Drum Lessons & Disruption

Im not going to start this post by saying “I’m not knocking Social Media but…” because, as we all know everything you say before the “but” is bullshit. So I’m just going to say it: In this post I am knocking Social Media.

While there are a huge number of items to complain about <cough>data and privacy concerns</cough>, the main thing that bothers me is how easily Social Media has disrupted our lives and our way of thinking in such a short amount of time. It really is amazing to me how much Social Media has taken over pretty much everything. We’re no longer really allowed to be bored anymore. The second there is a lull in our lives, we pull out our phone and start scrolling though Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter looking for the latest sound bites. There are not a whole lot of long format sites around anymore. Live Journal is still around, but no one really cares; its user base was eaten by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

People tell their “stories” in 240 characters or less. If they have more to say, they do it in a thread of 240 character posts… rather than one long piece. Medium.com, while not really Social Media, and which is little more than a platform for privileged people to complain about things, shows you, in minutes, how long it’s going to take to read an article. Why? So you can optimize your busy life I guess. How did this become a thing?

I used to joke that all my friends were becoming dyslexic avatars. Now I honestly wonder if that’s really a joke. The lock-in is pretty much complete.

I place the blame squarely at the feet of the Tech Bros over in Silicon Valley. I feel we’ve reached peak, well, everything. Everything is “ripe for disruption”. Everyone is touting the “latest innovation”. And most all of it is presented to us via Social Media which has been designed to keep us scrolling and clicking and posting so they can harvest our data and put it up for sale in order and serve us ads.

And I was pulled in just like everyone else.

Paraddidle, Paradiddle, Flam, Flam, Flam

“Anyone who has ever painted or drawn knows the experience of dropping out of the world of words and time. A state of reverie takes over; there is no sensation of the passing of hours. The voice inside our head that allows us to talk to ourselves falls silent, and there is only color, form, texture and the way things flow together.”

Roger Ebert; Review of “Basquiat”

So what does this have to do with drumming? Quite a lot actually. Ive been working on a few hobbies for some time now. I’ve taken tentative steps back into visual art. I’ve been learning how to record music 1. I’ve been working on writing songs for both Opium Winter and myself and, for the past year or so, I’d been toying with the idea of getting a cheap beginners drum kit and maybe taking lessons.

The problem was that I found myself with little time to really sit down and sink my teeth into any of my hobbies. What happened? I used to draw and paint and write songs and stories for hours on end. I used to find the time, all the time; putting aside school work and whatever responsibilities I had just so I could create. I remember the wonderful feeling of just zoning out and creating.

Now? well, not so much.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months discussing this with Mrs. Tucker. We were both amazed how any free time we had was sucked up by constantly scrolling through the Facebook news feed, even though we understood that the ridiculous algorithms were specifically designed to keep us scrolling. It was annoying, yet we keep at it. At the end of the day we had accomplished nothing of any substance. Books we were meaning to read sat unopened. My guitar sat unplayed. Sketch books full of bright white, blank pages sat untouched by pencil or pen. Stories and thoughts stayed in our heads.

I thought it was my job that ate my time and spent an unhealthy amount of time both worrying that I wasn’t doing enough at work and worrying that I did too much and that it was taking up too much of my time. Then I’d get a free minute, any free minute, I’d open Instagram and scroll scroll scroll.

I finally decided I was going to download all my photos and data from both Facebook and Instagram and delete my accounts. I needed to get away from the platforms and go back to being bored. I needed to get back to that zone as I remembered it before every free second of my life was taken up by scrolling scrolling scrolling.

As it happens, shortly before I clicked through all the “Are you really, really, REALLY sure you want to delete your account” pages, Mrs. Tucker informed me that there was a person in the neighbourhood giving away a free drum set to a “brave household”. It was nothing special; a five piece Intex kit with a broken snare and a set of cymbals that looked to have been made out of tinfoil, but it makes drum sounds when you hit it and that’s all that really matters in the end.

I took advantage and grabbed the kit. The following weekend I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts. The week after that I found a drum teacher.

Of Pataflafla’s and Dragadiddle’s

“Teachers are the key to analog education’s past, present, and future, and no technology can or should, replace them. Not because they have the most knowledge, but because without them, education is no more than facts passed back and forth. If you want facts, go read a book. If you want to learn, find a teacher.”

– David Sax; The Revenge of Analog.

The decision to go with an actual drum teacher fits together like this:

First, I could have found drum tutorials on YouTube, and there are tons of interesting ones, but then they hit you with Suggested Videos; I’ll start on a drum tutorial and an hour later I’d be watching the top ten reasons why Lars is a shitty drummer and, well, you get the idea.

Second, any video or book can show you rudiments and patterns and independence but they don’t show you how toactually play.  There’s more to playing than memorizing rudiments.

An actual teacher offers things that YouTube, or books for that matter, simply cannot. A teacher can, and will, adjust the lesson based on the the individual. While the basic rudiments are the same from student to student, a teacher can observe, for example, posture and suggest corrections on the spot. I used to hunch myself right up on the kit. My teacher noticed this and said “You’re a tall guy, sit back farther. You’ll have better control over the kit and won’t tire out as quickly”. If all I did was watch online tutorials, I’d still be hunched up and wondering why my legs were sore all the time. After I’m shown, for example, a basic beat that includes some tricky kick drum patterns, my teacher will sit there and watch me play it. He’ll make sure I’m gripping my sticks properly. He’ll let me know that even though it’s a boring beat, resting my left arm on my leg between snare hit’s is not good form.

“Slow down, speed will come in time, don’t try and rush it,” he’ll say.

And this is most important bit, a teacher allows for human interaction. You can’t talk to the people in YouTube videos (and don’t get me started on the weekly Q&A videos). Just as it’s amazing to have someone there who can work with you in realtime, it’s doubly amazing when you think you’re running in circles and then your teacher shows you how everything you’ve been working fits together. That lightbulb goes off over your head and you feel like you’re actually getting somewhere. The dude in the drumming video doesn’t give a shit. He just wants you to hit the subscribe button and click on ads.


All of this combined makes me actually want to work at drumming. Yes I’m paying the teacher and, yes he could take my money and not care if I learn a damn thing, but if there is one thing I know it’s that teachers don’t work like that. They have knowledge to pass on and they’d much rather be teaching someone who actually wants to learn what they have to teach.I don’t want to waste his time by not practicing and showing up unprepared.

Still Working on Those Swiss Army Triplets

In the end, ditching the time suck that is Social Media was a good decision on my part. While I’m still not 100% cured of Internet time wasting (I mean, here I am on the computer talking about staying off the computer), I’m way better than I used to be. Besides drum lessons and practicing, I’ve been writing and arranging new material for the band, making use of my sketch books and art supplies, and have even found time to dust off a book I’ve been writing for what feels like forever.

Added to all of this, the mostly forgoing Internet tutorials and learning from an actual person has shown me that while technology has given us many amazing tools, it’s still has a long, long, LONG way to go when it comes to actual social interaction and it has introduced more problems that it’s solved. We simply can’t code out way out of everything no matter what Silicone Valley tells us.

Thanks to cutting out the big online distractions and limiting the rest, I’ve rediscovered the zone and am finding it easier and easier to get back into it.

1: I know this makes me sound like a complete hypocrite, but I’m learning how to record music by watching online videos and reading user guides. The reason for this is simple: there are no audio engineering teachers that offer lessons like a guitar or piano teacher would; I’d have to enrol in an audio engineering course at a college somewhere. I’m simply not going to put that kind of time or sink that kind of money into something that is merely a hobby.