• Percussion IQ

The Inner Game: The Quieting of Self One

Updated: Oct 25, 2018

It’s the constant thinking of Self One, the teller, that often gets us in trouble as drummers.  It’s what causes breaks, missed step-offs and a myriad of other performance hiccups. Whether it’s thinking about something in the music or worrying about who’s watching us in the lot, the goal is to silence this voice in your head.  Only when this voice is silenced can self two take over and peak performance can be achieved.


You’ve often heard of athletes being “in the zone” or “playing out of their mind”. A basketball player isn’t thinking about every technical aspect of a free throw as he attempts one.  He isn’t placing judgement on the outcome of each shot. He silences criticism and instruction from Self one and lets his natural, subconscious do the work.


You’ve most likely had instructors over the years talk about the “1,000 yard stare” or “laser beam focus”.  What they’re trying to accomplish is to silence that voice in your head and let your natural ability take over.  While this technique is effective to a certain extent, without knowing the reason behind it you might still find your thoughts wandering off only to be surprised when you miss a sticks-out.  When you watch a great drumline it doesn’t look like they’re thinking. They are doing. Their actions look effortless and they seem to be performing on another level. Contrast that with a middle school drumline you might have seen at a drumline show. You can see what they’re thinking on their faces and often times hear them actively counting rests to ensure everyone is on the same page. This is a prime example of Self one in drumming.  


The ability to quiet the “teller” in your mind is a skill that must be developed.  This will not happen overnight and it will require patience. There will be certain situations where you find it easy to silence this voice of judgement.  If you’re practicing in your room you’ll most likely find it easy to find that state of relaxed concentration and silence the voice in your head. If you’re in the lot at WGI finals, you’ll most likely find it far more difficult to do this.  The only way to practice silencing that voice in the most chaotic situations is to gain experience doing so. You must unlearn that constant mental instruction you’re giving yourself and learn to achieve spontaneous, focused play.


If you’d like to learn more about this topic and take a deeper dive, we recommend reading chapter 3 of The Inner Game of Tennis.  The sooner you do this in your drumming career, the more it will help! You can order a used copy here - Amazon.com - Inner Game of Tennis


Stay tuned for the rest of our series on the Inner Game of Tennis!


Author: John McClean

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