Being a Drummer
Being a drummer has begun to define me out there on social media. Maybe it is because of my age or gender; maybe it is because I am not exactly built as a drummer. Who knows?
I have been drumming since January 2013 on and off which is something that I am proud of. People seem to find it cool that I drum, maybe if I was male then it would be less cool but there is something about a female drummer which seems exciting. (Whereas I didn’t seem very cool during my piano or clarinet days).
Love of Music and the Fateful Drum Demonstration
I have always been interested in music, in fact I spend most of my time wearing headphones. From my first personal CD player at the age of five to my present iPod Nano it is something that I never leave the house without. It is almost catastrophic when my headphones break.
My love of drums however, the pivotal moment when I decided that I wanted to play them, was during a drum demonstration at my old school.
During one of our music lessons we were all sat in the music studio, a shiny drum kit – not the one the school owned but the teacher – at the front with a man sat behind it. Mr Jones. I remember being in complete awe of the whole demonstration from the kit to messing around on some percussion afterwards. He played through a couple of songs but one that has stayed with me is “Empire State of Mind” by Alicia Keys. I knew that I wanted to play drums.
Being so awkward, it took months for me to pluck up the courage and ask for lessons. We were in a restaurant as a family when the topic of Christmas came up which is when I asked. My family were surprised to say the least and they kept asking me if I was sure that this is what I wanted. I was adamant.
So on Christmas morning I unwrapped a pair of Vic Firth American Classic 7As and in January I had my first lesson with Mr Jones.
It was very exciting for me the whole experience of being taught how to read the music, I was surprised at how sort of similar it is to normal sheet music, and the fact that the kit was the biggest pile of rubbish didn’t bother me. I was just happy to be there.
The first song I learnt on the drums was “One Day Like This “ by Elbow. I remember quite clearly the satisfaction of not only following along correctly but also switching things up a bit, adding my own grooves. I still play it occasionally perhaps as a warm up or for some nostalgia. It was the song “Plug In Baby” by Muse which I first struggled with, not being able to keep up with the speed but I did…eventually…so for me that was another achievement down and marked.
Difficulties and Drum Kits
Of course very quickly difficulties started to arise.
First one being drumming in a skirt. I had my lessons at school so I would be wearing my school uniform, a tight fitted navy pencil skirt. I couldn’t do anything about this because of having no time to change into my PE kit. I just had to deal with it. It was something Mr Jones and I used to joke about.
Another difficulty for me, was my hearing which is pretty poor (basically none existent) in my left side after an accident involving a basketball. In everyday life I have to cope with my hearing being lopsided and I have adapted since the incident sometimes though with music and playing instruments it becomes a problem. I also can’t hear certain tones. This is yet another problem which I just have to cope with but I do so and try my best not to moan. Having an electric kit in which I wear headphones to play definitely helps though.
Now let’s move onto the kit I learnt on, it was a car crash of a drum kit which my drum teacher, My Jones, hated and campaigned to get a new one.
The snare drum pretty much lost its snare, the bass drum made the most horrendous noise so my teacher had to put his jacket inside of it to make it bearable and the left tom rattled – but we have no idea why. After about two years of playing on this enough was enough and we managed to get the school to purchase a new kit which was still pretty basic but a vast improvement on the last one.
But then my lessons ended. After about five weeks on this kit my GCSE exams crept up on me so all lessons were cancelled. I then moved schools so I haven’t had a lesson since which isn’t a problem because I know the stuff that needed to be taught but I do miss the guidance in some places and having a real drum kit to play on instead of the electric kit.
Ah yes, the electric kit which I loved when I first got it and I still do, it is what I play on but it is nothing like the real thing which I miss a lot. Due to the noise I am not allowed a real drum kit. I think although my love for music has never died down but my love for the drums did momentarily because of not having access to a kit to which I could enjoy.
For a few months, I rarely drummed or even picked up my sticks which were now Vic Firth American Classic 5As (in black because why not?). I did get back into it however and quite quickly rediscovered the love I have for the instrument.
Now I cannot talk about my drumming experiences and not mention my “Drum Gods” who I look up to. The first probably being Roger Taylor from Queen. I grew up listening to a lot of Queen because they are a love of my parents especially my dad.
