Smith: Making up for lost drumming time
Vail CO, Colorado
I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to my neighbors. And their pets.
But I had no choice. When the question is, “Do you want a free drum set?” well … how can you say no?
I wasn’t allowed to make any noise growing up. When I was in high school I was really into juggling, which, until you’ve progressed to chain saws, is a quiet pursuit. I used to practice at night in my bedroom.
My dad would routinely bust into my room ” “What are you doing?”
“Juggling,” I’d say.
“Well … don’t!”
His busting in wasn’t in response to the noise, as there was none. I’d juggle with beanbags while standing over my bed, so when I dropped them they would silently hit the bedspread. No, busting in was just something my dad liked to do. The same interaction would have happened no matter what I was doing.
“What are you doing?”
“Gingerly stacking wispy cotton balls into a soothing pyramid shape,” I’d say.
“Well … don’t!”
Had I done anything that made any actual noise, forget it.
As a result of my dad’s noise ordinance, I had no musical training as a child. None. Not a single lesson on a single instrument. In college, I took a guitar class, and I learned a few chords and some beginner songs, but I couldn’t see how playing “It’s a Small World” would help me play “Blitzkrieg Bop,” so I got bored. A decade later, I revisited the guitar and, after many years of occasional practice, can now play a few things on it. I also play a little bit of harmonica, but, really, who doesn’t?
So it’s not like I sat down at my new drum kit, now assembled in the living room, and thought, ahhh, yet another instrument that I’ll easily master. I figured I’d just do that jazzy tssss-tst-tst-tssss thing on the hi-hat a few times, do some rim shots and then get bored with drums. Pretty much the same thing that happened with my ukulele. Oh, I had big dreams for me and the ukulele, but that’s kind of a pathetic story.
But from the first crash of the cymbal, I knew that wasn’t to be the case. The guitar was frustrating for me ” all that fine motor coordination, moving your fingers independently and such. Ughh!
But with the drums, my frustration lasted about as long as it took to figure out which end of the drumstick I’m supposed to hold. Then BOOM ” I’m Keith Moon! Not in skill, but in enthusiasm. The only frustration I’ve experienced so far is that I can’t get my head closer to the drums so they sound louder.
A few years ago I went to visit my parents in California to find that my brother, Chase, 18 years younger than me, has a drum kit. At home! In my dad’s house! What?!
And Chase was good, meaning that he’d been practicing. And he was loud, vibrating the whole house, as good drumming will do.
This made no sense to me. Chase gets drums? My brother Bryan and I couldn’t even have Velcro wallets, as they were too noisy. Maybe Dad’s going deaf.
No. No hearing loss issues. I ask Chase how the hell he gets away with it. He tells me that he just locks his door and drums, and when Dad comes and pounds on his bedroom door, he just plays louder and pretends he can’t hear him until eventually Dad gets tired of pounding on the door and goes back to watching TV.
What a brilliant strategy. Why didn’t we try this growing up. Oh, yeah, I remember why.
“No way! You get to have a lock on your door?” I said.
So, neighbors, I apologize. I know our little neighborhood is sleepy and quiet, and I realize that a daily four-hour drum version of “When the Levee Breaks” is not really what’s needed to raise your quality of life, but I have some issues to work out, some lost time to make up for. You can come and knock on my door if it gets too annoying, but I’ll ignore you. And the door will be locked.
But don’t worry ” the drum thing will run its course soon, I’m sure, and I’ll be back to the ukulele in no time.
Hmmm … can you plug a ukulele into an amplifier?
Read more Barry Smith at http://www.barry smith.com.
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