Remember TV and movie “bloopers?” It was the stuff that no one was supposed to see, mistakes that ended up on the cutting room floor. Often, those outtakes were funnier than the actual show itself. When I started drumming, I watched a lot of videos. Maybe if there had been a video called “Drum Cover Bloopers,” YouTube and I would get along a whole lot better.
We’ve certainly had a love/hate relationship over the years. Like many relationships in life, the good can be incredible but the bad can twist your insides into a double helix. I couldn’t have learned what little I know without seeing drummers far more experienced and knowledgeable than I. Although some of them lived halfway across the world, or were long dead, the miracle of video brought them right onto my computer screen. This was the really good. Now, let’s talk about the bad and yes, the ugly.
Product over process. As an adult, I understand that “practice makes perfect” and that “good things come to those who wait”,and work. Still, while watching those videos in my early drumming days, my eye and heart were consumed and confounded by the bright, perfect images of flawless performances. I wanted to play like that-yesterday. What is it about me, or about us, that makes the end result more important than anything else?
YouTube and I had to go our separate ways for a while. Instead of being fired up by these videos, I became discouraged. I thought I was more likely to win the lottery than to get that groove or that fill.
It wasn’t long ago that I took to heart two very valuable ideas. One, that the learning process isn’t always joyous or fun. It’s not supposed to be. It explains why practice isn’t always enjoyable, at least for me. When I try a new song or lick, I sound lousy. My coordination is so off that my limbs feel like tree branches in a hurricane. The second is that tomorrow is unknown, so the ride, that journey to the place we think we want to be, is everything. Embrace the ride-the good, the bad, the fun, the joyous, the crazy-making. Hug it like an old friend. It’s all we’ve got.
I know deep down that I’ll never reach that fabled land where I’m the humble, nonchalant chop-monster who can play whatever I conceive. But maybe, if I keep going, I can land somewhere a bit further down the road. And that’s okay. It has to be. The ride is all I have. I try hard to remember this.
Let’s play with this idea. Let’s suppose there’s a drum blooper video floating around in the YouTube ether. What would we see? Most likely, someone with a great deal of skill breaking that song into smaller sections and playing them continuously until they were memorized. But the best part would be watching that drummer trip and fall, then get up and try again. There’d be some dark moments, for sure: sticks catapulting across the room in frustration, timing slip-ups, cursing, he or she walking away from the kit wondering why they quit accounting. Here are the true teaching moments. How does this player get through the rough patches? What sustains him? What does she learn from this?
That’s the drum video I never got to see. The one with all the warts, where the drummers struggle just like we do, and come out the other side. As silly as it sounds, I think that video would be far more instructive and inspiring.