My bizarre, ego-destroying experience

I have to tell this story to someone, and I figure only other drummers would care :p

Yesterday I was practicing in my rented space. I managed to find a spot really cheap about six blocks from work, so I get there three to four times a week and practice a couple hours. Sometimes I work on technique, sometimes on songs for my band ... sometimes I start with one then go to the other, etc.

I went through the Intermediate Lifetime warmup, some general body warmups, and I was working on the Johnny Rabb 30 Days to Better Hands exercise. My first pass was at a comfortable speed, then one at a speed that pushed me, then finally I set the metronome up at a speed just out of my range to see how I would do. As expected it was very ragged and I gave up after a couple minutes and was about to start working on something else.

Then there's a knock on my door. I open it, and there's a guy standing there, just some guy I've never met before, holding a music case. He asks me what I'm playing and I told him I'm just working on my rolls.

The guy then proceeds to tell me that my rolls are terrible. He can hear that I'm thinking, for example, 1e+a2e+a3...4, and it's driving him crazy. I should be thinking 1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a no matter what I'm playing, etc. He then pushed his way into my room and spent the next 45 minutes yelling at me to count! Count with short syllables - wuh, tuh, thruh, fuh, fi, si, seh, etc! Play with conviction, and play with focus! Don't be lazy! Count without moving your head! Start counting before you start playing so you're not guessing!

This guy just utterly destroyed me over the course of this lecture, picking apart everything I was doing and in the most ego-destroying way possible. Then he told me I needed to find a teacher, tell him my "time was bad", and I need to "start from scratch". And then he left.

The whole way through this I was trying to take it as best I could. Free lesson, right? And the guy knew what he was doing, he's a professional trumpet player and he was tapping out rhythms and singing over them. And I always try to listen to people who know what they're talking about.

After all the guy was right. I've been noticing flaws in my micro timing (my macro timing is pretty good, it's in subdividing that I have problems) and trying to work on that. So some guy coming in and just telling me everything I was doing wrong and how to fix it, for free to boot, was interesting.

But it was just so unexpected, and so utterly soul-destroying at the time, that it just ruined my night. I think I tried playing one more song and I was just so depressed that I skipped the bus and walked five-miles home.


Platinum Member
I would just tell him where to stick it, personally.

Sometimes it's nice to get advice from learned professionals but if it's unsolicited and out of the blue, I'm quite happy to discover my own flaws without being ripped apart.

If you're any good (and I suspect you are), you know what the issues are already. Having somebody come in and beat you down like that (albeit relatively constructively) would irritate me enormously. A quick 'thanks, I've got this' would be my response.

Getting a teacher is always a good idea, no matter what level you're at. On the other hand, a guy coming into your private practice space and picking you apart is aggressive - even if his intentions are good. I wouldn't dream of doing it - even if I were qualified!


Silver Member
Well, here is the good news to that. He thought you had talent or he would not have bothered to do anymore than get himself earplugs. ;-) So consider that.

You said he was a trumpet player. Horn players normally do have really good timing and high expectations. He must have liked you to take the time to put you on a new path.

All in all, I'd say you had a unique and actually good experience and obviously learned from it. Do not let it get you down.

If nothing else, take to heart 3 things he told you. "Play with conviction, and play with focus! Don't be lazy!"

If you play with authority (not volume) and dont overplay, you will have a great lifetime of playing experiences and others will rate you top notch.


Platinum Member
What a jerk. Here's what he should have done: ASKED. It doesn't sound like he asked you if you actually wanted any of this, and for that, I think he's a total ass- barging in and using your rehearsal time (that you pay for). Now, sure, teachers are good, but that is your decision- not his burden. I would have simply done what Duncan advised earlier and got him out of there immediately.


Silver Member
I kept reading on down wondering how I might respond, and then TRUMPET PLAYER!
In my experience, good trumpet players are usually very bright but can be very cocky...amongst the cockiest of musicians I have ever enountered. Remember, you have to allow people to get under your skin, it's your choice. In this case, take in the advice that is
worthwhile, consider the source, and keep on being yourself while improving. Have Fun!
It sounds like you have a great "self improvement" program going. Keep it up!


"Uncle Larry" sounds like you handled it with an open mind, which is a great attitude. I can definitely feel your pain on the after effects of it all. If the guy had a diplomatic delivery, it probably wouldn't have hurt at all, and it could have been a positive experience. OK so he's insensitive. You obviously touched a nerve in this guy. Maybe he has a thing against drummers and is both venting and maybe in his mind trying to correct things. Musicians can be very callous. Props for listening and not reacting, like that hothead Duncan lol. Anything defensive would have cemented any stereotypes the guy might have.

New Tricks

Platinum Member
That is a bizarre and interesting story lol.

If the guy was right and it kicks you into gear, maybe it was just what you needed.

If he was a random psycho, you are lucky he didn't kill you and make drum heads out of your skin.

When you practice these drills, are you using a metronome? If not, start. You can get away with being a little sloppy if you are in tempo :) I do it on a daily basis!


