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.