Billy Cobham: my top 5 tips for maximising your playing

Fusion legend offers cosmic advice

Billy Cobham
"It all comes from patience and application."

Billy Cobham is a drumming legend, a man who's been ripping up the fusion rulebook as fast as he's written it, for over 40 years. Here he shares some tips on how to be all that you can be behind the kit. One thing's for sure - if Billy talks, you listen.

1: Posture

"Think about your posture and learn how to adjust your drums with authority and respect. Don't just sit down at the drumset improperly; if you don't sit comfortably at the drums, the drums will know.

"If you're not comfortable, the people listening to you won't be comfortable either, because everything is off. An audience can feel that something is wrong.

"They know when something isn't happening, even if it's something they can't identify like, 'Oh, he's sitting wrong.'"

2: Be in control

"Music is a very mystical platform, and if you're not in control of what you have to say on that level, it comes right across to everybody – and not always in the way you hope it will.

"Sit at the drums with respect and present your ideas, and from there you're off."

Don't do it privately. The best place to work it out is on stage.

3: Focus on weakness

"People only concentrate on their strengths. With drums, 99 percent of the time it's, 'Look at what I can do. Watch me.'

"You play all the stuff you've got down, but you don't want to show them the things you're working on. And those are the things you'll keep on neglecting.

"Or you might think, 'OK, I know what I need to fix. I'll woodshed.' No – don't do it privately. The best place to work it out is on stage.

"Get in front of people and present that idea you're trying to put across, even if you don't have it yet. It might sound like a mistake, but so what? Get past it."

4: Don't be afraid

"Insecurity is the enemy to musicians. But if you're not afraid to show people who you really are – the yin and the yang and everything in-between – then you're going to be a very genuine musician.

"Share yourself, your whole self. If you do, you're going to be a complete musician."

5: Multitask

"Use your feet as well as your hands. You have to start slowly.

"It's not about crawling; it's crawling on all four limbs while the brain is listening to everything. You have to figure out which hand is going to move forward in relationship to which foot – and why.

"And you have to realise how you want that to come back to you in real time. You're committing to a lifestyle. It becomes part of your soul and your family.

"But these are the things you have to do until you don't have to think about what you're doing and it all becomes totally natural. It all comes from patience and application."