I have always loved drums.
They were so cool and rare as a kid growing up. No one I knew had them, probably since everyone I knew was a kid like me and aside from my childhood friend who had the electric “power-wheels” car in his basement, it wasn’t something younger kids had due to cost.
Probably my earliest imprint of a drum set in my mind was a cool day when I was a kid and we took a trip to Chicago to go to the museum, Science I think. We did the whole museum thing and then when we were going to leave, or were wandering outside to see the sub, we could see the lake waterfront. I heard floating on the wind the sound of drums. I looked along the shore line and I saw a guy had set up his drum set along the shoreline sidewalk and was playing the hell out of them. His arms were flailing wildly and he was creating some awesome rhythms. It was just the dude and the drums and the water and he faced it as he pounded it out on the kit he had. Joggers were passing him and looking and he took no notice. In fact he was head down and in a zone. It was very organic, just the dude and the drums and the lake. It probably made as big an impression on me as anything in the museum.
When I was in middle school, the guy who lived in the apartment below us played drums and had pads on his drums when he practiced. Since his room was the same size as mine, I figure his drums took up half of it. When he practiced I would listen. It was so cool. He gave me an old beat up set of sticks and Jeff and I would drum on my bed and pillows while we listened to music in my room back then in Ann Arbor.
In high school, a friends brother practiced his drums in the basement for his band. It was another close encounter with drum kits. It is very different seeing someone “jam” on the drums instead of following the lines for a song. Just pounding out a rhythm of your own and seeing where it takes you. Maybe that is the part that get me. Controlled chaos.
At any rate, I always dreamed of getting a drum set of my own, but I suspected they were expensive and I ended up with my uncles acoustic guitar and went that route instead. I never stopped thinking drums were the coolest though.
At one point, I was on YouTube and found out that there were videos of street drummers and drum lessons and all kids of “6 year old plays Moby Dick” and tons of crazy drum related stuff. I watched a lot. Turned some street drumming videos into MP3 files and started thinking about drums again.
Max ended up expressing an interest in drums one year and we shopped for a set. They weren’t as expensive as I had thought and though we weren’t buying top of the line, we figured we could buy a starter set and if he wanted to follow through, he could sell it and trade up. We went to Ward-Brodt, knowing nothing about drums sets and were wowed by the salesman playing an explosion of sound on a demo top of the line low range kit. I of course figured I could use it, so in essence it was a gift for the both of us. After a brief discussion, we bought it, brought the pieces to the baby’s room of a neighbors house’s to store until Christmas and waited.
On Christmas eve, after all the kids were in bed I made several trips back and forth to the neighbors and as quietly as possible set up the snare and bass and cymbals in the corner of the family room. This was Max’s only present that year as it was well above the normal limit. I don’t think he minded however. The look on his face was disgust at me taking the picture. He actually loved the drums.
The days that followed were full of happy drum noises. He played them on and off for months and had friends over to show them and the friends pounded them and I was on them and we all had a blast with them for months. Eventually, as we wanted the room back, they went downstairs to Max’s room in the basement where we set them up in a corner and he decorated around them.
At one point lessons were discussed. We signed him up for a group of lessons in Waunakee and he went for a while, I watched and listened and though the lessons were pretty good, it fizzled out for one reason or another and we stopped going. Eventually the drums got used less and less and they became more of a novelty. We were in a duplex and Max couldn’t just go at them whenever he felt like it. We had neighbors and though they were young guys and probably understood, it was a thing to deal with.
Eventually, they ended up not getting used very much at all. They were still there waiting, and every once in a while I would sneak down and play on them for a bit to knock the dust off.
One year, while waiting for a flight to a work conference, there were 2 young guys sitting by the wall with muffled drum pads in their laps. They were obviously in some sort of drum corps. They were practicing the same lines and their unison was tight. It was cool to watch them as they sat un-self-consciously blapping quick rhythms on these little pads. They were fun to watch and listen to. Made me wonder if there were any albums that were just drums. That led me back to YouTube to create some more MP3’s of people playing drums, street drummers, PVC tube drummers, instructional videos… you name it.
A few years ago Max used the drum set as props in a video he made for a Bon Jovi competition. You can find that blog entry by searching The Aural Retentive for Bon Jovi. He won! Not too long after that he was short money and I offered to take the drums in place of payment. He handed them over. Since that day they have been sitting in an unceremonious pile at the back of the basement.
They are so sad sitting there. They are no less loved though, and they are MINE!
One Christmas after hearing me talk about the drum set and a drum brushes video I had seen, she bought me some.
I tried them out on the snare and I love the sound they make. I have no idea what I am doing of course.
I don’t even really have any normal drumsticks.
I still think about the drum set though, wonder if I can see myself taking lessons from YouTube, or actually going somewhere to take the same kind of lessons Max took. At 49, I am no rock star, nor have any aspirations to play in a band at all, just want to make some noise and pound them once in a while. I dreamed for years and years about having a set, and now I do.
I would need to start slow, I can admit to myself that being coordinated enough to keep one hand at one pace and the other at a completely separate rhythm, and throw in a foot pedal for a 3rd line and I will probably implode like Keith Moon. I know it takes muscle memory, rhythm, and a passion. Who knows if I could be any good, or will ever have the time to try it really.
But they are there.
At my disposal.
There have been a couple of times when I could have used some extra cash. I went down to the basement and looked at them. They are not liquid gold, but I bet I could get some money for them. Only every time I do go down there, the potential of being able to play them always wins over cash in hand. They are still there.