The learning process and drumming, transcending the illusion of ” I can’t”.
I am constantly hearing people say, “I can’t do that, I can’t do this” when I am trying to teach them or share something new, “odd” or very different. I always get a lot of excuses. And they are often very convincing, because often many people have convinced themselves they are deficient in some way.
But, I never buy it. I tell them I understand as being both a student and a teacher I do appreciate what we all go through, the struggle in trying to learn something that may or may not come naturally to some of us.
And I am not writing this to complain but instead to explain how we go beyond this together as teachers and students. We have to be willing to fail and falter in public.
If we are in a group class or class with someone else it does not matter, this is the first thing we have to get over. Making mistakes in front of others. The most common phrase I hear when someone messes up (and i even still do this myself) is saying, “I am sorry”. If you are a teacher you have heard this a million times.
Why are we sorry? There is nothing to be sorry about! You/we are trying to learn!
“I can not/ I can’t” is an illusion. It is not truth. You can. If one person can play it, it is possible for you to play it as well. Don’t make up reasons not to get it.
I don’t suggest comparing yourself to others, but it is not magic, it is technique and learned acquired information, skills and training. If you put in the time and energy you will eventually learn how to play drums. Repetition. Practice. Diligence.
Get over having to do things correctly or being correct when you are trying to learn. We are all in fear of being judged. Often when I am in a class I just won’t get it. However i always record everything and i will go home and work on it until i have it. The next time i see the teacher I show it to him. Its not for him, its for me!
I am here to tell you you can! I have seen it hundreds of time. It is my experience that if you take your time and have the right mental attitude and a process to follow you can learn almost anything in drumming. You might not be able to execute everything perfectly the first time but most everything that is being played, that we see or hear can be understood by us, especially if we have a teacher to break it down to it’s simplest elements or we have a way to do that for ourselves.
if you see and experience the most complicated phrases being played in slow motion (or at least slowed down) you will be amazed how simple elements put together in interesting ways work together to equal amazing magical musical drumming!
Strategy is important. So, therefore it’s important before taking a class to tell yourself, “I will get this” or “I am going to do my best”. Strategy is important. Go in with an open mind. Don’t psyche yourself out. Record classes, lessons or sessions and listen to the recordings! Many people go to the trouble of making recordings and never listen. Listen before bed or in the morning.
I have been listening to the same CD in my car since June. I am not suggesting this to anyone just using it as an example of how I learn. It was a new teachers CD. It is so useful to study with someone then listen to their CD. I can here the rhythms and phrases and his style. This is how I immerse myself.
Learning can be very difficult no matter how far along the path you may be. Sometimes when I have not gotten the part, phrase or technique that was taught to me in a class, I go home and start listening to the audio I made or watch the video (if i was allowed to film) and it looks impossible to me.
My first thought is usually one of doubt. “How will I possibly get this”? OMG!
Then I tell myself, “I have said this to myself hundreds of times..use the process and you will get it”! (Use the force Luke). And what is the process? The process I use is the one step program. I try to play one beat, to copy what I hear..but not get caught up trying to learn the whole phrase..just the first beat of whatever it is I am trying to learn as i listen to the cycle of the rhythm .
When it cycles back around I try to get the first and then the second beat. And then the third and so on and so fourth. Then eventually I always get my rhythm. You can also use this system when you are in a live class for drumming. One note at a time if necessary. Get the first, the second the third..
I am finding more and more that it is important for most of us to try and sing the rhythms we are playing, rather then thinking about them. When you sing them you feel them and it is a different experience in your body. Next time you are learning something new, try singing the parts and see how that feels.
Writing out the rhythms is a perfect way to balance out your learning experience in a holistic way. It is a great balance for those of us dependent on feel and vice versa.
Tablature, having a notation system and way to analize and trigger memory response is very important as most new students often forget the parts they have learned in class at once. As do advanced students sometimes. The tablature is not to learn from it is just to trigger your memory.
The amount of negativity many of us have is astounding and most of us are unaware of it. Often in private classes I will have to stop and say several times, “it’s O.K., if you don’t get it, have it or understand it, but I don’t want to hear anything negative about yourself”. Lets cut the crap!
People are shocked because many of us never stop and look at this. How negative and self critical we can be. And how this does not serve us in the learning process. You might not be relating to what I am saying now but I am speaking from my direct experience teaching for a very long time. I mention all of this because it can change, we can change and often it does for the better simply by becoming aware of this tendency, watching it, identifying it and moving past it, through it and not buying into it.
Many of us have or are playing to an inner critic, an imaginary audience. If that is so, stop listening to it and don’t let it effect you. Keep on playing. Maybe it will always be there but you don’t have to be effected by it. That’s the key! Make the choice.
And this is part of the beauty of studying and learning drumming and dance. The victories! When we have breakthroughs, when we learn, grow. It is always excited to watch when someone get’s something or when I “get something”.
Learning new things we thought we couldn’t or that were very difficult to get at first is like making friends with unfamiliar people. Sometimes you struggle or even fight with them and later you become good buddies. You learn to make friends with the difficult parts.
I was telling a student tonight how a teacher gave me a top secret tape many years back when there was no internet and we would trade cassette tapes. I was just beginning to study a certain form of drumming. When I listened to the tape, I did not understand it. Moreover, it all sounded the same.
I stopped listening to it. Several months later after intensive study, I happened to put the tape in the player and listened to it again. Every piece was incredible, intricate. There were pieces in 6/8 and 4/4! I could not believe it was the same tape. I remember taking the cassette tape out and looking at it, turning it upside down. Reading it. But it was the same tape. I had an epiphany.
Drumming is language. At first you can’t understand it or remember it but the more you practice and use what you are learning the more you will be able to speak and understand. We start with small phrases and baby steps and move on up from there.
These are just a few pointers. There are many more and i am sure you have some you can show me as well. Remember, you CAN do it, and don’t let any one tell you you can’t!