What happens when at age 59 you go from 7 hours a week to 10 hours a week of practice?
Since I started playing drums at age 50 I've been averaging about an hour a day of disciplined practice on the kit. On top of that add passive listening time. This year I thought what the heck, let's go to 10 hours a week and see what happens.
A lot. I'm just finishing my third month and the hands and feet have never felt better. I've become even more focused on the exercises from my various teachers over the years.
Musicians can hear the changes. I can hear the changes.
That's the good news. The concerning news is this. This past week was a bit tough, I'm pooped. I didn't make my numbers. I'm always watching the clock.
The challenge this week to mediate on how to maintain my enthusiasm and energy. Rearranging some elements of my work schedule is one step. Keeping up my exercise regime is the second. Practice has eaten into exercise time, not a good thing.
Reading Brad Stulberg's new book: "The passion paradox" is a priority this week. More on this book soon.
In the meantime general rules apply.
Just back from a week away in the Azores. We had a great time. Do I feel refreshed? No. I think I've reached the age where I need instruction on how to have a vacation. Here are my self instructions, I hope you find them helpful.
Today my 2 jazz jam buddies gave me some firm direction on how to play jazz drums. Ditch the steady 4 on the floor bass drums and just accent with the snare/bass drum. It will tighten up the time and lighten up the texture. " We don't need you to keep time".
Bingo, 9 years of occasional chunkiness goes poof.
In 2015 over lunch Rufus Reid told me how to comp and play the ride pattern on the jazz kit. I was in a serious funk. I had just come from a workshop where trumpeter/drummer Bobby Shew, vibraphonist/percussionist Dick Sisto, and legendary drummer/teacher Ed Soph simultaneously critiqued my playing in front of my classmates, while I haplessly played away. It wasn't pretty. I went to lunch ready to call it a day, hand in my sticks and head back to Canada.
Rufus saved my drumming career over lunch when he saw me sitting alone looking like I lost my best friend. Sitting down he asked me what was the matter. I told him. He said, "Play quarters on the ride and whenever you detect a space in the soloist and or melody, throw in the skip beat and/or comping 8th note" Bingo more flow, more listening. Thank you Rufus.
There is a lesson for all of us here: Take direction from master musicians, value feedback, and suck it up.
I do a lot of music coaching everyday. It is interesting work. The most important part of the work is helping musicians get their goals and desires congruent with the time and resources available to them.
Next, is guiding them to enjoy the process of getting better. Musicians spend most of their time alone with their instrument. So, we all have had to get comfortable with being alone doing the work of mastering the instrument. A former mentor suggested I get good before I get "creative". Forty years later I understand.
Last point for this post is the idea that welcoming feedback is crucial for development. Simple way to start? Record yourself, take lessons, attend a workshop, post a performance online if you dare, go to a jam, join a band. Get out there.
David Story: Professional pianist, drummer, composer, and educator. Well into his 5th enthusiastic musical decade, David works with adults pursuing musical dreams in the autumn of life, while he maintains an active presence in the Toronto arts scene.