Getting into the Beat


At this time of year, your child might be thinking about taking up a musical instrument. Believe it or not, learning the drums isn’t as bad as it sounds!

This conversation can divide families and I bet it happens daily, somewhere in the country. Parents stand ashen-faced as their child clears their throat and says, “Dad, Mum … I think I want to try the drums.” That’s it, they think; the quiet life is over, we don’t have any space, we like our neighbours and, even worse, most people have heard at least one drummer joke. But let’s just back up the truck because all those fears are so outdated, so 20th century. I would be thrilled if my child said that and so should you be. Here’s why.

The oldest instrument

On every level, rhythm makes the world go round. Nature’s and ours,

hopefully in harmony. Drummers have always fulfilled a vital role in society, something akin to a shaman. Sure, they can make noise but it would bring people together, maybe to spread news and joy, although today, that noise is more likely to fill a dance floor in 30 seconds flat. But tragically, because they hit things, drummers may still be viewed through the lens of hellraisers like Keith Moon, John Bonham or even Animal from the Muppets. Yeah, they were pretty crazy cats but Moon probably lived longer than he should have because he was so gifted.

I drum, therefore I am

In case you hadn’t guessed, I think drummers are amazing people. Regardless of personality type, each one I know shows great sensitivity; they are calm, placid people with an extremely deep, unspoken devotion to bettering themselves. At nearly every recording session I’ve done, it’s the drummer who’ll spend the downtime reading dense books on higher pathways relative either to their instrument or themselves. Then, odds on, they’ll produce a small, noiseless pad and hide themselves away to practice rudiments. The rest of us mostly watch dumb clips on YouTube.

Speaking of comfort

Many creative souls struggle in some way to be comfortable in our own skins. Think how your child’s confidence may benefit when the day dawns that they can move all four limbs while simultaneously playing a different rhythm with each one? Not many instruments can lay claim to a skill equalling rubbing your tummy and patting your head but twofold. The effect on the development of both fine and gross motor skills is profound. Additionally, if a child can experience emotional comfort by letting off steam on a drumkit, that safe haven will always exist when necessary.

Finally, drummer, meet headphones

Since the first electronic drumkit was invented in the early ’80s (it went “psshhh”, remember?), drummers have been able to practise in relative silence, apart from the delicate sound of sticks. So that’s another excuse gone. Each drum was thinner than a briefcase and the whole set could fit in a Mini. They’re not the traditional acoustic kit most drummers prefer, but they’re better and cheaper than ever, and can be an excellent learning tool until the time and place is right for the real thing. And if your child moves to a melodic instrument, they should have an appreciable rhythmic headstart when it comes to fingering, plucking, singing or strumming. By that time, I hope you’ll be warming to the idea of your own private rhymatist.

[byline]Dominic Blaazer is a writer who also teaches music at Lewis Eady and performs around the Auckland region[/byline]

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