On Drum Lessons and Deconstruction: Getting back to basics isn't always fun, but it's Important
I'm a self-taught drummer. Rhythm has been in my soul as long as I can remember, and I've had an ear for music since day one. Because I did not take lessons, no one told me how to hold a drumstick. Until high school, I didn't know what a paradiddle was. I had musical training for piano and saxophone, so I took my knowledge of rhythm and music and learned as I went with drums. Instead of waiting to get picked as a drummer, I chose myself. I played drums at church, and I walked into the high school band room with nothing but a pair of drumsticks. Without the formal training, I learned by listening and observing. I would hear a cool beat and do my best to emulate it. I would watch a drummer perform live and see if I could play as smooth and fast as they did. I would ask questions and pursue my best working answers. Anyone in my life would tell you that I'm a good drummer though my ears are acute enough to know I'm not the best. I didn't take drum lessons until I went to college, and it was both humbling and extremely rewarding.
I learned the fundamentals. Stick control, positioning, rudiments and rhythms... the basics. I didn't realize how sloppy and uneven my form was. I didn't know the proper way to roll. Here I thought I had been doing pretty well, only to realize I had been playing wrong. At times, I would get frustrated. Why is level one so hard? It felt like starting from square one, too boring, too mundane. I was still playing more complex music for ensembles and finding that satisfying. I still played in some improvisational settings and got to flex my musical muscles. Those muscles got "stronger" because I submitted to the process of going back to the basics.
At this season of my life, I feel in a similar place. Certain aspects of my life feel like they are being driven down to their barest elements, made uncomplicated so I can practice focus and discipline. Sometimes it feels boring. Occasionally I wonder if there is more I could or should be doing, and then I remember drumming. Deconstructing old habits and focusing on building new ones can certainly be challenging, but what is humbling can be powerfully rewarding.
If you feel like you are stuck in a 101 class, maybe there is something yet to complete before you level up. Rather than becoming frustrated, check your ego at the door. Take stock of where you are and see where you have room to grow. My morning routine, my relationship with God, my interactions and intentions with family and in work are being grown by this commitment to the fundamentals. Sometimes going back to basics is just what we need to recondition what is important and shed what is necessary.