To be honest though I am not quite sure how anyone could have watched Queen’s performance at the London 2012 Olympics’ Closing Ceremony and not think that he is awesome. When he came up through the floor on his riser, surrounded by numerous drums, playing the famous beat of “We Will Rock You” I got tingles.
Other drummers to mention would probably be the legendary Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) who makes the simplest of drum beats seem like the coolest grooves on the planet. Perhaps because of his excitement and determination to get the crowd up and jumping around. I also have huge respect for Andy Hurley from Fall Out Boy who simply looks badass on his riser all covered in tattoos putting everything into his performance.
Coincidentally, my favourite YouTuber – JackSepticEye – used to drum for a metal band called Raised to the Ground.
So all those people who I have mentioned are “Drum Gods” in my eyes, yes including the YouTuber, but there are two people who I haven’t mentioned who I need to.
My favourite band in the world are a band who I have been listening to since they released their debut album, “Employment” and that is Kaiser Chiefs. The band from Leeds have had two drummers; Nick Hodgson and Vijay Mistry. Nick is great, not only did he play the drums like he meant it on stage but also managed to do something which I struggle to do and that is sing and play at the same time.
Obviously he is not the only drummer in the world to do this, other examples could be Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) and Tarek Musa (Spring King) but it is still a skill which I admire. If I try it, I end up losing track of what I am doing until I am just hitting the high-hat or snare randomly. Maybe with a bit more practice I can one day master that skill.
Vijay Mistry – Kaiser Chiefs
Then there is Vijay who is not only a “Drum God” but my idol (although I sort of hate that term). He joined the band in 2013 after Nick left and the work that he put it to get up to speed with the rest of band was huge. It shows what happens when you really want something. I had the pleasure of meeting the band last October at a signing where I was very nervous. In fact nervous may be an understatement. I barely said two words to any of them but I managed to calm down a little when I was faced with Mr Vijay Mistry.
I opened our encounter with “I think you’re awesome” in a ridiculously shaky tone which yes is pretty embarrassing but it got the conversation going. He remembered me as “the drummer” from social media making me very happy and the feeling was heightened when I returned home to find a comment from him on my Instagram.
Since then I have been drumming more and more, there was something about meeting him – and the rest of the Kaiser Chiefs – which inspired me to do this thing that I love more.
It is also because of Vijay that I use the drumsticks which I now use; Vic Firth American Classic 85As (not in black because they don’t make them which is annoying but oh well). I was very fortunate to get given a pair of his signature sticks at the end of a small gig in Birmingham. This only happened because of some other fans relentlessly campaigning on Twitter for me because I had wanted a pair for ages – so thank you to them if you are reading!
After getting over the shock that my idol had climbed off the stage and wandered up to the barrier to give the pair of battered sticks to me I realised how much I preferred his sticks to mine. The length and weight is practically incomparable but his were slighter. I didn’t waste anytime so I just ordered a pair online – his sticks now hang on my wall.
In The Future…
What do I want to come out of my love of drums in the future? Well I would love my own kit. I know I will be waiting a while because of university, then finding a place to live, soundproofing, buying a shiny kit blah blah blah…but I look forward to the day when it finally happens. I look forward to having a sexy “dw” kit with beautiful Sabian cymbals; two crashes, a high-hat and a ride…maybe three crashes. This may be a dream right now but I hope one day it turns into a reality.
I would also love to be in a band but right now I can’t do that without a proper kit. Oh and I literally don’t know anyone who would be in the band which is a bit of a problem. I think my dream about the kit is much more realistic than the band.
Why Do I Drum?
Lastly, why do I drum? I have no idea, not really. Enjoyment it is the main reason I think even though it has its problems and difficulties associated with it, it is a lot of fun.
Other reasons could be that it releases any anger and stress when I get lost in the music which I am playing to. It makes me different and look a little cool. But also I guess being so quiet and shy a lot of time, feeling so socially awkward, of course I would pick the biggest and loudest instrument out there to be heard.
Maybe this does just all come down to wanting to be heard.