Monday, December 31, 2012

Is an artist an expert? A discussion of High School and Drums

I've spent time trying to become an expert, and I really enjoy the feeling. In high school I wanted to become a drummer. I took the only lessons I could find, at a local music school, from a fantastic guy. His first lesson to me was 'forget Ringo, you need to listen to Steely Dan'. He taught me how to hold a stick, and how to listen to the drummer and not just the singer, he taught me how a drummer is supposed to be. I learned respect for the craft from him, and no matter where I go if I see a drummer playing I give him my full attention as a result of the time he spent teaching me.

I remember one day I was waiting for my lesson to start, and I had been sitting outside, tapping my left foot for half an hour. Just tapping, trying to build up my calf muscle so I could play the high-hat really, really well. A weak left foot means a weak sounding k-TSHHHH and I wanted it to be STRONG.

I had practice pads at home and a drumkit, but I couldn't play my drums at home because it bothered the neighbors. Something about living in an apartment building made it impossible no matter how many pillows I stuffed into the bass drum. So instead, I hoofed downtown to a practice space that was mostly used by the local bands. My memory of the place is a little hazy but I do recall that there wasn't really a bathroom so much as a urinal in the hallway. Yeah, eeew.

I paid a few dollars to the scummy guy at the counter to use the drumkit in one of the rooms (always a piece of junk, but at least it was LOUD) for an hour. The rooms were supposed to be soundproof, but when I wasn't pretending to be Larry Mullen, Jr. I could hear the metalheads banging away next door and the In-Living-Color wannabees around the corner. It was really, really great, and totally worth the time. I closed that door and I was a rockstar!

After a time (a year or so, I think) I stopped lessons with the music school, and started taking a class from a guy at NYU. He was really focused on technique, and we worked quite a bit on reading music and jazz drumming. One time he took me to the Bitter End to see him and his friend's band play. It was a great, great night full of weepy bluesy singing and loud times. And amps. Big, big amps.


I really wanted to be good, I really wanted to be in a band. My first band was a group of girls that liked to play Deep Purple and compare each other's bra sizes. We called ourselves Crimson Tempest (yeah, Steely Dan influence). Oh and I was the small one, comparatively. :) We played a few practices together and sang and had fun. That was all until they kicked me out - I'm sure I deserved it since I've blocked the memory of why they did.

I was in another band (the Keys) with some close friends, and we really had a great time but mostly spent time writing songs. I still have them locked away in a box, friends! I can get them out anytime you want!

I tell myself that one day I'll play drums again. We'll see. I think I was close to being a really good drummer, and one day I'd like to be there again.

Have you ever gotten really good at something? Did you consider yourself an artist, or an expert?


Evil Otto said...

I'm not really good at any one thing, but I'm aspirational at several. I'm an ok guitarist, a so-so keyboard player, an ok photographer, a novice painter, an ok waterskiier, an ok alpine skiier, a novice aikidoka, and probably some others if I thought about it.

I'm a dabbler, and while I do enjoy diversity, I also regret that I have not had the determination to become really good at something.

Janet said...

yes. so you dabble. perhaps dabbling suits you?