Teaching a teenager who doesn't listen to music

kettles

Gold Member
So I have this student, who I've been teaching for about six months and he shows a lot of potential. But he doesn't actually listen to music! He doesn't own any music, has no favourite bands, just hasn't really caught the music bug yet. I'm finding it hard to motivate him to practice because he doesn't have any aspirations to play any particular genre or like his (non-existent) favourite drummers. I have tried introducing a lot of different music but nothing has caught on.

Would one of the grades systems (Trinity and the like) be worth considering? I think there's a chance he will be motivated by having measurable goals to work towards and getting to the next grade. I don't have any experience with grades, they are virtually non existent here. Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated!
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
lol. i have that problem come up regularly. you almost wonder why they bother to come to lessons. but i have to remember that drumming has it own intrinsic enjoyment that makes it worth doing even if you never join a band or play to music. as each case is different i cannot give you direct advice for your kid but i can tell you what i've done with mine. sometimes i will sacrifice part of the lesson for just music appreciation work. this even sometimes means showing them live DVDs of bands or even drum instruction DVDs or clinics. sometimes i have chosen a selection of songs from various genres and used them as a syllabus - sort of if you don't tell me what you want to learn i will give something to learn approach. sometimes all that is needed is time and maturity and in such cases i focus on skills that are less musical such as pad practice and rudiments or speed work (sort of challenge them from a physical almost sport angle). the grades might be just the thing for him as well. some people respond well to goals that are more defined - like belts in karate rather than learning to be a good fighter.
j
 

Agd8

Senior Member
I've had the same problem with one of my students.
what I ended up doing was to teach him basic beats and fills of various musical genres, than I let him play along with music from each of the genres he learned.
After some getting used to time with each genre, I asked him "well, where did you have the most fun playing?"
In his case, he found out he had the most fun playing rock music and that experience drew him towards that musical genre.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
You can lead a horse to water, you know? But you could sit down with him and actually listen to some stuff with him, or give him a listening assignment- burn a CD for him. I don't think you'll win him over with superlatives, or by being really enthusiastic- something's going to have to hit his ear. You could point out that good drummers are people who are really excited about music- just knowing that he's supposed to feel that way could get him over the hurdle of beginning to actually open his ears.

Also, instead of trying to figure out what he's going to love, try to find something that's going to induce any strong reaction at all- strong dislike or confusion would be acceptable. Assigning listening with big contrasts could help that- you could give him some Coltrane followed by some AC/DC followed by some Johnny Hartman, followed by some Steve Reich, followed by something Brazilian, followed by something else...
 

uniongoon

Gold Member
I thought this was the most bizarre thing I have ever heard of, I cant imagine anyone not listening to music, let alone wanting to play drums whilst never listening to music. Then to read the responses of teachers with the same scenario, that baffles me even more. Is it a generational thing? Are the new generations removing music from their culture?
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I feel like there's a certain danger in not teaching a student to play a song front to back. When you play a song along to a recording or with a teacher, you learn to recover from your mistakes, and you learn how to think and practice so that mistakes are minimal. When your just repeating a fill or groove by yourself, it's easy to stop and start over, and to slow down the difficult parts. This is part of the learning process, of course, but by playing an entire song you practice continuous, well-timed playing, which is hard to come by any other way. So pick a song that his friends like, preferably one with a recognizable drum part. If he tells one of his friends he's playing a "cool" song, they might be impressed enough to share their influences with him.

Showing a new student the various styles of music is a good idea, but Michel Camilo and Coltrane are probably not the best introduction to diversity. Choose tunes that are rhythmically simplistic and less dissonant, or you risk turning someone off based purely on "I don't get it, therefore I don't like it". Advanced syncopation and adventurous melody and harmony are best appreciated when you're ready for them, and, in general, children have a very low tolerance for both qualities.
 

phfreq

Member
What did he say was the reason/s he wanted to learn drums? Answering his "why" part would definitely help in figuring out the best way to move forward.
 

groove1

Silver Member
I too thought this was one of the most bizarre things I've heard and was surprised when others added they knew of this. It's beyond my imagination that someone would want to play drums who doesn't listen to music. Even if he wants to play drums to join in with other drummers that's still music worth listening to. Is his motivation that he thinks he will get chicks?
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I thought this was the most bizarre thing I have ever heard of, I cant imagine anyone not listening to music, let alone wanting to play drums whilst never listening to music. Then to read the responses of teachers with the same scenario, that baffles me even more. Is it a generational thing? Are the new generations removing music from their culture?
I too thought this was one of the most bizarre things I've heard and was surprised when others added they knew of this. It's beyond my imagination that someone would want to play drums who doesn't listen to music. Even if he wants to play drums to join in with other drummers that's still music worth listening to. Is his motivation that he thinks he will get chicks?
+3.

Interesting topic. Do you teachers think there are just some students who really shouldn't bother? If so, do you tell them so?

I wonder if a student who doesn't listen to music and has no interest in doing so is worth any time and effort at all. Wouldn't you be better off telling him to find a hobby that does interest him......whatever that may be? I know his money is as good as anyone elses, but it must be frustrating to continue with someone you know is just not cut out for it.
 
