I love where I'm at in my learning. I'm building 4-way coordination right now. But it does take a some effort. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Frankly, it's been a battle to motivate myself to pick up the sticks. I went for two weeks in June not practicing. Not because I wasn't home. Not because I didn't have time, necessarily. But because I didn't feel like it. Saddest and dumbest excuse ever, I know.
This week, I decided to do something about it. With a little encouragement from hubby, who said if I didn't start practicing that I'd lose Drum Ambition lessons, I started sitting at the set. I tell myself that I don't even have to play. I just have to sit at the set for 15-30 minutes. I can't leave until the time is up.
I've been doing this all week, and what happens is that I sit there on the throne with my iPad for about 2-3 minutes, and I tweet stuff or whatever. Then, I see my sticks and I pick them up. I twirl them around for a bit, play a bit more on my iPad--- then before I know it, the iPad is down and I'm playing the drums.
Sometimes I just goof around for the first five or ten minutes of playing. I don't touch the teaching material. But, hey! I'm playing! Gradually, after a bit of free styling, I move into my exercises, and I find myself playing longer than I ever have. I'll be at it for almost an hour or two some days.
Yep. Sometimes you just gotta sit at the set. This is true, I think, in a lot of life situations, but especially true about learning to play an instrument or learning an language. The first step to success is showing up. So, sit at the set if you have to. Just sit there. You'll be amazed how well it works.
There are probably a lot of reasons why I didn't continue drumming in junior high, but I think one might be this idea or feeling I got that said, girls don't play drums.
A couple weeks ago, I read an interesting article for my creative writing class. It was about gender stereotypes. The author used the Let Toys Be Toys campaign as a sort of springboard to talk about children's books. Basically, the article is all about this idea that we shouldn't be labeling interests as a boy interest or a girl interest. Just let toys be toys and books be books.
I'd like to add: let drums be drums!
The author, Tricia Lowther, says, "Typical themes for boys include robots, dinosaurs, astronauts, vehicles, football and pirates; while girls are allowed princesses, fairies, make-up, flowers, butterflies, fashion, and cute animals. There's nothing wrong with these things, but it is wrong when they are repeatedly presented as only for on gender. Girls can like pirates and adventure, boys can like magic and dressing up."
If you went back in time and interviewed me at 13 years old and asked if I was quitting drums because girls don't play drums, I'd probably tell you, "No. That doesn't matter to me."
I'd think of a million other excuses to give you. And some of them might be true. Like I said, there were probably many reasons why I quit. At the heart of all these reasons, though, I think you'd find that I just wanted to fit in. (Who doesn't at age 13?) In the end, I'd be lying to you. I probably, very much, felt that girls don't play drums, and I'd be better off in choir or doing some other kind of interest that was more readily acceptable for a girl.
Tricia Lowther says, "Children are individuals. They should feel free to choose their own interests, not feel that they're supposed to like or reject certain things."
How I wish I had known that in 7th grade. In the very least, I wish my band teacher had approached me and encouraged me to stick with drums. I didn't feel valued as a percussionist. I needed someone to say out loud, "You know, drums aren't just for boys," and show me some great women drummers like Cindy Blackman, Jen Ledger, Stefanie Eulinberg, etc.
I love that today we have programs like the Hit Like A Girl Contest. As stated on their website, their "purpose is to spotlight female drummers/percussionists and encourage drumming and lifelong musicianship for girls and women, regardless of age or playing level."
As part of my creative writing homework, I had to create a character who broke gender stereotypes, so a girl that likes typically things boys like or a boy that likes things girls usually like. My character is a 15 year old girl who plays the drums. I got an A on the assignment, which was good news for my grade, but sad news that the stereotype still exists.
If you know girls who play the drums, keep encouraging them. Don't let them quit like I did. It's super hard to get back to it as an adult. I'd glad I am. I love Drum Ambition. It's just hard.
Yeah--- let's kill the gender stereotype. Let's let drums be drums.
The door opens with a "bing-bong." I wasn't expecting a door bell, like I'm walking into a dentist office or something. This is far from a dentist office, though (thank goodness!).
