The Tempo Is Whatever I Say It Is

I’m a drummer now. No, you haven’t heard or seen me play anywhere, but by virtue of the fact that I have been taking lessons from a drum teacher for a year now and that I play on an actual, real drum set, I get to call myself a drummer. That’s the law.

How did this happen, you ask? There’s a story. There’s always a story.

Two and half years ago, the company I was working for was on the verge of no longer existing. That, of course, meant that the job I held there was likewise not long for the world. I knew these things because I worked in the accounting department. Want to know if a business is in trouble? Ask the accountants. I’m actually understating it a bit, the company wasn’t just in trouble. It was imploding. Not having been raised a fool by my wonderful mother, I got myself out of there long before they had the chance to realize that they didn’t need people to count money they didn’t have. Luckily for me, a good friend of mine who is also a corporate recruiter had been assigned a search for someone in the exact same job, but with a much more stable company in the business of making musical instruments. Things just work out that way sometimes. Not all the time, mind you, but just enough to give us hope that a better future lies ahead if we can just hang on long enough through whatever tragedy we’re enduring now.

Anyway, I got the job. It’s a great place to work, with cool people in a fun business. I was doing well and everything was fine, but there was this thing that had been nagging at me since just after I started to work there: I didn’t feel like I belonged. The thing is, almost everybody in my peer group in the company plays an instrument. Some of them more than one. So I always felt like I was on the outside looking in whenever a group would start talking the lingo and talking about and comparing their gigs and whatnot. I should say that this wasn’t anybody’s fault. I never felt excluded by any of my coworkers. On the contrary, these are some of the nicest people I have ever worked with. But they had this thing to bond over that I wasn’t a part of and it started to mildly bum me out.

So I bought a guitar and a self-teaching method and a song book. Chicks dig guitarists, right? Yeah well, no. Certain things absolutely require talent and playing the guitar, hell, learning the guitar, proved to be one of those things for me. I’m not just being modest. I was several levels lower than bad at it. I’ll leave it at that.  I sold the guitar and resigned myself to the fact that although I would never be a musician, I could write and do pretty neat card tricks and that would have to be enough for me.

But then a cool thing happened: one of the company’s sponsored artists, a professional drummer, came in for a visit and to try out a custom drum kit we’d made just for him. Once he got everything on the kit dialed in to where he liked it and got warmed up, he played a 20-minute long solo that made every hair on body stand. I’m not exaggerating, it was a blazing fast virtuoso performance. I stood there for several minutes afterwards, applauding and thinking, “I want to do THAT. I don’t know if I’ll ever be that good, but I’ll be goddamned if I’m not gonna try.”

The next day, I approached one of my colleagues, Rich, a really good drummer, and asked him if he knew a good teacher. After telling me he was very pleased with my decision to pursue “the dream,” he introduced me to a local gigging drummer who also teaches and has a good reputation.  Lance, my drum teacher, is cool and very patient and, much to my relief, nothing at all like that psychopath in the movie Whiplash (“WERE YOU RUSHING OR WERE YOU DRAGGING!”). So it began with two sticks, a practice pad and a music stand. And unlike with the guitar, I actually had a knack for it. Maybe I was born with rhythm and a sense of tempo (you should’ve seen the drum covers I could always play on the steering wheel of my car) or maybe playing drums is just a whole lot more fun, but it’s been a year and I’m playing and practicing and getting better every week.

As of today, I’ve learned how to play along with AC/DC’s Back in Black all the way through and I have a whole list of other rock classics I’m going to learn. On top of that, I have an open invitation from a classic rock cover band that a buddy of mine fronts to sit in with them whenever I feel like I’m ready.  Yeah, I’m a drummer now. It was Rich, by the way, who told me that it’s totally legal to call myself that. So devil horns to you, dear reader. Rock on.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Patricia Hanrahan says:

    This is a great article, Ray. One day, I’ll tell you my musical history including a few years of drum lessons. (I hated that practice pad!)
    I had no idea you were doing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. N.R. Ramos says:

      Thanks, Pat! Keep working on those rudiments!


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