I was like this because I never grew up with music I liked until I started playing Burnout video games when I was like 11. Then Guitar Hero (when it was just, guitar hero) which made me listen to more music and what caught my ear the most at first was actually Math-Core and Prog Rock. Now, I listen to everything.

It's a problem. Give him a homework assignment. Tell him to explore around the internet looking for music he may like.
 

kettles

Gold Member
Thanks for the responses guys. Now I realise that not many younger kids (eg 5-10 yrs) will be into music, but still take lessons and learn pieces their teachers give them, or whatever. So it may be that this guy is just a late bloomer, however he also isn't terribly interested in learning some of the pieces I have suggested or tried.

The main issue I'm worried about is the lack of motivation because he's not hearing things that he wants to do. But he does enjoy playing, and has even bought new pieces of gear over the course of me seeing him. Hence my idea of the grades - giving him something to learn and a system to progress through. If any teachers here have experience with grades etc I'd love to hear about it.

What did he say was the reason/s he wanted to learn drums? Answering his "why" part would definitely help in figuring out the best way to move forward.
Without sounding too harsh, I think he's a little spoiled by his parents so sometimes it seems like he's just learning drums for something to do. Like I said before he is actually quite good, and can hold a tempo very well. Maybe when he gets to jam with other (better) musicians things will start to light up. It sounds like the other musicians around him aren't too flash either.

I too thought this was one of the most bizarre things I've heard and was surprised when others added they knew of this. It's beyond my imagination that someone would want to play drums who doesn't listen to music. Even if he wants to play drums to join in with other drummers that's still music worth listening to. Is his motivation that he thinks he will get chicks?
Haha, I don't think so. To be completely honest, I think I would still be into drumming even if I wasn't much of a music fan. Drumming just sounds cool, and is fun to do. Of course that wouldn't lead me to becoming a very good drummer for a band :)

When I was growing up I wanted to play along to Nirvana, RATM and Foo Fighters, that meant I had to bust my arse to get my strength and stamina to where it needed to be. And then it would be an hour or so of playing along to said bands.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I thought this was the most bizarre thing I have ever heard of, I cant imagine anyone not listening to music, let alone wanting to play drums whilst never listening to music. Then to read the responses of teachers with the same scenario, that baffles me even more. Is it a generational thing? Are the new generations removing music from their culture?
I too thought this was one of the most bizarre things I've heard and was surprised when others added they knew of this. It's beyond my imagination that someone would want to play drums who doesn't listen to music. Even if he wants to play drums to join in with other drummers that's still music worth listening to. Is his motivation that he thinks he will get chicks?
+3.

Interesting topic. Do you teachers think there are just some students who really shouldn't bother? If so, do you tell them so?

I wonder if a student who doesn't listen to music and has no interest in doing so is worth any time and effort at all. Wouldn't you be better off telling him to find a hobby that does interest him......whatever that may be? I know his money is as good as anyone elses, but it must be frustrating to continue with someone you know is just not cut out for it.
+4

You get the feeling that drumming is not going to figure in this student's future for long, although what he learns may have some value as stress relief when he returns home from a stressful day at his accountancy firm.

:)
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
But he does enjoy playing...
... and that's the most important factor :)

Yes, it's strange that someone whishes to learn an instrument, but who doesn't listen to any music, however, it could be the very thing that will make your student to listen and enjoy music while learning in the very near future, pehaps he's not found anything inspiring for him to listen to as yet, but the fact that he's enjoying himself and went to the extend of adding new elements to his drumkit is certainely a positive feeling, the next step should be easy, finding the inspiration as far as style and music is concerned, especially if you think he's got a lot of potential, taking drum lessons could be just the very thing to start this huge snow ball: music... :)
 
P

plangentmusic

Guest
I've taught many kids who showed tremendous talent and ability, but they didn't have that fire to make a creative statement. That's mechanics. They never amounted to much.

Then there were those who didn't show a knack for the instrument, but they had something to say , and eventually they'd find a way to say it. That's art.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I am assuming he is young and is not paying you with his own money, that his parents are? I would find out from them why he is taking lessons. It seems to me that he is wasting your time and his.
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
I run into this situation with my younger students regularly

I just turn them on to music ...this usually happens due to lack of exposure.

we listen to music...we talk the about music and the guys making it ....we learn easy songs and I pick up the guitar and play along with them to give them that "playing in a band" feeling......we record the song every time they make some progress and they go home with a CD of themselves ...the parents and the students absolutely love it

before you know it they are coming in with an iPod saying...he can we learn this?can we learn that?

boom they love music

I bet Ive had it happen 40 or 50 times over the years

this also gets them deeper into drumming and makes them very interested in learning technique
 

Daisy

Senior Member
Why not just let the kid have a go, until he either finds there is a musician inside him, or gives up? My own kids tried lots of things - flute, piano, dance, acting/theatre, judo, riding, drums, chess club. Some they liked and stuck with, some they didn't take to and gave up. Kids (and their parents) don't know what's their "thing" unless they have a go. If his parents have the money to allow him to try different things - why not? I don't think he's wasting anyone's time, all experiences are good.

(All credit to kettles for showing some interest in the lad, and wanting to inspire him).
 
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