My entire life has been a constant string of comparing myself to people I aspire to be. When I played alto saxophone in middle school through college, there was always someone better than me. When I tried SO hard to catch up to these people, I became depressed and lost my passion for music.
My friend Justin was an amazing saxophone player. He was one of those people who seemed naturally talented. He almost never practiced, according to him, but could always play anything put in front of him. I was so jealous. We were in the same grade...yet he appeared to be MILES above my own talent. I’m the kind of person who HAS to practice. I don’t think I’m naturally gifted at music. In fact, I feel like I am barely a mediocre musician. So, to see my friend excel in an area I strived so hard to get to made me feel inferior. I compared myself to him ALL. THE. TIME.
My senior year of high school, I had two off periods where I dedicated myself to learning and practicing as much as possible. During band class, we had a “friendly” mock Region Band tryout. I was pitted against Justin. I was so nervous, I was going to be compared to him in front of EVERYONE. We played our designated etudes and the band director and class decided on a “winner”. To my surprise, I was chosen as the victor! All my hard work had paid off. I felt SO proud of myself. However, this “loss” pushed Justin to practice more than he had before, since he was NEVER second to me. His small amount of practice far exceeded my whole year and he was “the best” again. I was left comparing myself to this “prodigy” who could do ANYTHING easier than I ever could.
Many years later, I transferred my musical focus to the drums. I’ve always had an affinity for them and wished I learned them instead of saxophone back in school, to be honest. Now, they’re my sole focus as an instrument and I try to practice every day, though that is very difficult with three kids…Haha. I still compare myself to other drummers frequently. The ones I find myself gravitating towards recently are Jerrin Castillo from Renatus, Joey Gonzalez from Phil Anselmo’s projects, and Cam Green from We are Band Nerds. All three are insanely talented. I compared myself to Cam a lot, especially since I was in Band Nerds after he left. I was more of a consolation prize after him, but now they have him back and I’m solely focused on Bad Blood. By comparing myself to these drummers, I focused on their preferred genres and seemed to immerse myself in it. Desperately trying to gain some skill they possessed already. It never felt right though. I lost more of “me” than I gained of them.
Mike Johnston has a great video that really helped me understand that comparing myself to other musicians can be toxic to my personal growth. Both as a musician and a person.
To paraphrase: We are all on the same “timeline” starting at beginner and “ending” at Buddy Rich. No one is “better” than anyone else. We are simply at different stages of the timeline. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get somewhere. All that matters is that you’re making progress that YOU can be proud of.
Now I just enjoy these amazing musicians all around me and want to learn from them to help me improve myself/personal style. Not learn to be like them specifically. Comparing myself to others has only ever torn me down and never made me feel good.
I’ve never been good, by comparison. However, for what I like to play and how I like to write drum parts, I’m happy with my current spot on the timeline. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me from striving to be even better! There’s always room for improvement. Haha