Zoro’s 7 Secrets To Drumming Success


Zoro's technique doesn't have to be your technique.

Every player, no matter what style of music he or she is playing, is faced with technical hurdles. "It doesn't mean you have to be a chopsmeister," he adds. "Sometimes because you're just playing a few notes, people will think, "Well, he's not using a lot of technique," and that's not true. Any good drummer when they make it look effortless it's because they put a lot of time into it and there's technical requirements of every instrument to make it have fluidity and sound smooth. "One of the most enjoyable parts of The Big Gig is in the "Paying Dues" section describing bar mitzvahs, corporate events, and other gigs from hell. "That's the labor-intensive part where you develop the craft," he says. "And the patience, the endurance." We all want to take the shortest path to the top, and The Big Gig's objective is to expedite that journey. At the same time, the author suggests that vaulting to fame is a mixed blessing. "There's something you learn in the process of the grind," he says. "There's a lot of musicians today that have sort of bypassed that thing, and so outside of playing whatever the music they're playing or the artist they're playing for, they don't have a wide range of colors in their easel. They've got a lot of drumming ability, but they've got no music ability because they haven't played in enough working bands to be familiar with the standards of every genre."

2. Live To Give

The drummer who would become Zoro grew up underprivileged in Southern California. There was never any money for lessons or drum set equipment. He scrapped and saved until he got a used kit, shedded his tail off, and got a scholarship to Berklee by the time he was 20. After two semesters, he returned to Los Angeles for the summer break only to stumble onto his dream gig backing Earth, Wind & Fire's Phillip Bailey. By the time fall semester rolled around, the idea of a diploma lost its luster. Zoro isn't one to half step, but he's never had regrets about bailing on school. "How can you have any regrets if everything panned out the way you wanted it to?" he says. "I'm not bagging on people who get their degrees; it's just a path that didn't include me. It was one of those things where the reason I went to music school is to get a career in music and my career started before school was done."

You might wonder why a successful drummer is eager to jump into a whole new field. Why give away your hard-earned wisdom to someone who might not appreciate it, or worse, apply it better than you? As a teen, Zoro was a big reader and used to go through every book that could help him navigate the industry. "For years and years I was looking for something that could teach me How do you do this?," he explains. "I never could find what I was looking for, so I had to be the guy who ended up writing it."

After attending the energizing give-and-takes of his clinics, where students walk out feeling like they can crush anything, the reasons for Z's latest venture become clearer. "I'm motivational by nature," he says. "So these things just emanate out of me and it's always been like that. So [writing the book] wasn't like, 'let me do this so I can have a whole new clinic.' I was teaching Big Gig strategies in little pamphlets and handouts at colleges and universities where I would speak or play or perform. So it was just an extension of what was already happening."

But The Big Gig is the product of something deeper than taking the message to a broader platform. For Zoro, it's a duty. As a person of faith, neglecting to share all that has benefited him in his life would be morally wrong. But Zoro isnít proselytizing and it's not necessary to read the book in religious terms (the hundreds of inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout come from sports figures, political leaders, scientists, etc.). If anything, The Big Gig is a Zorofied grab bag of New Age mantras and old-fashioned business sense. "I was compelled to share these stories to inspire others because in doing that it wasn't just a journey of self. If it's a journey of self, it's an unfulfilling journey. But to serve other people, that's where your purpose comes from and joy comes in having a purpose."

3. Spark Creative Fire (With Dividends)

All the artistic brilliance in the world won't mean squat if you can't make a living from it. "That requires the merging of art and commerce," he says. Harnessing social media, following up on contacts every three to four months, marketing, publicity, and booking your own travel, are taken for granted. It all comes down to self-management.

Hustling night and day as they do, sidemen don't usually have managers. The ones who do, Zoro says, are going to have amateurs who do more harm than good. Managers usually go for headliners where they can make real money. Given the sideman's place on the food chain (and pay grade), the reasons for doing it all yourself is obvious: No one else will. "I've found that nobody else is more interested in my success than me," Zoro laughs. "As much as I'd like somebody to care as much, nobody cares as much about us but us."

As for the idea that self-promotion is crass? Zoro has three words for you: Get over it. One thing the Z has noticed with a lot of musicians is a false sense of pride causing musicians to think that it's uncool to promote yourself because, after all, you're an artist. "I think that's a bunch of jive," he says. "You wouldn't see people Ford going, 'Oh, gosh, guys, I don't think we should run that ad because it looks like we are promoting our trucks.' This is a business exactly as much as theirs is, and we have the need to make a living just as much as the next guy."

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