and admit them to our own self.
        That really takes a lot of honesty and digging to get to the truth. Only each person can do this for themselves if they decide to.
        When I mentioned that I don't know what you believe in (and I'm not referring or hinting at anything at all), that belief system can make a way where there is no way.

        good luck
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    Oct 17 2012: Completely may sound crazy thoughts....

    Can you go to countryside where lot of open spaces, or to forest or to hilly area or beach side for daylong whenever possible and do your prctice as long as possible....

    Don't know how costly it will be as might need to travel.....also don't know whether you need power connectivity or not......most important I am completely naive in your area, so my thoughts might sound to be thoughtless....
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      Oct 17 2012: Hi Salim,

      Thanks for replying, not thoughtless at all. I tried this once- I went to the beach on a clear day, drove my car down and set up my drums. Within 30 minutes it had clouded over and started to rain! This was quite devastating to my equipment... There was a lot of towelling down when I got home. Now of course it doesn't rain every day, but the weather here in the UK is somewhat unpredictable. This method also requires a full day of free time (which is rare for many self-employed people) and as you mention, lacks any power connectivity. A short-term solution for a day of practise here and there, but not a long-term fix.
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    Oct 17 2012: When you need space for a use that effectively excludes other users, you may need at the very least to barter some sort of service for the space. If you cannot pay for rehearsal space, can you trade something of equivalent value to the fee someone else would pay for use of the space?
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      Oct 17 2012: Hi Fritzie,

      Thanks for your suggestion. I've tried this too. I've offered free lessons, free performances, time looking after the rehearsal studios but sadly, for the amount of hours I need, there is little I could do besides give up all my work and become someone's PA! There has never been an abundance of charity coming my way on this matter and to be honest, I don't feel entitled to any- after all, I am pursuing a creative ideal, not trying to forge world peace. Nonetheless, this doesn't stop me trying to find a solution every day.