No experience required
As I've been steadily increasing my number of students, one main hesitation that consistently comes up time after time is "I have no experience", so I dedicate this post for all who may have had that same thought, which I suspect is a large amount of you. Thankfully, this is actually a welcome comment for me because it opens the door for my exact skills, which is teaching!
Finding a drum teacher and then following through with lessons can seem daunting at first, I totally get it. A lot of the experience whittles down to the individual teacher you choose, if it's not a good match to start with, it may be difficult to make progress or more important to HAVE FUN. Let me repeat...HAVE FUN. Honestly it might take a little effort to find the right teacher for you, so I encourage everyone to try out at least a couple, sometimes a simple personality trait can make a world of difference. I've noticed most private teachers (myself included) offer a free initial lesson, so take full advantage of that.
Speaking for myself, one of the very first questions I ask every new student (and maybe most critical) is, "what's you're preferred method of learning"? This is a huge spectrum amongst the music world, some folks require a visual reference, while others need audio cues, and then all the combinations of the two. Personally I'm a much stronger ear player, meaning I can listen to a rhythm, dissect it in mind, and then translate it onto the kit. I basically reverse engineer the beat. But there's also tons of advantages to reading music, it can offer distinct clarity when the ears just aren't up to snuff. A common example would be deep diving into a tricky bass drum pattern, you can visually see which hits match and which are on their own, it can make for huge breakthroughs.
Ok, so why write this blog post? Two main points I wanted to get across.
1. (benefits to learning something new) Learning something new almost inherently includes a lack of experience by definition, so just go ahead and throw that hurdle out the door. No experience required.
Anyone will tell you there's overwhelming benefits to learning a new skill. Working a new part of the brain can open up brand new approaches to thinking and problem solving. The vast majority of my students have regular jobs, families, responsibilities, etc. They're not pursuing a new career as a starving musician, but they ARE pursuing something different and new from their regular life. This leads to the second most common question I ask new students, which is "what motivated you to contact me?" No two people are the same, so no responses are ever the same, but what ties them all together is a combination of curiosity with drive.
Music is such a ubiquitous part of culture that gets un-proportionately mystified, there are no rock star courses at universities. However, once you take away the beer soaked vail of the industry, it becomes clear that the first step with everyone in it started with a curiosity to learn an instrument mixed with a drive to do something with that new talent (and again, this doesn't have to include any lofty goals of making a career out of it). Many very successful people across all fields are also incredibly prolific on an instrument, think about Steve Martin and the banjo. I always thought of him as just a wild and crazy guy, until I got older, when a friend wised me up on how talented of a musician he is...how cool is that!
2. (making the plunge) Making that very first step is a common mental road block for potential students to maneuver around, but believe me, it quickly becomes something you'll briefly see in the rear view mirror and then gone forever. If you've already check-marked the curiosity box in your mind, then lets talk about the drive part.
Wouldn't it be so amazing to play the drums to some of your favorite songs for your close friends or significant other? Or beyond that, jam with musician friends, perhaps even perform. It's up to you and you're individual drive, but the potential is endless.
Music is a lifelong skill that never goes away. My go to analogy is it's like riding a bike. Think about when you were a young kid and how seemingly impossible it looked to balance on two wheels, completely defying all the laws of physics in a kid's mind. But sure enough it happened, with curiosity and drive, and what a great accomplishment. You walked away with a lifelong skill to enjoy by yourself and with friends. Of course, it doesn't mean you're gonna go compete in BMX competitions or the Tour de France, but look at how many people bike every day and get so much reward out of it, physically and mentally. Focus on those potential amazing benefits and use that as a driving force.
Finally, if nothing I've mentioned above gets you pumped, let me just say drums are so freaking fun to play and maybe you do wanna be a rock star. I think of a certain current student I have, who has been taking lessons from me for about a year and a half. He was already on a path to becoming an immediate player when I first met him, so I simply helped steer him toward that goal with fresh ideas, new approaches, and practical exercises. However, just recently I noticed a big change in his curiosity and drive. He purchased a brand new kit and cymbals, cleaned up and sound treated his drum room, and started jamming with other random musicians, even writing original songs. Btw, he's a full time anesthesiologist with a family, so free time is a luxury. But it makes you think, there must be some very rewarding benefits from playing for him. It's obvious to me as a lifelong drummer, but even more fullfilling as a teacher to witness that evolution.
- closing thought -
Sometimes I wake up the morning after playing a really fun sold out show and just think, "what just happened" and "how did I get here", as David Byrne so popularly pondered. It's never a single step, could be 100, 1000, million, or you're still working on it. I'm always searching for the next big opportunity in my career, and what gets me motivated every day is my curiosity with my personal drive. I encourage you to take that first step, it might open up brand new doors you never thought existed.