Courtney Petersen is the drummer for the all-woman/genderqueer band Unstraight.
Women are underrepresented in the percussion world. Our weekly series, Women Crush Wednesday (#WCW), aims to recognize, celebrate, and inspire female percussionists of all stripes. Each Wednesday we’ll feature a profile of a drummer, who will share tips, advice, and videos.
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What is your city, country, and age?
I am 23 years old, from Boston, Massachusetts.
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
I currently use a 5-piece Yamaha stage custom advantage nouveau. For cymbals, I use Paiste’s PST 7 series for my hi-hat, crashes, and ride cymbal. But I’ve just recently added a Paiste alpha series swiss crash to the mix. I use a mixture of Yamaha hardware and Gibraltar hardware.
What bands do you perform with, if any?
The current band I play in is the amazing all-women/genderqueer alternative rock group called Unstraight.
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
When I was really little, I would often take all the pots and pans out of the cupboard and play with them until my parents decided it would better for their cookware if I had an actual drum set. I started taking lessons around age eight and did marching band throughout high school, which introduced me to my first rock band, and the rest just followed from there.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
My favorite drummer is Mercedes Lander of the band Kittie. She is an incredibly solid drummer and holds her own in a male-dominated genre of music. Also, playing along to her songs has shaped me into a very steady and consistent drummer because her timing is so on point.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
I usually practice to a click track or to songs. I don’t normally play to nothing. I warm up with some rudiments on the practice pad, then I run through my band’s set list, and then I put on whatever tunes I feel like jamming to and play along to the recordings.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you would like to share with Drum readers?
Two things I’ve learned the hard way in my drumming history is the importance of stretching and setting up your drums ergonomically. Stretching helps avoid injury and helps you warm-up. It’s super important to have the drums set up to work for you and not just in a way that looks cool. They need to function and not have you feeling uncomfortable, because that can lead to injury. For example, I had to switch to a 20-inch kick drum to lower the toms to a height that was easier on my back, something I wish I had done a lot sooner.
What’s something you believe about drumming or music that other people think is crazy?
That music is this universal language that unites us as people.
As artists, the goal post for “success” is always moving. There’s not one “I made it!” point. How do you think about and define success?
No matter how small the goals you set, as long as you achieve them, that can be defined as success. Like today I told myself I would start the next page in my polyrhythm book and I did. It’s all about what you want to achieve as an individual. Others cannot define it for you.
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
“Life is too short to take too seriously.”
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
For me music making is always a collaborative effort; I have to bounce ideas off another person in order to create something. As a drummer, I find making songs only from the drums to be difficult, but if another person and I play together that’s when the magic happens.
How important is failure in making music/performing?
I think failure makes you work harder and if you don’t learn from it, you don’t grow as a musician.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
I would tell them that their gender shouldn’t be a factor in being a drummer — if you want to be a drummer, do it. You become a good drummer by working hard and following your dreams.
If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?
Most schools and teachers of drum lessons are removing rudimentary exercises from their training plans. However, I still think they are the most important thing that I took away from my training.
Where else to find Courtney
Mailing List: eepurl.com/VAe3z