Nice ways to tell a instructor/leader that their groove explainations are bad?


Gold Member
I am in a jazz band at my college, and my instructor is a trombonist. He really knows his jazz styles and scales, but when it comes to drum set, he is not the best at describing and explaining. For instance, he asked me to play a 6/4 clave(1 2 3+ + + +1 2 3+ + + +). I so I played the one we did last semester. Then he says, "no no, that is wrong."

I was confused so I asked why. She he starts saying the pattern in onomatopoeia, and it sounds like he is saying a3 instead of 3+. Needless to say, we are getting really frustrated. So, finally I figure out that there is no + of 6 on the second measure (he really could have told me that from the beginning, I had no sheet music at all to go off of, I don't even know the name of the song :/ ). He also never mentioned that the horn phrase covers two measures, which extremely helped me.

How do you go about situations like this? I never said, "You are not helping at all." because that is just stupid to say, I hide my anger pretty well. But man, it gets annoying some times.
I always fall back on "I don't follow, could you explain that in a different way?", and if they have the knowledge always have some stuff to make them write it down.



Actually practicing working with the guy may be even more beneficial than anything else you learn in the course. If you plan on playing a lot of gigs, you're bound to run in to people who do the same thing, but you have no choice but to play with them. If you can learn to do that gracefully, you may avoid a lot of frustration in the future. Look at it like a learning experience with a lot of value that will get you hired in the future. That may take some of the sting out of it. :eek:)


Gold Member
"I think I understand, but could you explain that to me in a different way."

"I woke up stupid today; can you show me again."



Silver Member
I often encounter this when working with singer songwriters or other musicians who have an idea of what they want but can't really explain it very well.

If it is a rhythm (as in your case) i get them to clap it out a few times and I write it down. Or if it is a beat I get them to sing it to me, almost like beatboxing.

This speeds up the process no end and instead of spending 10-15 minutes to get a beat I spend 2 minutes and get the result.

Try these next time and it may help


p.s they will be embarrassed when you ask them to beatbox/sing it just assure them it is the easiest and quickest way to get results.


Gold Member
Yeah, when he FINALLY did that it helped. The main issue was that I knew the pattern, he just never told me to not play the last eighth note. Instead, he kept saying you are playing another quarter note, which I wasn't. But yeah, we fixed it and the song it pretty cool.


Platinum Member
This is going to happen to you a lot if you keep doing music after school. A lot of bandleaders (and horn players who think they're your boss because you're the drummer) are going to not like what you're playing, try to tell you what to play, and have very little idea of how to communicate it. If you want to continue working for this particular guy, it's usually a good idea not to treat him like he's FOS (even if he is) and to sincerely help him figure out what he's trying to explain to you. If that's your actual goal, the approach to sorting things out will usually be pretty obvious. In this situation it sounds like an easy solution would've been to say "sorry, I don't understand. Can you write it out for me?"

But I'm not totally convinced it was your instructor's fault. You should be conversant enough in syncopated 8th note rhythms to be able to tell right away if he was counting it wrong; also the fact that you didn't notice that the horns were playing a two measure phrase suggests that maybe you weren't listening as closely as you should've been.

Monica McCoy

Senior Member
Have him write the groove in music notation. My teacher never mouths a groove to me. He pencils them out and says "learn this." Sometimes he'll demonstrate but usually I'm good with just the beat written out on music paper.