Two soft sofas sit on aluminum flooring with a bookshelf filled with music books. One of the shelves holds a box filled with drum sticks. It's labeled: Weapons of Mass Percussion.
I hear a Beatles song playing from an iPod or stereo somewhere behind a big black reception desk. A Jimmy Hendrix poster grins at the poster of Luke and Leia holding light sabers. On the far wall of the reception area, I see large pictures of kids playing guitars and drums on stage, like they're the opening act for Muse or Queen.
"I have a 2:45 appointment?" I tell the two people sitting behind the desk. The girl has curly long hair, and the guy is wearing a red-orange beanie, like he might go skiing later.The wall behind them is bright orange with calendars and sticky note reminders all over it.
Last week, I called for a lesson because I got a coupon for a free lesson with School of Rock by submitting to the Hit Like A Girl Contest.
"You're Kassie," the girl says. She smiles as brightly as the wall behind her. "Have a seat. Eddie will be ready for you soon." I notice that she's carrying an awkward square box. "Yeah-- the bass drum head needs replacing," she explains. "We have a 17 year old who--- well, he's a great drummer! He's just... well?"
"Hard on drums?" I guess. She nods, and I sit in the sofa that looks like a zebra.
"Eddie will need to replace this, and then he'll be ready for you."
"I'm early," I say, and pull out my book. She takes her box down the hall and returns to her desk before I can finish one page of my book. She asks me questions: where I live, what I like playing, etc. I'm not usually shy, but for some reason, I keep my answers quick and quiet. She seems really genuine, but I have butterflies in my stomach. She said something on the phone about Sum 41. Was I having a lesson with the drummer from Sum 41?
"How long have you been playing?" she asks, and the guy in the beanie leans his elbows on the table, listening for my answer.
I hesitate. I'm not sure how much of my story they want to hear, and I'm not sure how to answer. "Consistently?" I ask. They both smile and shrug as if saying, Sure! Whatever you want to tell us. We're cool!
I decide to tell them that I've been playing for two years, but afterwards I wonder if I should have told them one year because that's how long I've been with DrumAmbition. The boy asks me who my favorite band is, to which I say Foo Fighters. We talk for a bit, and before I know it, a tall skinny guy wearing a black tank top and jeans comes in the room and smiles at me.
"Kassie?" he says.
"Eddie?" I say back. He nods and invites me back into a music studio down the hall. I watch his tattoo arms lead the way, while I fidget with my sticks and stuff my book into my purse.
There are two identical black drum sets in a room with padded walls. Eddie tells me to pick one. I choose the one away from the door so I'll have my back to the wall and be able to see him teaching me better. (Really, it doesn't matter!) I regret my decision later and don't tell him.
Imagine you're driving a friend's car, and your friend is much taller than you. His seat will be much farther back, right? It makes for awkward driving, right? That's how it was for me. Because his snare was so high, his seat so far back, etc.... it made for awkward playing.
He asks me questions about myself, and I try to be less shy and quiet than I was with the front desk people. He asks me what kind of music I'm "into right now," to which I tell him that Foo Fighters are my favorite, but I'm going to a Shinedown concert in April. Before I know it, he's looking up "The Crow and the Butterfly" by Shinedown on YouTube on his phone, which is connected to two headphones.
Even though Eddie hasn't heard the song before (which I think is crazy!), he's able to tell that the time signature is 12/8. He gives me a quick lesson on time signature, using a whiteboard, and then he maps out the general beat of the song.
He helps me count it, and before I know it, we're practicing the beat together and figuring out the bridges. By the end of the lesson, I'm able to keep with the time and hit at least one of the bridges, but I'm itching to get to my own set where I'm more comfortable.
The butterflies in my stomach laugh when I make mistakes, but I laugh with them until they finally fly away, and I'm able to just enjoy the drums.
Eddie's "secret weapon"? He taught me to bounce my left foot in time as an additional metronome. He says, "If you watch Neil Peart from Rush, you'll see his left foot is always bobbing to the beat. That's because he does some crazy things with his his hands, and he's got to keep time."
The lesson ends with Eddie saying he's got another appointment, but he talks to me like he'll see me tomorrow or something. (I wish!) Live lessons are great, but super expensive! (For good reason, of course!)
