When I was in college, I decided to supplement my percussion education by taking drum set lessons from the great Jay Lawrence for a couple of summers. He had (and still has) a huge reputation, and I was beyond excited to get started.
At the same time I was playing in a very fun, Dave Matthews-esque band, and I had been telling my mates how much better I was going to be, and how glad I was that I was taking lessons. Due to the summer schedule, it was about six weeks - and hence, six lessons - before we got back into a rehearsal and I was able to display my newfound skills.
There was only one problem: I had not improved. In fact, I was much worse. Awful. Terrible. Discombobulated.
My band was furious. We had a bright future, and as far as they could see I was throwing a huge wrench in the works by trying to change my approach through lessons. A couple of the band members actually went so far as to tell me that I needed to quit - immediately!
I knew that lessons were the right thing to do. Jay was awesome, I was learning a ton, and it seemed that I was gaining skills. So, at the next lesson, I asked Jay about it. Why would I play so terribly if I was actually making progress?
Jay's answer has stayed with me, and I've passed it along to my own students over the years. It's a paraphrase, to say the least, but here's how he explained it to me:
Have you ever seen the inside of a computer? Imagine what it looks like. There are a lot of set parts - boards and ports and power related components - but, by and large, it's a ton of wires. Wires everywhere that connect everything to everything else.
Well, basically what we've done over the last six weeks is yank all of the wires out of their places and start to put them in new places, wire by wire. We're "rewiring" you, so to speak, and when we're done, you'll be a much, much better "drumming computer." But for now, there are still a lot of loose wires and parts that aren't functioning totally correctly yet.
As we keep working on you, more and more "wires" will be put in place, and you'll function and play better and better and better. Just keep practicing, and keep challenging yourself.
That explanation, in addition to making sense, has been proven true over the years. Because of Jay's influence and approach, I've been able to kick some bad habits and develop a lot of techniques, skills and styles that were never a part of my old "wiring."
As always, happy drumming!
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