Marching to the beat of your own drummer

jacks-drum-lessonJack’s been fairly adamant about it since last summer. He wants to learn the drums. I suggested the harmonica, the ukulele, the Jew’s harp, but he won’t yield. I point out that we have an apartment and neighbors, that drummers are the least cool guys in the band, that you have to wear a sweat band… he won’t be budged.
So this afternoon I sat in with him as Frank taught him to read music and to whack away at the cymbal and the snare while hoofing at the bass drum.
I drew as they drummed, listening as Frank explained music notation, the part of music lessons that I could never grasp, incomprehensible gibberish that led me to give up the keyboard, the guitar and to keep my harmonica in the shower where I can wail away without an audience or any sheet music.
Amazingly, Jack seemed to grasp this foreign language and was hammering out a coherent tattoo by class’s end.
Two things: 1) there’s no feeling as amazing as when your kid does something you can’t.
and 2) Music is built into us, just as drawing is. It’s hardwired into our motherboards. But musical theory, notation, and just talking about music in the abstract is a very different matter. It uses other parts of the brain that make me feel like rubbing my tummy and tapping my head.
I don’t know how you could learn it efficiently without discussing these concepts but I have never been able to get over that hump. And I do love music so.
So many books on drawing begin by explaining all the different sorts of pencils you could use, all the different kinds of paper there are, the laws of perspective, anatomy, composition, etc., all studded with works from the great masters, insisting you use every part of your brain except the part that sees and draws. I think the basics should start with the basics. Having fun, letting it out, getting some visceral, sensual reward immediately. As soon as Jack got his very own pair of sticks, his teacher let him wale away randomly at all the drums, smashing the cymbals with all his might, not music anyone would recognize but food for his soul, pure joy. Hooking him.
Think about that exuberance next time you worry someone will see your awful, cramped drawing. You’ve got to wale and flail and fail, before you headline at the Garden. And I know Jack isn’t thinking about that.
He just wants to play … music.

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