I think I'll stick with DrumAmbition a bit longer, but I'm looking forward to submitting another video with HLAG so I can get another free coupon. In my book, I've already won the contest. That free lesson was awesome!
I wasn't planning to compete in the Hit Like a Girl Competition (HLAG) this year. I was planning to get "a little better" and do it next year, but last week, I said, "what the heck! I'm gonna do it!"
I want to publicly thank hubby for helping me. I wouldn't have been able to record my video without him. Also, thank you, Simon, my DrumAmbition teacher, for the encouragement and lessons. I'm playing more now than I have in years! I'm looking forward to more lessons online!
Thank you, also, family and friends for your support. Please "like" the video on Youtube. I think that will help with the judging. I don't expect to win. I did it just so I can say, "hey, world! I play the drums!"
I found the secret to consistency. At least, it works for me.
I set an alarm on my phone for 5:30pm. I'm always home at this time. My phone is either on my study desk or on the bed. I'm either grading, talking with Hubby, or reading a book when the alarm goes off. I yell, (to Hubby's amusement) "hi drums! I'm coming!" and get to the drum set for practice.
Sometimes I feel tired after work, or I'm engrossed in my grading or book, so I allow myself to hit the "snooze," button once or twice, usually yelling, "hi drums! I'll call you back!" as I do.
I drum while dinner is cooking. I usually start thinking about dinner around 5 or 5:30pm. Recently, I've started utilizing my drum pad, which means that I can start dinner in the kitchen and set up my drum pad in the adjacent room. I can keep an eye on dinner. I use the timer as not only a way to tell me to check on the food, but as my practice time. I hit the practice pad until the timer goes off.
Yesterday, I threw a frozen pizza in the oven. Hubby had something that night, so I was alone. Sometimes that happens. I drummed while the pizza cooked. Then, I cut some slices, put them on a paper towel and sat on the floor with it and my drum pad. I ate and drummed.
Call it a dinner date with my drumming!
As many of you know, I teach ESL. This means that my classroom is diverse; they're from all parts of the world, and I help them improve their English before and/or as they take college courses. My primary focus is writing. I help them go from paragraph writing to essay writing.
Well, today I showed them a sample classification paragraph. I wanted them to see an example of classifying a single idea into categories or subgroups. More importantly, though, I wanted them to identify the topic sentence, major and minor supporting details, and the concluding sentence. I asked questions about unity----whether the sentences all point to the same idea or not--- and coherence---- the way the sentences are organized. It's just a fun paragraph! It's about rock music!
This wasn't the first paragraph I showed them. I had shown them two others previous, and they answer all my questions just fine. For some reason, though, they were having trouble with this one.
Then, I realized the problem. I hadn't explained any of the vocabulary. "Do you think this paragraph has some tricky words?" I asked. They all nodded and said, "yes!"
"Well," I said, "which words do you feel like you need help with?"
Silvia, a girl from Mexico blurted, "snare!" I smiled and told them that I am a drummer, so I can explain that one with total confidence. In simple terms, I described the lay out of a basic drum set: snare, bass, toms, cymbals.
"The snare is the one in the middle and is played the most." I made the sound of a drum roll, and heads bobbed in understanding, and a chorus of "ooooh!" went around the room.
I demonstrated the sound of the bass---- "BOOM! BOOM!"--- while kicking my foot. I did a quick run around the imaginary set--- "Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong!" in different pitches and explained that these are called toms. Then, "CRASH!"
I asked, "Can anyone guess what that last one is called?" I heard a Vietnamese boy whisper something, so I asked him to be confident and speak up.
"Cymbal?" he asked. I gave him a thumbs up.
My drumming hasn't been as consistent as it was over the summer. Now that the semester has started, lesson planning, teaching, grading and conferencing with students is my number one priority. It has to be. It's my job. But I still have a drummer heart. I will forever remember this experience in the classroom. Next time I share this sample paragraph, I'm going to bring in my drum set!... maybe.
I'm learning to play Coldplay's "Yellow," by actually reading music. It's much more effective than stumbling around the set, guessing the tempo, drum to hit, etc. If you ever have the opportunity to learn to read music, I highly recommend it!
