Monday, May 2, 2016

Drums and drums

Just over two years ago I posted about learning to play drums. I'd wanted to learn since I was in my early 20s but never knew how to start. I played French horn in the school band, not exactly the kind of background most drummers have.

So I put it off and put it off, and finally decided it was time. I bought a cheap drum kit online, managed to sort of put it together, and started teaching myself how to play. I had a couple of used "learn drums!" books and the internet.

So how's it going now that two years have passed?

At first it went great. I had fun making noise and learning how to play really simple grooves. I worked hard to coordinate both arms and both legs together. I felt like I was starting to get it.

Then that first rush of excitement cooled. I started to wonder if I was learning bad habits by teaching myself out of books. I didn't feel like I was progressing very fast after those first few weeks. I knew I needed to concentrate on the rudiments but I didn't really understand how to do a lot of them. Advice online was sometimes conflicting, often confusing.

After a couple of months my practice sessions tapered off. My shiny black drum kit (in the living room, so I couldn't use the couch) got dusty. When I did practice, I ran up against the same walls again and again. I thought about taking lessons, but those are expensive and I wasn't even sure where to find a teacher.

Then I remembered I work at a college. With a music department. And employees can take a free class every semester.

So last fall I started taking lessons, one half-hour lesson every week. My teacher started me on the very basics. He showed me how to hold the sticks properly (I was mostly right, although I had indeed developed some bad habits). He taught me the rudiments I needed to practice to develop stick control. By the end of that first semester I was back to playing simple grooves on the drum kit, only this time I was making progress every single week. That's not to say it's easy--I'm no born drummer; I have to work hard to improve--but I enjoy it.

I just finished my second semester of lessons. I'm getting better and better. A few friends, all of us terrible but enthusiastic musicians, have started a band called Rocket Pony and one day we might actually manage to get together to actually play. I don't have lessons over the summer, although hopefully I'll be able to continue in the fall, but I practice every single day. And I've traded my crappy cheap drum kit for a used Ludwig Accent kit with Sabian cymbals. I love it like crazy. It's purple.