For my STEP project, I took weekly drum lessons during summer 2018 and the 2018-2019 school year. I practiced on an electronic drum kit and learned from two instructors, one back home in Cleveland and one here in Columbus. My lessons were a mixture of learning rudiments, how to read music, and how to play the kit.
Learning how to play the drums was something I had wanted to do for many years now. I had taken up a few instruments in the past, but never stuck with something longer than a year or so. Going into my first lesson, I wasn’t sure if the drum kit was going to be the instrument that would finally stick with me; after this entire experience, I can say that it has. I assumed that I might give up after it got too hard or frustrating, but my interest in the instrument and my desire to get better pushed me to keep going. Additionally, I felt like I had lost my ability to read music since I hadn’t played an instrument in years. Trying to read sheet music was challenging at first, but I soon realized that the basics were coming back to me. Through practice, I got better at reading music, which was another transformative part of my experience.
These transformations mainly occurred during my weekly lessons and (almost) daily practice. Every week I would have one half-hour lesson with my instructor. During these lessons, we’d start out practicing rudiments on a practice pad and reading sheet music. This was often one of the more rewarding parts of the lesson, because at that point I would be comfortable performing these rudiments after practicing them over and over throughout the week. This not only helped strengthen my sheet-reading skills, but also my desire to keep learning.
After rudiment practice, my instructor and I would work on skills on the kit. There were many things that we would practice: more rudiments, limb independence, different grooves, and fills. One of the books that I purchased was entitled “Groove Essentials,” which was a collection of a bunch of grooves in different styles of music, such as jazz, hip-hop, rock, country, etc. Some of these were relatively simple, and others got very challenging. This helped with limb independence (moving my hands and feet independently of each other) as well as reading music and keeping time. Practicing rudiments on the kit also helped me create different fills (a drum pattern that is in between sections of a song) and learn how to get creative behind the kit. This again only heightened my fascination with the instrument and desire to learn more.
Finally, during the week between lessons, I would try to practice daily. This usually consisted of an hour or so of rudiments on a practice pad and a song, groove, or general exercise on my electronic kit. It was hard trying to hone in on these skills, especially when it came to sticking (figuring out how to effectively play a pattern by seeing which notes should be assigned to which hand) and limb independence. Certain patterns were difficult because sometimes my right foot (which plays the bass drum) would want to move at the same pattern as my hands, and vice versa. This led to a few hours of patient practice throughout the week. Once I got a song, groove, or exercise down, I felt accomplished and proud, which only increased my interest in continuing to learn the instrument. As one can see, through my weekly lessons and practice, I learned that I am capable of developing the necessary skills to play an instrument (such as reading sheet music) and that the drum kit is an instrument that has held and will continue to hold my interest even when learning it can be challenging.
This transformation—from being unable to read music or play the drums to being able to read and play the basics—is significant because, as stated before, the drum kit has been an instrument that has held my fascination for years. I’ve always wanted to try to learn how to play along to some of my favorite songs and other cool grooves. I also decided on completing a project in the creative and artistic endeavors category because I wanted a chance to do something outside of my major. Studying astronomy and astrophysics means that I am constantly in difficult physics and math courses. Learning the drums was a way to fuel my creative side, which is not always stimulated by difficult equations and problems. I also wanted to use the drums as a good stress relief, especially when my semesters got overwhelming. This experience provided just that: it fulfilled my desire to play the drums, fueled my creative side, and helped relieve my stress throughout the semester. It gave me something extra to look forward to during the week, and provided a good way to break up studying and working on assignments during the day. I believe that this experience has had a positive effect on my life both academically and personally, and I can’t wait to keep developing these skills and getting better in the future.