The Prodigal Student Returns (Again)

I returned to drum lessons two weeks ago.   No more drumming on my steering wheel at red lights; it was time to get back on a kit.  I was so excited.  I was happy to see my teacher Michael, too, since he’s a great teacher and we’ve always gotten along well.  He told me that he was glad his favorite student was back, so I guess the feeling was mutual.

Michael asked what I wanted to work on, and I told him this:

Songs for the Deaf is easily one of my favorite albums of all time.  Every song on there is terrific, and the drum beats get stuck in my head after each listen.  Dave’s beats are so awesome on this album.  People who doubt his formidable skills as a drummer need to listen to his work with Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures.  His work with Nirvana is solid and accessible, but his work with QotSA and Them Crooked Vultures is a lot more technical.  He adds so much texture to the songs with his fills and grooves, making them sound badass.  For instance, seeing him play this song live left such an impression that I signed up for drum lessons months later:

Anyway, “Go With the Flow” is one of the more accessible songs on the album for me to play for the level I’m currently at.  While I eventually want to learn all the songs on the album (especially “No One Knows”), I need to get a better grasp at my rudiments before I do.

Michael quickly produced the tab for the verse and chorus, and had me try the song.

And I faltered.


So, the top line should have been super easy.  Like, I probably learned that beat during my second or third lesson ever.  But – and here’s where my technique is crap – the beat opens with an open hi hat (snare only, no kick drum), then closes immediately on the second beat.

And for some reason, this was so hard to me.  I just sat there and scratched my sticks against each other, which is what I do when a beat is frustrating me.  When I finally did try, I played the hi hat, the snare, AND the kick drum all together, which was wrong.

My sticks got scratched a lot that lesson. Michael did tell me that my speed for the kick drum improved a lot, which I’m not sure how since I didn’t practice too much during my hiatus – maybe all the fake drumming I did while sitting at my desk helped.

Humbled, I took the piece home and practiced.  Two weeks later, I can’t play the piece perfectly, but I’m much better off than I was two weeks ago.  Michael and I played the beats along with the song today.  That song is so much fun and so fast.  I made a lot of mistakes, but I didn’t care. I was having too much fun.

After the lesson was over, Michael asked me if I’ve played in public with one of my musician friends. I told him it had been awhile since I had played at one of my friend’s parties, but that I missed it and wanted to play again.  “Well, you should,” he said.  “You can play.”

I can play.

I felt a warm glow when he said that, but my brain immediately tempered it with, “You kind of need to learn your rudiments better before you feel too triumphant over this compliment.”

Still, it was hard not to feel joy as I went home.  Knowing that I don’t completely suck as a drummer is incredibly motivating.  And that’s why I’ve been watching Dave Grohl drumming videos tonight instead of going to sleep.


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