I've played the drums for twenty years, and I can't decide if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I have only had three proper drum lessons. My first sit-down-and-listen lesson was four years ago, when I participated in Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp. The teacher? Sandy Gennaro, the same drummer who was featured on the first instructional tape I ever received. (Sandy signed my tape afterwards.)
The other two lessons were from Robert Anderson, a local drummer I have long respected during his time in the Deathray Davies and currently with Nervous Curtains.
As I'm preparing for my next lesson, with none other than Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Billy Rymer, I take into account why I want to improve as a drummer now, twenty years after I started playing on a kit.
Like a lot of things in life, if you want to make yourself happy (and stay happy), you try to improve your strengths and assess your weaknesses. With drumming, it never, ever hurts to go back to the basics. If Neil Peart can go back to the basics and reapproach his technique, many years after becoming one of the greatest rock drummers alive, well, there's no excuse why you shouldn't, either.
Prior to 1994, I learned the basics of rhythm via piano lessons and tapping along to songs on the radio. Then in 1994, I played along with my Metallica and Led Zeppelin CDs. Since I didn't think time on the practice pad was necessary after I got a kit, I used my pad as a place to rest my phone. By then, I had begun jamming with friends and eventually I joined my first band. I knew of one drum instructor, but I never took a lesson.
The thought of practicing on a drum pad never occurred to me during my time with the bands I played in during my college and immediate post-college years. I could keep a steady beat, right? Why do I need to play basic beats when I can play fills all over the kit?
I didn't realize how much I needed to work on with my timing until the last band I played with. When it would come time to do a fancy fill, I'd speed up, much to the ire of the bassist. So sitting down in a class with drummers of all kinds of abilities with Sandy, I realized I should work on basics. A metronome is your friend, no matter what speed. That's one of the most memorable kernels of truth that I came away with. I still remember a lot of that 50-minute lesson.
My lessons with Robert were more about stick control and timing. No matter what the musical genre, your timing is critical. Robert was kind enough to invite me to the drum shop he works at to hang out. When I find the time, I'll hit the place up.
Now a lesson with a world-renowned drummer is coming up and I am about to join a new band, I've decided to work even harder and be prepared. I've watched some of the tutorials Billy has online, and he offers some great advice I hadn't thought of before, like having a straight posture. I look forward to what he has to share and show, and I have a few specific questions I'd like to ask.
I (thankfully) have yet to have a bad lesson, and I'm sure I will come away with plenty of things to work on, regardless of what style of music I'll play next.