Sam Landa is a metal drummer based in Montreal with more than 20 years of drumming under her belt. She’s currently touring with Mexican death metal band Introtyl. She also drums for Dead Asylum and has toured around Europe and North America with Brazilian thrash band Nervosa.

Women are underrepresented in the percussion world. Our weekly series, Woman 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.Want to be featured yourself? Send an email to anna.pulley@stringletter.com telling us more about you.

What is your city, country, and age?

I recently moved from Vancouver to Montreal, Canada, and I’m 31.

What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?

Mapex Saturn V 10”x 8“ Tom, Mapex Saturn V 12”x 9“ Tom, Mapex Saturn V 14”x 14“ Floor Tom, Mapex Saturn V 20”x 16“ Bass Drum

14″ Sabian AAX Stage Hats, 17″ Sabian AAX X-Plosion Fast Crash, 8″ Sabian Hand Hammered HH splash, 8″ Sabian AAX Air Splash, 17″ Sabian AAXTreme Chinese, 19″ Sabian HHX X-Plosion Crash, 22″ Sabian HH Power Bell ride

Plus, Evans drumheads, Pearl Demon Drive double pedals, and Los Cabos 5A Intense drumsticks in red hickory.

Do you have endorsements?

I proudly endorse Mapex drums, Sabian cymbals, and Los Cabos drumsticks. I’ve been playing drums for over 20 years and I’m confident that these products rule.

What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?

I’ve been playing with my death/thrash metal band, Dead Asylum, since we formed in 2011. I also fill in as a touring session drummer.

What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?

I had already played classical piano for about eight years, so when I was choosing another instrument for grade 6 band, I pompously asked “What’s the hardest one to play?” Out of the available instruments, the teacher suggested French horn or drums. Unless I wanted to rent an expensive French horn by the month, the school already had a full drum kit and I only needed to buy a practice pad, sticks, and a lesson book. $30 later, voila: I was going to be a drummer.

To this day, I maintain that having something to hit got me through my angsty teen years.

Who is your favorite drummer and why?

I don’t have a favorite drummer because I think every player has their strengths. I admire Martin Lopez for the way he seamlessly and memorably combined Latin with metal, George Kollias for his technical skills, Emmanuelle Caplette for her insane snare work, Anup Sastry for his grooves, Matt Garstka for somehow making the impossible possible. But really, the list could go on and on.

How do you practice? Do you have a routine?

I usually start by stretching my wrists and ankles, then set the click to a slow-to-moderate tempo and play through some basic rudiments (singles, doubles, paradiddles). I’ll increase the tempo and work up to higher speeds. Depending on my goal that day, I’ll either work through some rhythms or patterns I was having trouble with before, or I’ll start playing through songs.

Sometimes I get together with a drummer friend and we’ll work through different exercises on the pads. It’s way more motivating and fun to challenge each other!

Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum readers?
  1. Learn to lead with your left. It’s one of my biggest challenges and I wish I’d focused on it sooner. But it’s a game-changer.
  2. If you have a double kick pedal, practice the same exercises on your hands and feet.
  3. If you’re working on double kick speed and coordination, practice doubles and then switch to singles. It’ll come much more naturally.
  4. If you get bored or distracted practicing rudiments and technical skills to a metronome, find a song that’s at the tempo you’re working on, and play on top of that. Just make sure you stick to the exercise.
  5. If you really love a song but it’s too fast for you to play, slow it down. You can do that with ProTools, The Amazing Slow Downer, and other apps.
What’s something you believe about drumming or music that other people think is crazy?

You can learn to play drums just by air drumming or by playing Rock Band. I’ve seen people sit down on a kit and play perfect beats and fills. “Yeah, I’ve never played drums before. I just play Rock Band.” You don’t need to have expensive gear to become a drummer.

My unpopular opinion about music is that extreme metal and rap have more in common than anyone will care to admit. Both styles have vocals that focus on rhythm rather than melody.

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?

