My drum teacher failed me.

boomstick

Silver Member
When I was a beginning drummer, I took lessons from the same teacher for about five years. Since then I've grown and learned quite a lot, and in doing so I've come to realize that my teacher was not a very good one. It saddens me to say this, because I really liked the guy, and he was super enthusiastic. But he failed to identify and correct numerous problems with my technique, both hands and feet, that took me years of practice and research to overcome, although I'm not fully there yet even now. I also realize now that this teacher was not very focused. He had me working out of several instruction books simultaneously, and I don't think I got past the halfway point on any of them, so I never achieved what those books were designed to accomplish. He never introduced me to a metronome. He never taught me how to tune drums. I could go on. Unfortunately, since I was a beginner, I didn't know any better, and so continued to be his student. He was a good player, and he would amaze me with his skills, but he was simply no good at teaching them. The thing that really bums me out is I think I would be a much better drummer today if I had a better teacher.

So how can other beginning drummers avoid this fate? I will say that anyone who starts out these days is extremely lucky to have so many online learning resources, like this site, youtube, etc., none of which were around when I was learning. Aside from my teacher, the best I could do was read Modern Drummer, or painstakingly search for concert footage of drummers so I could figure out how to play certain things, but I don't think anything quite matches in-person instruction from a good teacher. But since there is no sort of certification for drum teachers (none that I'm aware of) how is a prospective student supposed to know whether a teacher is qualified or not?
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
Maybe set a goal and a deadline and see if you reach your goal. If you aren’t reaching your goal then consider changing something, possibly your teacher.
 

Beater

Member
I've just started drumming recently and have just changed teachers.

Not because he was a bad teacher but because he had given me his best and it was time to move on.

I've taken a lot of music lessons over the years on different instruments and I would say 5 years is way to long with the same teacher.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I was going to be an astronaut but the teachers in school just didn't do enough to nurture my brilliance.
 

boomstick

Silver Member
I was going to be an astronaut but the teachers in school just didn't do enough to nurture my brilliance.
The implication being that the failure is mine? What should I have done differently? Or do you just like to leave hit-and-run sarcastic statements?
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Bit of both.

You sound like someone blaming their parents that their life didn't turn out the way they wanted.

Your teacher had a job to do but your development wasn't solely his responsibility, you have to figure things out for yourself too.

What would you say about Dennis Chambers being completely self taught?
 

boomstick

Silver Member
Bit of both.

You sound like someone blaming their parents that their life didn't turn out the way they wanted.

Your teacher had a job to do but your development wasn't solely his responsibility, you have to figure things out for yourself too.

What would you say about Dennis Chambers being completely self taught?
And I did figure things out eventually. In fact, my learning and progress were much better once I was on my own, older, and able to access more information. (I was his student from age 13-18, by the way). But my poor technique hampered my playing significantly until I worked all that stuff out. My complaint is that my teacher was being paid to optimize and accelerate my learning, and most importantly, help me establish a solid foundation that I could continue to build on. He failed in that regard by not correcting things over a five year period that a good drum teacher would spot immediately, like poor stick grip, poor pedal technique, bad timekeeping, etc. I don't know if you've ever had to unlearn poor technique developed over several years and relearn proper technique, but it's no picnic, let me tell you. In my opinion, that is a problem one should not have after five years of professional drum instruction. As for Dennis Chambers, I would say he did not lose a lot of money on a subpar drum teacher. So is it your position that drum teachers are unnecessary? Would you advise new drummers not to bother with drum teachers?
 
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brentcn

Platinum Member
So is it your position that drum teachers are unnecessary? Would you advise new drummers not to bother with drum teachers?
On the contrary. If you want a kid to get good at a young age, you deepen and broaden the education. You don't just pick one teacher and cross your fingers. You yourself only had one teacher, but it's not uncommon for students to have more than one (some have three). Of course, the parents who are willing to shell out for such an experience for their child are (you guessed it) usually musicians themselves. A friend of mine had kit lessons with one teacher, rudimental lessons with another, belonged to a snare drum line, and played kit in every high school musical in town. When you do all that for a few years straight, your technique comes together in a hurry!

