If you are walking into an unkonwn situation be it a drum circle, drum jam, party or a dance class here are some general guidelines of etiquette to follow. They may seem pretty simple and you may or may not agree with them. But if you follow them you will have a much more harmonius experience then if you don’t, and you will also make it a lot easier on other drummers or players as well. Check these out and see if things work better when you follow them.
1. ASK TO PLAY. depending on the situation it is a great idea to ask if you can play before pulling out your drum. Don’t assume just because you are enthusiastic to play or you have a drum that you now have the right to play in any situation. If you ask first most people will say yes, or explain why it is not appropriate for you to play. They will appreciate that you asked and respect you for it.
2. RESPECT OTHERS INSTRUMENTS. Ask permission to play someone else’s drum, to hit it or to touch it. This is very important and often overlooked. Always ask first! It is tempting to grab someone else’s drum especially when it sounds good or you get excited, but it is impolite and you should not do it.
3. LISTEN. Listen first before jumping into a rhythm. Do not sit down and start soling first thing. Listen to the drumming or music first. By listening to what is going on you can better enter the situation. Try to play a part or rhythm. Be humble and play the most basic part. When you are not soloing there is no reason to play a busy part with a lot of movement.
4. SOLO. Please do not solo at the same time as someone else. It only makes for a chaotic mess. Many beginners hear someone else soloing and get excited and want to express themselves at the same moment. Unfortunately music and drumming do not work well that way. Wait for your turn to solo and do not hog the limelight. When you are soloing and you run out of ideas or get tired , stop. Let some one fresh come in. Jump off the boat (in this case your drum) and do not sink with the ship.
5.COMMUNICATE. Ask someone if you have questions such as “what is my part in this rhythm”? If you are unsure, ask!
6. START/STOP. Pay attention to breaks (calls to enter, exit or change the rhythm) and what is going on in the music. Keep your attention focused on the people and the music in front of you rather then looking off into the wilderness. I strongly suggest not closing your eyes when you are playing with others and maintaining eye contact whenever possible (and comfortable).
7. YOU BREAK IT. If you are playing someone else’s instrument and the skin pops you buy the new skin. If the stick breaks you buy the new stick. So bring or play your own gear or check out the gear before you play it if you are sitting in on someone else’s drums or percussion.
8. VOLUME. You do not have to play as loud as you can every time you sit down to play. Work on seeing how low in volume you can play and still be heard. It will save your hands, your ears and others ears as well. Try to establish dynamics (loud/soft) if you have the opportunity. Make sure you can also hear people on both sides of you. If you can not hear them lower your volume. The chances are you are playing too loud.
9. HUMILITY. Be humble and play the most basic part(s). Support the other drummers. Let go of your ego. Be a team player. Your turn will come to express yourself as well. In the meantime, one player can make all the difference in terms of holding a rhythm or even an event together. Be that one person!
10. ACKNOWLEDGE. There is more then one player playing besides you. If you are in a group, connect and acknowledge the other players before, after and during the session. Thank other players. If someone played something you liked, tell them so. It is OK to pat someone on the back, to give encouragement and acknowledgement. This is not a competitive sport! There is too much competition these days and drumming should be about community spirit, sharing and joy. Remember it is called, “playing”!