I learned to read basic music notation from my piano playing days, but drum notations are sometimes different, so I reached out to my drum teacher Simon, from DrumAmbition via Skype. He and I discussed each measure, how to practice, etc. It was super helpful!
The way Simon explained it is, "segnos take you back" while "codas take you forward." These little symbols work similar to "repeats," in the sense that they tell you to either go back to the previous measures or move forward in the music. Pretty clever guys, I think!
Segnos and Codas in Practicing
The summer is coming to a close, and life is starting to pick up again for me, so it's becoming more an more difficult to maintain my practicing schedule, especially over the weekends. At the beginning of each week, I do a "self-segno," or self assessment. I go back and review what I remember. Then, for the following days, I try to "coda" as much as possible--- I move forward with my learning.
Segnos and Codas in Life
I can see segnos and codas used in my daily life. I believe that life on this earth is a test. We're meant to make each day better than the one before. The mistakes I make in life often cause me to "segno" or take me back. I go back to those I've hurt and say sorry; I evaluate my actions and think about ways I can handle situations like those better in the future. Then, I "coda." I move forward. I try again and move forward.
Whether you're a drummer, teacher, writer, daughter, son, wife, husband, father, mother, or some other title, I encourage you to recognize times to "segno" and times to "coda."
Recently I watched a short video by Nate Morton. He's a drummer from NBC's The Voice. He talked about his biggest motivator for drumming, Animal from the Muppets. As many of you know from my previous blog, Animal is my idol, too!
Nate Morton also talked about how drumming has influenced his life for good. Watching that video made me think about who else, along with Animal, who inspired me to play the drums, so I made a short top 3 favorite drummers. It doesn't include my actual real idols, like Dave Grohl, Neil Peart, Buddy Rich, Ringo Star or the other amazing drummers I love! I'll save that for another post.
Without further ado, here are my favorite drummers:
1. Animal (of course!) from The Muppets
I had a lot of energy as a kid, too. Banging on pots and pans as a kid (that's all I had!) defiantly was good for me, too.
2. Guy Patterson from Doing that Thing you Do
(The screenplay was written by Tom Hanks, by the way.) Because I started my drumming journey a little bit later than maybe most drummers and I was often forced to practice on my own between classes in college, I found this movie/ story inspirational. I lived in small living areas and squeezed my drums into sometimes tight spots. At one point, I had my drums in the basement in my in-laws' house because I didn't have room for them where I was living at the time, and I'd go there when everyone was at work and play along to my i-pod.
When I felt discouraged to practice, I'd think, "what if I'm needed as a drummer?!' and I'd go practice. I got a chance to be "the drummer" for a talent show in 2012. It wasn't much of a gig, but my friends really needed me for the song. I was nervous, but I did it. We didn't get a standing ovation like I imagined we would, nor did we win the talent show, but it felt good to be "Guy Patterson" for a night.
3. Steven Alper from Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie
My favorite roommate in college gave me a copy of it during my last semester. I wanted to read something besides journal articles about ESL teaching. Don't get me wrong! I love learning about ESL and I'm really glad I earned my MTESOL, but I needed (what my sister calls) "fluff" reading. Something that I didn't have to think about. Something I could just read and enjoy!
So, there you have it. My top three favorite drummers, the ones who first inspire me to practice. Drumming has defiantly made me the person I am today.
I'm new to bloglovin. I just learned about it today, actually. From my understanding, it's a way to follow your favorite blogs. I hope to update this blog at least once a month (maybe more, maybe less) depending on if I get my butt away from the set.
If you use bloglovin', please follow me. I'll try to follow you back! Have a great day!
Read Part 1
Read Part 2
I went straight to college after high school and didn't do choir or band. I did two years of general credits and then served a Mormon mission for a year and half. After my mission to Australia, I studied English literature at Southern Utah University. Just before registering for my last semester, I met with an academic advisor to make sure I was taking all the right classes for my major. Upon reviewing my projected school schedule, we both realized that I was, apparently, 3 credits short for graduation. I had taken everything possible for my major. What was I to do? The counselor told me that I could take an elective, something that wasn't directly associated with my major.