It sounds like your teacher showed you how to have fun with the instrument, and exposed you to a wide variety of concepts and approaches. Later on, you were able to evaluate methods based on your successes and failures with early ones. But most importantly, you're still playing. The worst thing is when a teacher sours the experience of the whole instrument. At least you weren't failed in that sense!
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Its a shame, but as you say the teacher was a good guy and was "super enthusiastic". Hindsight is a wonderful thing, It seems strange that after 5 years you now think he was a bad teacher. If he instilled a love of drumming and you were making progress then whats the problem? If you were not making progress then why did you stay with him?
 

boomstick

Silver Member
On the contrary. If you want a kid to get good at a young age, you deepen and broaden the education. You don't just pick one teacher and cross your fingers. You yourself only had one teacher, but it's not uncommon for students to have more than one (some have three). Of course, the parents who are willing to shell out for such an experience for their child are (you guessed it) usually musicians themselves. A friend of mine had kit lessons with one teacher, rudimental lessons with another, belonged to a snare drum line, and played kit in every high school musical in town. When you do all that for a few years straight, your technique comes together in a hurry!
Well, I've been drumming for decades and this multiple teacher approach as the way to go is news to me, so it would especially be news to a beginning drummer. How would they know to do this? Is it even possible for most people, financially and otherwise? I grew up out in the burbs. My teacher was the drum teacher at the local music store. Not a drum shop, mind you. A small music store with a decent selection of guitars, a ton of sheet music, and like one drum kit and some cymbals. There was no music program at my school. No internet. I was a kid getting around on a bike. In other words, my resources were limited.

It sounds like your teacher showed you how to have fun with the instrument, and exposed you to a wide variety of concepts and approaches. Later on, you were able to evaluate methods based on your successes and failures with early ones. But most importantly, you're still playing. The worst thing is when a teacher sours the experience of the whole instrument. At least you weren't failed in that sense!
Good point. As I said, he was super-enthusiastic and super-nice. He was also a really good player. He definitely did not sour me on the drums, but I think he was partially responsible for a lot of unnecessary frustration with my playing over the years. It's like the more I learn, the more I discover fundamental things that I was not taught that I should have been taught. It's very disconcerting to discover that years-long struggles with bad technique could have been avoided if some very simple things were taught to me from day one.
 

boomstick

Silver Member
Its a shame, but as you say the teacher was a good guy and was "super enthusiastic". Hindsight is a wonderful thing, It seems strange that after 5 years you now think he was a bad teacher. If he instilled a love of drumming and you were making progress then whats the problem? If you were not making progress then why did you stay with him?
The thing is, I was making progress when I was learning from him. But the thing about playing with bad technique is you can sort of power through the deficiencies to a certain point, even to the point of being a passable drummer, but then you hit this wall that you cannot get past, no matter how hard you try or how much you practice. I always thought my problem was that I just needed to practice more. So I practiced more and more, really locking that bad technique into muscle memory. This is where you actually start to get diminishing returns. As I said, since I've gained access to more resources, I've discovered the root of my problems, and I've had to spend a lot of time correcting them. In many ways, it was like learning over again from the beginning. So, yeah, I'd say that's a pretty good indication that my formative education was not a good one.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Learning/Teaching an instrument pre/post internet are two very different things.

Pre Internet: As long as your teacher motivated you to chase your ambition and taught you the basics, you were getting the best training available outside of an academic institution.

Post Internet: Everyone is literally an expert. Young students play with a remarkable degree of virtuosity. Access to any style and multiple instructors is completely unencumbered.

"Kids today don't understand how good they have it". That's not a complaint, that's just an observation.

For me, the job of a teacher has always been to teach me how, what, and why I should practice.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Well, I've been drumming for decades and this multiple teacher approach as the way to go is news to me, so it would especially be news to a beginning drummer. How would they know to do this? Is it even possible for most people, financially and otherwise? I grew up out in the burbs. My teacher was the drum teacher at the local music store. Not a drum shop, mind you. A small music store with a decent selection of guitars, a ton of sheet music, and like one drum kit and some cymbals. There was no music program at my school. No internet. I was a kid getting around on a bike. In other words, my resources were limited.
As a child or teen, you'd have no idea, so you can blame your parents for that, haha! Typical parents wouldn't see the value in placing their child into more than one music lesson/experience/ensemble; only musician parents might understand the value of such a strategy. Furthermore, it takes a particularly single-minded child to want to study one thing so intensively at a young age. Most kids want to, and probably should, explore the world a bit more.

The nice thing about having to do the work of improving your technique yourself is that you remember what you did and why. Some kids are so young when they learn the basics that they just can't relate to a kid who doesn't automatically "get it". Having dealt with those challenges at an older age helps you to understand and communicate that information to others. In short, a late bloomer often makes a great teacher.

