Tag Archives: practice

Trying to be creative

When I’m behind the drumset, I’m just not that creative. It seems like moments of inspiration happen any time but when sitting behind an instrument. Mostly when a song’s been running through my head, or after having just woken from a dream.

Sitting behind the drumset is about doing what I can already do, or about practicing to get better. I can have some ideas within that framework, but creativity seems to be all about letting my mind go crazy in a way that is not constrained by my limited drumming ability at this moment. There might be some rare moments during a solo.

For consistent creative results, I’m using my imagination, free of existing assumptions and free of what I’m comfortable with. Then comes the fun part: sitting down and trying to reverse engineer what I just came up with. Usually it takes a while.

How do you push the creative boundaries of your current abilities?

Trying over and over

I have this annoying ability to do the same thing over and over. I really enjoy the process, and that makes it hard to accomplish anything. I see other people enjoy the accomplishments. But somehow I fear accomplishment–because then the process is over! So, something I do now is consider Finishing as part of the process. It’s kind of a trick, where I complete things quickly and move on to the next thing–over and over. It’s a meta-process, of repeated completion.

Anyway, so I don’t get that way with the things I don’t care about. Just with the things I’m passionate about. I’ve seen the same thing over the years with my students. If they are passionate, then they will practice on their own. So I have to figure out how to inspire them. And I have to figure out what they are already passionate about, and then teach from that frame of reference.

I used to play trumpet from 4th grade up through high school. I was in jazz band, I was first chair, I played in a ska band on the side. I thought I was passionate. But then one day I sat down behind some drums, and discovered the truth. I didn’t own drums, but I would figure out when I could go bang on my friend’s drums whenever possible. I became obsessed, and learned pretty quickly. So… I had been passionate about music all along, but never as passionate with the trumpet. Drums are my thing. I taught myself drums so that I was just as good in a few years as I was with 8 years of trumpet.

Sometimes I wonder… what if a teacher had recognized that earlier? What if they had introduced percussion to me earlier, just to see what would happen? Do passions come and go? Are you born with some? (On the other hand, I would be nowhere as good of a musician, had I not first had the perspective of playing a melody instrument.)

I had to fight external factors to learn drums, and it was an expensive proposition while also paying for college. I didn’t have to fight to play the trumpet. Was that a factor?

Anyway, at some point I think we have to take stock of what we’re doing and stop doing the things we’re not passionate about. There are a bazillion artists out there, and they are all really good. And the passionate ones are practicing, and are getting better every day. Many of them were practicing before they even knew it would pay off for them someday.