I bet you lot thought I had given up on my drumming – but no! I’m still at it and getting closer and closer to my goal. It turns out learning the drums and getting any good requires lessons and lots of practice; this is not great blogging material. I would basically be saying, ‘and I had another lesson and it was clear I need to practise some more’ every week.
The bad news is I massively underestimated how long it would take me to learn to play – not just that, but how long it would take to build up the muscles you need to be ABLE to play. For example, the song I’m learning – Alive by Pearl Jam – requires a tremendous amount of bass drum kicking. Towards the end of the song you need to hammer away at it constantly. This is hard work on your shin muscle. The only way you can physically do it is to build up that muscle. I hope I am not going to have a grossly overdeveloped shin muscle on my right leg.
Anyway, the lessons have continued, I can para-diddle with the best of them and am starting to get to grips with the intricacies of the rhythms of the song.
My dream of playing it in front of an audience this July have sadly fallen by the way side. Unless the band just wants to play the first verse and one bar of the chorus, pretty much continuously, this isn’t going to work. More time is needed!
I’ve had a lesson every week since I started and coming on well. Practice is tricky though – especially when work has been a nightmare recently. So, with the holidays beginning, I thought now was the time to really spend some hours just me and my drum kit. The Head of Music at my school is a sweetheart and kindly agreed to lend me a drum kit over the break.
A trip back to the school was necessary to collect the kit. I thought this was a good time as the car would be empty and Rob would hopefully be a little softened by having his darling wife around more often after weeks of work related absence.
Hmmm. Well I can’t say he was delighted to carry a huge drum kit, piece by piece, from one end of the school to another – especially on a boiling hot day – but eventually it was all packed away in the car. Once he helped with that he would help no more and washed his hands of what he has been calling my ‘middle aged crisis madness.’. He really has no understanding of why I am doing this.
It was up to me to set it all up and I chose the shed in the garden to be my Hotel California, my Crisis Cave, my Rock and Roll Studio.
Today was not a good day. Last month I was delighted to find I had lost the stone I put on after losing all the weight. All this week I have dieted like a madwoman. Cakes have been turned down, chocolate has been bypassed, the gym has been regularly visited. This morning, using the fiendish new scales which measure absolutely everything, I discovered I had not only put on three pounds, my fat content was up, my muscle mass down and my water content on a par with the Indian Ocean. FFS!!!! Mournfully I remembered Son’s left over pizza, Daughter’s chocolate fudge cake, the end of a pack of Doritos. All perfectly good junk food I had thrown in the bin with priggish, diet frenzied determination. I might as well have eaten it and enjoyed it.
So things were not good. However, after a two hours lugging about bits of drum kit in the scorching heat, sweating like a member of Kiss after a gig, the kit was ready.
This is the entrance to my Rock den… Doesn’t look like much does it?
What’s that at the back…?
It’s rock and roll – that’s what it is!
OK, so there’s a drum missing, and I haven’t quite worked out how to put the high hat together, but I’m getting there.
I had a little go and felt BRILLIANT. I made as much noise as I could. The shed very quickly turned into a sauna, though, so I had to get out to get some fresh air.
Nobody, especially Rob, seems to get why I am doing this. He feels it’s a waste of time, and no matter how hard I try to explain my feelings about drumming he just shakes his head in puzzlement.
So why am I loving it so much? Of course, there is that element of recapturing my youth when I had such a brilliant time playing in a band. But it’s more than that. Learning something new and finding yourself improving is exhilarating. I haven’t taught myself anything really since university – or when I have to research a new text to teach my pupils. Learning drums is like learning a language – it’s another string to my bow, and it’s always great to get better and better at something,
Also, there’s something about making a tremendous amount of noise which is really powerful. In normal life I am surrounded by noise I can’t control. My children bickering, loud and long, for example. Or Rob, roaring at the dog. Or the crash and bang of lively teenagers at school. The noise of the drums is a noise I make, a giant FUCK YOU to everyone else out there. (I have to be careful, though, as I have got older my ears are getting buggered, so I have to wear ear defenders, not very rock and roll)
So think of me, over the next few weeks, rocking out in a dusty shed, making the spiders bounce around in their webs as I hammer away with my sticks. I’m not very good – yet – but I’m getting there. Who said rock was a young person’s game?