"Like what?" I asked.
"What have you always wanted to learn?" she answered.
"Play the drums," I said, chuckling to myself.
"We have a class for that." She pulled out a pen and pad of paper and wrote something down. "Go here," she said. She had written down a building and room number. "Talk to Dr. Vartan." I did and quickly enrolled in a class called something like, "independent lessons."
Private Drum Lessons
My first lesson was great! I re-learned how to hold the sticks, how to sit at the drum set, and I learned a few simple beats on the snare. She asked me what my goals were. "I just---" I told her, "want to play! I want to be able to sit down at a drum set, know what I'm doing and play stuff."
She smiled and said, "you will."
Because I was living in the dorms and couldn't have a drum set where I was living, (I couldn't afford one anyway), Dr. Vartan gave me a key to a practice room. A little larger than a closet, the room smelled like paint. I went there after dinner every day and practiced for at least an hour. As you can imagine, I quickly improved!
Taking private lessons weren't always easy. I often felt frustrated, especially when my sticks collided with each other, and I'd yell at my limbs to do what they were supposed to. ("No, leg! It's the left hand's turn to play!" etc.) Dr. Vartan assigned a book with a play-along CD, so I'd pop the CD in the small player behind the set and play along. This was my favorite!
My first set
After graduation, I decided to go to grad school in Arizona. Before leaving, however, I talked to a friend-of-a-friend who lived in the dorms. He was leaving to go on a mission for two years and selling his drum set. I didn't know much about purchasing drums or anything, and I'd have to go to his house in Salt Lake to pick them up. "I can't afford much," I told him. "And I don't even know what to look for in a set."
"You can learn to play on these," he promised.
So... I drove to Salt Lake and bought his drums for $100. A week or two later, I packed them in my truck and headed to Arizona. I practiced as often as possible but hit a dead-end in learning, so I found a local drum teacher. He taught me to play "Sweet Home Alabama" on my first lesson. I compared his set with mine and learned that I was missing "things" on my set. My bass, for example, didn't have legs, so when I practiced, I had to catch the set before it toppled over. Unfortunately, I could only afford 3 or 4 lessons with this drum teacher and was forced to quit, just as he was about to pair me up with a new guitar player so we could learn together.
Determined to keep up with my drumming, I surfed Youtube and pestered friends who played to teach me stuff. I had regular lessons with one friend (for a couple months), but he didn't know how to read music and didn't prepare for our lessons like a professional teacher would. Still, I learned some fun grooves that I could show to my friends as proof that I played the drums.
I wasn't interested in recording, and I ended up selling the roto-toms and tambourine pedals, anyway. The new set motivated me. Using Youtube, I learned to play along to "How's it gonna be" by Third Eye Blind. A few friends who played the guitar played songs with me sometimes, but I always felt limited in my drumming and wasn't sure how to best accompany them.
Making time to improve
I started teaching ESL, and all my time went to lesson planning, teaching and grading. I promised myself I could drum after teaching, but then I had to conference with students and adjust lesson plans, etc. Overall, I was exhausted by the time I could drum and/or it was too late in the evening.
This last year, I decided to lighten my teaching load a bit to make room for creative writing projects and, of course, drumming. I made it to the set more often, but never knew what I wanted to practice or work on when I got to the set. That's when I discovered DrumAmbition.com. I started with them two weeks ago. It's been a good fit for me so far. It's affordable, and the lessons are ordered in a way that makes sense. I don't have to fish around Youtube forever, not sure what I want to learn next. I especially appreciate the support Simon gives via email and Skype. If you're a drummer (especially new), I recommend you check them out!
When people first hear about me drumming, like new family or friends, the conversation usually goes something like this:
Friend: "You play the drums? You?"
Friend: "Are you in, like, a band?"
Friend: "I bet you learned in high school."
Me: "Not really..."
Friend: "What kind of music do you like to play? Jazz? Rock?"
Me: (shrug) "I like everything. I'm still learning and willing to try whatever. Maybe someday I'll play with others... but for now, I just play alone...."
My goal: play stuff.