The joy of teaching drums (or not)


Teaching drums can be a thankless task. People tell you they have ‘always wanted to play the drums’, you agree to teach them, they turn up at your door with the ‘standard’ 5A sticks and are ‘ready to rock’.

Unless they are talking about sitting in a rocking chair for an hour, expect pain. The first hurdle is trying to convince them that learning to read music is actually a good thing. You tell them that to communicate properly, they have to look at the dots. At this point they look at you like you’ve just driven small car into their front room.

‘No, no, no, I don’t want to do all that. Just show me what to do and I’ll do it.’

The fact is, nobody EVER does it.

Then after about half an hour of flailing about and shortening my life by about five minutes, they generally accept that reading music is the only way to go and that it’ll be a lot easier than me shouting ‘Boom Cha’ at them.

Then there’s the whole ‘musicality’ thing. After about a few weeks they’ve learned a few basic rhythms, a couple of fills and at this point you’re staring down the barrel of a musical loose cannon.

It’s horrible.

The pattern goes like this: they bring U2 CD with them and persuade me to listen to their new-found drumming prowess. They crash around, filling the carefully crafted spaces with fills that sound like a drunken man falling down the stairs, and once they’ve finished they smile at me. I smile back because, y’know, God loves them.

It takes a year for the sentence ‘less is more’ to actually sink in.

All this makes me sound like a grumpy old man and very occasionally I’ll willingly accept that charge. However, I have learned to enjoy this process and appreciate the funny side – I know God loves watching people develop their skills and they almost always get better. If they don’t, well…

It’s a metaphor for our lives I suppose. Most of us have to learn the hard way: we waste a lot of time crashing around, making a lot of noise and going our own way before we actually start to listen what God is really saying. Not sure that he’s likely to say ‘less is more’, though.

This article first appeared on the Musicademy blog.