A long time ago I tried to teach myself how to play the drums. I have a decent sense of rhythm and while I’m not the most coordinated person you’ll ever meet, I get by. Pedals were never a problem. I love a good THOOM. Poly-rhythms and basic left-right hand control gave me tons of trouble though. Chief among these is the building blocks of all good drum technique: the paradiddle.

If anyone here is more accustomed to instruments of the stringed variety, like myself, a paradiddle is a simple (ha!) pattern you do when training yourself how to hit correctly. Left-right-left-left. Or Right-left-right-right. Par-a-did-dle. Get it? You start slow, usually on the snare, and keep working at it until it becomes second nature. But for some of us, it never does. My arms like to tense up at random times. My hands have always had a bit of grip issue so the sticks just slide around. But worst of all is my thoughts. Instinct can never win over the loudness of my own brain.

Playing music is HARD for me. My better half can enter this office and noodle around with the guitar and effects pedals for hours, creating these massive landscapes of sound and color. It’s hard for him too but for different reasons. Playing an instrument for me is like trying to oil paint with a canvas bag dipped in ink. I’ll sling it around a bit and maybe something will come out vaguely okay but it’s not a calming space for me. And it’s alright. Sometimes you have to know when to move on. Maybe you’ll find the thing that is YOUR thing. I enjoy writing about music. That’s a place I fit.

So I mess around with words, phrases, rhythm. A paradiddle of a different kind. It’s the same concept, really, keep working on the basics until they become second nature. I’m not going to drum but I’ll keep a beat of my own. It became a lot easier once my brain moved out of the way for a bit. I had to stop seeing what AMJ could be and love it for what it was. It’s not a drum kit. Play how you want it. You may skip a beat or two but as long as you’re doing what you need, it’s fine.

1 Comment

  1. I’m very similar musically. I’ve owned a drum kit and have it in my home, but can not play it – for 30 years or more. I play guitar and bass. I’m NOT a natural. I work hard to get close to good – again for a long time now, 36 years. I started learning from my roommate in Athens in ’84. We (band for decades) play once or more a month together making up jams and getting through some covers. It’s fun. That’s why we do it. And when we hit on all cylinders, it’s amazing.

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