Adapt Or Die!

"Just stick to it."

“Just stick to it.”

I can still remember my first week in Nashville over 20 years ago. The music community is very friendly here… at least to me. Drummers seem to be a tribe that usual hang together pretty well. A local hero of mine, Mark Hammond, allowed me to go out on a session with him. He was really rockin’ the drums and leading a full band & orchestra through it’s paces. Mark allowed me to hang out; ask questions; and was very open about what a drummer is expected to do in this town… and in the world of pro-session drumming in general. We talked gear; studios; producers; etc. BUT one thing really stuck with me that day…

In the drum booth of that studio was a wall for the drummers to leave comments; tack on notes; draw pictures; write graffiti… just a cool community bulletin board. There, in big red letters was the phrase – “ADAPT OR DIE.” — I’ve never forgotten that. Anytime I feel tired of learning something new, or being open to ideas that are different than mine, those big red letters pop into my head. “ADAPT OR DIE.”  If you want to keep working you have to serve the producer, artist, music, and so on. Being a musical prima donna will not do well in any working situation… and really this attitude will not work well in any job… or any life situation for that matter.

I’m not saying that I always do this perfectly. But I have attempted to keep an open mind in my musical & life journey. Always learning, always being open to new ideas – or ways of doing things. For instance on a recent session for Paul Baloche’s new Christmas project, he mentioned he wanted an old Ringo-vibe. So I put towels on the drums & tuned differently, and even used tape on my cymbals to get an “old school” sort of sound.

Towels on the drums - goin' old school.

Towels on drums / tape on cymbals. Thuddy & dry.!

On most of the other songs I let the drums ring openly; adjusted tuning according to the key of songs; and used several different snare drums. I never look at the drums as having only one sound. They are tools to be used to serve the music. So I’m always listening to how the drums work with everything else that’s going on around me.

Ultimately, I’ll make sure the artist &/or producer is happy with the result. That, in the end is all that matters. Some say that you have to be “true to yourself.” I believe that you find your true self in serving people and discovering what makes everything work together. It is really a joy to see all of the pieces come together and everyone is happy. Yes, sometimes it can be very challenging; yes, sometimes you have to let go of what you thought was the most amazing idea… but, in the end, that won’t matter. To have longevity in your work you have to learn to adapt… Just “stick to it,” stay humble, and keep embracing the challenges. “Adapt or Die.”

Drums wide open / chain on cymbal for sizzle*

Drums wide open / chain on cymbal for sizzle*

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About Carl

Carl has been a professional drummer & percussionist for over 30 years. He has played on over 80 Integrity Music projects; Maranatha Praise Band recordings 7 thru 10, & numerous other Christian, Pop, Country, Jazz, & Commercial projects.


  1. Well said, Carl. You model this wonderfully. Many times I have been playing with a team somewhere and just wish that you were the one on drums, at other times I have had the blessing of playing with you and, because of your heart and your skill and sensitivity, I just breathe a sigh of gratitude and relief. Always a joy to play with you and hear you. Thanks friend- excited about your new book!

    • LOL.. yea David, I know what ya mean. Only if every musician would live by this code. 🙂 We can only dream. Peace, Carl

  2. Ralph Pace Jr says

    Great word Carl…!!! Sure is true my brother & friend!

  3. Great post Carl! very very true.

  4. John Odom says

    Carl I totally agree with you. As drummers we all have our own ways of playing and a particular sound in our head. But our role is to give the worship or band leader the sound and feel they want. I always teach my students that we are to enhance the music. Each part of the band or worship team is a part that makes up the whole. As drummers we are there to keep a good solid groove and to do everything we can the make the music the best it can be.

    Looking forward to getting the new book. Thank-you for your time and dedication in putting this together for us fellow drummers.



    • Right on John, Thanks so much for your perspective & thumbs up for the book. I pray it encourages everyone who reads it. Blessings, Carl

  5. As a drummer myself I just want to say thanks for changing the way I play as its not so much for performance but for God. Don’t get me wrong I still want to play my best but for Him that little adjustment has done wonders .
    Also we have a great worship leader and he tells us what he wants in a song the feel for the drums and the rest of the team our communication is great and we all love one another on our team .we are family I feel very blessed to be part of it.thank you again .look forward to reading your new book .

    • Hi John, I’m so blessed by your note. Yes, we do want to grow in our skill to honor the Lord… but to play as a team/ a family… and to focus on God when you & the whole team plays changes everything about how music affects people as they join in with you, and how you react to each other as a band. Blessings as you continue to fall more in love with Jesus, and enjoy His presence. Peace, Carl

  6. Mark Hammond is my drumming hero! Thanks for the inside story. I’ll read anything about Mark. I was fortunate to meet him a few times. So humble and kind. His drumming is off the charts amazing, to this day. I found your page from a Google search for him. I’ll check out your page now! 🙂

    • Thanks so much Ben. Yep, Mark is a drum hero for sure. Hope I get to see him again sometime. It’s been a while. Hope you enjoy the web site. Peace, Carl

  7. Mel Whiteside says

    Hi Carl – I just read your blog and comment on Mark Hammond. Mark is not only an incredible drummer, but, as already stated, humble and a remarkably kind gentlemen. I have alway admired him as a drummer (since I was 18 (now 50!), but admired him even more as a Christian brother and man. Back in 1985, I was a restless drummer and college freshmen who (like many of you) wanted to desperately play for the Lord, tour and record. I was blessed to have the tremendous opportunity to tour with Peter and Nicolai Pankratz (The Russians – later Ruscha). One day we had the opportunity to sit in on a studio session and Mark was playing the drums. Following the session, he was so generous and kind to talk to me about family, drums and studio recording. I also had the opportunity to eat lunch with Mark, Mike Brignardello, Jon Goin – to this day, some of the most humble musicians I have ever met . As a 19 year old kid, I was in awe and floating on cloud nine!

    Keep the faith, keep up the great drumming and love your family well.

    God bless,


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