Platinum Member
Case of right message, wrong tone.

You'd think such a master would understand that ; )
Like I said it was weird because on the one hand I was angry and embarrassed that someone was lecturing me and treating me like a child, and on the other I just knew I had to take it because he was right. I was playing sloppy. And I could have cut it short by saying "well I just pulled a 10-hour work day and my hands are tired and and I was at the peak of my limit, etc" but I figured it's such a random occurrence why not take the opportunity to learn something? I mean, I've always had the fantasy that someone will hear me playing, knock on my door, and offer me a contract. At least half of it came true.

I do wish he had been nicer. But I've had several 'nice' teachers who didn't push me. Sometimes you need a drill sergeant, someone to call you a maggot and get you all angry-motivated.

And yeah I was practicing with a metronome. He just happened to come along right when I was trying to play faster than I'm capable, and trying to count only downbeats while playing sixteenths, so I sounded more ragged and uneven than usual. Then as he was browbeating me I kept getting more nervous and tense so of course I made more mistakes.

I really needed a whole day to think over what he actually said, not how he said it, and how I can use that to get better.

But yeah, trumpet players! I thought guitarists had ego problems. Right after this happened I seriously considered hiring a professional trumpet player to swing by some night he's practicing and tear him to shreds. But with my luck the pro would just say he sounds great, charge me a couple hundred, and leave me feeling stupid.


Junior Member
I think that personally I would take umbrage at first and be defensive but then later when thinking about the encounter I would perhaps see what positive things I could take from it. Like the other say, its good to have discipline in your practice, just don't loose the fun! ;)


Senior Member
I think this guy did you a favour...

Use the advice to get better.

Some of my best "lessons" have been tips from pros that play other instruments. Just realize that very good players are often pretty blunt and you really do need to have thick skin.

Ultimately, what other people want from a drummer is 1. good time 2. clean execution 3. dynamices and feel and 4. taste

For the most part, they don't really care how blazing our solos are or how many notes we can fit into a bar.

(I also think the story sounds kind of funny, though.... I can almost picture an Adam Sandler movie having a scene like the one you describe!)
(I also think the story sounds kind of funny, though.... I can almost picture an Adam Sandler movie having a scene like the one you describe!)
Here's a reference that will show how old I am: it reminded me of that scene in Annie Hall where those two pretentious guys are talking about Marshall McLuhan in the line for a movie, and McLuhan shows up and just destroys the guys: "You know nothing of my work."

Oh hey, here's a YouTube clip:


Senior Member
Who would even think about doing this to somebody in their own private rehearsal space? If you were messing up at rehearsal, *maybe* (and I'm not sure he should have put it that way)

This guy is a nutcase and I would be very wary if you ever cross paths with him in the music world.

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Trumpeters have less to think about, so they have more freedom to concentrate on the rest (I used to play trumpet). He's probably right and he's prob played with enough bad drummers that he's angry. At least you know he heard you at your worst when he decided to bust in.

I think your depression is probably a 'hopeless' type feeling that you can work your way out of. You can show yourself that you can improve and that hopeless feeling will be gone. Someone knocked me down a peg a few years ago and it was THE biggest source of inspiration I've had in a long time. So the guy probably did you a favour, but stay angry and prove him wrong.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Kudos for you taking it and being positive about the experience. I think most other people would've been a little nicer about it. But I come form the school of tough love having played under the direction of Ashley Alexander, who rose to semi-fame as a trombone player with Stan Kenton, then Maynard Ferguson, among many others, so that guy had been around and I took it and learned an awful lot. But he was quick to build you up again after tearing you down and coming up with a way for you to learn better (good teachers are always like that). I really wished I could've played under him for another couple of years had he not passed away after my first year.

But sometimes I look back on those days and alot of those old school guys really were socially challenged, and I think that's why you had this "tough love" thing going on. Let's face it, you don't get alot of social skill when you're busy practicing for hours a day, and you're in situations with other people who lack social grace so you're all kind of in this sinking boat together (that's how I've felt on the bandstand sometimes on gigs - definitely feeling like I don't want to know these people off of the bandstand). So maybe that's just what this guy was, and it's not his fault ;)

Trumpet players by and large think they're gods anyway, right?


keep it simple

Platinum Member
I bet this horn blower had a "semi" while he's berating you mercilessly. Talk about stroking his own superiority fuzzy button! Someone walking into my private space with that attitude would be spending days removing his chosen instrument from his breakfast parking orifice - flared end first!

It doesn't matter how "right" he is, it's just not something you do. I put social respect & grace way above musicianship in terms of life importance, & so do many that hire musicians too. He needs to work on his micro taming :(


Gold Member
I know a guy who told me his music sad story, about how he was a trombone player at Berklee and was rehearsing one day... A few hot shot horn players knocked on his door, he answered and they laughed at him and promptly told him to quit; said that he was terrible. He ended up dropping out and never picking up the instrument again.
But I guess the moral to the story is that at least this experienced player tore you down, but gave some constructive feedback and advice.