Keep Moving Forward, part 1
by Amanda Pollak
I’ve been taking drum lessons for a little over three years at Freeway Music. Those who know me have often heard me express that my one regret in life is that I didn’t begin sooner. Yet, entering this realm as an adult–and a woman–consistently leaves me feeling like I’ve got something to prove. Some days, I am on top of the world; other days, the jury’s still out.
As I write this, the desire to make my musical case remains strong, for in a few days, I’ll be auditioning for a local band. I saw the opportunity posted on a cork board in Freeway Music and reached out expressing my interest. “The worst they can say is no,” I thought.
I was given a list of songs the band covers and asked to learn three for the audition. I already knew how to play a few others on the list so I decided I’d bring those to the audition as well.
Off to a good start.
I approach learning new material by listening and trying to play along first, then breaking it down further if need be and perhaps even charting the song (which, by the way, Tony says I should do for every song, every time, right away). If I’m being honest, I dread charting and hardly ever do it. It feels tedious and in my misplaced pride, I feel as though I should just be able to listen to the song and immediately hear all the parts, even though this is ultimately more time-consuming and inefficient, not to mention an unrealistic expectation.
I pull up the first new tune, “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Okay, simple enough. I begin to play along. But wait. Is the kick played there or there? It’s feeling like a shuffle and shuffles always trip me up…now I’m fumbling the beat, getting lost in the instrumentation and bass line, and as quickly as I start, I stop. There’s a brief moment of panic. Maybe I can’t do this after all. I consider sending a text explaining that, on second thought, this was too much and maybe keep me in mind for next time. I envision the audition, me dropping the beat and everyone else shooting me that look. You know the one.
Typical me, jumping to the worst case scenario. I could give up now. I suppose that would be fine. But, then I’d be in the exact same spot as I was before all of this began. Part of me–no, much of me–struggles with tying my self-worth into how well I can play. Drumming is something I love doing and I want others to love hearing me do it. So if they don’t, what does that say about me?
But I’m more than my drum kit. And I imagine that every musician I even halfway respect has wrestled with feeling incompetent. I could succumb now and keep drumming in my room for no one else to hear, or I could choose to move forward.
So I pause. Breathe. Take it slow. Find the 2 and 4. Distill the beat down to its basic elements. Tap it out, count the measures, be sure of the rests and fills. It doesn’t need to be an inerrant replica of the original; make it my own; retain the essence. Chart it, as tedious as it feels. Do the hard work here, now, on the beginner kit I bought three years ago before I ever even imagined I’d be in a position to audition for a band. Yes, they can say no. But I will keep moving forward.