DIME Denver caught up with Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Paul McCartney, Jackson Browne, The Attractions, Squeeze, Jake Bugg, Arctic Monkeys, Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers) as part of our “Top Tips From Drummers In The Know” series and asked him some important questions of how to make it as a drummer.
1. How many styles do you think I should learn?
If you’re at college learn everything they’re teaching you. The main thing when you’re young is to get in a successful band and make a name for yourself. Then, when you get older you’ll get booked for sessions and you’ll need to know all the different styles.
2. How many hours a week did you practice to be good enough to get in your first band?
If you’re a drummer you always have to figure out a way of practicing without annoying people. You might have to build yourself a booth with old mattresses. Go in the garage, rent a cheap rehearsal place, whatever you need to do in order to find somewhere you can play loud. Put together a routine that’s enjoyable. Do your exercises first for about twenty minutes, then play along with two or three albums you really like. Make a playlist of your favorite songs. This is also useful if you need a setlist for a fun band.
3. Do I need to learn to program drums as well as how to play them?
These days I play a quite few songs live with percussion loops. You should have a basic knowledge of how to put these together otherwise you or the band will have to pay someone else to make them, which might be expensive.
4. How do you earn money as a drummer?
The best way to earn money while you’re young is to be in a band that is really popular. As a drummer you’re only as good as the people you play with so hang out with the best guys and get in their band. Play music that people want to hear, music that makes people dance. Find some guys with a good sense of humor and do as many shows as possible. If you’re good and ENTERTAINING!! people will want to book you.
5. What advice would you give yourself if you went back to when you very first started as a drummer?
Really figure out how to do the fills you like and how to come out of them still in a great groove. Get the sticking right so you glide back into the feel. Fills should just roll through with the music and not cause disruption and annoy the other guys in the band. A lot of fills go wrong right at the end where they rejoin the beat. Really practice this with a click… Fill…Groove…Fill…Groove. When you start to practice it you’ll see what I mean. If you don’t do this, you’ll get in bad habits that you’ll never get rid of.
6. Who is your drum hero?
Ultimately it’s Charlie Watts. Check out live videos of big bands and watch the crowd. Nowhere else will you see people dancing so insanely happy and in such a wiggly, jiggly way as at a Rolling Stones show. Check out the snare placement. Hear how he pulls the band back all the time. He is the LAW and the crowd goes nuts. It’s sexy and it’s what it’s all about.
DIME’s 4 year drum program (Commercial Music Performance) allows students to expand their technical ability as well as learning about the music industry and how to survive in it. We have drum students in Detroit, Denver and Online who are embarking on music careers.