I’d love to be able to say “success is when you feel you’re successful” — but some people land a cool, high-profile gig, and still don’t consider themselves successful. It’s a bit of a dirty, loaded word in my opinion.

What one person might consider a success, another person might think it unimportant — or even worse, a failure. The concept is completely subjective, which makes it impossible to define. Don’t get stuck on the idea of success. And don’t let imposter syndrome get in the way of your accomplishments.

Is it your dream to tour in a van around the country? Maybe that’s your success. Do you want to be featured on Ellen? Maybe that’s your success. Is your goal to practice for 30 minutes a day? You get the picture.

If you’re working hard and making steps in your playing or your career, you’re doing it and enjoying it. That’s what matters first and foremost.

Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?

The best advice I’ve ever received was from my dad, and it supports my earlier comment about imposter syndrome: “Don’t compare everything you know about yourself to someone else’s highlight reel.”

I also like to say “Expect the worst, hope for the best.” It may sound a bit pessimistic, but if you keep your expectations low or nonexistent, you’ll rarely be disappointed.

It’s why I’m generally a very happy and positive person — I’m impressed even by the most mundane of things. In terms of drumming, any tiny accomplishment or hint at progress inspires me to feel good and keep going.

When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?

When I’m writing drum parts, I decide what the feel of the song should be in each section. In our music, the snare typically dictates how fast it feels. After determining where the snare is going to fall, I add accents (usually with cymbals, because I’ve always been a cymbal fiend). Contrary to “the drummer code,” I typically follow the lead guitar. If there are quick stops or punches, I tend to highlight those with what I’m doing.

I’ve been writing for a new project, and because I don’t play guitar, I’ve turned to MIDI programs to lay down ideas. I’ll hear something in my head and write leads and melodies first — probably because of my classical piano background. I like relatively simple song structures, so I play around with the pop model of verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/chorus. It may sound like horrible video game music as a MIDI file, but it’s enough to send to the guitarist.

How important is failure in making music/performing?

Failure is extremely important. It can be one of the strongest catalysts that pushes you to get better. But failure also needs to be coupled with a certain type of coping mechanism to be useful.

Some people take failure very personally — which is to be expected — but then use it as a reason to quit. Others use failure as a motivator, a wake-up call to prove something to the world and move forward.

Sometimes failure opens up new doors. You didn’t land the gig, but it brought you new contacts who called you a few months later for something better. You messed up at a live show, but it lit that fire under you to practice like a maniac, and your skills improved so much that you were given bigger opportunities the following year.

You don’t need to fail to make music. But it can help you more than you know.

Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?

I don’t want to just repeat what everyone else says, but you’ll probably recognize most of this advice and I’m going to say it anyway because it deserves reinforcement:

  • There are more women and girls playing drums than you think. If you’re feeling alone or don’t know any female drummers in your area, go search YouTube right now.
  • Play because you want to. Don’t worry about what other people will think. No one is allowed to discourage you. No one else matters.
  • See a lot of guys playing? Play with them. Don’t see many girls playing? Be the first. Don’t be afraid to be a trailblazer. Others will see you putting yourself out there, and more will follow.
  • Can’t afford drums? Live in an apartment? Get a practice pad and sticks. Or just get sticks and play on a pillow or the arm of your couch. Nothing can stop you.
  • You’re a drummer. Period.
If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?

I won’t name-drop any specific drum method because everyone learns differently (and because I jump back and forth myself). I’d include a variety of basic resources — like a quick start guide — that I think would help any beginner build a foundation they could apply anywhere. It would be mostly video-based and teach people how to count and subdivide, how to read/write tabs, how to play 5-6 simple rudiments, 2-3 basic grooves from rock, jazz, Latin, and funk, and how to write drum parts to music. After that, they can decide what direction is best for them (for example, if they want to learn standard notation or become an expert in reggae).

Where else to find Sam

I’m touring eastern Canada with a Mexican death metal band called Introtyl in November. I’m also putting together a new melodic death metal project — keep an eye out for that in 2019. I’m also about to launch my YouTube channel.