Also, being a great drummer at a young age isn't a reliable predictor of future fame or financial success. There are just too many variables -- but pedigree (who your parents are, what resources were available) is the most influential. So you haven't really missed out on much. :)
 

boomstick

Silver Member
Interesting points all, brentcn, but I would like to clarify that my perceived shortcomings are not about commercial failure, but simply my progress and abilities as drummer (or lack thereof). I have never been satisfied with my quality of playing, and in more recent years I've learned that the problems I've identified have a lot to do with that.
 

bigd

Silver Member
The problem with the internet is that you don't actually have access to the most knowledgable teachers. All the truly great teachers are still in their offices. People seek them out and go to them no matter how far. Todays great teachers don't need or use the internet as the students still come to them. As for kids having multiple teachers, that is the norm for todays top students.
 

boomstick

Silver Member
When I first started learning, one of the most (the most?) renowned drum educators was Roy Burns (still is?). I went to one of his clinics in my late teens. Major eye-opener. That was my first experience with a great drum teacher. Would have loved to take lessons from him.

On a bit of a tangent, I still remember a couple things from the clinic. He started by discussing differences between matched and traditional grip, and how some people claimed that matched grip gives them more left hand power. He said the power is nothing to do with grip, but with leverage. It's sometimes perceived that there's no left hand power in traditional grip because some trad players hold the stick close to the middle. For example, jazzers might hold it there for more sensitive snare work. But he said you could get just as much power as matched grip by choking back on the stick, and pointed to Stewart Copeland's trad grip. He holds it all the way back at the end and slams down a wicked backbeat.

I also remember him stressing the importance of rudiments, and demonstrating why they're important for playing basic beats on a kit. He started by doing simple paradiddles on the snare, then showed how if he just moved the sticks to different surfaces, modified the accenting, and incorporated a simple kick pattern, he could make a super tasty beat. It was such a simple, yet awesome demonstration for how the rudiments are applied in every aspect of playing.

As for playing ability, my teacher was good, but Roy Burns struck me as a true master player.
 
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percusski

Member
Listen, there are blaggers in every area of society all trying to make a penny out of the unsuspecting or unknowing... I find this all the time, the number of students who come to me missing fundamentals or have clearly been drawn in by bullshitters... The real problem is with beginners, how do they know what they're getting in to, I mean the guy can play a beat loudly therefore must know what he's talking about right?... Even later on it exists, companies like drum channel promoting Cobus a guy who can barely play and who advocates a teaching method based on nothing, just self learning and all the potential flaws that can be associated with that...quite ridiculous really... after all why would anyone want to study with someone who could pass on ' the knowledge ' handed down through generations of schooled drummers who over years of experimentation and practice arrive at a real method....anyway, quick fixes and money making and all that...
 

mikel

Platinum Member
This is obviously a very personal subject. "Technique" is an emotive word, I have been to lots of great gigs over the decades and listened to hundreds of drummers but I dont recall ever leaving a gig and commenting "That drummer was great, he had good technique".

For me listening to and playing music is and organic, live in the moment thing. I couldnt care less about the musicians technique I care about how they sound. From Joe Morello to Kieth Moon I liked what they played on the night, or not.

If you dont like what or how you play then that is another issue, but as a wise man once said. "Equip yourself with the tools you need to get the job done" Thats what your original teacher did. When you want to take things further you equip yourself with more and better tools, thats what you do when you decide drumming is for you, you get another teacher who can teach you what you want.

Most beginners dont want to be overwhelmed with endless rudiments theory and technique, they want to play music with others and be inspired. If the drumming bug realy bites, and you need it to progress, then get involved in the minutia.

Play and enjoy first, then acquire what you need to take it where you want to go.
 

boomstick

Silver Member
I couldnt care less about the musicians technique I care about how they sound.
Well, one affects the other, does it not? My poor technique was precisely why I could not attain the sound I was striving for.

Also, I'm not lamenting a lack of "endless rudiments theory and technique" in my drumming education. I'm taking basic stuff, like how to hold the sticks properly, how to work the pedals properly, or how to keep good time. Again, I have no doubt that a good teacher would have taken one look at me playing and instantly identified my poor form and sloppy timing and taken steps to correct them.

I'll give one example how this became a problem later on. My first time in a recording studio, I learned that my kick technique caused frequent unintended rebounds. It was a real problem that made the recording session way more difficult that it should have been. I was unaware of the problem until that point, and it has taken a significant amount of time to correct it. Again, i think this is something a good drum teacher would have spotted, especially within a five year time span. Now that I think of it, that first recording session was also when I discovered what poor timing I had. That whole episode was a rude awakening. It was like all my flaws were magnified loud and clear, and they were significant flaws.

I must say, I'm a bit surprised at the overall lax attitude toward a person that was paid a significant amount of money to do a job, and failed to cover some very important basic fundamentals. I imagine a chemistry teacher failing to teach the periodic tables and everyone here brushing it off and saying it was the student's responsibility. I doubt many other people would see it that way.
 
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